The Life and Work of General Andrew J. Goodpaster
There is no higher responsibility than that of the president and his advisors when making decisions about war. As Bob Woodward put it:
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Andrew Jackson Goodpaster led people, institutions, and ideas in a variety of highly demanding positions for seven decades, engaging the most powerful leaders and the most intelligent thinkers. He participated in many of the most challenging U.S. national security decisions in the second half of the twentieth century. In the process, he gained a reputation for carefully reasoned strategic thinking...
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Goodpaster was a product of his midwestern roots and the Great Depression. He grew up on a small farm on the outskirts of St. Louis among people who had a strong work ethic. Family and religion were important, but the community was tolerant of ethnic and religious differences. Not wealthy, but with a lively intellect, Goodpaster blossomed in these surroundings.
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The next three years at Princeton provided Goodpaster with opportunities to study and learn from some of the best minds in academia. During the war, many of the most noted American scholars and scientists worked closely with the military establishment as part of the national war effort. Top faculty members at Princeton, Harvard, Yale, and other universities were involved, and many continued...
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Faced with a growing threat of communist expansion, the foreign ministers, secretaries of state, and ambassadors from twelve Western countries met in Washington on April 4, 1949, to sign the North Atlantic Treaty. The U.S. Senate ratified it on July 21, 1949, but not without strong domestic opposition from former President...
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During the long period that Goodpaster was away from the Army mainstream, many of his mentors had retired. Furthermore, he had missed serving in the Korean War. Goodpaster knew that his prolonged absence could make him somewhat of an outsider. While the Army considered it necessary at some point for officers to gain experience on high-level staffs in Washington, so-called purple assignments, too...
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After completing a year in command of an infantry division, Goodpaster was called back to Washington in November 1962 to become Special Assistant (Policy) to the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), General Maxwell D. Taylor. Given the very public differences between President Eisenhower and General Taylor over defense policy, this put Goodpaster in a difficult position.
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In August 1967, Goodpaster was installed as commandant of the National War College at Fort McNair in Washington, DC, a less stressful job while he recovered from his heart attack. The Joint Chiefs of Staff needed to confirm his appointment, because the commandant of the National War College was a joint service position under the...
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The Tet Offensive in 1968 was a seminal event. A cease-fire for the Tet Lunar New Year had been announced by both sides several months prior to the holidays, but on January 30, 1968, the National Liberation Front (NLF) launched attacks throughout South Vietnam in thirty-six of forty-four provincial capitals and five of the six largest cities as part of the largest military offensive launched by...
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In early 1969, President Nixon informed General Goodpaster that he was recommending him to be the next SACEUR. Nixon also said that he would send a message to the leaders of the other NATO allies asking for their agreement with the assignment. In May, President Nixon announced his nomination, and Goodpaster’s appointment...
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Soon after he retired on December 17, 1974, Goodpaster met again with General Norstad, who suggested that Goodpaster not make any commitments until he had talked to officials at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC.
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Goodpaster approached his second retirement with Norstad’s advice in mind about dividing his time into roughly thirds. However, instead of working for remuneration, Goodpaster donated much of his time to pro bono work leading national security think tanks. Also, family and friends were very important to him. He attended...
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Goodpaster was both future oriented and well grounded in the past. His values included education and honoring the sacrifices of fellow soldiers. With such efforts, Goodpaster helped prepare future generations for the challenges that lay ahead. This chapter provides examples of his work with educational and heritage institutions.
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There are many lessons that may be learned from Andrew J. Goodpaster. A search of “Goodpaster” in the authoritative Foreign Relations of the United States series yields more than one thousand citations...
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This book was a collaborative effort. In conducting research and writing this book, I accumulated huge intellectual and emotional debts to innumerable soldiers, scholars, friends, and family. In particular, I want to acknowledge Ken Weisbrode, my colleague at the Atlantic Council, who first proposed this book. Lewis “Bob” Sorley was a constant source of information, advice, and...
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C. Richard Nelson worked for General Goodpaster at the Atlantic Council after retiring from the Army and the CIA. In the Army, Nelson was an airborne, ranger, artillery officer serving in Laos and Vietnam as well as on the Army Staff and with the director of net assessment, Office of the Secretary of Defense, where he was responsible for analyses of the military balance in East Asia. At the...
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