Wednesday, May 18, 2005

General Andrew J. Goodpaster (1915-2005)

General Andrew J. Goodpaster died this week at the age of 90. In the months following my graduation from college, but prior to my joining the Foreign Service, I had the great privilege to work briefly under his leadership at the Atlantic Council of the United States -- a non-partisan think tank dedicated to support of the Transatlantic relationship. He was already well into the second decade of his (second) retirement from his long and illustrious career in the US Army. His obituary reads like a history of the great events in US foreign and military policy in the latter half of 20th Century. But he was no Zelig. He was a soldier (West Point '39; WWII; Deputy Commander Vietnam; SACEUR), diplomat (on the negotiating team at the Paris Talks), a scholar (Phd Princeton, taught at the Citadel) and a public servant (coming out of retirement to save the reputation of West Point in the aftermath of a notorious cheating scandal). He was also a gentleman of the old school. All of us junior staffers at the Council adored and respected him.

Among his many posts, Goodpaster served as military aid to President Eisenhower, and was present for many of the early negotiations with the Soviets on reduction of testing and other controls on nuclear weapons. Goodpaster liked to tell this story about Ike's negotiation style:

A group of arms control experts from the State Department came in to brief Eisenhower on a series of items on the table and give him their advice on which were most likely to be agreed to by the Soviets. They counseled caution, advising Eisenhower not to push on those issues most likely to encounter resistance. As Goodpaster told the story, Eisenhower listened politely, and then replied to the group, "Well, boys, how about we go in and negotiate OUR agenda?"

It's still the best negotiating advice I've ever heard.