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Professor: Liberty is costly and raises questions
Van Sickle addressed crowd of more than 50 people at Great Decisions Lecture Series
Eugene Van Sickle, assistant history professor at North Georgia College & State University, speaks about U.S. national security Thursday at the Gainesville Civic Center during the Great Decisions Lecture Series. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Great Decisions Lecture Series

The eight-week series begins on Feb. 15 and runs through April 7. The Forsyth County events are held on Tuesdays at the Sharon Forks Library, with the Hall County events following on Thursday at the Gainesville Civic Center. Both events are held 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Week 1:
Rebuilding Haiti
Week 2: U.S. National Security
Week 3: Horn of Africa
Week 4: Responding to the Financial Crisis
Week 5: Germany Ascendant (held on Monday rather than Tuesday at the Forsyth County location)
Week 6: Sanctions and Nonproliferation
Week 7: The Caucasus
Week 8: Global Governance

A hefty price tag is attached to liberty. That's why so many questions surround U.S. national security today and its policy priorities, a historian said Thursday.

"We have to go back to the (Founding Fathers who asked) should we go out and seek monsters to destroy?" said Eugene Van Sickle, assistant history professor at North Georgia College & State University. "The question we face now is can we afford it?"

Van Sickle addressed a crowd of more than 50 people who gathered at the Gainesville Civic Center for the university's second installment of its Great Decisions Lecture Series.

He presented a history lesson Thursday night that demonstrated the seminal moments in U.S. national security and how those events connect to today's foreign policy.

"The end of the World Wars brought about a new reality for the United States," Van Sickle said.

He then explained the country's Cold War dilemma: "Should the U.S. use its military and economic force to keep the Soviet powers contained or roll it back?"

He continued ticking off security challenges, many of which continue today despite changes in political landscapes.

How should the military be developed? What types of force should it use when deployed? And, most of all, how will it be funded?

"This is the challenge for every nation - balance," Van Sickle said.

As the professor recounted the various policy twists and turns over the decades, he carried forward key themes as they relate to U.S. leaders since George Bush Sr. and the first Iraq War.

A slideshow accompanying Van Sickle's talk broke down the U.S. military presence throughout the world, its spending on military and what states harbor the most critical resource required by the U.S. and China - oil.

"This is why our budget is so messed up. We have a massive global footprint across the world that is used to defend our country and our interests," Van Sickle said, focusing on the Middle East and parts of the African coast, which possess untapped oil reservoirs. "The reason why this is important is politically unstable states become breeding grounds for terrorism."

A range of views and questions were expressed following the professor's talk.

One man was curious why no one would acknowledge Islam as the enemy. Another person in the audience stated his belief the world economy would fail if the U.S. did.

A third asked, "Why is it neither political party sees the economic impact (of defense spending) that you see?"

Van Sickle's answer: "Taxes are not popular. They never have been. But politicians want to be re-elected. I hate to be that blunt. This has always been the challenge with our system, historically speaking."

He was quick to mention the country's entitlement programs that make up a majority of the U.S. spending as well as its various other budgetary obligations such as the deficit.

"We can't do all of it. That's the crucial question facing us as far as our U.S. national security," Van Sickle said. "The threats are still out there to be sure. But what can we do?"