- A professor of government and the Director of the Peace Studies Program at Cornell University
- Took part in antiwar teach-in and signed letter urging Cornell faculty to speak out against Iraq War in their classes
- Believes “[w]e should separate those who sympathize with some of the same concerns of terrorists from those who are actually willing to carry it out.”
Matthew Evangelista, who earned his Ph.D. in Cornell University's Department of Government in 1986, is currently a professor of government at Cornell. He also serves as Director of the university's Peace Studies program.
Upon assuming leadership of that program in July 2002, Evangelista vowed to turn his “attention to how the war against terrorism relates to questions of just war theory and international law.” As one of his inaugural acts, he convened a roundtable discussion entitled “Iraq and Beyond: The New U.S. National Security Strategy,” which afforded faculty members a forum in which to denounce the U.S. strategy of preemptive war.
Following up on that theme in a November 2002 article, Evangelista at once blamed the United States for the militarism of Saddam Hussein—“If Saddam Hussein is a monster … then the United States is in many respects his Dr. Frankenstein”—and opined that America “intends to continue its military domination of the world.” In this connection, Evangelista warned “that other major powers should be concerned about U.S. pretensions to act independently of any international legal constraints.”
In December 2002, Evangelista took part in a teach-in sponsored by the Cornell Anti-War Coalition. His contribution was a lecture entitled “Living in a State of Perpetual War.” Dismissive of any rationale for military action against Iraq, Evangelista claimed, “The inspections regime in Iraq, for all its flaws, is actually quite effective,” and he assured his audience that weapons inspectors had “turned up a great deal and destroyed a great deal of [Iraqi] weapons.” Evangelista posited that the inspections had been more effective than the first Gulf War in destroying the Iraqi weapons arsenal.
In February 2003, Evangelista played a key role in organizing a series of anti-war events called “Week Against War.” To mark the campaign, Evangelista lent his signature to an anti-war declaration by Cornell faulty members. Called “An Appeal to Cornell Faculty, Staff and Graduate Students in a Time of War,” it urged “Cornell faculty and instructional staff to make class time available during the week of February 10-14 to discuss issues relating to the war in Iraq.” Whether the academic disciplines of the faculty members had any connection to war and foreign policy was irrelevant, according to the signatories. All that mattered was that the professors impress upon their students the “ramifications of the current crisis.”
That same month, during a discussion of Iraq with fellow Cornell faculty members, Evangelista declared that the planned American "Shock and Awe" bombing attacks would make U.S. forces look like “war criminals, not liberators.” He further claimed that the United States planned “to launch one war after another; first Iran, then North Korea, then Pakistan and Colombia” -- and that American foreign policy was premised on "a future of wars without end.”
"I don't see a sustained U.S. commitment to democracy in Afghanistan," said Evangelista in early 2003, "and I'm concerned the U.S. will not follow-through in Iraq, even if there is a lot of good will." In September 2004, Evangelista’s name appeared on a political advertisement that ran in The New York Times. Demanding an end to the “occupation” of Iraq, the ad pressed the U.S. to abandon its “misguided efforts to choose Iraqi leaders, impose governmental structures and enforce American-drafted laws,” on the justification that “there can be no rationale for requiring [Iraqis] to accept foreign troops on their soil.”
A number of Evangelista’s academic writings are dedicated to advancing his view that Soviet leaders like Mikhail Gorbachev are to be credited with bringing an end to U.S.-Soviet hostilities. In a compendium of such writings called Ending the Cold War, Evangelista mounts the argument that “Soviet reformers” like Gorbachev pursued arms control negations “despite” such Reagan administration policies as the Strategic Defense Initiative, rather than because of them. The same theme is on display in Evangelista’s book, Innovation and the Arms Race: How the United States and the Soviet Union Develop New Military Technologies, which disparages American efforts to develop a missile defense system, and alleges that the U.S. military caused the Cold War arms race against the USSR.
Evangelista has predicated an entire course around his account of the Cold War’s end. Offered under the title, “The Cold War,” the class “examines the origins, course, and ultimate demise of this conflict that pitted the United States and NATO against the Soviet Union and its allies.”
Other courses taught by Evangelista draw on identity politics. Characteristic is Evangelista’s course, “Gender, Nationalism, and War,” which takes as its subject the “relevance of gender to nationalism, conflict, and war,” and explores the “political formation of gender identity.”