General Colin Powell is one of our most decorated soldiers and a most respected American. He is also a student and has learned a thing or two along the way, some of which were learned at the cost of the blood and the suffering of many.
The Powell Doctrine presents a series of questions, all of which must be answered affirmatively before U.S. combat troops are deployed. These questions are:
- Is a vital national security interest threatened?
- Do we have a clear attainable objective?
- Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
- Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?
- Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
- Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
- Is the action supported by the American people?
- Do we have genuine broad international support?
Note that Powell has amended these questions to include the use of every tool and resource available to achieve decisive military victory, minimum U.S. casualties and the rapid ending the conflict, should military force be employed. The Powell Doctrine is broadly supported by our military because it makes sense.
These questions are straightforward and clearly many of them would have been answered in the negative prior to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, had the Powell Doctrine been considered. That escapade, though, is over. Now we are faced with a different dilemma in Iraq.
There is sense to the statement, “You broke it, you bought it,” and we surely did break Iraq. There is sense to the claim that an Islamic caliphate stretching across the entire Middle East may become a clear and present danger to the security of the United States. And there is sense in having concern for the safety of ordinary people in the region, this because of the brutal and barbarian tactics of the ISIS fanatics.
All of that is true, but:
1. It is not yet clear that a vital U.S. national security interest is threatened.
2. We do not have a clear attainable objective.
5. There is no plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement.
7. The action is not supported by the American people.
8. We do not have genuine broad international support.
If we cannot meet these five (and maybe more) of the eight criteria, all of which must be met in order to decide to go to war, then why in the world would we re-engage militarily in Iraq?
We have now sent 300 advisers to Iraq. What if they aren’t enough to accomplish whatever it is the advisers are supposed to do? Regardless of the number we send, doing more of what doesn’t work won’t make it work. We should have learned that lesson after incrementally increasing troops deployed to Viet Nam to over half a million. Doing more of what didn’t work served to produce thousands more dead troops and hundreds of thousands more dead Vietnamese. And perhaps it produced one other thing.
How come we seem to be in nearly perpetual war? We would love to believe it is to maintain national security and for truth, justice and the American way (cue George Reeves in his Superman suit, arms akimbo, standing in front of a waving American flag). Instead, let’s try reality: Follow the money.
Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same. Thanks. JA
Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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