Doing More of What Doesn’t Work

Colin PowellReading time – 79 seconds  .  .  .

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:

  1. Is a vital national security interest threatened?
  2. Do we have a clear attainable objective?
  3. Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
  4. Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?
  5. Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
  6. Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
  7. Is the action supported by the American people?
  8. 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.

Truty, Justice and the American WayHow 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

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2 Responses to Doing More of What Doesn’t Work
  1. Dominick Palella Reply


    What “doing more of what just doesn’t work” is:

    1. Allowing our politicians in legislatures to establish totalitarian rules of conduct that continually ignore the will of the American people. This permits any single member of a legislature to conspire to block any law from an executive decision. Congress, and many state legislatures, are now held hostage by a handful of sociopaths who lie continuously for political gain and financial rewards from their corporate masters. The vast majority of our voting population is completely ignorant of this situation, so this is more of what does work for the American ruling class and the political toadies they pay to get elected and work for them.

    2. Ignoring the undeniable fact of the matter that absolutely no law is needed to get money out of politics! Politicians wilfully solicit and accept money from corporations and people who do not even live in their voting districts, and can stop this unethical conduct at any time! So why do people think that pleading with political corporate servants in legislatures to stop their own intentional and disgraceful behavior makes any sense? Apparently, many people continue to follow the advice of the many political organizations that think that letting our corrupt politicians write a Constitutional amendment is a good idea. The only thing I do not quite understand is why our politicians have not jumped at this opportunity to reinforce their oligarchical power over how our government is run.

    3. Using military invasions to protect disguised business interests as acts worthy of war. We now have the most dangerous and aggressive military in the world. Even though our anti-American politicians have made communist China the second leading economic power, the Chinese at least have enough sense to build up the infrastructures of other countries to make them allies. On the other hand, our politicians have convinced the American people that destroying foreign country property that does not belong to American business interests and killing their citizens “suspected of being terrorists” are somehow “defending” our country.

  2. Jim Altschuler Reply

    The problem with the “Follow the money” theory is that doing so shows that we have lost WAY more than was gained in every war, every instance.

    The government spent more money waging the war, driving the nation deeper & deeper into debt, than the aggregate added income from the war profiteering of all of the companies (that made billions of dollars) who supplied the weapons and uniforms and vehicles, etc. in Viet Nam or in Iraq. Those splashy tools of war cost a lot.

    More importantly is the cost in human life, both ours and “theirs”, of each war. We can’t put a dollar price for each life los or each life destroyed (the physically, emotionally and cognitively damaged, including their families and the impact those wounds have on them).

    Just yesterday I heard Kate Smith singing “God Bless America” replayed (from 1956 for those who may not remember) — the Eisenhower years. I still got a bit of a chill listening to that magnificent alto voice belting out one of our greatest patriotic songs. I also got a reminder of what perversions have been committed in the name of our country over the last 60 years. For MONEY. Hundreds of thousands of our young men killed. More hundreds of thousands of our young men wounded, in many ways and to many degrees. For MONEY.

    The first rules on General Powell’s list should be numbers 4, 6, 7 & 8 long before questioning whether 1, 2, 3 & 5 are even applicable let alone affirmative.

    God bless America and give her citizens and her leaders the sense to see that there are other ways to resolve differences besides clubs and knives and guns and bombs.