I think it would be worth a closer examination of how well the current Iraq war matches up with the Powell Doctrine, in the 1990s thought to be a much-welcomed bit of “common sense” about how to conduct a war in the post-Vietnam era.
[quote]General Colin Powell made famous the so-called Powell Doctrine as part of the run up to the 1990-1991 Gulf War.
It is also known as the “Powell Doctrine of Overwhelming Force.”
The Powell Doctrine simply asserts that when a nation is engaging in war, every resource and tool should be used to achieve overwhelming force against the enemy. This is the opposite of a proportional response.
The Powell Doctrine is perhaps best illustrated by his quote (as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the 1991 Persian Gulf War) about the Iraqi Army:
“First we’re going to cut it off, then we’re going to kill it.”
After victory, the military should leave the field of engagement, rather than staying around as peacekeepers.
It has been argued that the Doctrine follows from principles laid out by Caspar Weinberger, Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of Defense and, as such, Powell’s former boss:
Is a vital US interest at stake?
Will we commit sufficient resources to win?
Are the objectives clearly defined?
Will we sustain the commitment?
Is there reasonable expectation that the public and Congress will support the operation?
Have we exhausted our other options?[/quote]
Was a vital US interest at stake? Arguably not. In the wake of an attack by islamic fundamentalist terrorists, Iraq was a tin-pot secular dictatorship that under renewed pressure was turning over documents. Their military was hardly a shadow of its former 1990 self.
Will we commit sufficient resources to win? Apparently not – the attention paid to “fighting war on the cheap” meant that instead of being able to flood trouble areas with troops (much as the NYPD maintains order with its officers), we had to chase about on roads over extended areas of cities and countryside (much as the LAPD tries to put a veneer onto its disorder).
Are the objectives clearly defined? The shifting rationales answer that question quite handily. The American people were first told that this was primarily about WMDs. Other side-effects were mentioned, including a potpouri of “2nd largest oil reserves in the world”, “Saddam’s a bad guy” and big ol’ whoppers about Saddam being behind the 9-11 attacks. As one writer pointed out: We have 150,000 troops in Iraq whose main duty is not to get killed. Who are we fighting now? Who has killed the most U.S. troops to date? Do we even know who is fighting us anymore? The invasion into Iraq has been said to have attracted and inspired new fighters who, given other circumstances, might not have been shooting and getting shot.
Will we sustain the commitment? Good question. Given the answer to No. 5, below, there may be a point where Bush will have to cut and run.
Is there reasonable expectation that the public and Congress will support the operation? With the Republicans turning in on themselves it is highly doubtful. With many Americans being disillusioned about the shifting rationales and outright lies from the administration, the constant claims that we’ve “turned a new corner” in the war, and the failure of the Administration from the start to adequately supply our troops, the polls indicate that most Americans want out. They don’t want out of Afghanistan – they want us out of Iraq.
Have we exhausted our other options? We could have bottled Iraq up for minimal expense (versus the economic and human toll of the war and occupation). We could have normalized our relationship with that tin-pot dictator with an abyssmal human-rights record in the same way that we on a day-to-day basis to business with the PRC, Azerbaijan, Uzbeckistan today and did business throughout Central and South American dictatorships in the past.
A very nice little tutorial on the Powell Doctrine is available at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/extra/teachers/lessonplans/iraq/powelldoctrine_short.html