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The Weinberger Doctrine and the Invasion of Panama: Determining Just Cause for War

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From the earliest days of the Republic, the nations leaders have grappled with the complexities of just cause for war. In Federalist Number 3 John Jay wrote, The just causes for war for the most part arise either from violation of treaties, or from direct violence. From this early proposition, the debate has evolved in the 20th Century to embody not only questions of cause, but the associated questions of justice, intent, and proportionality as well. In the nations history, the debate has rarely been more emotional or demonstrative than in 1973 when Congress overrode a presidential veto to pass the War Powers Resolution based on their dissatisfaction with President Nixons expanded use of force in Cambodia. The clear intent of this legislation was to check the Presidents power as Commander in Chief and assure greater Congressional influence in determining just cause to employ the U.S. military. In a speech given to The National Press Club in November 1984, then Secretary of State Casper Weinberger enunciated six definitive tests for determining the circumstances and conditions that must be met to warrant the painful decision to use military force. These six tests, known as the Weinberger Doctrine, have provided an important framework for Americas concept of jus ad bellum for over a decade. Yet the debate over just cause persists. This paper examines one of the early applications of the Weinberger Doctrine Operation Just Cause. The analysis focuses on the crucial period immediately preceding the invasion of Panama in late December 1989 and examines the decisions and policies of the President, as influenced by the Congress and the media, against the restraints contained in Weinbergers six tests. As the analysis reveals, although the influence of the Congress and the media are significant, the ultimate threshold for determining just cause for war resides fully in the heart and mind of the nations Commander in Chief.

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  • Government and Political Science
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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