Back to the Weinberger-Powell Doctrine
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The American debacle in Iraq seemingly vindicates the restrictive use-of-force doctrine propounded by Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and Gen Colin Powell, Joint Chiefs of Staff JCS chairman, in the 1980s and early 1990s. That doctrine expressed the Pentagons take on the lessons of the Vietnam War. It called for the last-resort application of overwhelming force on behalf of vital interests and clearly defined and achievable political-military objectives, and it insisted on reasonable assurance of enduring public and congressional support. In the case of Iraq, insufficient force was employed on behalf of exceptionally ambitious objectives with a resultant unexpectedly bloody protraction of hostilities and attendant loss of domestic political support. Indeed, the rationales upon which public support was mobilized for war--White House claims widely questioned by experts at the time that Iraq was an ally of al-Qaeda and on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons were discredited by the US occupation of Iraq. War was, moreover, hardly the option of last resort. Deterrence and containment had worked effectively against Saddam Hussein since the Gulf War of 1991 sanctions and the threat of war kept him from acquiring nuclear weapons or invading his neighbors. The Bush administrations successful coercion of Saddam Hussein into permitting the return of unfettered UN weapons inspections in late 2002, which eventually would have revealed the absence of an Iraqi threat of weapons of mass destruction WMD without a war, was testimony to how really weak Baathist Iraq had become.
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