Does Colin Powell Remember the Powell Doctrine?

News Abroad

Ms. Rosen is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle and former Professor of History at the University of California Davis.

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I KEEP WONDERING what Secretary of State Colin Powell really thinks about the war in Iraq and the fact that we appear to have no exit strategy.

A veteran of the Vietnam War, Powell was determined to prevent another military quagmire. In the early 1990s, he developed the Powell Doctrine, a set of criteria for using military force. War, he said, should be a last resort, the purpose should reflect a well-defined national interest and enjoy strong public support, and once decided, should be executed with overwhelming force and have a clear exit strategy.

With astonishing hubris, the Bush administration dumped the Powell Doctrine, with its many restraints, for a pre-emptive war strategy that had none. But Powell's criteria were right on target. The ostensible reason for the war -- that Iraq posed an imminent threat to the United States -- is proving to be untrue. So far, no weapons of mass destruction have been found. Despite protestations from the military, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld deployed just enough troops to secure Baghdad and a quick military victory, but not enough personnel to keep the peace. And, most ominously, there is no exit strategy.

The results are not pretty.

For the Iraqi people, it is a blazingly hot, deeply disillusioning summer. Widespread looting, squalor, crippling shortages, massive unemployment, contaminated water, insufficient electricity and pervasive lawlessness have given rise to questions fueled by suspicion and distrust. Why can't the Americans provide electricity and basic services? Why do they postpone elections? Do they really want democracy in Iraq, or a hand-picked puppet government that will assure them control over our oil?

Happy to be liberated from a monstrous dictatorship, the Iraqi people worry about an indefinite occupation. In April, the world watched as the statue of Saddam Hussein, which had long dominated Fardus Square in Baghdad, was pulled down to the ground. Today, however, few people see what the BBC recently broadcast, the graffiti written on the stump of its base: "All Done: Go Home."

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For American and British troops, it is an equally hot and disillusioning summer. Victory came swiftly, but now the troops are spread too thinly and face the terror of guerrilla attacks. Snipers in speeding cars shoot at soldiers who patrol streets and guard checkpoints. The opposition, armed with AK-47 rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and light mortars, ambushes them with terrifying frequency.

Extended deployments have only added to the troops' growing demoralization. One officer from the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq told the Christian Science Monitor, "Make no mistake, the level of morale for most soldiers that I've seen has hit rock bottom." Another Army officer, describing his troops, said, "They vent to anyone who will listen. They write letters, they cry, they yell. Many of them walk around looking visibly tired and depressed. . .."

The war in Iraq, as one historian recently said, is like Vietnam on crack cocaine. Global protests started before the war began. Official deception was exposed within weeks. Troops have become demoralized after months, not years. And within a relatively short time, public opinion has already shifted. A Gallup Poll conducted for USA Today and CNN on July 1 revealed that the number of Americans who think the war is not going well has jumped from 13 to 42 percent since Bush declared the "mission accomplished." Now 56 percent believe it was worth going to war in Iraq, down from 73 percent in April.

Like ghosts from the past, words and phrases from the Vietnam-era -- quagmire, credibility gap, guerrilla war, winning the hearts and minds of civilians, requests for more troops -- are creeping back into military and public parlance.

But this is not Vietnam. Finding an exit strategy in Iraq is far more complicated. There is no government that can negotiate a peace treaty with the United States. Until Iraq has a strong government, one that can provide basic services and protect its people, withdrawal of occupation forces is inconceivable.

Perhaps the military mess in Iraq can at least remind Americans how and why the Powell Doctrine, with all its reasonable restraints, prevented the United States from plunging -- until now -- into another unnecessary and perhaps unwinnable war.

Meanwhile, if the Bush administration -- which never articulated clear post- war plans -- has an exit strategy, what is it? The Iraqi people, our military forces and the American public have a right to know.

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NYGuy - 7/20/2003


If you support Rosen's defeatist posture of turing tail and running, you are entitled to do so.

"The ostensible reason for the war -- that Iraq posed an imminent threat to the United States -- is proving to be untrue. So far, no weapons of mass destruction have been found. Despite protestations from the military, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld deployed just enough troops to secure Baghdad and a quick military victory, but not enough personnel to keep the peace. And, most ominously, there is no exit strategy."

First, she obviously does not know why we went to war, i.e. The ostensible reason for the war, etc. I though over 1,000 history teachers wanted the Congress to make that judgement and they supported the President and gave him the power to undertake this action. I can't say for sure that Rosen signed the petition, but once you get what you want don't start crying. Meanwhile, the Democrats have no domestic or foreign policy so with elections coming they have all now seen fit to become transformed in Clinton's, Carvels and the rest of that gang. Nothing but pure politics. But then again the prior adminstration never had much respect for the lives and types who are in the military.

As a defeatist she carps about making no progress, nothing has been found and nothing has been accomplished. Sounds a little like she is in a quaqmire, or has not been reading the newspapers. As a history professor she may have heard about the 100 years war, the multiyear Revolutionary War, Civil war and world wars 1 & 2.

But, this war is not going fast enough for her and she wants to turn tail and run, and in the process may not recognize she is expressing her support for our enemies in keeping up their resistance, and at the same time putting the lives of U. S. troops in greater jepoardy. This is nothing new, many libs put U. S. lives in greater danger with their false accusations during the battle of Baghdad that the U. S. were protecting the "Oil ministry for GW and his friends" while the soldiers were permitting the looting of Iraqi and the world's history.

Now Rosen says, "

Why can't the Americans provide electricity and basic services? Why do they postpone elections? Do they really want democracy in Iraq, or a hand-picked puppet government that will assure them control over our oil?

We don't need phony prophets at this dangerous time.

The fact that she is taking about an exit strategy is another example of her bankrupt and defeatist attitute. She and the other libs were also crying quaqmire about 1-2 weeks before Iraq fell.

You sir are welcome to accept those policies, since you both can sit comfortably in your little world and not worry about the consequences of you actions. Just another example of the blind following the blind.

NYGuy - 7/19/2003


Right on.

Ms. Rosen says"
"Why can't the Americans provide electricity and basic services?"


Just a few months ago when the army was trying to preserve looting at the Oil Ministry the Libs were yelling, Bush and Cheny are protecting their friends profits.

Sometimes you just can't win. Bush may not have an exit policy, but Rosen, the Democrats and the libs don't have any domestic or foreign policy, excepting those that put our troops in harms way.

john horse - 7/19/2003

Marie, I agree this is a great article. Rosen had another related article on HNN called "Whatever Happened to the Powell Doctrine" (March 3, 2003). The best way to find the article is to type in 'Powell Doctrine' at the search engine at the top of the page.

Marie Cooper - 7/19/2003

Thanks for this great article.
Some websites have a very easy way to forward such articles to others Many of us are really computer illiterate and need all the help we can get.
Again Thanks


Gregory Dehler - 7/19/2003

It is frustrating to hear of American soldiers dying on a daily basis. Pat Buchanan predicted on the McLaughlin Group months ago that the American occupation would be in this manner -- more like the West Bank than Vietnam. The problem with this article and others who take the frustration to the point of questioning whether this was the right thing to do or not, is that an exit strategy requires a clarity bordering on clairvoiance. It is easy for the opposition to throw rocks at GW, although this does not prove their pre-war points at all. The exit will take place when a new government can stand in Iraq and not threaten its neighbors. Who knows how long that will take? Not even Secretary Powell!

EGPD - 7/18/2003

The above response by NYGuy does not contain one single relevant argument for his position. If he truly has answers to the questions posed in the article, I challenge him to explain them. Such questions include:
1. What was the compelling national interest? No WMD have been found; the only evidence for WMD is an incomplete and disassembled centrifuge found in someone's garden. Al Qaeda has never been credibly tied to Saddam Hussein's regime. The Iraq occupation has taken military resources away from potentially more important areas, such as Afghanistan and North Korea.
2. What is the exit strategy? No one in the administration has ever given the impression that such a strategy exists.

Go to.

NYGuy - 7/16/2003

A car driven by an elderly 80-year plus man plowed through a crowded farmers market Wednesday, killing eight people including a 2-year-old girl and injuring at least 35 others. Besides the eight deaths, 14 victims were critically injured and 21 or 22 had moderate or light injuries. Witnesses said victims were hurled through the air as the car, was traveling at sixty miles per hours. No outrage here in allowing elderly persons to drive their cars even if it is dangerous, and kills toddlers.

Yesterday the New York Times talked about the major homeless problem in California. And, the State has amassed the largest deficit in the country next to the U. S. Government. And, of course its record on poverty is abysmal, and the State record is one of the worst in the country with some counties having a 28% poverty rate.

Despite these terrible statistics, our friends from California want to tell the rest of the world how to live, even though their criticisms put the lives of our troops in greater danger and encourage our enemies to be more aggressive in hurting America.

I guess it is the old, “don’t do what I do, do what I say.” Eight people died today because they don’t want to address the problems in their own back yard, but prefer to put the lives of U. S soldiers in danger, and get them killed or wounded just like happened in California on Wednesday, with little concern.

NYGuy - 7/16/2003


It was right on point. Since you offer no rebuttal, I assume you agree with Herodotus.

Gus Moner - 7/16/2003

And your comment was brilliant, right?

lionel mandrake - 7/16/2003

Take Powell at his word? ROTFL. His presentation
to the UN amounted to perjury; how do you take him
at his word?

Well, *you* can. :-)

John Kipper - 7/16/2003

I would think that if Rosen really wanted to know what Colin Powell really thought, she would pay closer attention to what he publicly says and writes, taking his at his word. Wouldn't that be considered as consulting a primary source? Does she really think that she knows more about his thinking than he does? Or is she suggesting that this brilliant leader, a man of demonstrated honor, integrity and truthfulness is willing to turn his back on a lifetime of achievement in order to retain a position that he does not need to bolster his position in history, in the minds of his countrymen, or even for his economic well-being? Or is she suggessting that she understands his thought better than he does himself? WWhat arrogance.

I think it is more likely that Rosen knows not of which she speaks!

NYGuy - 7/15/2003

The world has changed, the technology has changed, the U. S. has been attack at home, the past foreign policy of neglect, and cowardice during the 1990's made us look weak, the turning of our future over to the thugs in the U. N. have hurt our image in the world but Ms. Rosen remains smugly in her little quaqmired world.

Let jews and Palistinians kill each other. Let other countries develop WMD, let young people around the world live in neglect and deprivation without education, let their leaders create more horrible living conditions and greater hatred and more killing, let Africa, Iraq and Afganistan lie like festing sores and Ms. Rosen would then be able to sit in her comfortable little world and feel satisfied.

Meanwhile, she lives in a state that is going bankrupt, the homeless rate in L.A. is staggering, some counties have poverty as high as 28%, antiwar proponents want to go back to isolationism, and the list goes on.

Her problem is she wants to live in the past. At a time when we are the leader of the world, and we have a great opportunity to make a difference and set examples and values that will bring peace and freedom, she wants to put her head in the ground. Perhaps the attack on this country will not be in San Francisco.

But, sitting in San Franciso, with old memories, will never provide the insight that is needed to achieve a better life for all of us. Thank god for GW, Powell, Rice, Cheney, and Rumsfield, people who care. Their is hope.

Herodotus - 7/15/2003

It's so interesting watching people who know next to nothing about military affairs embarrass themselves.