Has GWBush disregarded parts of the Powell Doctrine?

The primary points of the Doctrine attributed to Colin Powell are:

A) Define your objective
B) Use overwhelming force
C) Fight wars you can win
D) Secure public support
E) Have a plan for getting out

Clearly, military buildup around Iraq is considerable. Nations bordering Iraq are under negotiations for use of their territory in the event of a war. So part B is being followed.

Part C is subjective, but I hear no real military objections to a war in Iraq, mostly civilian and political ones. I dont see why even using the exact same strategy of the original Gulf War wouldnt work. However, winning wars are based on fullfilling your objective, which is my question.

If the objective is to overthrow Saddam Hussein, how are we going to achieve that goal? We dont know where he is. Omar was more visible in Afghanistan and we havent found him (yet) I would be safe in saying that finding Saddam is harder than finding OBL. I am not comfortable with the notion that forming a new Iraqi govt while Saddam is loose is viable. If we do not secure Saddam, the alternative is to destroy his network of cronies and henchmen. A task nearly impossible in a war. How could we launch an attack on this regime while still following the guidelines of the Powell doctrine?

Part B is by no means assured, following today’s news of hedging by Turkey. They won’t allow use of their bases after all, unless the US pays compensation for any losses they suffer. Fair-weather friend, or nervous neighbor?

Part C depends on Part A. Without a clear objective, you don’t know when or if you’ve “won”. Part A has gone through so many mutations it’s hard to remember them all.

Part D: Hah. What hasn’t Bush done to worry the US public and antagonize necessary allies/billpayers?

Part E: No evidence of any exit plan is public, AFAIK.

Powell’s doctrine is as dead as his presidential possibilities now.

A better title.

The U.S. is capable of using ‘overwhelming force’ all by itself. Turkey would be useful to open up a second front and force Saddam to spread his defensive forces thinly, but it’s not necessary.

I think these criticisms are off-base. Let’s look at the five items:

A) Define Your Objective - This is clear as can be. The disarming of Iraq. The elimination of the Saddam regime.

B) - Use Overwhelming Force - With or without Turkey, the U.S. can drop 3,000 smart bombs on Iraqi C&C within 24 hours, and maintain that pace of bombing for weeks if necessary. And I predict that the U.S. will have Turkey on board, and probably lots of other countries in the region as well, once they all start realizing that the war is about to start. That’s what happened in Gulf I - there was far more resistance to that war then than there is for the current war - until the shooting was about to start. Then suddenly, the countries in the region came on board at a run. For a simple reason - if war is inevitable, you want to be on the winning side.

C) Fight Wars You Can Win - Is there anyone who doubts this?

D) Secure Public Support - Assuming we’re talking about the American people, mission accomplished. No, he doesn’t have European support, but he doesn’t need it in the context of the war. European support is useful for the rebuilding, and to prevent diplomatic fallout. But in the context of the Powell doctrine, ‘support’ means the American people. And they support the war.

E) Have a Clear Exit Strategy - Done. The administration’s plans for a post-Hussein Iraq have been floating around for months. In case you missed it, the plan calls for an occupation of 18-24 months, with a civilian governor either drawn from the Iraqi people or appointed by the U.N. During this time, a government will be set up as a Republic, to ensure that the various factions get equal representation. During this period of time, army engineers and civilian contracts from around the world will rebuild the country, using Iraqi oil revenue to pay for it. After this period, the occupation will end, most of the troops will go home, and a peacekeeping force will stay if necessary. I imagine the U.S. will also retain several large bases on the order of the Prince Sultan base in Saudi Arabia.

Powell’s plan is alive and well.

Oh, and don’t worry about Saddam vanishing like Bin Laden. Bin Laden is a guerilla, used to living in caves and travelling in small groups. If Saddam flees the country, his activities will stand out like a searchlight. Unless his only interest is survival, in which case I suppose he could fade away, but he’d also stop being a threat. So while it might not be good PR, it’s irrelevant from a military standpoint. But almost certainly Saddam wouldn’t be able to hide. If he left his security behind, he’d be dead soon anyway. Bin Laden may be a hero among many Muslims who will protect him, but Saddam will have no friends once he is out of power.

Well, to pull a Clinton, I suppose C is predicated on what “win” means. Is it possible to win the “war on drugs”? The “war on terrorism”? If we go into Iraq, and kick out Saddam, and as a result increase the possibility of major terrorism above what would’ve happened had we not gone in, does that count as “winning”? Is it winnng if that doesn’t happen, but we’re stuck in Iraq for years trying to clean up lawlessness and chaos?

I’m not saying any of this will come true, just that “winning” is a rather nebulous thing in war…

This is not a “clear objective” no matter how many times it’s repeated. It is not possible to disarm Iraq, unless Iran is a favorite ally of yours and you favor anarchy in the territory now controlled by that government and at least three states arising out of that. I assume what you mean is ‘the establishment of a new regime in Iraq’. Fine. Now, for that to be a “clear objective” you need to define what kind of regime it will be, who will be allowed and disallowed from serving in it, etc.

This is a no-brainer. Of course we can be overwhelming. Even before 12 years of sanctions we could. Now it’ll be a cakewalk-- asuming we have no public-relations-based squeamishness about killing innocent civilians.

Did you read the OP? Define your objective, then you can evaluate whether you can achieve it.

This assertion is absurd. Why even post such tripe? There were marches in New York or Washington, in case you missed them somehow. More than a few loonie commies and islomfascist dupes will respond nagatively in any poll. I don’t know what American people you’re talking about.

[emphasis mine]

What part of exit don’t you understand? And in what fantasy world do planners believe 24 months is when most troops will be able to leave? CITE?

There’s a difference between a plan and a doctrine, sir. A doctrine is a general philosophy or approach. A plan is a specific implementation of that philosophy. If your assertions represented the true plan, the doctrine would be dead.

[Fixed quote tags. – MEB]

One big problem is that the objective is to “disarm” Iraq. But the US doesn’t know where the weapons are hidden. After regime change there will be no central control of the weapons. It will be open season for Iraqi rogue elements, smugglers and maybe terrorists to grab the WMD and scoot off with them either for use or sale. US forces will blunder around the country for months but by the time they find the weapons sites most of the weapons may be gone.

As for the “exit strategy” it’s pretty much wishful thinking with any number of difficult questions unanswered:
Who will pay for reconstruction if Saddam destroys the oil-fields?
What if there is a civil war between Shias, Sunnis and Kurds?
What if a Shia dominated Iraq forms an alliance with Iran a few years down the line?
How much control will the US have over the actions of outside powers like Turkey and Iran?

The Afghanistan situation is not reassuring . There is very little nation-building going on. Central control is largely a joke outside Kabul. The different regional powers like Iran and Pakistan are back to their old games. There is very little guarantee that Afghanistan will become a stable democracy in the long run. Above all there seems to be a big question mark about Uncle Sam’s staying power and commitment once the fighting stops.

Oh, come on. By ‘disarm’ we aren’t talking about rounding up all the old Kalishnikovs and WWI-era pistols. We’re not even talking about getting rid of heavy machine guns. What we’re talking about is getting rid of Iraq’s ability to launch attacks on its neighbors and use weapons of mass destruction against others. This is as clear as can be, and we know exactly how to do it. Once the U.S. occupies that country, all those scientists and engineers will show the U.S. exactly where everything is. It will all be destroyed. And the new regime will have to agree to not rebuild, and this time the world will be able to keep enough control over the situation to make sure that happens.

Yes, I did. The objective - remove Iraq’s ability to threaten its neighbors and the world. The means: Invade with a military force, and eliminate the regime that is causing the problems. Stay until you’re sure the country won’t revert to anarchy. Destroy the weapons programs. Clear enough?

Now THIS is ridiculous. Let me see if I have this straight - scientific poll after scientific poll that shows the American people support the president are irrelevant, but a bunch of people marching is indicative of public sentiment? Please.

For the record, a new New York Times/CBS poll asked, “Do you support the Bush administration’s plans to go to war in Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein?” TWO THIRDS of those polled said ‘yes’.

Anyone who thinks the American people are not supporting the Bush administration on this are either blind, or engaging in ‘the big lie’.

“Once the U.S. occupies that country, all those scientists and engineers will show the U.S. exactly where everything is. It will all be destroyed”
This is wishful thinking of the highest order. How do you even know the scientists know where all the weapons are kept? I think it’s highly likely that Saddam has moved or will move some of the weapons to new secret locations in the control of his ultra-loyal sub-ordinates ; like his family or tribal members who won’t co-operate with the US. The US will have no way of find out these weapons sites and the loyalists along with the WMD will likely have fled the country by the time the US finds them out.

Gee, I’d guess that SOME people know where those weapons are. Actually, the US knows exactly where they are.

And just how loyal do you think his ‘ultra-loyal’ subordinates are? Their loyalty comes at the point of a gun. This isn’t a religious sect, or even the third Reich. This is basically a bunch of thugs who seized power and kept it through brutality, both to the outside and to each other.

Just yesterday Saddam arrested his defense minister and his family, accusing them of plotting against him. The defense minister also happens to be his son in law. These people are evil to the core. They aren’t principled. The ones that have made it out of the country have sung like canaries.

The idea that the U.S. will have ‘no idea’ where those weapons sites are is simply ridiculous.

As for the assertion often made that these weapons will fade into the night, I’d like to see you back that up with any kind of evidence. I’ve heard this assertion a lot, but I’ve never seen anything to suggest that it’s inevitable, or even likely, or even plausible. By all accounts, Saddam’s weapons are hidden deep in underground bunkers, and heavily guarded. If Saddam is out of the way, the people guarding those facilities will probably fold like a cheap suit. And these aren’t ideologues like the Taliban, who will risk life and limb in order to ‘strike back’ at the U.S. They’re bureaucrats and soldiers whose families are held hostage by Saddam. If they know the regime is done for, the likeliest response by them will be to yell, “Hey America! Here are those weapons you’re looking for!”

Of course, this result has been helped along by the millions of leaflets the U.S. has been dropping all over the place, telling the people in charge that they will not be punished if they turn over the WMD, but they will be tried as war criminals if they follow Saddam’s orders and try to use them.

“Gee, I’d guess that SOME people know where those weapons are. Actually, the US knows exactly where they are.”
Huh? I haven’t read a single report saying that the US knows the location of all the WMD in Iraq. This would be pretty impossible as Saddam is doubtless moving them around before an attack.

“And just how loyal do you think his ‘ultra-loyal’ subordinates are? Their loyalty comes at the point of a gun”
This applies to most of the Iraqi regime. So we could say that 99.9% of the regime fits this description. But unless you have conducted mind-probes of every single Iraqi I don’t see how you could confidently say that every single Iraqi is going to co-operate with the US. All you need is 50-60 die-hards who scoot off with the WMD. Do you know for a fact that every single member of Saddam’s family and tribe is going to co-operate with the US?

In fact they don’t even have to be loyal to Saddam per se. They just have to be people who realize that if they stick around in Iraq they will probably die either from other Iraqis or the Americans or at best face a life in jail. For such people fleeing Iraq is probably the best option and the money they could get from selling WMD is a nice bonus. Alternatively there could be some Iraqis whose family members were killed by American attacks in the last war who are more interested in revenge than anything else. Again it’s the height of irrational optimism to say there aren’t at least a few Iraqis who fits this description.

“If Saddam is out of the way, the people guarding those facilities will probably fold like a cheap suit.”
This is just wishful thinking. The fact is that no one knows how motivated the people guarding these facilities are. Again even if most of them fit this description the exceptions could cause an awful lot of damage.

As it happens US officials are very worried about such a possibility among others:

"Whether or not Saddam is currently allied with al Qaeda, a war could push them closer. Indeed, the CIA has assessed that Saddam may well deliver chemical or biological weapons to terrorists as his “last chance to exact vengeance by taking a large number of victims with him.”

Even if this didn’t happen, the chemical and biological weapons stocks could still slip out of the country in the chaos following an invasion. “You can take one of the mobile biological labs and drive it across the border,” says Pollack. “The greater possibility is they get across into the open arms of Syrian and Iranian border guards.” These regimes already have their own programs to build weapons of mass destruction (WMD). But terrorists could well obtain smaller quantities of harmful agents, especially if, as U.S. officials allege, the stocks have been secreted all over the country. “There’s nothing to say that an Iraqi bioscientist doesn’t have a pile of the stuff in his freezer,” says one former defense official. "

Fair enough. Perhaps for some of the biologicals, there is a possibility that some group could smuggle them out. But WHY? They aren’t Islamic extremists trying to destroy the Great Satan. They’re just a bunch of thugs on the run. I suppose you could say that they might take them with the intention of selling them, but is that likely? Do we have any reason at all to believe that this would be the case any more than, say, some rogue officers in the U.S. would commandeer a nuke? Sure, it could happen. They’d still have to get past what will be a pretty serious gauntlet set up for them, I’d guess. But still, they could. That’s a risk. A small one, in my opinion, but still there. War has risks.

I’d balance that off with the possibility that Saddam will do EXACTLY that if left in power. And there is evidence that he already has. The al-Qaida that the U.S. says is the link to Saddam was in Iraq, and then he travelled to France and traces of Ricin were found in his apartment.

“Do we have any reason at all to believe that this would be the case any more than, say, some rogue officers in the U.S. would commandeer a nuke?”
The difference is that the US government isn’t about to be destroyed. Once you destroy the Iraqi regime there is no longer any central control and the odds of rogue elements grabbing WMD increases enormously.

As for motivation apart from the money there is also revenge as I mentioned. Don’t you think there will at least be some Iraqis whose top priority will be revenge rather than survival. Again you need only a few dozen die-hards in the right place to do a great deal of damage.

As for the “gauntlet” I wouldn’t count too much on it. In Afghanistan many of the Taliban and Al-queda managed to flee to Pakistan despite official co-operation from the goverment. Iraq has two bordering countries Syria and Iran who have made no such commitment. The US simply has no means of ensuring the capture of all the fleeing Iraqis. Some of them, perhaps a majority, yes. But even if a dozen get away with WMD that could be a catastrophe.

“I’d balance that off with the possibility that Saddam will do EXACTLY that if left in power”
I have gone through this logic many times but let me repeat: **the incentives change after invasion[b/] . Without invasion Iraq would have strong disincentives because of both fears of American retaliation and fear of arming terrorists who could use the WMD to threaten Iraq itself. With invasion the Iraqis will have nothing to lose and will do their worst. There is no longer any regime left which is deterred.

Cute. So the US is going in with or without the U.N. But then when the US decide to pull out it’s the UN who gets to clean up the mess, undoubtedly so that they can be the patsies for everything that goes pear-shaped. Or does your exit plan include the US accepting an UN appointed governor having authority over any US forces remaining in Iraq?

Well, this is an improvement, in that it’s closer to being an objective than your initial simplistic statement. So you’d like independent Kurdistan (me too!), a Shia state in the south, and Iran dominating the center. Unfortunately, the US can’t possibly share this objective, given our promises to Turkey and antipathy towards Iran. So, once again, you make a poor mouthpiece for the administration you seem to support.

Stay until you’re sure the country won’t revert to anarchy. Destroy the weapons programs. Clear enough?

It’s clear that your sense of how difficult and time-consuming this will be is as accurate as your understanding of global politics. Not very.

For those of you have trouble adding, that means ONE THIRD of those polled do not support the war!! If you want to ignore one third of Americans, that’s fine, but be honest about it. What you meant was that you FEEL that ENOUGH Americans support the war, not that “Americans support the war.”

Anyone who disregards the sentiment of one third of Americans on this issue are either greedy warmongers or ignorant facsists.

If the US knows exactly where they are, then they’re withholding that information from the weapons inspectors.

Why are thye doing that? Do they WANT a war? Well, it sure would distract Americans from the piss-poor economy.

I will post my assumptions (since I really dont have any proof that is not circumstancial) so that everyone will know where my ideas are coming from.

  1. Iraq does not have Nuclear weapons. He does have all or most of the components to enrich uranium using 2 different methods. I do not believe he has enriched uranium, but left alone he will eventually get some and a nuke is not too far behind.

  2. I believe that chemical and biological laboratories are mobile. Only the loyalist military knows where they are exactly at any given time. Capturing them would also net scientists.

  3. I also believe he has a few long range delivery systems still intact. Enuf capability to reach israel, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

  4. I have never heard of “Disarming Iraq” down to their skivvies as a real objective. I have heard of ridding Iraq of WMD and offensive weapons.

  5. Saddam might not be a guerilla fighter, he is certainly very adept at hiding while still maintaining power. The difference between him and OBL is that OBL hides in caves, Saddam hides in palaces and bunkers, travels in armored vehicles and has lookalike decoys.

Overthrowing Saddams regime seems to be an unwinable objective with no exit strategy. Its not just a matter of cutting of its head (saddam) but simultaneously killing the body. We need some internal support to make sure that all of Saddam’s loyalists are identified and neutralized and then have some form of replacement govt (like Kurzai’s) to start over. Saddam basically eliminated all opposition. Having the US prop one up is unspeakable to any muslim.

My opinion is that this war is inevitable. It must be fought now because later would be a 100 times worse. It will not be a short and sweet war. This will take years. Along the line, securing public support will be unachievable. Win lose or draw, Bush is finished politically. Only time will tell if he was right or not.

Sam: "Actually, the US knows exactly where they are. "

How do you know that? What is your level of security clearance?

Or is that an inference from facts you’re willing to list for us?

Or is this just another invention from someone with a strained relationship with the world of fact?

I’m going to have to go citeless on this, since it’s time to go home, and a google of “Gulf War Poll” produced copious amounts of sites, but IIRC, the level of support is nowhere near that of 1991. It could quickly swing to 2/3 the other way if things turn ugly or some event changes views. The level of our commitment in 1991 was much deeper than it is now. I have seen polls on this, but can’t come up with a cite on short order.

.02 centavos.

Gulf War I did not have nearly the support you recall. The French opposed it, and the Russians opposed it back when they were much more powerful. Jordan sided with Saddam. There were marches in Europe.

Domestic opinion was pretty high, though. Slightly higher than it is now.

As for the poll I mentioned, you can see it here: PollingReport.com

From the cite:


“Do you approve or disapprove of the United States taking military action against Iraq to try to remove Saddam Hussein from power?”

ALL 66%
Republicans 90%
Democrats 46%
Independents 66%

ALL 29%
Republicans 7%
Democrats 46%
Independents 30%

Don’t Know
ALL 5%
Republicans 3%
Democrats 8%
Independents 4%

A couple of interesting things about this. One is that the support level is plenty high. Now, that doesn’t mean that people saying “Yes” don’t also want more time, or want Bush to try for another resolution. Other questions on the same page indicate a lot of split support for various options. But on the basic question of “Does Saddam need to go”, the American people seem to agree.

Another interesting point iis the very low levels of ‘undecideds’. That would work against the claim that there hasn’t been enough debate on this topic. It would seem that most Americans have made up their minds, one way or the other.

**ElvisL1ves: You saw the satellite photos Powell had. The U.S. also has intelligence on facilities undertground near Tikrit, and underground in other areas. Why haven’t they sent the inspectors? I don’t know. Perhaps they are protecting sources, or perhaps they don’t want the stuff there moved to a place where they can’t find it when war breaks out. Maybe they’re just worried about the safety of the inspectors if they back Iraq into a corner.

And sure, it’s possible that the U.S. doesn’t know where all of it is. Anything’s possible. But I believe that the U.S. has good reason to think they can locate the stuff and prevent it from being smuggled out of the country. After all, I think Condi Rice, Don Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, General Myers, and Dick Cheney are capable of analyzing the risks at least as well as your average Doper.
% % %
ALL 66 29 5
Republicans 90 7 3
Democrats 46 46 8
Independents 66 30 4

Various other questions indicate much less robust support for the war:

For instance:
“Do you think removing Saddam Hussein from power is worth the potential loss of American life and the other costs of attacking Iraq, or not?”
Only 51% for and 40% against. This is interesting because the moment you frame the question to consider the costs of a war support drops sharply. However this seems to be a more relevant question than just asking about military action without considering the costs.

Another interesting question:
“Which of these comes closest to your opinion? Iraq’s development of weapons is a threat to the United States that requires military action right now. OR, Iraq’s development of weapons is a threat that can be contained with inspections for now. OR, Iraq’s development of weapons is not a threat to the United States at all.”
Only 46% for military action now and 44% for containment and inspections and 7% for not a threat.

So when military action is placed along with an alternative like containment both get basically equal support.

Finally Bush gets only 53% approval of his handling of the Iraq situation which seems rather low just before a possible war.

Overall I think it’s fair to say that there is less than overwhelming support for a war. By contrast IIRC there was 90% support for the Afghanistan war.

And recall that this is in a context where political criticism of the war has been muted and where by all reports Democrats are much more skeptical of the war in private than in public.