Presidents rarely suffer from too little advice. Especially now, there seem to be hundreds of pundits, political scientists, and other experts — including many former Bush administration officials — offering advice on Iraq.
The question is: Should we commit combat forces in Iraq again?
Perhaps we should take a glance into the rearview mirror. In November 1982, defense secretary Caspar Weinberger gave a speech on “The Uses of Military Power” at the National Press Club. The Weinberger Doctrine (as it came to be known) was not for cases of self-defense when America was under direct attack. It was devised as a template for those situations in the gray area between the extremes of aggressive and defensive use of force.
The Weinberger Doctrine consisted of the following rules:
1. We should not commit combat forces unless it is vital to our (or our allies’) national interest.
2. If we commit combat forces we must do so without reservation, with the clear intention of winning.
3. If we commit forces we must define our political and military objectives clearly.
4. We must continuously assess and reassess the composition and disposition of our forces, and adjust them as conditions change.
5. Before we commit combat forces abroad we should have the support of the American people and their elected representatives.
6. Finally, we should commit U.S. forces only as a last resort.
Back in 2003, I thought the Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive action made sense even though sanctions were working, containment was working, and the weapons inspections were working. When Colin Powell presented evidence to the U.N. that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, and after Hussein defied so many U.N. Security Council resolutions, I supported the invasion of Iraq. For a while, I thought there might be a plausible explanation why we found no such weapons.
But in 2014, I think the Weinberger Doctrine makes more sense. Regarding Rule 1: are American vital national interests at stake? Maybe, but we need proof this time, absolute proof.
Regarding Rule 6: Have we tried everything? Of course we have not. We have not tried appeasement and we never will. Other than that, have we truly exhausted every other alternative? The answer is no, and therefore the answer to our original question must also be no.
Jack Godwin is an award-winning political scientist whose appeal spans the political spectrum. He is the author of three books on politics, most recently "The Office Politics Handbook," and is now writing his first novel, a political thriller set at the end of the Cold War, the golden age of spy fiction. To view more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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