After the devastating hit the US took during and after the Vietnam War, General Colin Powell devised what was referred to as “The Powell Doctrine,” which is a proposed set of guidelines designed to help our government make the best possible decision before sending our American military personnel into harm’s way. Here are the tenets:
- Is a vital national security interest threatened?
- Do we have a clear, attainable objective?
- Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
- Have all other non-violent policy means been thoroughly exhausted?
- Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
- Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
- Do the American people support this action?
- Do we have genuine broad international support?
There is never a “clean” war; however, before the middle part of the last century, Congress had to vote on whether the US was going to get involved in a foreign war. It wasn’t an easy ordeal, but that’s the point of having a republic: hard decisions take work. FDR didn’t retaliate against Japan or enter into WWII prematurely. The people’s representatives permitted him to declare war following his eloquent “A Date Which Will Live in Infamy” speech given to both Houses. The vote was an overwhelming bipartisan “yes” with only one “abstain.”
War should not be entered into lightly, but that’s where we are now – with one person deciding when to do so. Congress needs to take back the responsibility it gave up. It’s easy to thank our troops and praise their accomplishments, but much harder to decide when to send them into battle and this decision should rest with Congress.
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