“Collin Powell embodies the highest ideals of both military and diplomats.” US President Joe Biden pays tribute to former Secretary of State Powell, who passed away on the 18th (local time). Powell was the first black American to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State, and was a pioneer who broke the glass ceiling in the white-dominated American politics and was a military and national strategist who introduced the “Powell Doctrine”. “The Powell Doctrine is still an important standard for looking back on US foreign and security policy,” Foreign Policy, a US diplomatic media outlet, said. “Powell’s legacy continues.”
The Powell Doctrine is a strategy to avoid armed intervention as much as possible, but to use overwhelming military force when intervention for the national interest is unavoidable, and to determine victory through swift action. Ahead of the 1990-91 Gulf War, the Doctrine created by then General Powell became famous as journalists named it the ‘Powell Doctrine’.
The Powell Doctrine stated that the United States must meet eight conditions before taking any military action: ‘Is important national security interests threatened? Do you have clear, achievable goals? Were risk factors and costs analyzed completely and honestly? Are there any more non-violent solutions? Do you have a clear exit strategy? Were the consequences of military action sufficiently considered? Is military intervention supported by Americans? Does the US decision have broad international support?’
Powell came up with this doctrine because of his experience in the Vietnam War. He served as a captain in a Vietnamese infantry battalion patrolling the border with Laos in 1963. During the operation, he stepped on a bamboo spear booby trap and injured his leg. He was promoted to major in 1968 and returned to Vietnam. Although he received numerous decorations as an outstanding soldier and commander, Powell witnessed the realities of war through the Vietnam War. I became convinced of the absurdity and futility of war, and I learned every detail of how the war was progressing. “Many military commanders of my generation have vowed never again to wage a ‘half war’ that the American people did not understand or support,” Powell wrote in his 1995 memoir.
Nevertheless, the Powell Doctrine did not function properly in US foreign and security policy. Foreign Policy said that before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, within the US administration, there was a debate between those who experienced the Vietnam War, such as Powell, and policy-makers with no war experience. Although Powell preached the lessons of the Vietnam War, hawks from the George W. Bush administration, who had no war experience, pushed for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Why was Powell unable to stop the Iraq War despite the doctrine he had set up? When asked about the question in a CNN interview in 2009, Powell responded, referring to the president’s authority, saying, “We’ve been arguing to prevent war, but once the president makes a decision, it becomes the cabinet’s decision.”
The Washington Post explained that Secretary Powell’s role in major foreign affairs, including the North Korean nuclear issue and the Middle East and Israel relations, was limited by hardliners. Powell was primarily limited to alleviating the Bush administration’s extreme tendencies and preventing catastrophe. The Washington Post correspondent Karen DeYoung said: “Powell played a major role in putting the brakes on the president’s frivolous actions and bad policies. .
In addition, he left the biggest stain of his life during the Iraq War. In 2003, he gave a speech at the UN Security Council raising suspicions about Iraq’s development of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The following year, however, he had to admit that he had been provided with false evidence. At the time, he was treated as an ‘old man’ by the government and was excluded from key information. “A speech to the United Nations will always follow me,” Powell said. It will also be included in the obituary.”
Foreign Policy mentioned the chaos in the process of withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan and said that ‘Powell’s legacy’ is needed more in this era. Cold War arrogance led the United States to defeat in Vietnam. The ‘Vietnam Syndrome’ arose over this devastating defeat within the US administration at the time, and now the ‘Irakistan Syndrome’, which means the twin migs of Iran and Afghanistan, is being mentioned again.
Foreign Policy points out that it is important to remember Powell’s warning before US foreign and security policy becomes more messy. Powell used to liken his doctrine to the ‘Pottery Barn rule’. “You break it, you buy it.”