Doctrine Must Be Updated to Fit New War on Terrorism

By Scarborough, Rowan | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 5, 2001 | Go to article overview

Doctrine Must Be Updated to Fit New War on Terrorism


Scarborough, Rowan, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Byline: Rowan Scarborough

The Weinberger-Powell doctrine that influenced presidents on when and how to use American military power for nearly two decades has given way to the unchartered war on terrorism.

Named after former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, the doctrine's major tenet is to use decisive, or overwhelming, force to achieve a clear objective.

That convention is out the window in the ongoing campaign in Afghanistan and the broader war against global terrorism. Targeted action, not decisive force, is what is needed to uproot shadowy terror networks, U.S. officials say.

President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld are trying to achieve with limited arms (air assaults, special operations and CIA covert action) what overwhelming force is designed to attain - namely, the destruction of an enemy, Osama bin Laden, and ousting of a belligerent government, Afghanistan's Taliban.

But the exact "Bush-Rumsfeld" doctrine that would stand alongside the Weinberger-Powell principles is still to be written, military analysts say. It takes a significant military event, such as the Vietnam War or the nascent war on terrorism, to spur strategists to starting thinking about what it all means.

"All you've got right now are a series of disconnected policy musings that are the most immediate response to the challenge we are currently facing," says retired Army Col. Kenneth Allard, a TV military analyst who has written books on military strategy.

Analysts predict this century's first war against so-called asymmetrical threats - in this case terrorism - will produce a military doctrine like no other.

"We need a new vocabulary," Mr. Rumsfeld said shortly after the air war began Oct. 7. "We need to get rid of `old think' and start thinking about this thing the way it really is."

"New think" is actually what Mr. Weinberger aimed to do in 1984. Then, in the early days of the Reagan military buildup, the defense secretary wanted to set down principles for deploying forces that would prevent another Vietnam. Mr. Powell, former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, later amended the Weinberger doctrine to also call for using "decisive force."

In a Nov. 28, 1984, speech to the National Press Club, Mr. Weinberger said U.S. armed force would be used only to protect "vital interests of the U.S. or its allies." He said the action must have "clearly defined political and military objectives" and come with "reasonable assurance we will have the support of the American people and their representatives in Congress."

Analysts say Mr. Bush is meeting those criteria. Congress and the American people are overwhelmingly backing military action. Mr. Rumsfeld has stated the objective: ousting the ruling Taliban, and eliminating bin Laden and his al Qaeda terror network. The United States holds bin Laden responsible for the September 11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon.

But Mr. Powell himself agrees his principle of decisive force does not fit in Afghanistan.

"I've always talked about decisive force, meaning you go to the point of decision and that's where you apply decisive force," Mr.

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