The Republican Party and its leaders have all but forgotten the Weinberger Doctrine, its derived Powell Doctrine and the effort that took place under Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush to impose discipline on the American crusading instinct. The precepts of these doctrines were imperfect and in no way a substitute for the grand strategy the nation has lacked since the end of Cold War I. But they were a step in the right direction, a step informed by a desire to forge a principled tactical middle path between the isolationism that set the stage for World War II and the sort of GloboCop interventionism that has sucked us into our current state of imperial overreach.
The Weinberger-Powell Doctrine was already suffering from a decade of neglect when Colin Powell took office, and his decision to place his loyalty to George W. Bush over his loyalty to his principles vis-a-vis Iraq ultimately buried those principles and put the US into full-bore interventionalist mode.
The nation has never looked back.
Most Americans are uncomfortable isolationists. To have in our hands the means to ease human suffering and to willfully withhold it for material reasons strikes us as moral weakness.
Yet most Americans are similarly uncomfortable with writing endless checks for blood and treasure to impose our political and economic will on foreign peoples and to give succor to those who will only resent us for our often ham-handed efforts.
We can no longer afford to allow ourselves to be alternately driven by one or another of these emotions. It is past time for The Blob or whatever passes for its alternative to forge a non-partisan template that can guide a President – regardless of strategy or ideology – in the proper employment of the means of national power.
The creation of such a template is properly beyond the means of Congress and must predate the inauguration of a president. As such, the effort must begin now.
So let us begin.
Using the Weinberger-Powell Doctrine as a starting point, I have drafted the following set of rules that combine to form the nucleus of what I call the Bull Moose Doctrine. This needs polish, and some of the concepts herein require further definition (“constabulary power,” for example.) It is a start, however, and I welcome your input.
- The United States has the ability to exercise national power upon state and non-state actors by a range of means. These means include, but are not limited to, diplomatic, cultural, politico-ideological, economic, commercial, technological, legal, constabulary, cyber, kinetic, and nuclear.
- These means are substantial but they are also limited in both measure and capability, and therefore must at all times be employed with a view to economy.
- The proper exercise of that power is dependent upon the clear articulation by the Commander-in-Chief of what constitutes the national interests of the United States, one that reflects the perceptions of that interest of at least a majority if not a consensus of Congress and the American people.
- The means of national power should only be exercised in the defense of national interests, and the employment of those means should be proportional to the importance of the national interests threatened.
- At any rate, military power, whether constabulary, cyber, or kinetic, should only be employed when a vital national security interest is threatened.
- Military power should only be employed when there is a clear, definable, attainable, and finite objective.
- Military power should only be employed when the risks and costs of the exercise of that power have been fully and frankly analyzed, and the potential unintended consequences in the short-, medium- and long-term given full consideration.
- Military power should only be exercised when other non-violent means have been fully exhausted.
- Military power should only be exercised when there are plausible exit strategies following either mission completion or mission failure.
- Military power should only be exercised with the support of the American people.
- Military power should only be exercised with genuine and broad international support, in particular from our allies.
- When national power by any means is exercised, every resource and tool within those means should be used to achieve decisive results so as to avoid unnecessary escalation.
- When military power is exercised, every resource and tool should be used to assemble decisive force against the enemy, minimizing casualties and ending the conflict quickly by forcing the capitulation of the enemy.
- Following the exercise of military power, every resource and tool should be used to enable the rapid recovery of the American and foreign communities and individuals affected by the conflict.