Powell Doctrine

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The "Powell Doctrine" is a journalist-created term, named after General Colin Powell in the run-up to the 1990–91 Gulf War. It is based in large part on the Weinberger Doctrine, devised by Caspar Weinberger, former Secretary of Defense and Powell's former boss. The doctrine emphasizes U.S. national security interests, overwhelming strike capabilities with an emphasis on ground forces, and widespread public support.[1]


The Powell Doctrine states that a list of questions all have to be answered affirmatively before military action is taken by the United States:

  1. Is a vital national security interest threatened?
  2. Do we have a clear attainable objective?
  3. Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
  4. Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?
  5. Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
  6. Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
  7. Is the action supported by the American people?
  8. Do we have genuine broad international support?[2]

As Powell said in an April 1, 2009 interview on The Rachel Maddow Show, it denotes a nation's exhausting of all "political, economic, and diplomatic means", which, only if all were futile, would result in the condition that the nation should resort to military force. Powell has so asserted that when a nation is engaging in war, every resource and tool should be used to achieve decisive force against the enemy, minimizing casualties and ending the conflict quickly by forcing the weaker force to capitulate.[3]

Analysis and commentary[edit]

The Powell Doctrine has been reported as emerging legacy from Korean and Vietnam and the "Never Again vs. Limited War" policy debates (either win or don't start versus value of limited war)[4] and Weinberger's Six Tests described in his 1984 speech "The Uses of Military Power".[5] It has been used to compare the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and the Iraq War.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Monten, Jonathan; Andrew Bennett (2010). "Models of Crisis Decision Making and the 1990–91 Gulf War". Security Studies. 19: 486–520. doi:10.1080/09636412.2010.505129.
  2. ^ DuBrin, Doug (2003). "The Powell Doctrine: Background, Application and Critical Analysis". NewsHour Extra. Archived from the original on January 16, 2013. Retrieved April 19, 2015.
  3. ^ Rachel Maddow, "Colin Powell Talks Rachel Maddow", MSNBC, 1 April 2009.
  4. ^ "The Powell Doctrine's Enduring Relevance". 22 July 2009.
  5. ^ "Weinberger's Six Tests".
  6. ^ DWSUF (September 8, 2007). "Is Iraq like Vietnam? Lessons learned". Daily Kos. Retrieved April 19, 2015.

Further reading[edit]

  • Heiko Meiertöns: The Doctrines of US Security Policy: An Evaluation under International Law, Cambridge University Press (2010), ISBN 978-0-521-76648-7.
  • Christopher D. O'Sullivan, Colin Powell: American Power and Intervention From Vietnam to Iraq, New York: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, (2009)
  • "U.S. Forces: Challenges Ahead." Powell, Colin L. Foreign Affairs; Winter 1992, Vol. 71 Issue 5, 32-45, 14p

External links[edit]