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Photograph by 2nd Lt. Gerald Ratchford

Dear Mr. President,

By now, I think much of the world has grown accustomed to your inclination for off-the-cuff remarks and saying things that, though you may really mean them in the moment, you’ll never actually follow through with.  Even Kim Jong-un may privately dismiss your recent fire and fury comment as merely Trump being Trump.

Just in case we’re all wrong, though, I want to equip you with a nice set of criteria for the use of military force. Known as the Weinberger Doctrine (later re-dubbed the Powell Doctrine in the media), it was first articulated in 1984 in a speech by then U.S. Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger. You can read the entire transcript, but it boils down to this: the United States should employ military force only when…

  1. Vital national interests are at stake
  2. U.S. public opinion and Congress support it
  3. Our objectives are clearly defined and achievable
  4. We will commit with the clear intention of winning
  5. All other options have been exhausted

And once committed…

  1. We continuously reassess our objectives and forces necessary based on the developing situation

At the time, Sec. Weinberger’s critics maintained the doctrine was too restrictive, limiting military response to only the most ideal circumstances and thereby hobbling American diplomatic efforts. This is understandable, but looking at the doctrine less dogmatically, it’s easy to see the intent is to know what we’re doing when we decide in favor of war: Do we have to do this? Will we really get what we want? Is it worth the price? War, as you should know by now even if your base doesn’t, is a terribly uncertain business. These are excellent questions to ask.

Take your recent comment about leaving a military option on the table in dealing with the crisis in Venezuela. Venezuela? Gosh are your sure about that? I know it’s a tragedy what’s happened in that country, but how on earth is a military intervention going to improve things? I’m going to have to insist on some very detailed answers to the criteria outlined above. And you should too.




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