[TODAY]Powell Doctrine Leaves Much Unsaid

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[TODAY]Powell Doctrine Leaves Much Unsaid

Specialists of foreign relations and strategists anticipated at the time of Colin Powell's inauguration as the U.S. Secretary of State that the conditions and means of U.S. forces military intervention in troubled areas would change. They called the "new" conditions and means of U.S. armed forces intervention the "Powell Doctrine."

The core strategy of the Powell Doctrine is that overwhelming armed forces are injected for a limited period of time in troubled areas and are pulled out after concentrating all energies on completing the given mission only when the campaign has achieved clearly defined national interests of the United States. The military action should be conducted under the provision that war is the last resort for solving the problem.

The imminent military action, which awaits only U.S. President George W. Bush's orders, is testing the Powell Doctrine in two ways. One test is whether Mr. Powell's voice is being properly heard in Washington, where the Pentagon line-up that consists of U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, a former secretary of defense, the current secretary of defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld, who is a hardliner, and the deputy secretary of defense, Paul Wolfowitz, another hardliner, predominates.

Another test concerns the contents of the Powell Doctrine. The aim of the war is very clear - to take retaliatory action against Afghanistan, which is pin-pointed as a suspect country supporting terrorists who committed unthinkable and savage attacks on the United States, and in the long-term to root out terrorism. However, the Powell Doctrine seems remote from reality when it takes into account that Afghanistan is a poor country without significant military targets and industrial plants against which the U.S. forces would be injected and pulled out after completing the mission.

The prediction that special forces will be mobilized for this war illustrates the difficulties of conducting concentrated attacks against Afghanistan, due to its geographic characteristics. President Bush's remark that a longer period of war should be expected is tantamount to a warning that it will take some time for the U.S. forces to capture or kill Osama bin Laden and terminate his organization.

For President Bush politically, it is imperative that he calls for an attack and retaliate against states that support terrorism. The demand that this war not be a retaliation but an operation to end international terrorism seems "disengaged," when the United States mainland has been rocked and many civilians killed in the first attack of its kind in U.S. history. The line between attack to retaliate and attack to terminate international terrorism is not clear.

The assertion that the attacks should occur after the terrorists have been definitively identified does not fit the collective rage of Americans. The longer President Bush takes before triggering an attack, the greater will be his political trial as people become more cautious on a reaction. In the most recent polls, the majority of the American people support war, but there is a growing number of people who want to wait until the target of an attack become clear.

The United States believes attacks on Afghanistan are sufficiently justified by Mr. bin Laden's record and his association with the Taleban regime. However, the United States is seeking to justify its attacks on Afghanistan by offering the Taleban a chance to handover Mr. bin Laden, a request made through Pakistan.

It is concentrating its efforts on building an international coalition with its allies of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, countries sharing borders with Afghanistan and major powers, such as Russia and China.

In the end, the Powell Doctrine seems to be too much of a "gentlemen's rule," to pass the tough tests of a war fought in the rough mountainous areas of Afghanistan and the "dirty war," as was described by Vice President Cheney, of countering international terrorism. Moreover, the "dirty war" will be different from the Gulf War, which was characterized by a fast attack and a fast victory. It will be a prolonged war that will be supported by world opinion but haunted by nightmares of terrorist attacks.

The warning from Samuel Huntington, author of the "Clash of Civilizations," in an interview with Die Zeit, a German weekly newspaper, that terrorists might be preparing another attack should be noted. His assertion that dealing with terrorist attacks requires an international coalition that includes Islamic states raises expectations that the relationship between the United States and Islamic nations may improve.

It is also hoped that the Bush administration, which has tended to act unilaterally in the domain of international affairs, will seek greater counsel abroad, placing more importance on multilateral cooperation.


The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Young-hie

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