My colleague Michael Lind — author of the recently released The American Way of Strategy — has an interesting Financial Times piece on the “Powell Doctrine” outflanking the “Bush Doctrine” today and in the years ahead.
I once wrote about the pre-9/11 factions in Bush administration foreign policy. I suggested that there were three groups in competition around Bush:
1. neoconservatives allied with pugnacious nationalists under the guidance of Wolfowitz, Feith, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and others — and there was a large populatiion of these “types” throughout the administration;
2. a small group of neo-realists under Condi Rice who did very little to build a roster of followers
3. Secretary of State Colin Powell — who was a movement unto himself but who had no real followers beyond a few key loyalists. Powell tended to matter significantly when he was in the room when decision making was going on but didn’t matter when he wasn’t there (Americans should be thankful that Colin Powell was in the room frequently and decided to travel infrequently so as to try and keep GW Bush on some sort of track early in the administration — or we would be in even worse shape today)
But now Powell’s Gulf War guidance on fundamental interests, overwhelming force, narrow objectives, and exit strategies are going to haunt this Bush administration for all time.
Michael Lind is correct that the disaster that has become the Iraq War will compel every future President to have close at hand some reminder of the Powell Doctrine.
— Steve Clemons