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08-25-04, 08:23 AM

Critics Flip-Flop on ‘Powell Doctrine’

By William F. Sauerwein

Many critics of Operation Iraqi Freedom state that we ignored the principles of the “Powell Doctrine” in launching the invasion. In doing so, they would have us ignore the fact that it was they who helped destroy the doctrine in the early 1990s.

However, we only used this doctrine twice in battle – Operation Just Cause in Panama in 1989 and Ooperation Desert Storm in 1991 – and it proved so successful that we scrapped it. The succeeding strategy remains an “orphan” since no one gave it a name. Ironically, many of today’s critics of the Iraqi campaign had earlier heartily endorsed this “orphan” strategy, which helped create our current mess.

The “Powell Doctrine” refers to Operation Desert Storm when then-Gen. Colin Powell was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). Its underlying principle employed overwhelming force for delivering the enemy a quick “knockout punch.” A massive six-week air campaign severely weakened the Iraqis, and the ground campaign achieved a devastating victory in about four days.

One reason for this unprecedented victory was that at the time we possessed a robust military force. American forces were in a high state of readiness in anticipation of fighting our Cold War enemies. This readiness entailed a significant amount of flexibility for adapting to a variety of missions.

Another reason for our success was that Saddam Hussein proved to be his own worst enemy.

Desert Storm was not a Cold War deployment; however we adapted our Cold War plans and forces for the situation. The deployment schedule for my Army unit remained intact, only the destination and mission changed. Platforms designed for delivering nuclear weapons on Soviet targets were modified for delivering conventional munitions in Iraq. Fighting vehicles designed for engaging Warsaw Pact forces engaged the Soviet-armed and -trained Iraqi Army. We overwhelmed the Iraqis with the AirLand Battle Doctrine that had been designed for the plains of Europe.

Most importantly, the Army possessed enough forces for waging this war while simultaneously deterring war in other theaters. The Army deployed the equivalent of seven of its eighteen combat divisions to the Middle East. With that size of force structure the Army proved flexible enough for overcoming many problems, yet fielding sufficient forces.

Some divisions were undergoing modernization programs, rendering the affected unit non-deployable for about 90 days. At least two divisions “cross-loaded” brigades with non-deployed divisions for deploying at full strength. Other divisions received separate brigades, including cannibalizing one division to replace unready “round out” National Guard brigades.

Sufficient forces remained for contingency plans, such as reinforcing the Middle East or deterring North Korea. Someone stationed on the Korean DMZ at the time confirmed that North Korea indeed “rattled its sabers.” Furthermore, in case of a long-term deployment officials in late 1990 revealed that a workable troop rotation plan was under review.

The initial air campaign (our overriding advantage) achieved air superiority in a matter of days, cutting off Iraqi forces from their command and control and logistical support, which demoralized them. Air superiority also guaranteed us detailed intelligence of Iraqi defenses while keeping the Iraqis almost totally in the dark.

When the ground war began, it had been adequately planned, supplied and rehearsed to the minutest detail. Saddam focused on a seaborne invasion into Kuwait by the First Marine Expeditionary Force. Undetected, the Army’s VII and XVIII Corps moved far to the west, and execute the now-famous “Left Hook” into Iraq. Both U.S. Army corps had three full-strength divisions, with another division held in strategic reserve.

The victory confirmed the quality of both American troops and equipment as we defeated a well-equipped, numerically-superior enemy. It further proved the superiority of our AirLand Battle doctrine as it totally dominated the Soviet-trained Iraqis.

North Korea quieted down and any warlike thoughts of the Warsaw Pact quickly disappeared. Indeed, within the year the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union both ceased to exist.

Unfortunately, American leaders – feeling invulnerable after victory in the Cold War – succumbed to an attitude of arrogance and complacency. They ignored any shortcomings in the force identified during Desert Storm because the new strategy was to focus on reducing defense spending.

The incoming Clinton administration replaced the “Powell Doctrine” with what I term the “We can do more with less” doctrine. Subsequently, the administration reduced the Army from eighteen to ten combat divisions, yet the number of missions did not reduce, but actually expanded. “Experts” at the time stated that our technological superiority would compensate for the personnel losses. If the situation warranted, the military could gain additional forces through mobilization of the National Guard and Reserves.

At the time, officials dismissed or ignored the problems encountered with the mobilization of “round out” brigades during Desert Storm. Senior officials publicly acknowledged that mobilized units required from 60 to 90 days of post-mobilization training before deployment. This was deemed adequate because we lacked the transportation assets for deploying units into theater any quicker.

No one addressed the potential of an enemy using the “Powell Doctrine” on us before these 90 days. North Korea’s strategy was, and is, seizing as much of South Korea as possible before American forces arrive in sufficient numbers. The new primary threat, Iraq, had easy access into its Gulf neighbors, across open desert borders. However, we deceived ourselves into believing that neither would strike until we had assembled our forces in theater.

Planning for post-Gulf War Iraq used virtually all CONUS-based Army divisions, some already slated for deactivation. The Army had already reduced many of those by one-third and assigned a “round out” Guard brigade. But none of these Guard brigades’ icons appeared on the maps used during contingency training exercises.

After the dust settled for an Iraq contingency, three divisions remained for other emergencies. One was stationed in Korea, a vital commitment; with another stationed in Hawaii for reinforcing Korea. The 10th Mountain Division was the only CONUS-based division available for any “what if” scenario.

The Clinton administration set American global strategy as having the capability to wage “two almost simultaneous regional conflicts,” ironically the same strategy that we had used during the Cold War. It became obvious that if this occurred, we would quickly need a massive mobilization of Guard and Reserve forces. Again, these forces required a 60- to 90-day post-mobilization train-up period before deployment.

The “Powell Doctrine” went into the “dustbin of history,” deemed irrelevant in the post-Cold War era. Our accepted strategy became that American forces would provide mostly air power and logistical support while using “allied” ground troops. The U.N. Security Council would exercise command and control, usually with no clear chain of command.

This new strategy received its baptism of fire during Operation Restore Hope in Somalia. The problems encountered during this humanitarian operation could be the subject of a separate article. Media images of starving people and the inability of the international community in solving it dictated American military strategy.


08-25-04, 08:24 AM
Initially, an American-led coalition arrived in sufficient force for its limited mission of protecting international aid workers. However, once the U.N. assumed control and the bulk of American forces withdrew, the situation deteriorated. The main problem came from a militia under a brutal, local warlord named Mohammed Farrah Aideed.

Part of the new strategy entailed using special operations forces in place of heavy forces. Subsequently, Delta Force and Army Rangers deployed (publicly) into Somalia and began conducting a series of raids. While these raids initially proved successful, they established a pattern, and Aideed adapted his tactics for countering it.

This became evident in the raid made famous in Mark Bowden’s book, Black Hawk Down (and the movie of the same title). During the planning for this raid, the American commander, Maj. Gen. William Garrison, requested heavy forces for the relief force. Washington denied this request, and the relief force consisted of light infantry forces riding in Humvee’s and 2½-ton trucks.

Washington reasoned that employing heavy forces against Aideed’s lightly-armed “technicals” presented the wrong image. As a result, fewer than 500 American troops pitted themselves against thousands of “technicals” in brutal urban warfare. Task Force Ranger became surrounded and had to fight its survival, relying heavily on air support. The relief force suffered under a gauntlet of fire as it fought through Mogadishu’s streets.

American forces, displaying incredible acts of heroism, suffered 18 killed and 73 wounded while killing over 500 Somalis. Delta snipers Gary Gordon and Randy Shughart were posthumously awarded Medals of Honor. Ironically, an American heavy task force was deployed in case it was needed for rescuing American prisoner, Michael Durant.

Congress conducted only two days of hearings concerning the cause of this failure. The debacle was blamed on then-Defense Secretary Les Aspin, who subsequently resigned, and Garrison, whose career came to an abrupt end. In his memoir, My American Journey, Powell admitted that Somalia had been a “failure in policy.”

The Defense Department and Army developed amnesia and did nothing to draw any potential “lessons learned” as the operation ended. Six months later as they withdrew from Somalia, U.S. forces watched as Somali “technicals” occupied their former positions. It appeared as if a ragtag force of armed thugs had soundly defeated the world’s sole superpower.

American problems with using “overwhelming force” continued with our deployments into the Balkans. In December 1995, the 1st Armored Division was delayed over two weeks trying to ford the Sava River. During the Cold War, river-crossing was an essential task practiced by combat units repeatedly. Four years later, the 1st Infantry Division encountered similar delays in its movement from Greece into Kosovo.

Rapid deployment and speedy maneuvers over vast areas – considered routine during the Cold War – had now become difficult, operation-delaying problems.

Since the Pentagon declared that the Kosovo war, like Gulf War I was a great “victory,” we did not address any shortcomings that emerged, nor move to resurrect the “Powell Doctrine.”

In the decade following Desert Storm, anyone who called for a restoration of this came under harsh scrutiny or found his or her career ended.

It is ironic – and outrageous – that those same politicians and analysts who embraced the “new strategy” at the dawn of the 1990s now seek to distance themselves from it by championing the “Powell Doctrine” as a response to the over-stretched U.S. military we find in the wake of Operation Iraqi Freedom. If they had not scrapped the “Powell Doctrine” and the requisite force structure in the first place, we might not now be struggling in Iraq and elsewhere today.

William F. Sauerwein is a Contributing Editor of DefenseWatch. He can be reached at mono@gtec.com. Please send Feedback responses to dwfeedback@yahoo.com.



08-25-04, 10:20 AM
Some thoughts on ‘Powell Doctrine’;
The Generals' War:
The Inside Story of the Conflict in the Gulf.

He was opposed to the majority of George H.W. Bush Administration officials who advocated the deployment of troops to the Middle East to force Iraqi president Saddam Hussein to withdraw his armies from neighbouring Kuwait, believing the dictator could instead be contained through sanctions and a buildup of forces around Kuwait, a plan soon dubbed Powell Doctrine. This course of action was not ultimately followed however, and troops were deployed.

As an officer, Powell also values loyalty very highly, and as a result, does not usually undermine policies he disagrees with after they are implemented. Thus, while initally opposing the plan that would become Operation Desert Storm, Powell neverthless supported it once it became official policy, and gave it his full dedication.

In that book, it also brings out that General Colin Powell wanted nothing to do with a post-war Iraq.

We now question what happen in the 12 to 13 years since Desert Storm to change those thoughts.

From a page on the web;
As Secretary of State in the Bush administration, Powell is perceived as moderate, his pragmatism serving as a balance to more ideology-driven hawks, such as the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld and his colleagues Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle. Powell's great asset has been his tremendous popularity among the American people.

More recently, Powell has come under fire for his role in building the case for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In a press statement of February 24, 2001 he said that sanctions against Iraq had prevented the development of any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction by Saddam Hussein. As was case in the days leading up to the Persian Gulf War, Powell was initally opposed to a forcible overthrow of Hussein, preferring to continue a policy of containment. However, the Bush administration was adamant about Hussein's removal, so Powell eventually agreed to go along with the plan - but only after Bush agreed to some concessions. The main concession Powell wanted was the involvement of the international community in the invasion, as opposed to a unilaterial approach, as some hawks were advocating. Powell was placed at the forefront of this diplomatic campaign.

Powell's chief role was to garner international support for a multi-national coalition to mount the invasion. As part of this, Powell addressed a plenary session of the United Nations on February 5, 2003 to argue in favor of the action. While his oratorical skills and personal conviction were acknowledged, there was an overall rejection of the evidence Powell offered that the regime of Saddam Hussein possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs). A Senate report on intelligence failures would later detail the intense debate that went on behind the scenes on what to include in the speech. State Department analysts had found dozens of factual problems in drafts of the speech. Some of the claims where taken out, but still others were left in. Currently, the administration is under fire for having acted on faulty intelligence. Reports have indicated that Powell himself was skeptical of the evidence presented to him. Because Powell is seen as more moderate than much of the administration, he has been spared many of the attacks that have been leveled at more controversial figures such as Donald Rumsfeld or Paul Wolfowitz by administration opponents.

Since Saddam Hussein has been deposed, Powell's new role is to once again establish a working international coalition, this time to assist in the rebuilding of post-war Iraq.
From a cartoon;
War as Heaven...Post War is hell in Iraq...

Semper Fidelis/Semper Fi