The Weinberger Doctrine

In 1993, the professional concerns of the military led to the resurfacing of the Weinberger Doctrine. This was reinforced by events in 1993 in Somalia (where the objectives of U.S. troop involvement remained unclear) and by the fears of some that the United States would become involved in the conflict in Bosnia-Herzogovina.

The Weinberger Doctrine was established by Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger in the Reagan administration in 1984 to spell out the conditions under which the U.S. ground combat troops should be committed. (Recall that in the earlier part of the 1980s U.S. marines were sent to Lebanon with tragic consequences and the U.S. invaded Grenada where it was criticized for its political and strategic overkill.)

The elements of the Weinberger Doctrine include the following:

1. No overseas commitment of U.S. forces to combat should be made unless a vital interest of the United States or a U.S. ally is threatened.

2. If U.S. forces are committed, there should be total support - that is, sufficient resources and manpower to complete the mission.

3. If committed, U.S. forces must be given clearly defined political and military objectives. The forces must be large enough to be able to achieve these objectives.

4. There must be a continual assessment between the commitment and capability of U.S. forces and the objectives. These must be adjusted if necessary.

5. Before U.S. forces are committed, there must be reasonable assurances that the American people and their elected representatives support such a commitment.

6. Commitment of U.S. forces to combat must be the last resort.

A careful review of these items can clearly reveal a post-Vietnam sensitivity on the part of the Department of Defense. The department was at least sensitive enough to articulate what are really conventional and logical bases of political and military procedure and commitment. Recall the terms that Gen. Colin Powell expressed to the President in the video on the use of U.S. forces to eject Saddam Hussein from Kuwait.