How does a nation decide to fight a war? I don't think there is one answer. It's easy if we are attacked - we must defend. But how and when should leaders initiate a conflict on behalf of its people, if not attacked. Obviously, this issue is at hand given the uprising in the Arab nations. One of my heros, General Colin Powell, was credited with establishing a list of questions that should be asked and affirmatively answered before action is taken by the United States. This list became known as the Powell Doctrine; I think it is an excellent tool for leaders to utilize before risking the lives of our service men and women or committing the resources necessary to wage war.
- Is a vital national security interest threatened?
- Do we have a clear attainable objective?
- Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
- Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?
- Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
- Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
- Is the action supported by the American people?
- Do we have genuine broad international support?