Powell based this strategy for warfare in part on the views held by his former boss in the Reagan administration, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, and also on his own experience as a major in Vietnam. That protracted campaign, in Powell's view, was representative of a war in which public support was flimsy, the military objectives were not clear, overwhelming force was not used consistently, and an exit strategy was ill defined.
Internationally, Powell is respected as an articulate, confident, and even-minded statesman. For the last several months he has been actively involved in an international diplomacy campaign that has required him to meet frequently with leaders and dignitaries from around the globe. (For more on Powell's background, read the transcript of this NewsHour discussion.)
2. Next, discuss with the class the tenets of the Powell Doctrine. Help them to see that the Doctrine was an outgrowth of U.S. involvement in previous military campaigns (such as Vietnam and Korea) that were ambivalent, tentative and poorly planned. The Persian Gulf War in 1991, as orchestrated by Powell himself, was a significant departure from those previously less-committed campaigns. The Persian Gulf War was indeed overwhelming, generally well supported by the public, and doubtlessly decisive.
2a. As an alternative, before providing any background material on the Powell Doctrine itself, distribute handout with quotes attributed to Powell (the first four). Then, in either small groups or individually, have the students closely study the quotes to determine what the primary philosophy and objective of the Doctrine is. The students themselves will be attempting to devise a definition for the Doctrine based on their analysis before they have actually been provided one.
3. After receiving sufficient background on the Doctrine, have the students analyze daily-news articles on the military undertaking to determine whether the Doctrine is actually being followed. Instruct them to determine whether the force being used is indeed overwhelming and if it reflects an overall commitment to success.
You may also have the students examine the daily news (print or broadcast) to determine whether the general public is supportive of the campaign and its objectives. Certainly, public sentiment may vacillate as the war progresses, and this can be determined by regular monitoring of the news coverage. Lastly, if the war does end relatively quickly, decide whether the exit strategy for the military, as Powell envisioned in his plan, is clear and decisive. (Keep in mind that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, not Secretary of State Powell, is in charge of the overall military strategy and operations.)
4. Map activities: In order to determine whether the Doctrine is being observed, have the students closely examine maps of the region that highlight the ongoing war strategy, bombing campaigns and troop deployments. Various maps can readily be found in daily newspaper coverage of the war as well as on most news Web sites.
5. For consideration: After the students have developed a solid foundation on the Doctrine, the following reinforcement and critical-thinking questions can be posed to the whole class, used for small-group discussions, or applied as research/writing prompts.
What armed conflicts prior to the Powell Doctrine either reflected his
philosophy on warfare (or contradicted it)? In other words, what historical
precedents, besides Vietnam, perhaps helped formulate Powell's line of
6. Extension Ideas: The following quotes can be used to facilitate further discussion or as prompts for essay responses. Other activities may include
having the students work in small groups to critically examine the meaning
of each quote and then report back to class their findings, or
QUOTES- printable handout
Then Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell, when asked about
his military strategy against the Iraqi army in the Persian Gulf War of
Powell, from his speech "U.S. Forces: The Challenges Ahead":
· "We must not, for example, send military forces into a crisis with an unclear mission then cannot accomplish -such as we did when we sent the U.S. Marines into Lebanon in 1983. We inserted those proud warriors into the middle of a five-faction civil war complete with terrorists, hostage-takers, and a dozen spies in every camp, and said, 'Gentlemen, be a buffer.' The results were 241 Marines and Navy personnel killed and a U.S. withdrawal from the troubled area."
Powell, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on January 17,
2001 (prior to 9/11), when asked about the Bush administration's plans
for U.S international military involvement:
Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post columnist:
Ruth Rosen, San Francisco Chronicle columnist:
explanations, please consult
Standard 6: Power, Authority, and Governance
Excerpts from "Colin Powell, 'U.S. Forces: The Challenges Ahead,'" Foreign Affairs Winter 1992 (qtd. in <http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/history/johnson/powell/htm>).
Krauthammer, Charles. "What Happened to the Powell Doctrine?" Washington Post 20 Apr. 2002.
Malone, Jim. "What will 'Powell Doctrine' foreign policy mean?" Journal of Aerospace and Defense Industry News 23 Jan. 2003 http://www.aerotechnews.com/starc/2001/012301/powell_doctrine.html.
"Powell Doctrine." Wikipedia <http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/PowellDoctrine>.
Rosen, Ruth. "Whatever Happened to the Powell Doctrine?" San Francisco Chronicle (qtd. in the History News Network 3 March 2003 http://hnn.us.articles/1290.html).
To find out more about opportunities to contribute to this site, contact Leah Clapman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More Social Studies lesson plans from PBS TeacherSource
Copyright © MacNeil-Lehrer Productions All Rights Reserved