Beyond The Clinton Doctrine: U.S. Military Intervention Policy

CSC 1997

Subject Area - National Security


Title: Beyond The Clinton Doctrine: U.S. Military Intervention Policy

Author: Major Robert W. Lanham, USMC

Thesis: The Clinton Doctrine, currently governing U.S. military intervention policy, is based upon a decision framework which is not suitable for discerning and prioritizing the nation's interests, resulting in reduced diplomatic credibility abroad.

Discussion: The paper examines the evolution of military intervention policy, focusing on the post-Cold War trends. Beginning with the Weinberger Doctrine, intervention policy is seen to drift away over time from two key policy elements that have been part of the U.S. historical tradition: (1) Americans are sent into combat primarily to protect vital national security interests; and (2) military force is a last resort option, used once it is determined that other policy means to have failed. Although military intervention has been used to protect less-than-vital interests, it has been done with increased risk of failure of attaining both the military and political objectives.

Although the Clinton Doctrine (as articulated in the 1996 National Security Strategy and Presidential Decision Directive-25) states President Clinton's definitions of vital interests, and does clearly recognize the need for carefully considered criteria whenever forces are committed; the Clinton Doctrine is based on defending American values vice interests and therefore misses the mark. America has neither the resources nor the desire to defend every instance in which it's collective values are challenged. In order for military intervention (or even threat of intervention) to be credible, it must be clear, uncompromised, and supported by the majority of Americans and their elected representatives. The only way the President can be sure of that degree of support, is to reserve the commitment of his armed forces for only those interests which Americans hold most dear. Anything short of this leads to the commitment of national blood and treasure over issues that may later be compromised. Over the long haul, this process reduces American credibility on the global scene, thereby reducing national security.

Conclusion: Therefore, intervention policy must be approached with a firm grasp of the nation's priorities and interests, as well as of military capabilities. The President must be keenly aware of the many complex issues within a particular situation before he or she can make an intelligent military intervention decision. The decision process derived from the intervention policy must ask the right questions, and must lead the President to make a cost/benefit analysis which is grounded on relevant information. Following are some suggestions for improving U.S. military intervention policy:

1. Invest in human intelligence collection capabilities and country/region expertise.

2. Define national interest in terms of interests; not values.

3. When decided upon as an appropriate option, military intervention must be done in a way which ensures that the military commander can seize and maintain the initiative.

4. Much effort must be put into determining the cost/benefit relationship.

5. Particular care must be given to military intervention decisions which involve UN or other multinational coalitions.

Table of Contents

Chapter Page

Inroduction 2

I. Defining National Interests 5

II. The Historical Tradition 8

III. U.S. Post-Cold War Intervention Policy 14

IV. The Clinton Doctrine 23

V. Assessment 28

VI. Summary and Conclusion 42

End Notes 51

Bilbliography 354



Since the end of the Cold War the United States has had to deal with increased uncertainty in the international security environment. The absence of a primary peer competitor to focus the energy of U.S. foreign policy has made it more difficult for the nation's leaders to envision and carry out policies that are clearly based on America's national interests. Indeed, defining U.S. interests in the absence of a peer competitor on the global scene is a daunting challenge for the country's leadership.

In such an environment, U.S. foreign policy and national security strategy have evolved. Of particular interest to this paper is that facet of policy which governs the use of U.S. military forces in support of the nation's policies. Since the end of the Cold War, policies regarding the support and protection of American interests have grown to reflect changing realities and priorities, but these challenges have been met with varying success. Policy failures in Somalia, Iraq, and Bosnia-Herzegovina raise questions about the underlying soundness of the policies and about current decisions to commit U.S. military power.

This paper explores the elements of military intervention policy. First, national interests are defined to provide some common ground on which further discussion can develop. Second, the general history of the relationship between United States interests and policies is explored in an effort to understand the context within which the decision to commit military forces takes place. Third, current intervention policy is examined to determine the role deployment of military forces currently fulfills in the defense of U.S. interests.

This paper argues that the Clinton Doctrine currently governing commitment of U.S. military forces is based upon a decision framework which is not suitable for discerning and prioritizing the nation's interests. It will argue further that U.S. vital interests are, in reality, it's security interests and that U.S. military power should primarily be reserved for the defense of these vital interests. Finally, the paper will argue that, because intervention policy is not currently based on the definition and defense of vital interests, the policy leads to reduced diplomatic credibility abroad.

Having criticized the Clinton Doctrine, an alternative intervention decision framework is offered in the hopes of providing military intervention policy that is more credible and consistent in the long run. Though no uniquely original concepts are proposed here, the framework itself seeks to revitalize the link between vital interests and military intervention --that in order for military intervention (or even threat of intervention) to be credible, it must be clear, uncompromised, and supported by the majority of Americans and their elected representatives. The only way the President can be sure of that degree of support, is to reserve the commitment of his armed forces for only those interests which Americans hold most dear.

I. Defining National Interests

This paper begins with Donald Nuechterlein's construct which divides national interests into categories of type and intensity.1 Basic types of U.S. national interest include (1)defense of homeland, (2) economic well-being, (3)favorable world order, and (4) promotion of American values abroad. Neuchterlein states that, within each of these four broad categories, the "intensity" with which Americans approach that interest will vary. The most intense interest for Americans is the Survival interest, or those events which threaten the very existence of the country. Next in intensity comes Vital interest, where serious harm can happen unless strong measures (often, but not always including the use of military force) are taken. Major interests are defined as instances when a country's political, economic, and social well-being may be affected adversely by events and trends abroad. Last in order of intensity are Peripheral interests--when a nation's well being is not directly affected, but harm to some segment of U.S. society (most often U.S. corporations with operations overseas) may be sustained. These categories are useful for arranging and prioritizing interests so they can somehow reflect the national will during the process of policy formulation.

Generally, the basic interests of "defense of homeland" and "economic well-being" are apt to take on survival and vital intensity. For this reason, the term "national security interest" is often used interchangeably with "vital interest". The basic interests concerning "favorable world order" and "promotion of American values" tend not to be vital interests which threaten serious harm to the U.S.; instead, they tend to dominate the intensities asscoiated with major and peripheral interests. The tendencies cited here are generalizations, of course, but the tendencies exist nonetheless.


Donald Neuchterlein

Intensity of Interest

Basic Interest





Defense of Homeland





Economic Well-Being





Favorable World Order





Promotion of American Values





It is the role of the President--with balanced opposition from the Congress-- to discern and define American interests. It is also his role to exercise judgment as to the intensity of interest that Americans should have in a particular development. There is usually little disagreement on survival issues. If America is attacked, even indirectly, U.S. leadership is quick to respond, courses of action are rapidly developed, and public support rises quickly and is relatively sustained. It is much more difficult to draw the line between major and peripheral interests, but according to Neuchterlein, "If the policy maker believes the United States cannot tolerate a developing threat, the level of national interest for him is vital; if, however, he concludes that the issues involved can and should be compromised, even though the result can be painful, the interest is major."2 (Italics added) These categories and intensities of interest can be applied to any geo-political area for which U.S. security policy is being developed.

Throughout American history, the U.S. has traditionally--but not always-- committed its military forces in the name of vital interests. In light of Neuchterlein's definitions this only makes sense, since compromising an interest becomes politically difficult once the nation has spent money and lives to secure it . This is not to say that the military cannot, nor should not, be committed to protect and preserve major or peripheral interests; only that to do so involves certain risks. Not the least of these risks is to lose American public support for military operations defending an interest that is not vital, if combat casualties begin to mount.

II. The Historical TRADITION

An examination of America's historical experience will reveal that there have long been distinct elements of American foreign policy which still influence policy makers today: (1) Americans generally resort to military force only after other policy options have failed; (2) Americans have always attempted to spread democratic values and influence over wider and wider geographic areas; and (3) Americans generally support military intervention in those instances where vital national interests (national security interests) are at stake. In other instances, public and Congressional support falter before the political objectives are reached, signifying a fourth distinct element: Americans do not like to think of promoting and protecting their interests in terms of brokering power, but rather, they couch their policy in the ideology of promoting American democracy and individual (or human) rights. It is unreasonable to expect Americans to begin thinking in terms of power politics because they rarely have. It is also unreasonable to expect Americans to give up the cause of spreading the values which have brought so much bounty and individual freedom to their country.

The current U.S. foreign policy of enlargement and engagement which has developed since the end of the Cold War is actually the latest installment of an evolutionary process that began at the nation's birth. The United States was born as a working model of republican democracy. As the first such experiment, the very idea of American-style democracy, based on majority rule and a degree of individual freedoms (though quite limited at the outset for many Americans), resides at the foundation of the American character. So, too, does the notion that America will resort to armed conflict only as a last resort as it attempts to solve its foreign policy challenges. From the very beginning, George Washington believed in the sword as "the last resort for the preservation of our liberties".3

U.S. policy sought to extend the benefits of democratic ideology to others. Even when Americans seem, on the surface, isolationist in character, closer scrutiny reveals that there has been an ongoing effort to promote American values of democracy and individual rights. In 1801, Thomas Jefferson, in his inaugural speech to the nation, spoke of the need for "peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none." The emphasis was not isolationist at all, but emphasized engagement with the community of nations while avoiding entanglements. These entanglements might require American involvement in spite of whether or not it was in the best U.S. interest to be involved. Within a very short time, in fact, Jefferson was able to close the Louisiana Purchase with Napoleon of France. This extremely beneficial arrangement was possible largely because Jefferson had maintained a free hand on the global economic scene by not being entangled in the ongoing dispute between Britain and France.4 Additionally, the land purchase fueled America's great westward expansion (hardly isolationist in nature) and extended the "benefits" of American democracy to the inhabitants of the North American continent.

The War of 1812 was largely a misguided attempt by the U.S. to annex the Canadian territory. Shortly thereafter, American eyes turned southwesterly. The War with Mexico was fought to expand influence into Texas.

As America extended its influence westward, it also began to reach outward. In 1823, the Monroe Doctrine put the world on notice that, in addition to increasing its territorial boundaries, the United States was intent on carving out a regional sphere of influence as well. No longer would the United States accept European encroachment in the Western Hemisphere. The Doctrine gradually solidified over time into a centerpiece of the U.S. security framework. The Open Door Policy , extending across the Pacific to China, emphasized the commercial and economic nature underlying U.S. interests.

With territorial borders secured and a sphere of influence established, the extension of American ideals and beliefs turned inward for a brief period. At least in part, the American Civil War was fought to resolve existing conflicts over the ideology of individual rights and majority rule. As such, the Civil War was a continuation of the refining process; a consolidation of those ideas which the American Revolution had affirmed. Resolution of those ideological conflicts was necessary for the nation to define itself and set the stage for further attempts to promote those ideals abroad.

At the turn of the century the United States was a nation growing in power and economic might, but certainly not a major player on the world stage. The experiences of the First World War and Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points were to change that reality forever. Once again the nation was reluctant to pick up the sword and involve itself militarily. As the American giant finally lumbered into action in WWI, American military power grew quickly. As the war ended, Americans were anxious to see the rapid reduction of their forces in their rush to return to normalcy. The U.S. situation and responsibilities had changed however. Due to the extent of economic strength which the U.S. possessed, and due to the Wilsonian ideology it had now purchased through the blood and treasure spent during the Great War, America's place on the world stage had changed. No longer a bit player, the United States played a much larger part in world diplomacy, but refused to remain actively involved after the war's end. In the words of Walter Lippman,

The Wilsonian thesis was, if I may put it in this way, that since the world was no longer safe for the American democracy, the American people were called upon to conduct a crusade to make the real world safe for American democracy. In order to do this the principles of the American democracy would have to be made universal throughout the world.5

In essence, Lippman argues, Wilsonian ideology extended the traditional, historic fascination with expansion of liberal democracy and individual rights to the world arena.

Whereas once the American focus had been on the continent, then the hemisphere, the nation's ideology became a crusade to extend the benefits of its political and historical experience to the world at large. It is true that the American people resisted this urge for awhile during the interwar years, but when WWII once again thrust America onto center stage, Wilsonianism sounded the battle cry--now pledging to defend FDR's Four Freedoms. Once again Lippman characterized the ideology as a great crusade:

Therefore, all wars are to end all wars, all wars are crusades which can be concluded only when all the peoples have submitted to the only true political religion. ...No war can end rightly , therefore, except by the unconditional surrender of the aggressor nation and by the overthrow and transformation of its political regime.6

Clearly, the events of WWII gave credence to this view. After a period of reluctance to enter the war, America embraced the crusade for democracy and freedom with all its energy.

In the aftermath of the Second World War, America found itself as the most powerful and influential nation on earth. Very soon America would be confronted with a major competitor on the world stage whose determination to export its ideology (one totally opposed to American liberal democracy) was equal to her own. During the Cold War, America would carry the brunt of the effort to fight the Soviet Union, ideologically and physically opposed in a protracted struggle for the global sphere of influence.

The subsequent struggle posed two very substantial challenges to the framers of U.S. foreign policy and security strategy. First, the challenges which the totalitarian regime of the Soviet Union placed before America occurred rapidly and spanned the globe. The efforts to "contain" such direct challenges were primarily reactive; events drove the formulation of policy more so than a framework focused on developing strategic policy which directly related to interests.7 Secondly, America became engaged to counter Soviet expansion wherever it occurred. This precept took precedence over whether the underlying situation was a vital interest or not. The vital interest became: "to combat Communism". Because communism was involved (the spread of which is anathema to American democratic crusaders), the situation automatically became a vital interest no matter what the underlying situation demanded. The Korean peninsula was not considered a vital interest until the North Koreans, ostensibly at the request of the Kremlin, invaded South Korea. Vietnam held no relation to American vital interests until it was perceived as another thrust at expanding the Communist domain.

The fact that neither Korea, nor Viet Nam really represented vital U.S. interests manifested itself later on as loss of public support for those conflicts. As the Korean conflict turned into a U.S. versus China confrontation, Americans ceased viewing the war as being in their best interests. In fact, they perceived an increased threat to national security as a result of fighting the Red Chinese. As the Viet Nam conflict became more and more protracted, Americans perceived that its leadership lacked either the will or the capability to "win", and therefore were unwilling to invest more lives and money. This context reveals that America is sensitive to the ideals and interests for which it is willing to shed the blood of its citizens. Both cases support the idea that, at least insofar as committing the American military is concerned, vital national interests are national security interests. When military involvement increases national security risk (as it did during the Korean conflict), or decreases national security policy credibility (as during Viet Nam), American public support wanes. Leaders ignore history if they imagine that the American public will tolerate combat casualties for causes which are not linked to underlying vital interests and are not committed with the intention of winning the political objective.

iii. U.S. Post-Cold War INTERVENTION Policy

The American public was never particularly fond of the concept of managing national power to pursue national interest. Instead, they preferred to wrap the concept of interests (power) inside the cloak of principles (ideology).8 So it is natural that America's leaders have taken to devising some form of political theology when articulating their foreign policy, rather than articulating the interests which they believe are the most important to protect and promote. A policy which clearly discriminated between various interests, then prioritized them and delineated clearly for which of those interests the country should be willing to sacrifice its sons, daughters, and treasure, has seldom existed in the United States.

Since the end of the Cold War, the fundamental change has been the movement from a bi-polar world (in terms of primary centers of power) back to a multi-polar world. As Henry Kissinger pointed out, "America is more preponderant than it was ten years ago, yet, ironically, power has also become more diffuse."8 In this environment the United States has had to learn new ways of relating to the community of nations. As the single most powerful nation on earth (in terms of its combined economic, diplomatic, and military might), the U.S. has had to balance leadership with building consensus on certain issues. It has had to achieve this balance without acting unilaterally simply because it had the power, or because it was easier diplomatically, to do so.

At the end of the Cold War, U.S. policy for the use of force in defending its interests was defined by the Weinberger Doctrine. The doctrine stated that, when committing U.S. combat forces, six conditions should be satisfied: (1) The interest at stake was a vital U.S. interest, or that of one of its allies; (2) resources committed to victory (however "victory" was defined) were committed wholeheartedly; (3) clear political and military objectives were defined; (4) policy makers had to continually review the match between objectives and resources; (5) a reasonable assurance of congressional and public support must exist; and (6) commitment of U.S. forces should be a last resort, once all alternatives had been exhausted. 9

Although the Weinberger Doctrine greatly facilitates making sound decisions in the commitment of the military, it came under criticism from many directions. The point was made that diplomacy would not work unless the U.S. showed a willingness to use force as the "teeth" in its policy. The Weinberger Doctrine was seen as being too restrictive, seeking to constrain American power.10 Secretary of State George Shultz wanted to use military power to support "coercive diplomacy" in situations where less than vital national interests were at stake.11 Neither Weinberger nor Shultz defined "vital interests" in their debates, but Secretary Shultz clearly envisioned a wider range of circumstances in which military power would be employed.

Many of Weinberger's critics lost sight of the fact that the Weinberger Doctrine was intended to provide guidelines for conventional combat operations. In his remarks to the National Press Club in 1984, Weinberger stated, "If we determine that a combat mission has become necessary for our vital national interests, then we must send forces capable to do the job--and not assign a combat mission to a force configured for peacekeeping." Clearly he envisioned his guidelines as governing just conventional combat operations. What never materialized was a set of similar guidelines for operations other than war which may have allayed the concern of Secretary Shultz that the Weinberger Doctrine was too restrictive.

During the Bush administration, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was General Colin L. Powell. Much current literature discusses the impact on policy of the "Powell Doctrine", but many authors decline to define the Doctrine. The Powell Doctrine states that the concept of applying overwhelming (later changed to "decisive") force against the enemy to achieve a rapid victory, would be layered atop the Weinberger Doctrine to form the new guideline for deciding when to commit U.S. forces.

In an article for Foreign Affairs, General Powell set out his own ideas in these words:

When a 'fire' starts that might require committing armed forces, we need to reevaluate the circumstances. Relevant questions include: Is the political objective we seek to achieve important, clearly defined and understood? Have all other non-violent policy means failed? Will military force achieve the objective? At what cost? Have the gains and risks been analyzed? How might the situation that we seek to alter, once it is altered by force, develop further and what might be the consequences? 12

There are many similarities to the Weinberger Doctrine. However, the call for a link to vital interests is replaced by the requirement that the political objective be "important". The desire that committing forces remain an act of last resort is still present. General Powell went on to caution against incremental commitment of forces as was the case in Viet Nam, claiming that the use of "decisive means and results are always to be preferred". So, the Chairman reasoned, "that use of force should always be restricted to occasions where the good will outweigh the loss of lives and other costs that will surely ensue". 13 In this last statement Gen. Powell underscores his belief that the primary cause for a reluctance to resort to force is that the Commander-in- Chief is going to risk American lives in doing so. This fact is not lost on the Chairman, and he implores the nation's leadership to make a thorough accounting for that fact throughout the decision-making process. Once again, Powell's guidelines address the commitment of forces to a combat situation, but do not address the use of the military in operations other than war. Powell argued that although force should be proportionate to the goal, force must be decisive whenever it is committed--even for a limited objective. This leaves little room for employing the threat of force in support of the coercive diplomacy that Shultz and other diplomats seem to require.

The Powell Doctrine governed the way General Powell, as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, approached his work. But it did not always govern the approach taken by Defense Secretary Cheaney and President George Bush. Powell's opposition to committing troops to both Kuwait and Bosnia is well documented. It follows, then that President Bush had some guidelines of his own. Indeed, those guidelines are spelled out quite clearly in an address to the Corps of Cadets at West Point at the end of his term of office. 14

President Bush was not averse to carrying on the American historical tradition of crusading for democracy and individual rights. In his speech he discussed his overall political aim for his foreign policy: "Our objective must be to exploit the unparalleled opportunity presented by the cold war's end to work toward transforming this new world into a new world order; one of governments that are democratic, tolerant, and economically free at home and committed abroad to settling inevitable differences peacefully, without the threat or use of force." He quickly recognized, however, that "Unfortunately, not everyone subscribes to these principles." His proposal, therefore, was to engage in building a world order "compatible with our values and congenial to our interests".

So President Bush saw it as a duty to spread the "theology" of the American historical tradition, recognizing a window of opportunity presented by the fact that U.S. influence in the world was relatively greater than at any time in history. But he did acknowledge limits, saying: "The fact that America can act does not mean that it must. A nation's sense of idealism need not be at odds with its interests, nor does principle displace prudence."

Although recognizing some limitation, the above statement begins to obscure the relationship between interests and ideology. In effect, it fuses the two so that the ideology can become the interest. Such a policy is of no use if it cannot prioritize its national interests, or determine which of those interests it will defend by force. According to President Bush, intervention decisions would require judgment on a case by case basis; "To adopt rigid criteria would guarantee mistakes involving American interests and American lives." This seems sound enough, but he went on to say, "The relative importance of an interest is not a guide: Military force may not be the best way of safeguarding something vital, while using force might be the best way to protect an interest that qualifies as important but less than vital." Here, the break between vital interest and commitment of forces has become complete. Vital interests should not be viewed as those interests which can be defended only by military force; but that military force should only be used to defend interests that are vital--and only after all other options have failed. President Bush does not differentiate between the intensity of interests which may be promoting American values. According to this policy American military members will be thrust into harm's way when there is no cause that has been deemed a "vital interest" to the United States .

President Bush then went on to outline some considerations for deciding when to use force. After warning against looking for a set of hard-and-fast rules, the President listed his six guidelines:

"Using military force makes sense as a policy where the stakes warrant, where and when force can be effective, where no other policies are likely to prove effective, where its application can be limited in scope and time, and where the potential benefits justify the potential costs and sacrifice. Once we are satisfied that force makes sense, we must act with the maximum possible support."

The similarities to the Weinberger and Powell Doctrines are apparent. There is an attempt to match capabilities with political aims, and a recognition of the importance of using force as a last resort (though Bush states it as "no other policies are likely to prove effective"). President Bush seems to support Powell's call for decisive force once the decision to commit has been made. Still, no clear guidelines have been issued for committing forces in situations other than in combat operations. This may have been due to a real reluctance to admit that there was a role for the military other than combat operations in the post-Cold War environment.

At this point there still existed a lack of consensus in Washington regarding America's "proper role" in the post-Cold War. In a 1992 speech, Representative Les Aspin (later to become President Clinton's Secretary of Defense) described two schools of thought regarding the use of military force:

Under the 'all-or-nothing' school, the U.S. military is likely to be used only very, very rarely. The 'limited objectives' camp says the military will become, in fact, very much like the nuclear weapons program during the Cold War--important, expensive, but not useful. It will not be a useful tool for achieving objectives if it's only going to be used in the extreme cases. And therefore, this argument goes, support for it will diminish and it will become basically irrelevant to the problems that the United States faces on a day to day basis in the post-Cold War world. ...It may be that to maintain a military for the extreme contingencies, it will be necessary to show that it is useful in lesser contingencies, too.15

Aspin describes the polarity of the two views regarding America's military role. On the one hand, those in the "all-or-nothing" school wish not to commit the military short of all out war. The "limited objectives" school wishes to use military force to threaten or coerce in "lesser contingencies" as well.

The final steps in the evolution of current policy came during the Clinton administration. President Clinton inherited the Iraqi, Bosnian, and Somalian situations from his predecessor. But in Somalia, as the mission shifted from U.S. to U.N. control, the mission changed from one of protecting food distribution efforts to one of nation building. The Clinton administration failed to reassess this situation as it developed, and the loss of 18 U.S. Army Rangers, some of which were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu in front of the worldwide press, led to the U.S. pullout from the Somalia mission.

In the wake of the Mogadishu incident, the Clinton administration implemented six "tests" meant to be applied to the decision of committing U.S. troops. This tests were included in the President's National Security Strategy of Engagement and Enlargement (NSS) of 1994. These six tests resembled the six elements of the earlier Weinberger Doctrine, but with some important differences. The tests are listed here highlighting the Weinberger Doctrine, presumably in the interest of making them less restrictive:

(1) are cost and risk commensurate with the stakes? (no direct link to vital interests)

(2) have non-military means been given sufficient consideration? (vice last resort)

(3) is the use of force carefully matched to U.S. political objectives?

(4) is there a reasonable assurance of support from the American people and their elected representatives?

(5) is there an exit strategy ? (vice continual reassessment)

(6) will U.S. action bring lasting improvements? (versus forces committed wholeheartedly to achieve "victory")

While it is easy to be critical of President Clinton when comparing his list of tests to Weinberger's and others', there is a positive trend beginning in the 1994 NSS that is not so readily apparent. There is, for the first time, a positive effort by the President to realize and articulate a broader framework for considering the appropriate use of military force which meets the requirements of the post-Cold War era. This realization matures in the National Security Strategy of Engagement and Enlargement (February 1996), to be discussed shortly.

Table (2) traces the evolution in the post-cold war period from the Weinberger Doctrine through the Clinton Tests. None of these policies were intended to be a panacea for the nation's foreign policy challenges. None fully delineated when America should and could use force, and when it should not or could not. But it is interesting to trace the changes in the underlying ideas.

There is a drift away from the link between the decision to commit forces and the presence of a vital interest. There is an obfuscation of the differences between intensity of interest and promotion of values (a basic interest in itself). And, finally there is a distinct softening of the intent to use military forces only as a last resort. For an American, given the historical experience of this country, these should be disturbing trends.

U.S. forces can be committed to combat when...




Clinton (1994)

1. Vital U.S. or Allied interest at stake

1. Political objective is important

1. The stakes warrant using military force.

1. Cost and risk are commensurate with the stakes

2. Resources will be wholeheartedly committed to victory

2. Military force will achieve the objective. Decisive means and results are preferred.

2. We act with maximum possible support

2. U.S. action will bring lasting improvements

3. Clearly defined political and military objectives are in mind

3. The objective is clearly defined and understood

3. We use force where and when it can be effective

3. The use of force is carefully matched to U.S. political objectives

4. A continuous review to match resources and objectives will be conducted

4. How might the situation we wish to alter, once altered by force, develop further and with what consequences?

4. Application of force can be limited in scope and time

4. There is an exit strategy

5. Reasonable assurance of public & Congressional support exists

5. The costs have been determined. Have the gains and risks been analyzed?

5. Potential benefits justify the potential costs and sacrifice.

5. Reasonable assurance exists of support from the American people and their elected representatives

6. Commitment of U.S. forces is a last resort

6. All other non-violent policy have means failed

6. No other policies are likely to prove effective

6. Non-military means have been given sufficient consideration

Table (2)


Most recently, President Clinton spoke of his vision of American power: "The United States cannot and should not try to solve every problem in the world. But where our interests are clear and our values are at stake, where we can make a difference, we can act and we must lead."15 Michael Dobbs, a staff writer for The Washington Post, termed this view "the Clinton Doctrine". The intent to use U.S. military power where "interests are clear and values are at stake" raises many questions. What sort of interests and values justify the use of military force? Since we cannot solve all of the world's problems, what mechanism do we use to discriminate and prioritize the problems we wish to solve and the situations in which we will choose to use military force? In The National Security Strategy of Engagement and Enlargement -February 1996 (NSS-96) President Clinton gave his answers to those questions.

Clinton fully embraces the notion that military force may be appropriate to support coercive diplomacy in situations where less-than-vital national interests are at stake. In this respect, he falls squarely within Les Aspin's "limited objectives" camp. But in NSS-96, President Clinton spelled out his concept of committing forces in defense of those lesser interests better than any other post-Cold War President. He began by defining "national interest" in his own terms.

The NSS lists three basic categories of national interest, the first being those which are "vital". Vital interests, according to President Clinton, are those "that are of broad, overriding importance to the survival, security, and vitality of our national entity--the defense of U.S. territory, citizens, allies, and our economic well-being." The conflict underlying Desert Storm was listed as an example of the defense of this interest (though no specific rationale is offered). The next category concerns "important, but not vital" interests. These are "interests which do not affect our national survival, but they do affect importantly our national well-being and the character of the world in which we live." The situations in Haiti and Bosnia were listed as examples of "important, but not vital" interests. The third category involves "humanitarian" interests, such as the relief operations in Somalia and Rwanda. The NSS states: "Generally, the military is not the best tool to address humanitarian concerns. But under certain conditions, the use of armed forces may be appropriate."

In the defense of vital interests, the NSS states that the "use of force will be decisive and, if necessary, unilateral. In other areas of less than vital interest, "military engagement must be targeted selectively on those areas that most affect our national interests--for instance, areas where we have a sizable economic stake or commitments to allies and areas where there is a potential to generate substantial refugee flows into our nation or our allies'." Additionally, in all cases, the NSS states that the costs and risks of military involvement must be judged against the stakes involved.

The Clinton Doctrine as stated in the NSS(-96), therefore, is quite involved. It delineates the fact that military involvement in less than vital interests warrants its own set of guidelines which are different than those for defending against more direct threats to U.S. vital interests. Table (3) summarizes the elements of the Clinton Doctrine in detail.

Table (3) The Interests


Important, but not vital



Whether/When to use force:


1. Whatever it takes...use of force will be decisive and, if necessary, unilateral

1. Military engagement targeted selectively on those areas that most affect national interests


--only if forces are likely to accomplish objectives

--when a human catastrophe dwarfs the ability of human relief agencies to respond


--other means have been tried, but failed to achieve objectives

--when the need for relief is urgent and only the military has the ability to jump-start the longer term response


--costs and risks commensurate with the stakes

--when resources unique to the military are required



--when risk to American troops is minimal

2. Costs and risks of U.S. military involvement must be judged to be commensurate with the stakes involved.

3. Several critical questions will be considered before committing U.S. forces:

a. Have we considered non-military means that offer a reasonable chance of success?

b. Is there a clearly defined, achievable mission?

c. What is the environment of risk we are entering?

d. What is needed to achieve our goals?

e. What are the potential costs--both human and financial--of the engagement?

f. Do we have a reasonable likelihood of support from the American people and their elected representatives?

g. Do we have the timelines and milestones that will reveal the extent of success or failure, and in either case, do we have an exit strategy?

How to use force (once the decision to use force has been made):

1. Send forces with a clear mission and, for those missions likely to involve combat, the means to achieve their objectives decisively.

-- What types of U.S. military capabilities should be brought to bear?

-- Is the use of military force carefully matched to our political objectives?

2. As much as possible, we will seek the help of our allies and friends, or of relevant international institutions

As can be seen from the chart, the policy framework which this paper calls "The Clinton Doctrine" is not a simple one. But the Clinton administration has realized the need for different sets of guidelines which cover different types of military involvement. NSS-96 goes to great lengths to spell out the administration's rationale in this key decision-making process. This is a very positive development.

It is also useful to turn to the guidelines set out in another document published in May of 1994. This document is the unclassified summary of Presidential Decision Directive-25 (PDD-25) and is entitled, The Clinton Administration's Policy on Reforming Multilateral Peace Operations. In this directive, the Clinton administration states guidelines which apply to the decision on whether or not U.S. personnel will participate in U.N. and other peace operations.16 The factors for consideration are as follows:

--Participation advances U.S. interests and both the unique and general risks to American personnel have been weighed and considered acceptable.

--Personnel, funds, and other resources are available.

--U.S. participation is necessary for the operation's success.

--The role of U.S. forces is tied to clear objectives and an endpoint for U.S. participation can be identified.

--Domestic and Congressional support exists or can be marshaled.

--Command and control arrangements are acceptable.

At the end of this list the PDD goes on to note: "Any recommendation to the President will be based on the cumulative weight of the above factors, with no single factor being an absolute determinant." This is a curious and detrimental restriction. It means that none of the individual factors would be "showstoppers" for a particular operation and, conceivably, U.S. troops could participate even though personnel, funds, and resources are not available, or even if U.S. participation was not necessary for the operation's success. Clearly the note is unnecessary and invites confusion.

The directive, however, is another attempt to codify the decision on how and when to use military force in the post-Cold War era. Along with the NSS-96, a picture has emerged of how the President's policies have adapted to the complexity of multi-polar relationships in the wake of the Soviet Union's fall. Although a framework has been set forth to aid in the decision on when and how to commit U.S. forces, is the framework adequate?


In examining the adequacy of The Clinton Doctrine, both the doctrine and the application of that doctrine must be examined. Earlier, President Clinton was quoted as saying, "where our interests are clear and our values are at stake, where we can make a difference, we can act and we must lead."17 His vision misses the mark, and his leadership in this area has been weak. Interests must not only be clear, they must be prioritized. Values may be challenged, but we can defend them with blood only when those challenges pose a threat to our vital interests or our national security. Where we can make a difference is not always the same as where we should make a difference.

This criticism will focus not only on the lack of credibility generated by the way in which President Clinton's policies are carried out, but it will link that lack of credibility to the fact that the Clinton Doctrine is based on interests which are not suitable for discriminating and ordering the nation's priorities. Unless the framework of the Clinton Doctrine is changed, challenges to policy will never be focused in the minds of the leadership nor, subsequently, of the American people. If the underlying issues are never clearly defined (in terms of the interests being harmed and the degree that those interests are being threatened), then no President can clearly discern those issues upon which he can or cannot compromise. Without knowing the issues which can or cannot be compromised, the proper decision on whether to commit force, if needed, cannot be made.

U.S. intervention policy must be based on vital interests and not on important values. There are dangers in committing military forces to defend ideals which can be compromised. Ironically, in a multi-polar world U.S. values will often be subject to compromise before U.S. vital interests are. Secondly, American intervention policy must be a policy of last resort, and intervention must be accompanied by substantial public and Congressional support in order to be sustained and credible. This support takes time and energy to develop. Responsibility for that development rests squarely upon the shoulders of the President.

In the Preface to The National Security Strategy of 1996, President Clinton states:

The need for American leadership abroad remains as strong as ever. I am committed to forging a new public consensus to sustain active engagement in pursuit of our cherished goal--a more secure world where democracy and free markets know no borders.

Although the ideal he envisions is lofty and a crusade for worldwide democracy is consistent with the American historical tradition, there is a real tension between that ideal and the realities of the multi-polar world of today. Just within the United States there are some very real limitations which call the feasibility of attaining the "world democracy" ideal into question. Unattainable ideals do not make good policy objectives.

In 1952, Walter Lippman stated, "In my view it is becoming increasingly plain that Wilsonian ideology is an impossible foundation for the foreign policy of a nation, placed as we are and carrying the burdens of our responsibilities. Our people are coming to realize that in this century one crusade has led to another."18 His comments are as cogent today as they were forty- five years ago. The American people realize that, at least for now, resources for unabashed crusading do not exist. This is not to say that Wilsonian ideals have gone by the wayside; they have not. But it is extremely difficult to realize such grand ends when a nation is willing and able to allocate only modest means to those ends.

There is a fundamental question as to whether or not the U.S. possesses the power and the means to export American democracy and values abroad. Clearly there has been a feeling of over-extension in the nation's public discussions. The debate continues on whether or not a hollow military is resulting from the drawdown of military force structure while operational tempo remains high. Military peace-keeping, peace-enforcement, and humanitarian efforts have been funded out of military operating funds which normally are used to train military units for more conventional warfare. The American public, if one is to believe the tone often cited in today's newspapers, considers it's domestic priorities higher on the list than it's foreign obligations.

There are no overseas concerns, particularly regarding U.S. economic interests. It makes sense that America's long term interests --especially its security interests-- are best met by improving the nation's own domestic strength. Americans are focusing on deficit reduction, education programs, curbing drug abuse, fighting crime, and adjusting to demographic shifts and a changing economic structure. All of these areas affect American power. Concurrently, there have been some real fiscal limitations placed on the means used to conduct U.S. foreign policy. The American public is not likely to put the welfare of other nations ahead of its own welfare for very long. Owen Harries, editor of The National Interest, eloquently captured the tension between ideology and reality regarding America's relations with its world community:

Americans of all political persuasions believe profoundly that it is their right and duty--indeed their destiny--to promote freedom and democracy in the world. It is a noble and powerful impulse, one not casually to be ridiculed or dismissed. But acting on it--if one is concerned to be effective and not merely feel virtuous--is a complicated and delicate business, and the dangers are many. Success requires that this impulse be balanced against, and where necessary circumscribed by, other interests that the United States must necessarily pursue; more mundane ones like security, order, and prosperity. For these represent not merely legitimate competing claims but the preconditions for a lasting extension of democracy.

Success requires, too, an awareness of the intractability of a world that does not exist merely in order to satisfy American expectations--a world that, for the most part, cannot satisfy those expectations in the foreseeable future.19

Not only must we question the credibility of a policy based on the establishment of global democracy, but we must also question a policy based on the importance of American values; where "our values are at stake". American leadership must learn to wield its unrivaled power prudently, with discretion. To the extent that U.S. power is used to bully and cajole fellow nations into acting as America expects, it stands to reason that a backlash of some sort will be inevitable. Is there, as Jerrold Greene asks, a fundamental expectation " that American sponsorship of democratic practices or institutions will, of necessity, culminate in a pro-American feeling"?20 The United States is increasingly part of an interdependent community of nations. It does and will continue to need partners in order to maintain stability around the globe. American leaders do not have the luxury of picking those partners based on an American sense of moral values. To make those moral values the basis for the nation's foreign policy makes no sense at all.

In fact, the nation does not consistently enforce compliance with its values abroad. It would be hard to imagine the United States spending the amount of diplomatic capital it does on human rights in China if the U.S. imported all of its oil from the Chinese. The same can be said for Egypt, India, or Turkey. Is the long term ill will that can be generated in these pivotal nations by such a policy worth the real gains the nation will reap? Certainly Americans have a deep and heartfelt concern for individual rights in all nations. But it is not prudent to base international policy on such a thing. The foreign policy of this nation is not generally based on human rights issues -- only selectively is this done and that is where policy based on values makes no sense. Basing policy on values rather than interests, especially when those same values are inconsistently applied, decreases U.S. credibility.

Additionally, policy which is compromised, or does not further U.S. interests, decreases credibility. This is especially true once military forces have been committed in support of an interest which is subsequently compromised. Policies in Iraq, Bosnia, Haiti, and Somalia have not succeeded well at reaching their political aims. In Iraq, rather than isolating Sadam Hussein for his attack on the Kurds by a missile attack against southern Iraq, it appears that Sadam achieved what he wanted. Today, the Kurdish opposition to Sadam's rule is gone from northern Iraq, and his oil flows once again to the world market. In 1994 the Clinton administration was totally opposed to accepting ethnic partition of Bosnia; now the country is being partitioned along ethnic lines. It appears that the detestable practice of ethnic cleansing worked for the Croats and Serbs in Bosnia--largely at the expense of the Muslim faction.21 The perpetrators of the ethnic cleansing--those that were charged with crimes--have yet to be brought to justice, and remain still in positions of power to usher in their new, ethnically pure sub-states. Then, the U.S. began to arm the disenfranchised Muslims and is preparing to bring its forces home--all the while proclaiming the success of its policy. The war in Bosnia is not over, yet the underlying purpose for which U.S. forces were committed in the first place has been compromised. In Haiti, over 20,000 U.S. military personnel and two billion dollars from the nation's treasury have yet to pay proportional dividends.22

All this is evidence that underlying national interests have not been correctly identified, or the "strategic endstates" have not been clearly envisioned. This points to the heart of the matter: the imperative that strong Presidential leadership grounded in a thorough knowledge of the issues and a vision of the priorities of the nation be provided. In a day and age of unprecedented news media access and dissemination capability, there is no shortage of terrible images that can stream into American living rooms. Parts of the population may begin building tremendous pressure for the President to "Do something!". This fact does not obviate the need for the President and his counsels to make reasoned judgments based on all the facts. It is the responsibility of the U.S. leadership (primarily the President) to act without the emotion of the moment; to channel the nationalistic fervor (which is the basis of the crusading urge) into a constructive force. In short, the President has the responsibility to lead. With that responsibility comes the need ask the questions: What are the American interests at stake? To what extent are these interests being harmed? What policy options are available short of committing U.S. forces (even if it may be more expedient to commit those forces)?

In order to answer these questions, the U.S. intelligence structure and State Department expertise in various countries and regions are vitally important. Although the U.S. has bolstered it's technological capabilities for intelligence collection and analysis, the capabilities for human intelligence collection and State Department expertise in many countries and regions have been curtailed. These HUMINT capabilities are essential for providing the President with informed analysis required for sound decision-making.

President Clinton has built his intervention doctrine upon three categories of national interest: vital, important (but not vital), and humanitarian. In the 1996 National Security Strategy the President cites Desert Storm as an example of the type of military response appropriate for the protection of a "vital" interest. As examples of responses to "important" interests, he lists Haiti and Bosnia. As to "humanitarian" interests, he suggests Somalia and Rwanda. I would argue that Desert Storm is the only example listed above that can truly be characterized as successful in terms of furthering U.S. interests, in spite of the political rhetoric. The Desert Storm military intervention protected vital security interests of the United States and its allies.

The real reason for having a hierarchy of national interests is twofold: (1) to prioritize interests in order to allocate energies and resources to them, and (2) to aid in the decision of whether or not a particular interest is worth spending U.S. lives to defend. In thinking through a process whereby interests are discriminated and prioritized, some sense develops regarding which of those interests can and cannot be compromised. Only some of the interests that appear on a list of national interests are worthy of defending to the death.

There is great danger in committing forces over an issue that is later compromised. If blood has been spilled in addition to diplomatic capital, compromise on the issue brings political consequences at home and reduces U.S. credibility abroad. If policies continually produce situations which involve force, followed by the compromise of the issues or values at stake, then a decline of American power over time may result. Policy makers must realize that committing U.S. forces to a situation raises the stakes and limits the options for resolving the conflict without losing face. Once the troops are committed, compromising the initial issue that involved them becomes a costly option.

Unfortunately, this possibility of compromise may lead policy makers to commit only minimal forces. This is a dangerous temptation and reflects the underlying reality that there is not a strong enough reason to commit the military in the first place. If the policy calls for too many limits on the military force committed--if the rules of engagement are too complex, if there are strict time limits set (where the exit becomes the strategy), if there is undue pressure placed on the military commander to avoid casualties at all costs--then the military power exerted is really no power at all. In fact, a hamstrung military commitment can quickly turn into a vulnerability which can invite more dangerous activity from a hostile force. The force committed should be at least sufficient to achieve the military aim. Anything short of that is dangerous. If the political aim calls for a force that is too weak to achieve the military objective under a worst-case scenario, then military force is not the appropriate means to apply to the situation. Additionally, if the political endstate envisioned is unclear, if military force cannot contribute directly to a clear endstate, then the military is the wrong tool to apply.

Michael Roskin, Samuel Huntington and others have posed the question: Does the U.S. turn a major or peripheral interest into a vital interest by committing U.S. forces? 23 In Bosnia, for instance, there is no underlying vital interest--nothing which can harm the nation if strong measures are not taken there. Yet by committing U.S. forces, diplomatic prestige, and credibility, the leadership risks enough that Bosnian issues take on the proportions of a vital interest. The arguement that the Bosnian civil war posed an indirect threat to U. S. vital interests by threatening to spill over into other European countries is discounted here. The major European partners did not appear sufficiently concerned by that threat to provide their forces without U.S. participation. The issue concerning how the U.S. leadership role in NATO was challenged by the instability in Bosnia raises other issues which go beyond the scope of this paper. Nevertheless, because military forces have been committed, the stakes have been raised. In essence, the U.S. has lost control of the situation because if U.S. forces there began taking serious casualties, public support at home--and the President's desire to keep forces there--would wane. The victors would be the faction(s) responsible for making the Americans pull out. U.S. credibility and power would be damaged.

Two factors become obvious here. First, this example shows how such an "entangling alliance" as Jefferson warned against limits the free hand of U.S. diplomacy. Secondly, it underscores the importance of keeping the use of force linked to vital interests. Other arguments aside, the reason that public support would evaporate in Bosnia should the American death toll rise is that the commitment in Bosnia does not represent a defense of U.S. vital interests . The real litmus test of a vital interest is its ability to sustain American public support through great adversity because it is recognized that serious harm will come to the U.S. if that interest is compromised. If the underlying interest is not of sufficient importance, the U.S. population will not support many casualties, nor the policy.

The importance of a vital-interest-based intervention strategy is also important when only the threat of intervention is used to achieve objectives. Decisions concerning the use of coercive diplomacy and military intervention become increasingly difficult as the nation moves towards a goal of coalition building and multilateralism. President Clinton states that, "as much as possible, we will seek the help of our allies and friends or of relevant international institutions."24 An opposing view is offered by Matthew C. Waxman:

Recent experiences in Somalia and Bosnia, however, have highlighted constraints associated with the conduct of coercive diplomacy by coalitions. In theory, coalition-building often limits both the potency and credibility of the threats that are critical to coercive strategies. The United States must therefore be more selective and assertive in its use of coalitions as instruments of foreign policy.25

Although coalitions can bring increased legitimacy to bear against a rogue power, often the interests of the coalition parties do not converge sufficiently to apply the increased legitimacy effectively in achieving demands. Experience in Bosnia has provided many examples of how difficult it can be to get all of the players to "turn the key" which will take them down a common path. Coalition determination to maintain IFOR in Bosnia remains tentative to this day. Credibility is also limited by multilateralism. Coalition dissent prior to an armed intervention (or threat of one) reduces credibility and exposes weakness which an adversary can exploit. The "process of transmitting a clear and credible threat, often already encumbered by domestic dissension, is complicated by competing demands of coalition-maintenance."26 It was much easier to mitigate this phenomenon during Desert Storm when the vital interests defended by the coalition members were clearly defined and threatening (because they were vital interests). This was less so in Bosnia and Somalia, hence coalition-maintenance required much more focus and energy if it was sustained at all.

Increasing multilateral and coalition activity in carrying out foreign policy can also lead to more and more commitments for the military. There is a danger in making too many commitments. If an already drawn-down force structure is responding to defend interests which are less-than-vital in importance, and unforeseen threats to vital interests arise, the responsiveness to meet the vital interest challenge is reduced. A strategic reserve of military capability should always be held for response to unforeseen challenges. The problem is that the size of that response will be impossible to determine ahead of time. In the current national security environment, unforeseen threats to vital interests are a very real possibility. Rogue states have increased access to advanced weaponry and command and control technology; remnant Soviet-bloc countries continue to present challenges (most recently, anarchy in Albania threatened U.S. citizens there).

By more sharply defining vital security interests, a framework for clear decision-making is established. For almost any foreign policy challenge, the issues will change with time. A constant reevaluation process must be in place to continually ask the right questions. Usually this has taken place as Congress has provided oversight to administration policies abroad. But as U.S. Representative Lee Hamilton has pointed out, Congress has become increasingly reluctant to provide realistic oversight.27 As Presidents have used the War Powers Act to introduce military forces, Congress has not wanted to appear divisive with the President. There follows a lack of substantive dialogue between the executive and the legislature. So the real issues may never be uncovered and debated in the very forum that the Constitution provided. Senator Russ Feingold has gone further, calling for a measure requiring Congressional approval every time a military intervention is proposed.28

Perhaps earlier critics of the Weinberger Doctrine were correct in saying that the guidelines were too restrictive. It would seem more restrictive for a President to lose the freedom of the War Powers Act, however. The decision process would likely improve either way. Military force would not be committed unless a vital U.S. or allied interest was at stake, and only after other policy options had failed. These would be the key elements debated in Congress prior to a commitment of force--if that debate took place. By focusing on the concepts of vital interest and last resort, policy makers wrestle with the real underlying issues in question. The focus on interests and whether or not there was room for compromise would result in better policy.

Finally, the weakening of the determination to use force only as a last resort must be considered. Up through the Powell Doctrine the traditional requirement to use force as a last resort has been incorporated as policy. This did not mean that force could not be used--nor is it to say that the first use of force could not be justified. The concept of last resort is a long-standing tradition in Western civilization derived from the concept of the "just war", or jus ad bellum. Americans are fortunate that they live in a world which generally settles its disputes peacefully. There is strong prejudice against resorting to all out war when major disagreements occur. According to James Turner Johnson,

The same consideration does not apply to uses of forceful means at lower levels and in the service of diplomatic undertakings or other activities that fundamentally enhance stability. But the key concern is that the game must be worth the candle; even in such cases force must be the last step, not taken until other steps have been tried. 29

The view that military intervention should come only after all other non-violent policy means have failed fits well with America's moral and historical traditions. Direct military intervention is always very costly--at least in monetary terms, and potentially in bloodshed as well. Often, military intervention leads to long term commitments which can entail great expense over time (a presence in Southwest Asia is still required in spite of the success of Desert Storm). Monetary expense is less dear than the cost of lives, however. In a country which has always placed a very high value on human life, it makes sense that a Commander-in-Chief would conduct the due diligence required in attempting everything in his power to solve a dispute before sending his own people into harm's way. It is extremely puzzling in this light to see policy drift away from insisting on force being applied as a last resort. Perhaps this is resulting from some confusion on what it means to commit forces.

The President does not necessarily commit force when he sends a detachment of the Army Corps of Engineers to help a developing country build infrastructure. The same is true when logistical units of the military services are sent to aid in food distribution to starving peoples in Africa. But to the extent that these units come under the risk of being attacked or harmed by hostile foreign forces, the picture begins to change. If the risk of attack is plausible, most likely those logistical forces (for the sake of example) would be accompanied by security forces. Now the risk of losing American lives in a combat situation is a possibility. For this reason, combatant forces should only be committed when there is no other viable policy means available that will succeed. This does not mean that every avenue other than force has been physically implemented--only that they have been intelligently considered and deemed to fall short of the desired objective. There should also be an accompanying discussion on the importance of the venture to American interests, and the fact that use of force is being considered.

America cannot engage everywhere. Even to chose all of the places in the world that U.S. values and sensibilities are offended would be extending U.S. reach beyond its resources and capabilities. Henry Kissinger warns, "America must be careful not to multiply moral commitments while the financial and military resources for the conduct of a global foreign policy are being curtailed. Sweeping pronouncements not matched by either the ability or the willingness to back them up diminish America's influence on all other matters as well." 30 A foreign policy that cannot be sustained or, by its very nature, cannot be universally and consistently applied is sure to reduce the credibility of U.S. diplomatic efforts abroad. At a time when the international security environment is most inclined to respond to diplomacy and economic incentives, reducing diplomatic credibility makes no sense.

VI. SUMMARY AND Conclusion

In this paper I have argued that military intervention should primarily be considered in instances where vital national interests are being challenged, and only after other non-violent policy options have failed. On the other hand, a study of history demonstrates that military intervention has often been used in support of less-than-vital national interests, and that the President will most likely continue to call upon the military to defend those lesser, but important, interests. Military intervention is a difficult tool to use well. When military forces are threatened or used, risk increases. The risk not only arises from the dangers of the battlefield, but in regard to diplomatic credibility as well. Therefore, intervention policy must be approached with a firm grasp of the nation's priorities and interests, as well as of military capabilities. The President must be keenly aware of the many complex issues within a particular situation before he or she can make an intelligent military intervention decision. The decision process derived from the intervention policy must ask the right questions, and must lead the President to make a cost/benefit analysis which is grounded on relevant information. Following are some suggestions for improving U.S. military intervention policy:

1. Invest in human intelligence collection capabilities and country/region expertise. Situations like Bosnia, North and West Africa, the Middle East, China, and countless others cannot be adequately understood through information technology alone. There must be a human mind involved which is capable of interpreting subtleties in relationships. There must be people involved in the every day concerns of the citizens of the countries of interest to the U.S. who are highly trained and experienced in analyzing and communicating the political, social, and economic realities of what is occurring there. The U.S. must make an investment in improving and expanding these capabilities. This need not be done covertly. But it must be done so that someone who knows the real situation can be available during times of crises (or ahead of time to prevent crises) to answer questions, challenge policies, and provide the guidance that only first hand experience can provide.

Pro: The U.S. and its leaders will be well served by increasing the level of understanding in a given situation before policy decisions are made--certainly before military forces are introduced. This increased level of understanding will translate into more appropriate and effective policy responses which will save time, money, and effort (perhaps lives) over the long run.

Con: The increased investment in human intelligence and expertise will take additional funds from an already austere budgetary environment. The costs should be examined in light of long-term as well as short-term benefits. Making the investment up front before other, more costly policy options are implemented, may be the most cost effective in the long run.

2. Define national interests in terms of interests; not values. Neuchterlein's definitions are satisfyingly simple because they define interests in negative terms. In other words, they define interests in terms of how seriously the U.S. is potentially harmed when those interests are challenged. Yet diplomats must deal in ways which the U.S. can gain in particular instances. It is more difficult to define interests in these positive terms. The President must be able to see and define the nation's interests in both positive and negative terms. In this way he will be guided to consider the costs as well as the gains inherent in a given situation.

With these points in mind, I offer some definitions of U.S. interests that lend themselves to defining national interests in terms that can be used for setting priorities. While not entirely original by any means, these definitions synthesize from the current literature a more useful method of discriminating national interests.

Vital national interests are, basically, national security interests:

--Protecting U.S. territory and citizens, both at home and abroad (protection from ballistic missiles, weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, direct attack, drug trafficking, catastrophic economic loss, etc.)

--Ensuring access to sea-lanes and airways for the conduct of trade and the movement of vital resources

--Preventing hostile aggression from shifting regional balances in the Western Hemisphere, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia

--Those other instances where serious harm can come to the nation unless

strong, deliberate measures are taken.31

Major national interests warrant serious attention, but do not generally require military intervention:

--Expanding free and open markets; increasing economic prosperity at home and abroad

--Influencing the behavior of hostile regimes

--Enhancing global partnerships in commercial and environmental endeavors

--Those other instances where the country's political, economic, and social well-being may be affected adversely by events and trends abroad, but where serious harm to the U.S. will not occur.32

Other national interests are important and require constant effort and consistent policies. I do not like the term "peripheral" interest because it implies that these interests are not important--they are. Still, for the purposes set out in this paper, these interests could rarely be seen as requiring military intervention:

--Providing aid to foreign countries in need who have demonstrated the capability to put that aid to intelligent use

--Supporting friendly nations which are developing open markets and the respect for human rights

--Promoting economic development abroad, as well as the universal respect for human dignity