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The Intervention Debate: Towards a Posture of Principled Judgment


Authored by Dr. John Garofano.

January 2002

95 Pages

Brief Synopsis

The author argues that American policymakers must take an approach based on "principled judgment" when deciding on the use of force. The 1990s showed the extremes of deciding when and how to use force, one of the central elements of strategy. Throughout American history, debate has raged over whether force is appropriate only in defense of the homeland and vital national interests or whether it should also be used to promote more expansive objectives like regional security and stopping humanitarian disasters in regions with few tangible U.S. interests. He concludes with a discussion of Army roles and requirements for future contingencies.

Summary

Political debate over the proper guidelines for using force has been polarized since the end of the Cold War. Force conservers emphasize future threats and conventional challenges, while proponents of the liberal use of force consider a wider range of national interests and accept greater risk regarding future challenges. Administrations have taken various paths between these two poles. The Weinberger Doctrine remains one of the most influential schools of thought. A contrary school of thought, that of intuitive intervention, was articulated by Secretaries of State George Shultz and Madeleine Albright but proved highly problematic. The Clinton administration settled upon a complex set of requirements that tried to bridge many approaches, but it, too, failed to gain wide acceptance among the polity or the public at large.

Without general political agreement upon a general approach to the use of force, the military services will be hard put to develop the tools required when intervention occurs. The author argues that what may be called the Powell-Bush argument is a useful starting point for forging a consensus, since it recognizes the need for flexibility, choice, and balance-in a word, judgment-when force is considered. After examining the advantages of this and the other postures adopted by previous administrations, the author makes the case for an approach of "principled judgment." A series of principles, or guideposts, for intervention policy are then suggested, followed by the argument for several institutional changes that should strengthen the ability of diverse administrations to exercise judgment when using force. The author concludes with a discussion of Army roles and requirements for future contingencies.


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