The legacy of Vietnam and the Powell doctrine: four case studies

Middup, Luke Foster (2011) The legacy of Vietnam and the Powell doctrine: four case studies. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.



The Vietnam War was one of the most traumatic events ever to afflict the US Military. From the ashes of this defeat, the US Military sought to renew itself. As part of this process of renewal, the US Army in particular engaged in serious soul searching as to how, and under what circumstances, the United States ought to commit itself to war. The answers that were derived from this soul searching are known collectively as the Powell Doctrine, named after General Colin L. Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989-1993). The elements of the Doctrine are as follows: the need for “overwhelming” force; the need for public and Congressional support; the need for clear objectives; the need for a clear “exit strategy”; and force should only be used in the “vital national interest.”

This thesis will advance four principal arguments: first, that the evolution of the Powell Doctrine cannot be understood without reference to the US experience in Vietnam; second, that the various elements of the Powell Doctrine have a logical relationship to one another which means that the Doctrine as a whole should be considered as a single, integrated body of thought; and, third, that Colin Powell, in his Foreign Affairs article, is simply giving public articulation to an intellectual climate that had already become influential before his ascent to the Chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And that, whilst the Powell Doctrine does deserve to be called a doctrine in the military sense of the word, this is not a full explanation of the conditions Powell has laid down as they encroach upon profoundly political issues. And thus, whilst the Powell Doctrine does deserve the title “doctrine,” it is also an attempt to formulate a coherent set of principles to inform US “National Security” policy in areas that go beyond those traditionally seen as being of military concern.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Supervisors:Jones, M.
Danchev, A.
Uncontrolled Keywords:persian gulf war, vietnam war, united states, colin powell, powell doctrine, military policy, lebanese civil war, nicaragua, bosnia-herzegovina, iraq, afghanistan
Faculties/Schools:UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Politics and International Relations
ID Code:2312
Deposited By:MR LF Middup
Deposited On:28 Mar 2012 11:39
Last Modified:28 Mar 2012 11:39

Archive Staff Only: item control page