Trump Announces 7th Military Doctrine in US History
The Trump Doctrine
Eric LaMont Gregory
Donald Trump announces - Principled Realism - the 7th iteration of a military policy in US history
' ... when you have done the right thing, it is like you have done nothing at all.' Brigadier Frank Kitson 1971
Before Donald Trump delivered his speech at Fort Myers, Virginia, on the 21st of August 2017, in the 241 year history of the United States (228 years since permanent formation under the constitution), only six presidents had articulated a military doctrine.
A military doctrine is also understood to be a presidential foreign policy doctrine. That is, a statement of the guiding principles and strategies one government or nation applies to its dealings with other governments and nations. And, increasingly in our asymmetrical conflict-ridden world, groups that are not governments or nation states.
Although the Trump Doctrine, Principled Realism, is intended to send a clear and uncompromising message to America's adversaries, it carries with it immediate as well as enduring implications for America's two staunchest allies, Canada and the United Kingdom. Not the least of which is Trump's stated intention to give teeth to the Bush Doctrine of recognizing '... any nation or group that harbors terrorists as terrorists themselves.' The implications for UK, Canadian and US relations with a host of countries like Pakistan, and the 150 million Muslims who live in Islamic states, will become at least strained. Having good relations with a country on Trump's hit list will complicate relations between the United States and our allies.
Most of America's allies have had spats with the US before over our relations and theirs with one country or another, but what will strain the relations between the US and its allies under Trump, is the inverse. That is, the relations will be strained not because of friendly relations with America's enemies, but because of hostile relations with countries that Trump designates as his friends. Russia is not the only country that will strain relations between the US and our European allies. Iran is another.
As the commander-in-chief of American'a armed forces Trump inherits Afghanistan, and with all the other posturing he engages in, it is the conduct of this conflict, now the longest in American history, that will test his mettle as a commander.
Time will tell. Now back to the history of presidential declarations of a military doctrine.
A brief review of the previous six pronouncements of a military doctrine, by Presidents Monroe, Roosevelt, Truman, Carter, Reagan and Bush (GW), illustrates that most of the doctrines can be summed up by the phrase '... carry a big stick.'
The first military doctrine of the United States was pronounced by James Monroe on December 2, 1823. 'With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power we ... shall not interfere, but with the Governments ... whose independence we have ... acknowledged ... any interposition for the purpose of ... controlling [them], by any European power ... [the United States would view] as an unfriendly disposition toward the United States.' The enduring usefulness of the Monroe Doctrine to US strategic interests within the Western Hemisphere cannot be overstated. John F Kennedy and several other presidents have invoked this policy in times of crises.
In 1904, Theodore Roosevelt proposed a corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, stating that 'Chronic wrongdoing ... in the Western Hemisphere ... may force the United States ... to the exercise of an international police power.' Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, introduced his rather dramatic amendment to the Monroe doctrine by quoting a West African proverb 'Speaksoftlyandcarryabigstick ...'
43 years after Roosevelt delivered his corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, President Harry Truman in an address to the Congress on March 12, 1947, articulated the Truman Doctrine. Truman stated that the US should 'support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.' And specifically, Truman's pronouncement addressed the fall of countries to Soviet influence, and committed the United States to T to send money, equipment, and military assistance to countries that were threatened by the Soviet Union.
In his State of the Union Address on January 23, 1980, Jimmy Carter pronounced the fourth military doctrine of the United States in response to what US Intelligence saw a Soviet Union attempt to consolidate a strategic position that posed a grave threat to the free movement of Middle East oil. In such circumstances, Carter stated that America would view any 'attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region ... as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault would be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.' Carter therefore made it clear that military force would be used, if necessary, to protect American economic and national interests in the Persian Gulf.
The fifth articulated military doctrine, the Reagan Doctrine, was announced on the 6th of March 1985.
Importantly, the Reagan Doctrine established direct overt military assistance to groups fighting established communist governments, as opposed to previous policies which in which largely covert support was aimed at the containment of foreign governments. When Congress refused to fund the Reagan initiative, his administration tried to self-finance the war against communism and these efforts became mired in controversy, most notably the Iran-Contra Scandal.
The sixth and penultimate military doctrine of the United States, was not a single doctrine actually, but a series of foreign policy initiatives advanced by President GW Bush in specific response to the tragic events associated with the September 11, 2001 terrorists attacks on the United States. The Bush Doctrine had two primary components. The first plank advanced the idea of a preventive war to restrain anyone who might pose a threat to the United States in the future. And second, the Bush strategy prepared US intelligence and military forces to recognize and to confront any nation or group that harbored terrorists, as terrorists themselves. The thrust of these policies was to promote the notion that there were no safe havens for terrorists, their allies as well as those who afforded them any form of support.
Unraveling the details of a military doctrine pronouncement, especially when the doctrine is announced in the form of a speech in which several other related topics are discussed, has been likened to discerning a Supreme Court Ruling. Fortunately, and remembering that all disciplines are first a language, one can rely upon the precise nature of both military language and logic as a guide.
Trump articulated US Military Doctrine as one of Principled Realism. And, defined Principled Realism as a doctrine in which the pursuit of US security interests would reign over and above all other strategic as well as tactical considerations.
Trump stated that US military engagement policy would shift from a time-based approach to one where conditions on the ground and the attainment of certain objectives would dictate military operations. Those familiar with military history cannot but contribute the shift away from a timed-based approach to Brigadier Frank Kitson and his seminal 1971 work, Low Intensity Operations: Subversion, Insurgency and Peacekeeping. Two important operational concepts detailed in Kitson's work include the idea that one should never announce your departure date, and that the intelligence services gather information for the military to evaluate and use and not the other way around.
The third insight based on Kitson's lifetime of military service at the highest level, and one to which Trump and his military advisers should pay particular attention is that, ' ... when you have done the right thing, it is like you have done nothing at all.'
The second pillar of the Trump Principled Realism Doctrine is its call for the integration of all the instruments of American power; diplomatic, economic as well as military. This plank in the Trump Doctrine is for the most part a restatement of the concept of Smart Power (Smart Diplomacy) as articulated during the Clinton administration in the 1990s. And, is the basis of embedding State Department operatives within the 82nd Airborne, which as a result integrates diplomacy into first response initiatives in conflict situations.
It will not go unnoticed that Trump stated the intention of the US military to fight to win. And in doing so, Trump has expanded the use of military force and under a less restricted regime of the rules of engagement . In practical terms this places brigade commanders in forward positions to be able to call in airstrikes in aid of ground forces. Casualties among brigade commanders are known to increase under such circumstances.
It must always be remembered that wars are fought against people. The war on drugs, for example, is a war against people who cultivate or manufacture, traffic and use illicit drugs. Which raises the question exactly what a win in the war against the Taliban would look like.
No statement of the use of awesome military power under expanded and a less restricted regime of the rules of engagement would be complete without holding up a semblance of the olive branch. And, in this regards Trump stated that after an effective military effort, perhaps there could be a political settlement with the Taliban.
Considering that there are Canadian, British, and a host of other governments who have active members of their military forces on the ground in Afghanistan and rather extensive involvements in the larger Central and South Asian region, the silence of Trudeau and May is particularly worrisome, given the expanded nature of the rules of engagement in Trump's announced gloves-off fight to win in Afghanistan declaration. And, his intention to wage war on those who harbor insurgents.
As sobering as current circumstances are, Trump's announced new rules will surely increase the cost of engagement in human and material terms.
An eventual, perhaps inevitable to Trump's thinking, political settlement with the unreformed Islamic sect the Taliban, raises serious human rights concerns. And thus, Trump would be well-advised to consider Franklin D Roosevelt's 1941 State of the Union addressin which he proposed four fundamental freedoms that people 'everywhere in the world' ought to enjoy. Namely, freedom of speech and worship and, freedom from want and fear.
In other terms, Roosevelt stated the values, the tenets of the American Republic, the protection and the promotion of which our brave men and women in uniform risk life and limb.
What cannot be contemplated is an eventual political settlement with the Taliban, in which we attempt to achieve an enduring peace that is bought at the cost of other people's freedom. Paraphrasing Roosevelt's words, the American people have unalterably set their face against such an outcome.
And, it is that prospect that makes the silence of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Prime Minister Theresa May, and by implication the people of Canada and Great Britian as well as the people of the United States, deafening.