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Israel’s Military Response – “Powell Doctrine” Lite!

by Yoram Ettinger April 20, 2001

SECRETARY OF STATE POWELL’s spokesman, Boucher (April 17, 2001): “The
hostilities last night in Gaza were precipitated by the provocative
Palestinian mortar attacks on Israel. The Israeli response was excessive
and disproportionate.” REALLY???

  • THE POWELL DOCTRINE: Deployment of a disproportionate military power, in
    order to pound the enemy into submission. “‘The biggest s.o.b. on the block’
    rule. America should enter fights with every bit of force available or not
    at all.” (Time Magazine, April 19, 2001). “Go in full force from the
    beginning rather than escalate yourself into a quagmire. Or don’t go in at
    all.” (Michael Kinsley, Slate Magazine, March 27, 1999). “Overwhelming US
    force assures success at minimum risk to Americans in uniform” (The Boston
    Jan. 19, 2001). Israeli response to PLO terrorism has been
    significantly milder than the Powell Doctrine, although the threat has been
    significantly higher and on Israel’s own borders. Israel’s threat has not
    been located thousands, or hundreds, of miles across the ocean, as has been
    the case with US JUSTIFIABLE operations against Iraq, Panama, Grenada and

  • THE GULF WAR, 1991: Fighting the second-rate Iraqi military, Colin
    Powell assembled 540,000 troops, 4,000 tanks, 1,800 airplanes, 1,700
    helicopters, 6 aircraft carriers, submarines, etc. “The total military
    deployment would be one of the largest by the US, since WWII. Once
    completed, 34% of the Army’s total forces would be deployed in the Gulf
    area, a higher ratio than in either the Vietnam or Korean wars… The total
    US deployment would also roughly equal the number of American forces
    stationed in Europe at the height of the Cold War.” (Facts On File, Nov. 9,
    1990). In addition, Powell assembled Britain’s 43,000 troops, 300 armored
    vehicles, 168 tanks, 70 jets, 6 destroyers, 4 frigates, 3 minesweepers,
    France’s 18,000 troops, 60 combat planes, 120 helicopters, 40 tanks, 3
    destroyers, 1 missile cruiser and military forces from Germany, Canada,
    Belgium, Australia, Italy, etc.

  • US BOMBING OF BAGHDAD, 1993: 23 cruise missiles fired at Iraq’s
    intelligence HQ in Baghdad, hitting a civilian neighborhood in the process,
    in reaction to an Iraqi attempt on the life of former President Bush (during
    his 1993 visit to Kuwait). Powell defined the operation as “Appropriate,
    proportional and consistent with Article 51 of the UN Charter” (Washington
    June 28, 1993).

  • OPERATION JUST CAUSE (US INVASION OF PANAMA, 1989). Powell oversaw the
    December 20, 1989, 25,000 troops invasion, in pursuit of a narco-dictator
    (milder than Arafat, an ally of Saddam and a mortal enemy of Israel and the
    Hashemites), using the F-117 Stealth aircraft for the first time, hitting
    the PDF headquarters and the El Chorrillo neighborhood in Panama City. 23 US
    (and 315 Panama) soldiers were killed, as were hundreds of Panama City
    civilians (“collateral damage”), in the first few hours of the attack.
    Thousands of civilians were injured and some 10,000 Panamanians were
    displaced. In his book, Powell concluded that Operation Just Cause confirmed
    the Powell Doctrine: “Use all the force necessary, and do not apologize for
    going-in big if that’s what it takes.” Attorney General Thornburgh stated
    on December 20, 1989 that the US was acting in accordance with article 51 of
    the UN Charter, which recognizes the inherent right of self-defense.

  • THE MARCH and APRIL 1986 BOMBING OF LIBYA. Reacting to the murder of US
    GIs, in Germany and in Spain, by Libyan-sponsored terrorists, the US
    deployed on March 24, 1986, 2 aircraft carriers (USS America and Coral Sea),
    attacking Libyan military targets in the Gulf of Sirte. On April 14, 1986
    the US launched a air and navy attacks (F-111s bombers, EF-111 electronic
    jamming planes, A-6 bombers, A-7 and F-18 attack aircraft) on Libya’s
    capital, Tripoli, aiming at Qadaffi’s presidential palace at El-Azziziya,
    Sidi Bilal port, the military section of Tripoli’s international airport and
    military targets in Benghazi. Dozens of civilians were killed, a number of
    residential homes were destroyed, the French Embassy was seriously damaged
    and the Austrian and Romanian embassies were hit. (Facts on File, April 18,

  • THE OCTOBER 25, 1983 US INVASION OF GRENADA. 7,000 US troops were
    employed to topple the Marxist regime there, sending a message to Cuba and
    Nicaragua. The invasion was triggered by a bloody Marxist coup in Grenada,
    along with a perceived threat to 100 US medical students on the island, and
    Cuban engineers constructing an airport there. On the other hand, the
    Israeli operation in Gaza was launched following more than 100 Palestinian
    mortar shells hitting Israel, some 7,000 Palestinian terrorist attacks on
    Israelis since September 2000 (including lynching and scores of suicidal
    bombers), including the murder of a baby, hitting an Israeli school bus with
    anti-tank missiles, shelling Jerusalem, etc. Should Israel’s response be
    proportionate – dispatching suicidal bombers to Gaza???

    TO THE POWELL DOCTRINE. The response should aim at uprooting – rather than
    stopping – terrorism. The response should aim at dismantling terror
    infrastructure and capabilities (planning, logistics, operational,
    production, manpower), rather than hitting a few individual terrorists.
    The US JUSTIFIABLE campaign against Iraq has demonstrated that there are
    enemies with whom one communicates on the battlefield, rather than at the
    negotiation table. The actions of the Bush, Clinton and George W. Bush
    Administrations, against Saddam, have indicated that sometimes the nature of
    the enemy precludes a political solution, and warrants a military solution.

  • Israel may consider adopting the justifiably disproportionate Powell
    Doctrine, but should – RESPECTFULLY – reject the statement made by Powell’s
    spokesman and his disproportionate reference to Saddam’s ally (PLO) and to
    US’ sole soul ally in the Mideast (Israel).

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