LOS ANGELES — In the United States we refer to it as the Powell Doctrine. And it helps unravel a bit of mystery about what China is up to these days. Remember Colin Powell? Before Barack Obama rode into the U.S. scene on his white horse, Powell was America’s most admired black public political figure. As fate would have it, he never made it to the presidency, though he would have been a good one, for sure.

So it may be that this career army officer and former secretary of state will be mainly remembered for advancing the military doctrine now identified with his name: the Powell Doctrine. It seeks to limit the occasions when a nation might choose to go to war by defining with clarity the conditions under which the war option might make sense.

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