Monday, November 15, 2004

A diplomatic departure

Babble on.

So Colin Powell is finally resigning from the Bush administration, although class act that he is, he's waiting for his replacement to be found. This has been rumoured for quite awhile, and comes as no real surprise. I know some commentators will say good riddance: Powell didn't have the hard edge that seems so prevalent on the Bush team, and his resignation allows the appointment of someone who won't send mixed messages to the world about U.S. resolve.

Personally, I think that's complete bunk. No serious international observer doubts the Bush government's resolve to do what it feels is in the best interests of the nation, regardless of global niceties.

Powell was exactly what you'd want in a Secretary of State. He could object without being objectionable, disagree without being disagreeable. He had military credentials that allowed him to speak up as an equal in a militaristic administration, and that should have enabled him to coordinate Defense and Foggy Bottom in an unprecedented way.

Furthermore, Powell understood that he was supposed to be a diplomat. If Bush had asked him to be Defense Secretary, I think you would have seen a harder edge to his public persona. But he was asked to be a diplomat, and so he was. Much has been made of the supposed conflict between Powell and Rumsfeld. The rift between State and the Pentagon says much more about Rumsfeld than it does about Powell. I think if I had been forced to choose between the two of them, I'd have kicked Rummy out and kept the General. Powell did everything asked of him. Rummy was a loose cannon in the lead-up to the war, his public statements making waves that didn't need to be made, and making Powell's work a whole lot tougher. Rumsfeld presided over an occupation that has become more difficult than necessary because of troop shortages and scandals like Abu Ghraib. It's all guesswork, but I don't believe Powell would have made those mistakes (he might have made others, but not those).

What's next for Colin Powell? He's riding off into the sunset, but to do what? Maybe to distance himself from an administration that has done the right thing the wrong way and seems more pig-headed than steadfast some of the time? Maybe to set himself up as the 'moderate' Republican candidate in 2008? I could well be wrong, but I think Powell will be an interesting man to watch for the next few years.

Babble off.


At 1:19 p.m., Blogger Greg said...

I think if Powell had been in charge at Defense they would have concentrated on Afghanistan and would not have gotten sidetracked in Iraq.

I agree that at one time he could have run for president, but I think he is seen as not "one of us" by the Bush wing of the Republican party and so must be considered a longshot.

At 1:21 p.m., Blogger Greg said...

Sorry B, but what do you think about Rice at State? Myself, I think she is a disaster, but what do I know? I'm just a lefty.

At 1:42 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Powell allowed himself to be converted to the institutional bias at the State Department, which is overwhelmingly left leaning in nature. The bureaucrats entrenched at State are philosophically closer to their counterparts in France, Germany and Canada, and opposed to the foreign policy of George Bush. You're right in one respect Damian, Powell did everythig asked of him, which is commendable. But he didn't believe in it. He may have been a PR bonus for the Bush administration at times, but he also said some dumb things over the past 2 years which hurt Bush politically.

I think Powell is a fine individual, but all the same, I'm pleased to see him move on


At 3:09 p.m., Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

Greg, I can't picture Condi Rice as SecState. I don't know of anything that would disqualify her, but my gut feeling is that she's seen as being too much Bush's woman to be effective as the face of U.S. diplomacy. Which leads to this question: who's the best choice to succeed Powell? I haven't got a ready answer to that one, but I'm going to give it some thought.

Mike, I don't find the idea that Foggy Bottom co-opted Powell to its bias plausible. I mean, the man spends a career rising through the ranks of the U.S. Army's professional officer corps. He retires as Chairman of the JCS after decades of military service, then is somehow mesmerized by his State Department subordinates? It just doesn't hold together for me.

Powell was asked to be a diplomat. So he went out and tried to be diplomatic. Not an easy job when the rest of the administration seemed to go out of their way to be as undiplomatic as possible.

At 11:16 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 5:57 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...


Only an insider would know whether Powell was persuaded by the bureaucrats at State to side with the status quo (U.N. makes the rules, pre-emptive regime change is the ultimate international sin), or whether he was already on board before assuming his duties as Secretary of State. There are plenty of politicized American Generals (primarily retired) who sounded more like Euro- Leftist enablers of terrorism than soldiers when it came to the controversy over Iraq, so I'm not sure Powell's background substantiates your argument.

Either way, it seems obvious that Powell wasn't in favour of invading Iraq, and that is my number one criticism of him. I believe Bush was absolutely correct, both morally and in the national interest of the U.S., in ignoring the U.N.'s surreal, illegal (I love throwing that one in) and fanatical protection of genocidal tyrants in the name of sovereignty. No one knows how things will play out in Iraq, but my best estimate is Powell will find himself on the wrong side of history on this one, although with far more dignity and honour than the Chiracs and Schroeders (and Chretiens, of course!).


At 9:54 a.m., Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

Mike, as usual, you make some valid and well-reasoned points. If you've been reading some of the other comment threads you'll know I could use more well-reasoned commentary around here.

Having said that, I'm not sure it's been shown Powell disagreed with invading Iraq. I think what we know is that he disagreed with the way the administration planned and executed the invasion.

Being a team-player doesn't mean being Pollyanna. A military guy in his position would think of himself as duty-bound to bring up potential concerns and think through worst-case scenarios - especially if he saw his colleagues and superiors pushing an unrealistically optimistic plan.

But you're right, only an insider would know, and even then, I'd like to hear from a bunch of insiders before I made up my mind. But my gut feeling is this guy has gotten a bit of a bum rap.

At 12:14 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, Damian, you act like a little child when you delete all the posts you don't agree with. Grow up. Censorship is wrong.

At 12:53 p.m., Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

My blog, my rules. BTW, I don't delete stuff I don't agree with (see Mike's comments above), I delete stuff I feel like deleting. All that power at the touch of a button! Which comments live, which ones's intoxicating I tell you, INTOXICATING! Bwahahaha!

Seriously: you don't like my editorial policy, feel free not to read.

At 3:05 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thanks for the compliment. I'll try to pop in more frequently. As I've said before, it's hard to find the time to hit all of the best blogs, but we'll get your site meter up there!

By the way, delete away, it saves the rest of us from having to play whack-a-troll.


At 4:23 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 4:34 p.m., Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

Anonymous: blahblahblah, memeblah, blahblahblahblah, mememe.

(If you don't get that, you haven't spent enough time watching Finding Nemo with your kids, your grandkids, your friends' kids, or any small children for that matter. In which case I admonish you to spend more time with children and less in the blogosphere.)

At 5:21 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 5:50 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 12:22 a.m., Blogger Doug said...

Powell would have had even less sway over the course of events had he not been Secretary of State - the Secretary of Defense doesn't fashion foreign policy, he's essentially just a civilian administrator for the Pentagon. I agree that he'd be a longshot for president, though for slightly different reasons. In any event, I don't think that he wants it.

Dr. Rice... I swell with heady infatuation. She's brilliant, articulate, and personifies grace with a center of granite. She has more degrees than I have years of college. "Punish France, ignore Germany, forgive Russia" - sweet nothings! I am overcome with euphoric anticipation. She's got a better shot at eventual Presidency too, I think.

Powell might have gotten a touch of foggy bottom fever, but not much I don't think. He was always more of a moderate voice, even going back to the Desert Storm days.

I think Damian's assessment on Powell's Iraq position is probably about right too. I think he was in favor, if he could be convinced that the alternatives were exhausted, and he wasn't convinced. The problem, of course, is that the alternatives are never exhausted - there's always something new you can fail at.

In which case I admonish you to spend more time with children and less in the blogosphere.Careful, there - it could be Gary Glitter on the other end for all you know.


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