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Tuesday, December 23, 2003
The NYT on Powell

By Steven Taylor @ 9:09 am

The NYT has an interesting piece of Secretary of State Colin Powell today (Powell Defends Diplomatic Role). The tone, like many pieces on Powell, focuses on the thesis that he is frustrated in his position.

An expression of this frustration comes from a quote from an interview the Secretary did with Foreign Affairs:

“U.S. strategy is widely accused of being unilateralist by design,” Mr. Powell wrote. “It isn’t. It is often accused of being imbalanced in favor of military methods. It isn’t. It is frequently described as being obsessed with terrorism and hence biased toward preemptive war on a global scale. It most certainly is not.”

The funny thing to me is that the tone of the article suggests that the problem at hand is that the rest of the Bush administration is the reason why Powell is upset. Indeed, through the last several years much of the press has been hellbent on setting up a Powell v. the Rest dichotomy in the administration (especially v. Rummy).

While I have no doubt that there are difference of policy opinion between Powell and other members of admin, I also think that Powell is a man of sufficient integrity that if he really was as disgruntled about Bush administration policy as many in the press clearly hope he is that he would have resigned by now. Certainly he wouldn’t have said many of the things he has said over the last several years.

Indeed, I would point out to the NYT that the reason that Powell is frustrated about the misperceptions of US diplomacy (especially vis-a-vis “unilateralism") is the insistence of the press to pretend like all the Bush administration has done is run around all by its lonesome beating people up, despite empirical evidence to the contrary.

Were I Powell, I’d be frustrated as well.

Indeed, I find many liberals/opponents of the President’s foreign policy to have this fantasy that Powell is really on their side-a lone voice of reason in a sea of foreign policy nuts in the White House. Again, I say, if that was the case, I find it hard to believe that he stayed this long. It isn’t like he couldn’t have found a graceful way to resign (like, for example, his cancer).

And you have to love the attempt at interpretation here:

Only rarely has Mr. Powell shed light on any interior dissatisfactions he may have experienced in three years. In a recent interview with The Washington Post, Mr. Powell volunteered that one of the things he most admired about one of his predecessors, George C. Marshall, was that he did not resign even after his advice not to recognize Israel in 1948 was rejected.

Does that mean, though, that Mr. Powell has even thought about resigning, such as when President Bush decided to go to war against Iraq? Not at all, his aides say. Mr. Powell all along believed that war was justified if Saddam Hussein continued to flout international demands to come clean with his weapons.

Although this seems to me to be reasonable:

“It is not as if he was against the war,” said an aide to Mr. Powell. “It is just that the war was not his priority. It was Rumsfeld’s and Cheney’s priority. Powell’s priority was to make sure the war was carried out in the right way.”

Filed under: US Politics

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1 Comment»

  1. One thing further to remember is that Powell is, above all, a good soldier. And soldiers take orders from their commander. His satisfaction or disatisfaction comes second. Does that mean he is dissatisfied or satisfied? I don’t think anyone really knows. And because we don’t know, he becomes an enigma. And when someone of high stature is an enigma, speculates on his leanings.

    My personal take is that Powell is tired of this job, not necessarily frustrated, just tired. And he’ll be gone shortly after if Bush is reelected.

    Comment by Eric — Tuesday, December 23, 2003 @ 10:53 am

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