Colin Powell, Part II
Last time, I gave some excerpts of Powell''s remarks after being
selected by George W. Bush to be our next secretary of state.
Today, I just want to pass on some outside opinions, as well as
opinion on some of the issues that Powell and the new foreign
policy team will face.
First off, if you are a Republican, it certainly doesn''t hurt when
one of the two "papers of record" in America, The Washington
Post (the other being The New York Times), writes approvingly
of the selection. From a lead editorial after Powell was tabbed.
"Secretary of State-designate Colin L. Powell projected an
impressive confidence in his appearance Saturday - not only in
his own ability to direct foreign policy, but in America''s
continued position of leadership and strength in the world. On a
day when many Americans still are angry or depressed by the 37-
day battle over the presidential election results, Mr. Powell
usefully reminded us that the United States remains the center of,
and inspiration for, a revolution for democracy in the world.
And at a time when many both here and abroad are wondering
whether the incoming Republican administration will lean
toward unilateralist policies, the former Joint Chiefs chairman
made clear that he intends to use America''s strength "not...to get
back behind our walls" but to "stand strong" behind that
"(But) Mr. Powell''s famous and generally appropriate caution about
committing U.S. forces abroad has inspired some legitimate
worries; he was slow to embrace the goal of driving Iraqi forces
from Kuwait, opposed U.S. intervention in Bosnia and was
skeptical about the Kosovo campaign. But on Saturday Mr.
Powell spoke forcefully about standing up to nations that pursue
terrorism or weapons of mass destruction, saying, ''We will not
be frightened of them. We will meet them. We will match them.
We will contend with them.'' He appeared to embrace ''re-
energized'' sanctions, as opposed to the military action-by-proxy
some Republicans favor, as a strategy for Saddam Hussein. But
his dismissal of the Iraqi dictator was withering: He is, Mr.
Powell said, ''sitting on a failed regime that is not going to be
around in a few years'' time.''"
Foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum of Johns Hopkins
added his two cents about the selection of Powell and other
members of the team.
"We know that the Bush team will be serious about what the
Clinton team was not serious about, which is about intervening
militarily. But what we don''t know is how the Bush team will
deal with what the Clinton team was serious about, which was
intervening financially and diplomatically to stabilize markets
when they threatened the international economy."
Well, regarding the last bit first, true, we don''t know what the
foreign policy team will do, as yet, regarding the thorny issues of
globalization. What I do know is that they will walk humbly,
and today that can be as important as actual policy.
But as to the first bit, also addressed by the Post, regarding
Powell''s noted caution, that speaks to the so-called "Powell
Doctrine." Simply put, this holds that the U.S. shouldn''t use its
military might unless our "vital national interests" are threatened
and that there is a high probability of success.
Powell''s reluctance to use troops is born out of his experience in
Vietnam and it was the cause, some would say, of his missteps
over the years, such as shunning the use of force in the Balkans
and not pushing for more aggressive action against Saddam at
the end of the Gulf War.
Speaking of the Gulf War, Powell made some curious comments
about his boss at the time, former Defense Secretary Dick
Cheney, in his memoirs.
"(He) preferred losing on principle to winning through further
But Powell also wrote of the Vice President-elect, that he was
"incisive, smart, no smart talk, never showing any more surface
than necessary. And tough."
And don''t you know that when you combine Powell, Cheney,
Condoleeza Rice, and Defense Secretary-designate Donald
Rumsfeld, the Russians know they have a formidable team to
deal with, especially compared to the wimps that the Clinton
After Powell''s selection, the Kremlin said it looked forward to
working with him, but Russian analysts saw tough discussions
ahead between Moscow and a no-nonsense foreign policy team.
Russia has been on a diplomatic blitz the past few months,
calling for an end to Iraqi sanctions, renewing arms sales to Iran,
and fiercely objecting to a National Missile Defense (NMD) as
proposed by the Bush team.
And regarding NMD, Powell is a staunch proponent of it.
"We''re going to go forward with it," he has said. "(NMD) is an
essential part of our overall strategic force posture. We have to
spend time discussing it with our allies, discussing it with other
nations in the world that possess strategic offensive weapons and
don''t yet understand our thinking with respect to national missile
NMD will be a major test case for Powell and company. After
all, the incoming defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, chaired
the commission that advocated immediate implementation (as
soon as technically feasible) of a system designed to defend the
U.S. from attack by a rogue nation. And it''s not just Russia that
China is worried that with only 18 long-range nuclear missiles,
they would be overwhelmed by any new defensive system. They
have told the U.S. that it would force them to undertake an
extensive buildup of their own offensive forces in return.
And then there is Europe, whose opinion is exemplified by
British Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain who said that Europe
understands America''s concerns over nuclear threats by rogue
states, but hoped the new administration would go slow.
"What we don''t want to see is any unilateral steps by
Washington which could breach the Anti-Ballistic Missile
Treaty, especially in terms of Russian interests."
But Europe isn''t just concerned about Powell''s acceptance of
NMD. They are also worried about his ideas on the Balkans and
Both Powell and Rice have said that they feel America''s military
is stretched too thin and that our troop commitments to the
Balkans need to be re-examined.
Karl Kaiser, an adviser to the German government, recently
noted, "It is very urgent that we have a real dialogue on how the
U.S. and European roles are redefined. The beginnings of an
estrangement have been visible lately, and Powell must engage
quickly to head this off."
Some European nations are bound and determined to create their
own defense force, separate from NATO control. With the Bush
team''s ideas on existing American commitments, Kaiser adds:
"Powell still has to demonstrate that he is able to integrate a
military and foreign-policy approach. The world does not
consist of situations where you can apply the Powell doctrine,
where you gather the force, know what to do, apply that force
and get out. In politics, you need allies, institutions and
multilateral approaches, not merely American power."
While on the subject of European reaction to Powell''s selection,
a headline in a leading Italian daily read: "His doctrine: more
diplomacy, less intervention."
Of course Europe wants to have its cake and eat it too. It wants
to create a force outside of NATO, still say it needs NATO, and
then balk when folks like Powell hint that we may pull out of
some of our commitments, areas like the Balkans where Europe
should rightfully shoulder most, if not all, of the burden.
As Powell said the other day, "Our plan is to undertake a review
right after the president is inaugurated, and take a look not only
at our deployments in Bosnia, but in Kosovo and many other
places around the world, and make sure those deployments are
proper....There is a limit to how many of these deployments we
The New York Times Thomas Friedman, not a fan of George
W., had the following comment on Powell.
"Mr. Powell is three things Mr. Bush is not - a war hero, worldly
wise and beloved by African-Americans. That combination
gives him a great deal of leverage. It means he can never be
fired. It means Mr. Bush can never allow him to resign in protest
over anything. It will be interesting to see who emerges to
balance Mr. Powell''s perspective."
I just threw that in there because I wanted to present another
opinion. Mr. Friedman need not be worried. The Bush foreign
policy team is an awesome one. I have been floored by
comments from the Left that there are no "modern" thinkers in
the group, just a lot of retreads. What a bunch of bull.
We live in a world getting more complex by the day. It''s not a
time to test out new theories. I''ll go with experience. And you
can be sure that our friends - and foes - around the world have
one thought on their lips regarding Colin Powell: The man
Thomas Friedman / New York Times
Dana Milbank and Mike Allen / Washington Post
Jane Perlez / New York Times
Steven Erlanger / New York Times
Steve Vogel and Sari Horwitz / Washington Post
Tom Raum / AP
Warren Strobel and Kevin Whitelaw / U.S. News
Michael Hirsh and John Barry / Newsweek
*Next week...the National Intelligence Council''s report on
global threats facing the U.S.