Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Powell, the Good Soldier

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Powell, the Good Soldier

Article excerpt

The recent stories about Colin Powell resigning as Secretary of State are like Mark Twain's comment on the "news" of his death - greatly exaggerated.

The speculation persists, and is periodically recycled, because of an erroneous assumption that when Mr. Powell quits it will be for policy reasons. It won't. When his tenure ends at Foggy Bottom, personal calculations will drive it rather than policy considerations.

The stories contend that Powell is unhappy about his inability to have more influence on the Bush administration's foreign-policy decisions. Cutting off US funding for the United Nations Population Fund, after Powell praised it only last year, is cited as one example. Rejecting every international treaty designed to deal with a global problem because it might somehow impinge on US national sovereignty is another.

Thus, speculators conclude, such frustrations should be enough to drive any internationalist to throw in the towel - especially a statesman with the stature of a rock star.

Powell wore a military uniform much longer than he has worn pinstripes, however, and he earned most of his four stars on the bureaucratic battlefields of Washington. He therefore combines the obedience and discipline of a soldier with the loyalty and discretion of the consummate staff aide.

At the White House in earlier administrations, he excelled more at process than policy formulation. His publications to date consist mainly of an autobiography penned by a ghostwriter - not intellectual musings about theories of international relations.

As neither an ideologue nor a theorist, he lacks a foreign policy of his own or a clear vision of the direction one should take. He is, instead, comfortable with reflecting the State Department's views. One newspaper article described Powell as pragmatic and nonideological as well as multilateralist and moderate. The same terms would describe State's advice on nearly every issue.

Those views don't carry the weight the foreign policy specialists think they should, because arrayed against them are the political operatives of the White House and the unilateralists of the Defense Department. …

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