September 5, 2004


Powell: Why He Might Stay (Newsweek, 9/13/04)

For nearly two years, the settled wisdom in Washington has been that Colin Powell would never stick around for a second Bush term. The secretary of State, who began his tenure as the most popular and prestigious figure in Bush's cabinet, was fed up—tired of being a moderate minority of one in a squall of neocon true believers. But last week there was a hint that the settled wisdom may now be unsettled. A former close aide and current confidant of Powell's, asked during the GOP convention whether the secretary might stay on, nodded his head eagerly and said yes.

The reason, the ex-official hinted, is that global events are moving in Powell's direction. In Iraq and on other future flash points like Iran and North Korea, an administration that once short-shrifted Powell's diplomacy now badly needs it. He also has more control than he's had in a while, especially over Iraq, where America's new viceroy, Ambassador John Negroponte, answers to the secretary of State. (The previous top civilian, L. Paul Bremer III, nominally worked for Powell's archrival, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.) And Powell no doubt realizes that if he leaves now, he will be departing at what is perhaps the low point of his reputation at home and abroad; another term would allow him to recoup.

Another myth goes down hard. If the "moderate" Colin Powell signs up for another year of crusading and "moderates" John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and Arnold Schwarzenegger have already placed themselves beyond the Pale, who does the press have to believe in any more when every moderate in America is a Bushie?

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 5, 2004 4:18 PM

Why wouldn't he want to do a victory lap.

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at September 5, 2004 4:30 PM

This is regrettable. Powell has been a cipher and his departure and replacement by Gaffney, Wolfowitz or Perle would be fabulous. It would probably induce a whole slew of resignations from the US Foreign Service, which would be the best news since the Berlin Wall fell and the Packers won the Super Bowl.

A Senate with a 55 or 56 GOP votes along with Lieberman, Schumer, the Nelsons, and Landrieu would never allow a filibuster of a Wolfie nomination. Lieberman's wife would change the locks on the house and Schumer would be killed back in his old Brooklyn neighborhood if they didn't back a landsman(that's Yiddish for homeboy) like Perle or Wolfie.

Powell has always been out of step with this Administration and has been a defender of the established order whose negligence and whose trust of the despicable Muslims led to the Cole incident and 9/11. Moreover, they convinced us to screw the pooch in Iraq by not slicing the place into its 3 constituent parts, based upon history, language, ethnicity and religion. There was no reason to keep a 'unified' Iraq, it was simply the fantasy of some sand-mad Brits after WWI.

Posted by: Bart at September 5, 2004 4:46 PM

Powell a bureaucrat who does whatever his chief tells him. He's provided the President terrific cover abroad and to the Left here. He's invaluable.

Posted by: oj at September 5, 2004 4:57 PM

Powell has been a great secretary of state. He is the best kind of diplomat: one who fights like hell for his position but follows orders and falls in line once a decision has been reached.

The elite left in this country cannot accept the fact that an intelligent, erudite statesman who is also an African-American is a Republican. Thus the constant intimations that Powell is some kind of Trojan horse. He's not.

Posted by: Seven Machos at September 5, 2004 5:02 PM

Colin Powell is an intelligent man -- and the signal quality of an intelligent man is that he recognizes his mistakes and corrects them. Along with that, his eloquence, his personal charm, and his team play make him a fine member of the president's Cabinet. I truly hope he'll stay.

Posted by: Francis W. Porretto at September 5, 2004 5:08 PM

Intelligent? A C- student at CUNY who needed six years to graduate. He's been a career affirmative action hire, a professional token at every level of service. The statements out of the State Department have been at variance with Bush policy since Day One and Powell has kept lots of Clinton hands in place. Moreover, Powell was one of the key people who pushed to keep us from going to Baghdad in 1991. That decision was incredibly poor. He is the Black McClellan.

Posted by: Bart at September 5, 2004 5:13 PM

And Dick Chaney still on the ticket. Could both Dan Rather and the New Yorker cover have been wrong?

Posted by: ed at September 5, 2004 5:16 PM


The military never wants to fight, for obvious reasons.

And no Secretary of State can ever make the department serve American interests. Like all bureaucracies it serves its clients, in its case foreign countries.

Posted by: oj at September 5, 2004 5:24 PM

Bart --

1. Grades don't make the man. I'd rather be governed by a random selection of C- students from CUNY, Enterprise Rent-a-Car management trainees, and high school football coaches than the best and the brightest.

2. Powell has kept many "Clinton hands" in place. Before that, they were Bush I hands and Reagan hands. The State Department is a career of much longevity. That may be a problem but it's Congress's, not Powell's.

3. Iraq has been going A LOT better since the diplomats took over. There may not be a cause-and-effect relationship but it is an interesting coincidence, no?

Posted by: Seven Machos at September 5, 2004 6:02 PM

Iraq would have gone a lot better if we had an independent Kurdistan, an independent Basra and a teeny,oil-free impoverished Sunni rump state around Baghdad which we could call Saddamland. Kurdistan's major factions are all friendly towards the US. The oil would be pumping and the Turkish business community, many of whom are ethnic Kurds, would be all over the place making deals, pumping oil, etc. It would also be another Muslim state with an embassy in Tel Aviv.

An independent Shi'ite Basra would be a step forward too. The radicalism there has been the result of Shi'ite fears of domination from Sunni Baghdad and by Iranian mischief making. If Basra were the capital of an independent Shi'ite state, the first problem would be averted. The mere presence of Sistani who has his own agenda different from the Iranians would stop the second.

And as for Sunni Saddamland, who cares? No money, no land, an easy terrain to whack and surrounded by adversaries, it won't be a terrorist haven or a threat to anyone.

The Arab lovers and the Baathist Auxiliary that make up the staff at NEA would never have allowed this to happen though.

Clientitis is rampant at State, and we have needed a Secretary who will make it clear that he doesn't want anyone there whose loyalties aer not to the US. Powell lacks the toughness and the will to do this. Jeane Kirkpatrick said years ago that this should be the Secretary's first priority.

The military should always 'want to fight.' That's why we pay them.

Posted by: Bart at September 5, 2004 7:05 PM

Bart, "Arab lovers" skirts the boundary of civilized discourse.

It isn't as bad as "N-word lovers" because N is an epithet and Arab isn't, but it bothers me nonetheless.

Posted by: Eugene S. at September 5, 2004 7:19 PM

Then,in deference to your obviously tender sensibilities, I shall use the term 'Arabist' in the future as an easy short-hand for 'people in the State Department who have gone native and taken sides with Ba'athists or fundamentalists or the Saudis against the United States.' Is that alright with you?

However, that requires inexactness as Arabist is the term used for 'expert on the Arab region.' Daniel Pipes and Bernard Lewis are certainly Arabists but by no means could be said to be stooges for Arab dictators, sheiks and other desert bandits.

You got a better idea.

Posted by: Bart at September 5, 2004 7:31 PM

Bart -- Some good points but you are too much of a theoretician. Of course Iraq as it is currently drawn up is an unmitigated disaster that should be carved into at least four sovereign states. (Thanks, Winston.) But the creation of those states would cause a slew of new and unforeseen problems.

Moreover, dissolving Iraq is not possible in light of contemporary political realities. Kurdistan is a nice idea but Turkey would try to swallow it up or destroy it. Do we really want to put U.S. forces against Turkey, our only legitimate ally in the region? Iran would definitely swallow up Shiastan.

As for clientitis, yes, the State Department has a problem. Rampant leftism is also a problem at Foggy Bottom. However, diplomacy is the about getting along, and getting along means avoiding problems. A lot of what is perceived as clietitis is merely making efforts to avoid problems. Also, no one stops to consider: do you suspect that diplomats from other countries develop clientitis toward the U.S.? Perhaps it is the nature of the beast, and why foreign service officers are forced to move around so much.

Posted by: Seven Machos at September 5, 2004 7:40 PM

Bart, anyone as gifted with language as you requires no help from me :-)

Posted by: Eugene S. at September 5, 2004 7:50 PM


Why should the Shi'a tolerate a Sunni state in their midst?

Posted by: oj at September 5, 2004 7:53 PM

The Turkish government is practically bankrupt, and is dependent upon trade relations with the US and Europe. One of its major regional exports is water whose source is in the Kurdish region of Turkey. A war in the region would certainly affect that, as well as devastate its relations with all its neighbors. Nobody wants to see a resurgent, imperialist Turkey and everybody would jump ugly with it at once. Greece, Armenia and Syria all have territorial claims on Turkish land, and Turkey is like 15-20% ethnic Kurd. The Turks know this.

Second, why should the Turks start a war when their business community can just buy Kurdistan? The former SSRs of the Caucasus and Central Asia,with the exception of Armenia, are chock-a-block with Turkish businessmen. An independent Kurdistan is going to need trading partners and as fellow Sunni Muslim non-Arabs, the Turks are the obvious choice.

Third, as I said earlier, Sistani doesn't want to be dictated to from Teheran any more than he wants to listen to Baghdad or Washington. If anything, he is more prestigious in the world of Shia Islam than Kamenei. We can use his egotism and his prestige against Iran rather than allowing the Iranians to use them against us. Give him the keys to Chevy in Basra and let him run with it.

Diplomacy is not about 'getting along.' Diplomacy is war by other means, to paraphrase Clausewitz. It involves lots of stuff. First and foremost, it involves figuring out how to manipulate other nations to do what will benefit your nation. 'Getting along' is just one tactic, just as nuking another country into a sheet of glass is another. One man's problem is another man's opportunity. Would it be so terrible if we had a policy of giving Castro problems?

When people leave State and get 6 figure sinecures with Saudi controlled entities, that is a serious problem. Every single American ambassador to the Saudi thugs except Hume Horan has been the beneficiary of millions of dollars of Saudi largesse upon departure. It's disgusting.

Perhaps diplomats from other nations develop clientitis too, one can think of Gertrude Bell, the nincompoop who came up with the idea of Iraq, Lawrence, Philby, Stark and other Brits who became 'sand-mad.' However, that other countries are plagued by unprofessional diplomats is no reason for us to suffer the same problem. How much clientitis was acceptable for Bismarck, Metternich, or Talleyrand? In an earlier time, do you think that the smarter Caesars put up with clientitis for two seconds? Tiberius probably would use them for lion food.


They have to 'tolerate a Sunni state in their midst' because they have no effective means of fighting it. Iran's gotta sell oil. If a Shia/Sunni conflict were to break out, the much larger Sunni world, including Turkey and Pakistan, would be compelled to intervene. Al-Qaeda types would start targetting Shia sites. The mass of Iranians has zero interest in fighting such a war. The Sunni presence is centuries old, dating well back before the Ottoman Empire. It would take a belief that the leadership in the region is almost preternaturally stupid, and that I do not accept.

If we were really worried, perhaps Hassan, Abdullah II's uncle, could be installed as the King of the rump state around Baghdad(after all his family were the rulers there prior to the Baathists), giving it instant street cred among the conservative Arab states, and a basis for a unified Jordan/Iraq/Arafatistan incorporating pieces of Judea, Samaria and Galilee so the so-called Palestinians can once again be exposed to the standards of decency and justice so prevalent under Arab rule. Lumping a bunch of oil-deprived disparate Sunni Arabs together shouldn't be too difficult.

Posted by: Bart at September 5, 2004 8:42 PM

The Sunni are going to start a war with us? Because that's what war on the Shi'a would require. I doubt it but it's not a bad solution to the problems of the Middle East.

Posted by: oj at September 5, 2004 8:50 PM

Bart --

Diplomacy. It is not war by other means. You are getting into Lenin-esque territory here. Diplomacy is the art of maximizing your country's interests in light of real-world realities, without resorting to war. The nuclear option, to say nothing of the military option, is not remotely in the diplomat's arsenal.

Clientitis. I think you are overstating your case. It sounds like you would have a diplomatic corp that is mean, overly verbose, and threatening. That group of people would win few friends, create many enemies, and have a chilling effect on U.S. political and economic relations around the world.

Caesars. I rest assured that the smarter Caesars did not put up with clientitis. Was this really to their long-term benefit? I haven't heard a peep from Rome in several centuries.

Powell. He has added tremendous resources and clout to the State Department. He is easily one of the two or three best Secretraies of State in the last 25 years.

Turkey. What makes you think that Turkey will act rationally when national pride is at stake? Was it rational to tell the United States that it could not move its army through Turkey in the run-up to the Iraq War?

Cuba. Isn't our trade and travel embargo part of a larger policy of giving Castro problems?

Posted by: Seven Machos at September 5, 2004 10:03 PM

When Bismarck felt the need to whack Denmark, he did. He didn't give a damn about what Napoleon III or Palmerston had to say about it.

I would have a diplomatic corps that represented American interests, not one which crawls up Saudi sphincter or tried to sell us on the moderation of Yuri Andropov, the Butcher of Budapest.

Rome fell because they lost their pagan rigor, succumbing to a mixture of Christian weakness and Oriental decadence. The political and economic structure of the Empire didn't bode well for long-term success. However, the Empire did last till 476 CE and arguably till 1453CE which ain't bad.

Powell may be one of the best secretaries of state that we've had in the last three decades, but that's pretty weak competition. Since Kissinger who played well with a weak hand, other than Haig and Schulz, the others were embarassing. Maybe he is a skilled bureaucratic in-fighter but I have zero confidence that the Foreign Service is any more patriotic, honorable or competent than before he got there.

Turkey's position is the result of the stupidity of the US during the First Gulf War. By supporting the US, Turkey took a huge economic hit because of the loss of its Iraq trade. They received nothing in return. They had no reason to think that this Bush was any more resolute than his despicable father. When you call someone 'twice as bad as Hitler' and then leave him in power, you devalue the language and you leave nothing but consternation in your wake.

Our Cuba policy is pathetic. What we really should do is tell the rest of the world that they can trade with us or with the tyrant Castro and let them choose. They may grumble but that's just tough.

We don't have economic relations with others because we are nice guys. We have economic relations with others because we have more money, more technology, more expertise and a better economic system than anyone else. Being mean, overly verbose and threatening worked pretty well for Gromyko. It works for the PRC, I don't see them suffering any disability. It works now for Kim Jong-Il and he has no cards on the table, other than suicide.

We should give a damn about European sensibilities? If the EU sends troops to Judea and Samaria or interrupts what we are doing in Iraq, paraphrasing Bismarck, we should just send some NYC Police to arrest them. Spending 450 billion on defense and having 30,000 nukes means never having to say you're sorry.

It is a Hobbesian world out there and we should behave accordingly.

Posted by: Bart at September 6, 2004 8:05 AM


No you wouldn't. You'd have one just like every other president has had.

Posted by: oj at September 6, 2004 8:18 AM

Turkey is our only ally in the region?

Hmmm...I could swear there were others, some long-standing and others of more recent vintage, but I just can't think of the names...

Posted by: at September 6, 2004 10:45 AM

Sorry, OJ,

I would change the way foreign service officers were hired. Rather than looking at the Georgetowns and American Universities for people, I'd change the profile. Places like BYU and Liberty would move way up the list. I can give any reasonably intelligent graduate of one of the 'Christian Ivies' or Yeshiva, a train pass, and a bibliography and they'll know enough about their destination before they get there. We would screen for patriotism, for clarity of purpose, the same way that the IRS, or any other collection agency, hires anti-social people with burrs up their derrieres to be field reps. The Secretary can order a screening of every foreign officer for clientitis. And when it is found, they don't get fired, as that would require hearings, but they do get transferred out of area, preferably to unpleasant spots. You give up that cushy Saudi gig and become DCM in Chad or Sierra Leone. The Secretary of State can do this. It would piss off a lot of the old dip corps, but who cares?

I'd go to Congress with a proposal to give a diplomatic corps track to our service academy graduates. After time served in a military capacity, they have the right to opt for a diplomatic career. This exposes them to an America outside of toney prep schools and the old dip corps, an America where people work hard, go to church, and love their country.

Posted by: Bart at September 6, 2004 11:08 AM


No, you wouldn't.

Posted by: oj at September 6, 2004 5:26 PM

Why not?

Posted by: Joe at September 6, 2004 6:23 PM

Bureaucracies are more powerful than presidents.

Posted by: oj at September 6, 2004 6:56 PM


Bureaucracies can be beaten but it just requires a certain type of person to do it. I have a friend, Taki, who was a District School Superintendent in NYC. There was a high school in his district which was a total disaster. He made it his business, not only to transfer the entire teaching staff, but to insure that they never taught again in NYC. He had to attend lots of hearings, he put up with a lot of manure, but after a year he did it. He marshalled his facts and built a record. BTW, now he is the superintendent of schools for the Orthodox Church in America in the NYC area.

If State were to give me trouble, I'd just give Taki a call and let him go. The prep school girlymen who infest State have never,ever seen anything like him.

Posted by: Bart at September 6, 2004 10:23 PM

Uh-huh, that's what they all say before they get humiliated.

Posted by: oj at September 6, 2004 10:29 PM

Bart -- You don't have any idea how foreign service officers are hired, do you?

Posted by: Seven Machos at September 6, 2004 10:35 PM

They go through an examination and an alleged screening. However, it is self-evident that the process is an abject failure.

Posted by: Bart at September 6, 2004 11:18 PM

Powell didnt get through Ranger school because of his skin color

Posted by: cornetofhorse at September 7, 2004 11:04 AM