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Colin Gone


Kos writes:

No one person more tarnished his legacy the last four years than Colin Powell.
His integrity resigned in the runup to Bush’s War. Nice to see the rest of him follow suit.

You have to wonder where he acquired his reputation and legacy in the first place. I mean, seriously, why was this guy ever so popular, among conservatives or liberals?

*He opposed the first Gulf War, which I still support. I guess that many liberals may have taken this to be a point of moderation; this just goes to show that liberals haven’t the faintest understanding of the interests or ideas of senior military officers. Powell’s attitude about Iraq in 1991 was not unusual or out of place. Indeed, military officers tended during the length of the Cold War and after to favor diplomatic over military solutions to crises. That liberals came to respect Powell for this says more about our tendency towards wishful thinking than anything about Powell himself.

*He came out for affirmative action at the 1996 Republican Convention. This is supposed to demonstrate character? If he held political positions deeply at odds with those of the Republican party, why did he appear at their convention? Demonstrates careerism more than integrity.

*The doctrine that bears his name doesn’t even really belong to him (Caspar Weinberger first formulated it), and is a joke in any case. In short, the Powell doctrine is a piss poor excuse for a national security policy. Even the Bush doctrine has more genuine meat to it. It makes no sense to declare that we will intervene only in the case of vital national security interests when you have no theory or criteria to tell you what those interests are.

*Powell helped blur the lines between military and civilian authority. The purpose of the Powell doctrine, and the reason he pushed it, is to give senior military officers an effective veto over military deployments; military officers determine whether overwhelming force and a plausible exit strategy are viable. Senior officers used this veto during the Clinton administration to avoid deployments that they didn’t like. This could have developed into a critical problem, and the one thing I thank Don Rumsfeld for is his willingness to shut down and fire the senior brass when they gave him shit.

Sure, Colin was more moderate than the rest of the lot in the Bush administration. He was also an aggressive careerist, and had been for most of his time in Washington. This is the reputation he developed in the military; were he a Democrat, I’m sure that they would have brought out the knives, just as they did with Wes Clark. Aggressive careerists don’t take bold, potentially dangerous stances, and it was foolish of anyone to believe that Powell would.

Which is not to say we won’t miss Colin. He’s better than the rest of the people Bush has tapped to run America’s foreign policy. But being the least bad Bush cabinet member is kind of like being the most talented Devil Ray; nice, but not something you want to put on your resume.

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