Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither, and lose both.
-- Benjamin Franklin

Goodbye, General Powell

It should come as no surprise that Colin Powell is resigning as Secretary of State. The surprise, I suppose, is that he stayed on as long as he did. It must have been a struggle between his morality and his loyalty to the administration as to whether he should have resigned months or years ago. I really cannot fault him for whichever path he took. His was a voice of moderation and reason, respected throughout the world. In addition, he fought the chickenhawks in the administration as much as could, representing the perspective of a true military man, trying in his way to bring some sanity to Washington.

CNN reports on the respect he obtained worldwide:

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat was one of the voices who praised Powell.

“In our deliberations with him, he has gained our highest respect and appreciation,” Erakat said. “He’s a fair man and highly dignified and will indeed leave his mark on international politics.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said he was “very sorry” to hear of Powell’s resignation.

“You are a very good friend of Israel, but more than that, you are a very good friend of peace,”

and more.

Condoleeza Rice, on the other hand, scares me. She is an undoubtedly bright person, with strong convictions. Two issues make me question her suitability as Secretary of State.

First, she is primarily an academic, who has specialized for her entire career in Cold War relations with the former Soviet Union. When she briefly served previous administrations it was as an advisor in that role, only. She appears to see all international relations through that prism, treating anything subtle or nuanced in foreign relations as some sort of major power confrontation. Dealing with the Soviet Union had some semblence of rationality, despite the problems there. Dealing with Islamic countries such as Pakistan, which can’t even control their own territory, or military for that matter, is an entirely different matter.

Second, her ties to industry, particularly the oil industry, is an entirely different background from Powell’s. As a military leader oversees, Powell needed to deal with and gain the respect of not only his own people, but the people in the countries where he was working. Rice comes from the much more autocratic background of academia and big business. How much will Arab countries believe someone professing a balanced American policy, when that someone has actually had an oil tanker named after her? How much can she represent a balanced policy, with her background?

Colin Powell has served as a General, and later as a Statesman, should. He had strong opinions, but when they did not agree with those of his boss, he kept them to himself for the presumed good of the of the administration. In so doing, he earned the respect of much of the world, at a time when general opinion was widely turning against the United States.

I sincerely doubt we will be able to say the same, four years from now, about Condoleeza Rice.

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Your misgivings about Condoleeza Rice are misguided. Her backround in foreign policy is extensive. Colin Powell himself has great confidence in her. Don’t let your anti-bush sentiment cloud your judgement.



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