Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Colin Powell not up for another 4 Years?

An article by Wil S. Hylton in GQ purports to show that Colin Powell is tired of working within the Bush administration and will not be continuing as Secratary of State, should Bush be reelected. NewsMax also covers the story here.

Both articles don't amount to much more than second-hand rumors, especially since Mr. Powell's only comment on the issue (from the GQ article) is, "I never speculate on that." This occurs about 3/4 of the way into the article and is not followed up with any other, even indirect, comments by the Secretary. The article concludes with the following exchange with Powell's Chief of Staff, Larry Wilkerson:

    The more I spoke with Wilkerson, the more I understood why Powell's staff had gone to such lengths to set up my interview with him, reminding me that anything Wilkerson said was the same as hearing it from Powell. But if Wilkerson was going to be Powell's voice, if he was going to say the things that Powell wouldn't or couldn't, there was one question I still needed him to answer. Before I left, I wanted a sense of Powell's plans for the future. I was wary of how to phrase the question, though. It seemed safe to assume that Wilkerson had not been dispatched to announce the end of Powell's career in this article, at this particular moment, and if I asked him outright whether or not Powell was planning to quit, I could put him on the spot. He might wind up saying, as Powell did, "I never speculate on that" or "He hasn't announced a decision." So I phrased the question differently.

    "Being inside the building," I said, "is there as much expectation that this will be the end of Powell's tenure as there is outside the building?"

    Eight long seconds of silence.

    "Um," Wilkerson said, "I've known him for fifteen years...."

    I nodded.

    "My considered opinion is that he is..." His voice trailed off. "He's tired. Mentally and physically. And if the president were to ask him to stay on—if the president is reelected and the president were to ask him to stay on, he might for a transitional period, but I don't think he'd want to do another four years."

    Wilkerson fell silent again.

    "He seems tired," he said.

The majority of the GQ piece is devoted to attacks on the Bush administration for its alleged orchestration of a "show of solidarity [... that] must rank among the greatest pieces of performance art in the last half century." Hylton plays up the tension between State Department and Department of Defense. To be fair, Hylton makes some good points about the history of this tension and National Security Advisor, Condoleeza Rice's refusal to acknowledge it. But he utterly fails to document his suggestion that this issue is causing Powell to rethink his future plans.

One interesting point, not related to Powell's status, is the following observation about the role of US diplomacy in world affairs:
    He started with a long, wandering meditation on chicken exports to Russia and slid from there into a glowing assessment of America's role in the world, saying, "We're trusted not to want anybody's land, not to want to exercise dominion over any other peoples," and then without pause dived into a story about "this little stupid island that I had to deal with about a year and a half ago, off the coast of Morocco, which is as big as two soccer fields. Nobody lives on it. And for some reason, the Moroccans went aboard and claimed dominion over the island—not even an island, it's a rock. It's 200 yards off the Moroccan coast. It belongs to Spain."

    "Why would they want it?" I asked.

    Powell winked. "Because it belonged to Spain, and it's 200 yards off the Moroccan coast. And they've been arguing about it for a couple hundred years. Next thing we knew, it was an international crisis. The European Union immediately said, 'Spain is right,' and the Organization of Islamic Conference—the fifty or so Muslim nations in the world—said, 'No, Morocco's right.' So there you have it. Well, what are you going to do? Take it to the U.N.? No. What are we going to do?" He paused for effect. "Call the U.S. secretary of state on a Thursday night. [Emphasis mine]

Later, Dr. Rice concurs (with apparently more nefarious motives, according to Hylton's editorializing):

    "There is no issue that people honestly believe is not an American problem, and I would say 90 percent of those end up on Colin's desk. And so he will find himself resolving small issues, border issues between small countries that most of us can barely find on a map."

This suggests to me that the notion of an Imperial America is something of a de-facto reality in international circles. But the interesting thing is that it is not the US that is demanding this role, but the international community that is expecting it.

UPDATE: Perhaps this is what Powell is so "tired" about?

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