Exploring 'Soldier: The Life of Colin Powell'
Title: Soldier: The Life of Colin Powell
Author: Karen DeYoung
Publisher: Knopf, 2006
ISBN-13: 978-1400041701, 624 pages
By Patrick Brigger, getAbstract
With Colin Powell, what you see is what you get. Karen DeYoung's exhaustive biography of the former secretary of state reveals a man who prioritized loyalty and military values. The respect shown Powell over the years is a reflection of his deep-rooted strength of conviction, subdued yet commanding personality, and sense of decency. A career soldier who served two tours of duty in Vietnam and commanded the 1991 Persian Gulf War victory, Powell dealt in the power of the chain of command. How that served--or, late in his career, may have disserved--him and his country is at the crux of this book. DeYoung, an associate editor at The Washington Post, flexes her considerable reportorial muscle as she whisks you past every security checkpoint, and into the midst of sensitive and historic meetings at the highest levels of government. It's a look at an American hero who played the game as best as he could--even though the other guys made the rules.
Iraq is the end of the road
Although Colin Powell had indicated to President George W. Bush prior to the 2004 elections that he would serve only one term as secretary of state, a sliver of doubt remained. The war in Iraq was not going well and rumors circulated that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld would not return. Powell, with his more moderate ideology, had clashed with Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney, particularly over the Iraq issue. If Rumsfeld was out of the picture, Bush conceivably could invite Powell to remain in the administration. But a week after Bush defeated Democratic challenger John Kerry, Powell received a phone call from White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, Jr., who said Bush "wanted to make a change." The White House announced Powell's resignation along with four others. Powell agreed to stay on until January 2005 when the Senate confirmed his successor, Condoleezza Rice.
Amid persistent reports that he had philosophical disagreements with Bush's national security team, Powell was asked whether he quit or was forced out. There was even talk that he had offered to stay. But Powell insisted it was a "mutual decision" between himself and Bush. Nevertheless, it's clear that Powell was very disturbed by the direction the war had taken after America's overwhelming success following the initial invasion in March 2003. In his final meeting with Bush, Powell not only indicated that the war effort was not going well--that was obvious--but predicted that if the insurgency did not respond to military efforts within two months following Iraq's elections, Bush had very serious problems. Powell questioned whether the Iraqi military truly believed in its cause, drawing a parallel to Vietnam, where Powell served two tours of duty and witnessed firsthand the lack of conviction on the part of many U.S. soldiers.
Stand by your man
First and foremost, Colin Powell was a soldier. During his brilliant 35-year career, Powell rapidly advanced through the ranks all the way to general. He understood the meaning of allegiance to a commanding officer and the importance of following orders, even if you disagree. Powell supported Bush's decision to invade Iraq, and the administration's claims that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons, and that Saddam Hussein posed a threat to the United States. Powell's judgment came into question when troops were unable to locate weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and the insurgent uprising turned the tide against the occupation forces. After all, this was one of America's most trusted, respected individuals--admired by blacks and whites, Republicans and Democrats. Was it possible that the White House had duped Powell, purposely leading him to believe Iraq had WMDs? Actually, during his stint in the White House, Powell frequently butted heads with Cheney and Rumsfeld over foreign policy and was excluded from important decisions. Bush often did not heed his advice. But resigning wasn't an option for Powell, the loyal soldier...
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Posted by: gonville1 | November 12, 2010 9:43 AM