The Acronym's Not "S.O.S." For Nothing

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New at Reason: State Department haters will enjoy Michael Young's refusal to join the lamentations that greeted recent rumors concerning the martyrdom of St. Colin. The question isn't whether the Secretary of State will go; it's whether anybody will notice.

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  1. It’s no surprise that the State Department, with or without Colin Powell, is averse to “innovation” in foreign policy. Institutionally speaking, they favour diplomacy,a game of phony posturing and talk and pandering. Diplomats are less honest than even pols, and they prefer status quo “stability” over just about every policy option in every situation.

  2. Three outstanding foreign policy articles today at REASON! Way to go guys.

    My take on Powell is a little different. I say he sold out. It was one thing when he was in uniform. The military deferring to a civilian authority is one of the few remaining grand founding principals that makes this country great. But now that he is the civilian authority, I cut him no slack for being a yes man. You may argue that he is working behind the scenes, and that would perfectly valid. However, his performance at the U.N. was absolutely despicable. I expected him to champion the argument against going to war (within the administration), but he allowed himself to be recruited as a cheerleader. I now believe that he knew the charges of Iraqi WMD were completely bogus when he made them. At any rate, even at the time the whole world could see the Saddam/Bin Laden connection was manufactured from whole cloth. Worse than obsolete, I say he’s a traitor (to what is ironically known as the “Powell doctrine”)

  3. I prefer the knee-jerk Colin-hero-worship. And what is the neocon press anyway? Anything more than Kristol preaching to the choir?

  4. Michael – How much of a State Department’s failure is due to their “aversion to change,” and how much is due to the fact that they’re inherently required to play “good cop” to the Defense Department’s “bad cop”?

  5. I was going to remark on Young’s failure to note the two-track foreign policy going on, with Rumsfeld et al. effectively going out of their way to piss off people, but I see someone beat me to it. Powell has been relentlessly undermined since 9/11 to such an extent by the neocon press that I am amazed he hasn’t been the target of an assassination attempt. Young is correct though that when Powell leaves in 2005 (which is more probable than not) new opportunities will open up. Unfortunately, the exact same thing can be said about Wilhelm II’s firing of Otto von Bismarck. If Wolfowitz is Powell’s replacement, as some have speculated, I’ll be moving to New Zealand and stocking up on canned goods and iodine pills.

  6. I always liked saying to bosses who impulsively wanted to fix things when they were shown to not be perfect that as bad as things are now, they can always be worse!

    The fear of losing Powell (for those who have that fear) is not that the thrust of the administration would be any different. Rather, he is seen as a brake on the administration’s worst impulses. Now, whether this is correct or not, or whether the “two-track” approach is harmful in and of itself are certainly open to debate. But either way, those are the issues that should be addressed in assessing the possible effects of Powell’s exit.

    Instead, Young ignores all this and seems to say that any innovation is better than none at all. To which I can only say that as bad as things are now, they can always be worse…

  7. So Powell leaves before, during, or after the next election. Powell in ’08 anyone?

  8. Sorry for my belated response to Hovig and Jack. I don’t think the “good cop, bad cop” routine is one that Powell would ideally favor. He’s been forced into it because the Pentagon has muscled in on foreign policy decision-making in a way almost unheard of in the past. I do think Powell has sought to take advantage of it, though, by going to certain countries and saying: “Look, it’s either me, or those nuts at the Defense Department.” He said that to the Syrians not long ago, and he said it to the Europeans before the UN non-vote on Iraq. It worked with neither: the Syrians still support Palestinian militant groups and Hizbullah, and will continue to do so, and we’re not yet sure what they’re up to in Iraq; and the Europeans told Powell to go to hell, realizing that he was not where the power was in the Bush administration. In other words, when Powell has played the good cop, he’s ended up being burned.

    As to Fyodor’s comment on the fact that things can always be worse, he’s right. But sponsors of stalemate like Powell also rarely make things better.

  9. Sorry for my belated response to Hovig and Jack. I don’t think the “good cop, bad cop” routine is one that Powell would ideally favor. He’s been forced into it because the Pentagon has muscled in on foreign policy decision-making in a way almost unheard of in the past. I do think Powell has sought to take advantage of it, though, by going to certain countries and saying: “Look, it’s either me, or those nuts at the Defense Department.” He said that to the Syrians not long ago, and he said it to the Europeans before the UN non-vote on Iraq. It worked with neither: the Syrians still support Palestinian militant groups and Hizbullah, and will continue to do so, and we’re not yet sure what they’re up to in Iraq; and the Europeans told Powell to go to hell, realizing that he was not where the power was in the Bush administration. In other words, when Powell has played the good cop, he’s ended up being burned.

    As to Fyodor’s comment on the fact that things can always be worse, he’s right. But sponsors of stalemate like Powell also rarely make things better.

  10. Curt, by “neocon press”, I principally mean commentators at National Review and The Weekly Standard, but also columinists like William Safire, Michael Kelly (now dead), Charles Krauthammer, Michelle Malkin, etc. They have all repeatedly written pieces excoriating the State Department, and sometimes Powell by name, for supposedly making the US vulnerable to attacks by terrorists and rogue states. Some have gone as far as to suggest that this is not merely a result of undue caution but because elements of the State Department are actively “anti-American”.

  11. EMAIL: sespam@torba.com
    IP: 62.213.67.122
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    DATE: 01/21/2004 07:30:14
    Live your beliefs and you can turn the world around.

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