Hit & Run

Foggy Bottom Homebody


Colin Powell hates to travel, and is the least traveled secretary of state in 30 years (barely beating out the neutered William Rogers and the drowsy Dean Rusk!). Should this matter? Not if that surviving relic of diplomacy past, George Kennan, is to be believed:

Shortly before he took office, Powell received a letter from the dean of the diplomatic corps, George F. Kennan, a key aide to Powell?s hero, George C. Marshall. Marshall was a Nobel peace laureate and a secretary of state to President Harry S. Truman. In the letter, which Boucher provided, Kennan argued that Powell?s predecessors had ?seriously misused and distorted? the office of secretary of state through their travel.

Kennan said much more of the diplomatic heavy lifting should be done by lower-level officials, especially ambassadors, while the secretary remains in Washington. ?These absences [should] be held to a minimum and not indulged in when suitable alternatives are available,? Kennan wrote. ?The absence of the secretary of state for prolonged periods deprived the president, so long as it endured, of what should have been the latter?s widest, most qualified and most responsible source of advice on foreign policy problems.?

Perhaps, but then again this only proves how much of a perfunctory bureaucrat, as opposed to a new ideas man, Powell really is ? someone content to manage the status quo rather than to change it. He may well emerge as a bureaucratic winner by the end of this administration, thanks to the mismanagement in Iraq, but I?ve said it before and will say it again: There is hardly a single thing that will be worth remembering about Colin Powell?s four year-tenure at Foggy Bottom when he heads home next January, other than the fact that he momentarily let his bureaucratic guard down and made an ultimately fallacious case for war in Iraq before the UN Security Council.