I recall the admirable General Colin Powell, the general who use to say that the U.S. military was meant to completely defeat America’s enemies when war begins so that the same war would not have to be re-fought. The media certainly did not like his attitude, but before the 1990-91 Iraq war he stood by his position that the U.S. military’s job was to “surround and kill” the Iraqi army and then come home. His advice was ignored and look where we are today.
That experience it seems ruined General Powell in so far as his ability to contribute to the defense of America is concerned. As a politician and now, I suppose, an elder statesman his record has been the equal of any other media-pleasing political hack. Read Bob Woodward’s “Bush at War” and see Secretary of State Powell, after 9/11, urging the president not to attack certain targets in Afghanistan because they might offend either our European or Arab allies. Whether destroying such ally-offending targets would have saved the lives of some of our soldiers and Marines — Powell’s former comrades — did not seem to factor into the equation.
Then, Powell was one of two men — the other being then-DCI George Tenet — who could have stopped the Iraq war, a war that Powell knew was not necessary even if all the evidence he presented to the UN had been true. He again refrained from doing the right thing, America went to war, and nearly 6,000 of our service personnel have died so far in Iraq — and more are to come.
And only yesterday, General Powell appeared on “Face the Nation” and claimed that the United States is not less safe under President Obama. Powell ticked off all that Obama has done to dismantle defense mechanisms that President Bush had established. On the suitability of those mechanisms, people can differ. I personally believe that Bush woefully under-defended America, and that Obama is mistaken to eliminate the little Bush did without having anything replace it. But as in so many other policy areas, Obama seems to be an expert at getting off of one horse without having another to mount.
But, to be honest, Powell was on “Face the Nation” on Sunday not to discuss national defense, but to defend his endorsement of Obama during the last presidential campaign. That endorsement completed the political hack-ification of Colin Powell and it must weigh on his mind. In endorsing the completely inexperienced Obama to be president, Powell urged voters to put the future of 300 million Americans, their country, and its heritage into the hands of a man to whom, as General Powell, he would not have given command of an Army platoon because he lacked any relevant experience to command it.
In two decades, General Powell has become the equal of any other leading U.S. politician in either party. How sad for him. How destructive for America.