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NYTimes.com Article: Embattled, Scrutinized, Powell Soldiers On
by alvi_saima
02 August 2002 10:02 UTC
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This article from NYTimes.com 
has been sent to you by alvi_saima@yahoo.com.

Embattled, Scrutinized, Powell Soldiers On

July 25, 2002


WASHINGTON, July 24 - After a recent meeting, Secretary of
State Colin L. Powell was kidding around with the
secretaries in the national security adviser's White House
office, complaining that their pretzel jar was empty. Then
he said: "Okay, that's enough. I've got to get back to work
now - and by the way, I'm not resigning." 

The staff "all took a slight, shallow breath and then broke
up," a senior administration official recalled. But the
question of Secretary Powell's tenure is no laughing matter
in Washington these days. 

A string of internal policy differences and defeats - most
recently on the Middle East and international family
planning - have set off speculation from the Pentagon to
Foggy Bottom that Secretary Powell might not last through
President Bush's term. Tensions with the White House and
Pentagon hawks that Secretary Powell has long sought to
minimize are no longer possible to disguise. 

In public, Secretary Powell, the
four-star-general-turned-diplomat, has done what he always
does: soldier on, shaping his commander's policies as best
he can from within, with some success. In private,
Secretary Powell, an amateur automotive mechanic, complains
that old friends spend too much time sympathetically taking
his temperature - "dip-sticking me," as he puts it. 

"He's not easily defeated," said Marybel Batjer, a former
longtime aide who is now chief of staff to Gov. Kenny Guinn
of Nevada and still in close touch. "He just isn't. It's
not within his constitution to be eaten up or gobbled up by
negatives." But she acknowledged: "Frankly, this is hard.
His good weeks come with a lot of damn work." 

With the possible exception of the moment in the mid-70's
when Henry A. Kissinger was both secretary of state and
national security adviser, internal tensions and threatened
resignations over foreign policy have been more the rule
than the exception in the modern White House. But veteran
diplomats say the current disagreements are the worst since
the days when Secretary Powell's mentor, Defense Secretary
Caspar W. Weinberger, feuded with Secretary of State George
P. Shultz in the Reagan administration. 

"Since the administration can no longer maintain that these
aren't major internal disagreements, they've decided they
might as well try to contain them by saying that all
administrations have disagreements," said Richard C.
Holbrooke, the Clinton administration's envoy to the United
Nations who aspired to Secretary Powell's job in a Gore

"The dilemma here is that these aren't just personal
disagreements bred out of ambition and strong personality,"
he added. "These are deep, philosophical differences
between two very different views of America in the world.
One is a traditional conservative view; the other is a
radical break with 55 years of a bipartisan tradition that
sought international agreements and regimes of benefit to

As one of the world's most admired celebrities for more
than a decade, with approval ratings that rival President
Bush's, Secretary Powell has special status - and singular
political value - in a Republican administration supposedly
eager to demonstrate its commitment to compassionate

But almost from the beginning, he has found himself at odds
with many of his more hard-line colleagues and the
president himself on the handling of foreign policy,
whether over Mr. Bush's rejection of the Kyoto treaty on
global warming, the president's lumping of Iran, Iraq and
North Korea into a global "axis of evil," or the
president's declaration last month that progress toward
Middle East peace depended on Yasir Arafat's replacement as
Palestinian leader. 

In each case, Secretary Powell has embraced the president's
position as his own, doing his best to justify the
administration's view to often-critical allies around the
world. Even when he has initially embraced a position at
variance with the administration's ultimate policy -
regarding the international family planning issue, for
example - Secretary Powell's sense of discipline, loyalty
and discretion means that he never shows his true feelings
publicly, according to aides and close friends. 

Mr. Powell's approach to almost all issues - foreign or
domestic - is pragmatic and nonideological. He is
internationalist, multilateralist and moderate. He has
supported abortion rights and affirmative action and is a
Republican, many supporters say, in no small measure
because Republican officials mentored and promoted him for

Secretary Powell has won victories on points of principle
that he felt deeply, persuading the administration that the
Geneva Conventions governed the handling of captured
Taliban fighters, even if they were not granted status as
prisoners of war, and arguing successfully that a new arms
reduction agreement with Russia should take the form of a
treaty ratified by the Senate. 

But more often, he has been forced to "pick up the pieces
and go on," as one longtime Powell associate put it last
month, after Mr. Bush announced his new Middle East policy.
"He's the one who now has to put it all together and make
it work." 

Last week, for example, he shepherded a series of meetings
with key Arab allies, who arrived skeptical and left
offering ringing declarations that Mr. Bush had reassured
them of his administration's unshaken resolve to support
creation of a Palestinian state within three years.
Signaling a hint of compromise, Secretary Powell let it be
known that he would be willing to consider a future
Palestinian regime in which Mr. Arafat still had some
symbolic role. 

"We have full trust in him," the Jordanian foreign
minister, Marwan Muasher, said of Secretary Powell. "The
president made it clear that the secretary is his point man
on the Middle East." 

But on Monday, Secretary Powell again found himself in the
position of announcing a Bush policy he had not initially
embraced: the decision to cut off funds for the United
Nations Population Fund on grounds that it supported
Chinese government agencies that force women to have
abortions. The State Department's fact-finding team had
found no evidence of United Nations support for such
efforts, and Democratic members of Congress said a top
Powell aide had assured them he was trying to preserve such

This week, Secretary Powell heads off on a weeklong trip to
keep up pressure on India and Pakistan to avert war, and
consult with Southeast Asian nations fighting Muslim
extremist groups and terror cells. Mr. Holbrooke gives
Secretary Powell high praise for his efforts on the
subcontinent and his influence on Pakistan's military
president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf. 

"Powell and Musharraf have developed a relationship soldier
to soldier, statesman to statesman, which is really
important and has paid off by bringing Pakistan into the
alliance against terrorism and preventing conflict with
India, which would be the most dangerous conceivable
event," he said. 

In foreign capitals, Secretary Powell is routinely greeted
like a rock star. Yet his public visibility and popularity
also pose a special problem, which became apparent even
before he took office last year. 

By reputation, experience and age, he overshadowed the new
president it was his job to serve. He did not join the Bush
campaign as early as other key advisers like the national
security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, and aides to both men
say his relationship with the president remains more
correct and professional than warm or personal. 

Secretary Powell does not lift weights or swap jock jokes
easily with Mr. Bush. At the same time, Mr. Bush's
instinctive views on a range of policies from Iraq to the
Middle East to international cooperation are more in line
with more conservative advisers like Vice President Dick
Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. 

And if Mr. Bush is aware of Secretary Powell's world
reputation, Mr. Rumsfeld surely remembers that he was
already serving in his first tour as defense secretary 25
years ago when Secretary Powell shook his hand as a lean
Army colonel in command at Fort Campbell, Ky., an event
that Secretary Powell commemorated with a photograph in his
best-selling 1995 memoir. 

A senior State Department official, asked about the
secretary's mood, observed: "I was going to describe it as
depressed with all his failures, but let me put it
differently: His virtues are vision and persistence. He
figures out where we need to go and then he gets us there,
and that applies in his dealings with others in the
administration or in the world." 

Secretary Powell himself has told associates that his
position has never been stronger, one said, summing up the
secretary's philosophy as: "Fights come and fights go." 

Indeed, Secretary Powell's greatest resource may remain the
admiration bordering on awe that he commands from his
striped pants civilian army. He never complains, never
explains, and neither does his circle - an approach that
for much of his tenure has tended to mask tensions that
would be much more on display with a more political

He has taken to arriving at the State Department's main
entrance most mornings - instead of being chauffeured
through the basement garage - so that he can take the pulse
of employees and the public in the lobby on the way to his
seventh-floor suite. 

"He's adored over here in a way that I can't remember with
any other secretary," one midlevel State Department
official said. "People will snip out quotes that he uses up
on the Hill to advocate for the department or foreign
policy and circulate them around." 

In fact, there is such support for the secretary among his
troops that when the assistant secretary of state for
consular affairs, Mary A. Ryan, abruptly retired amid sharp
criticism of lapses in the department's visa program, "the
rumor was going around here that the White House had done
it because Powell was too nice a guy," one senior official

So Secretary Powell made it a point to tell colleagues that
he had made the decision to accept Ms. Ryan's previously
promised retirement in light of the challenges to come in
integrating the visa-issuing function with a new department
of homeland security. "He went out of his way to tell
people, `I'm the one who did it,' " the official said. 

Edward S. Walker, a former assistant secretary of state who
now heads the Middle East Institute, a Washington policy
institute, said Secretary Powell "is extremely loyal to the
president, but he does not give up on his own approach. 

"It's the way he is. He after all has as much experience at
the Washington game as anyone. I know a lot of people
question his effectiveness, but he's a very effective
advocate for his point of view, and he just never gives

In fact, most Powell-watchers doubt that the secretary will
give up. Friends say that he has been deeply moved by
letters from strangers, urging him to keep up his efforts
as a moderating voice. He is also acutely conscious of his
own status as a role model for members of minority groups,
and has made special efforts to try to recruit more to join
the Foreign Service. 

At a recent ceremony announcing a $1 million grant to
Howard University to help prepare black students for
diplomatic careers, he spoke of his own pride as the first
African-American to hold a string of top government jobs.
"It's just terrific to be able to walk into a room
somewhere in Africa, Russia and Asia and Europe, and you
know they're looking at you," he said, adding to laughter:
"You know how they be. They're looking at you, and they
recognize your position and who you are, and they also
recognize that you're black. 

"And it's always a source of inspiration and joy to see
people look at me and through me see my country, and see
what promise my country offers to all people who come to
these shores looking for a better life."


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