SHOULD COLIN POWELL RESIGN?….Bill Keller

SHOULD COLIN POWELL RESIGN?….Bill Keller writes today in the New York Times that Colin Powell should resign after the war is over. Unfortunately, his column is a bit muddled, at some points criticizing Powell for inept diplomacy while at other points placing the blame squarely on the rest of the administration for undermining everything Powell has tried to do:

Mr. Powell is not, of course, entirely to blame for the mess of the past few months. If you’re apportioning fault, you can cast plenty at the French for demonstrating to the president that Mr. Powell’s patient diplomacy was pointless. We can blame Mr. Rumsfeld, the anti-diplomat, who dispensed insults to uppity allies as if they were corporate subordinates. (Getting the president a more compatible secretary of state might allow Mr. Rumsfeld to get out of the business of undermining foreign policy and back to the business of reforming the military.) We can blame the White House national security staff, which is supposed to choreograph something resembling a coherent strategy. We can, of course, blame the man at the desk where the buck stops.

I can understand the muddle, however, since I feel the same way. To a large extent, I feel like Powell is the only one keeping the Bush administration on anything close to an even keel and I’d hate to see him go. On the other hand, how long can you expect him to hold out when he’s obviously surrounded by people who hold him in such contempt?

Keller comes down on the side of resignation, partly because he thinks that cutting down on the infighting would be a positive development all by itself:

At least if the president had a secretary of state he fully trusted, the State Department might be allowed to attend to the other grave problems it has given short shrift: the flammable dispute between nuclear India and nuclear Pakistan, the dangerously slow rebuilding of Afghanistan, the multiple woes of South America and the toxic problem of North Korea’s nuclear program….Despite Mr. Powell’s efforts, the trove of expertise that resides in his department has been marginalized. The State Department is apparently, as Donald Rumsfeld might say, “old America.”

I have a hard time buying this line of thought. It’s sort of like saying that with Congress in Republican hands Bush might listen a little more closely to grumbles about his tax cuts being badly timed and fiscally irresponsible. Oddly, though, that doesn’t seem to have been the case, does it?

In the end, I guess I hope that Powell ? faults and all ? will stick around, but I won’t blame him if he doesn’t. Maybe he can return as secretary of state in a John Kerry administration.

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