Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Without Colin Powell

Juan Cole writes that Colin Powell was not as powerless as some imagine him to have been in opposition to the Cheney-Rumsfeld coalition. He may have been responsible for narrowly averting some major disasters--worse ones, that is, than those we have not averted and are currently in.
But insiders in Washington have told me enough stories about Powell victories behind the scenes that I am not sure the marginalization argument is decisive. Powell had an alliance with UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, and the two of them could sometimes derail the wilder plans of the Department of Defense. Blair, and probably Powell, convinced Bush to fight al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan before going on to an Iraq war. Imagine how dangerous the situation would be if the US were bogged down in Iraq as it is now, but Bin Laden's 40 training camps were still going full steam!

Likewise, I have it on good authority that Powell and Blair derailed a Department of Defense plan to install Ahmad Chalabi as a soft dictator in Iraq within 6 months of the fall of Saddam. Jay Garner had been given this charge, and Powell was able to get Paul Bremer in, instead, with a charge to keep the country out of Chalabi's corrupt hands.

So at some crucial junctures, Powell has played an essential role in ensuring the implementation of a more sensible policy. Without him in the administration, hotter heads may well prevail.
Where would we be if Chalabi were running Iraq and al-Qaeda were operating with impunity (not that they are not now anyway, but they could be even more at liberty than they currently are)?


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