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Thursday, 20 September, 2001, 10:31 GMT 11:31 UK
Powell: Senior statesman
Colin Powell
Colin Powell is hugely admired by the American public
By US affairs analyst Ben Wright

Few international statesman are as highly respected at home and abroad as the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell.

The retired four-star army general is the first African-American to hold the government post and faces a number of challenging tasks.

Ten years after he orchestrated the Desert Storm operation in the Gulf, Colin Powell is stepping back into Middle East, to preach peace.

This US administration's renewed engagement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict comes at an extremely sensitive time - in the middle of what appears to be a downward spiral to war.

It ain't as bad as you think - it will look better in the morning

The first of Mr Powell's "rules" for success
The "senior statesman" is also at the centre of the effort to win and maintain a historic international consensus on how to tackle terrorism in the wake of the 11 September attacks on the US.

Both are tough missions and Mr Powell will no doubt engage his 13 "rules" for success - the first being: "It ain't as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning." Another is: "It can be done".


In the immediate aftermath of the attacks on New York and Washington, Powell was the administration's most public face.

Likeable and articulate, he is hugely admired among the American public. His presence was both reassuring and revealing.

Since the administration took office there has been speculation about disagreement between the Pentagon and the State Department over the broad direction of US foreign policy - the hawkish, ideologically conservative Pentagon against the more moderate Powell-led State Department. It looked, too, like the Pentagon was winning.

Powell is a realist rather than an ideologue.

Time Magazine's cover asked: "Where have you gone, Colin Powell?" It described the shallow footsteps that the new secretary of state was leaving, a figure slightly out of step with the unilateralist, almost antagonistic tone of the Bush administration's foreign policy.

Powell is more of a multilateralist, keen to build bridges in the post-Cold War world, rather than to retreat from it.

It is telling that the administration's abrupt new internationalist objectives (when compared to the isolationism of the Kyoto rejection and missile defence plans) should be fronted by Powell.

New Yorker

Colin Powell was born in New York in 1937 and raised in the South Bronx.

He retired from the army in 1993 after 35 years in the military, including four years as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the Bush Senior and Clinton administrations.

A decorated Vietnam veteran, he is best known for his role as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Gulf War, the highest military position in the Department of Defense.

Saudi Arabian foreign minister Saud Al Faisal
Powell provides experience in foreign affairs
It is believed that he thought about running for President in 1995 and both parties courted his support. Politically, he is a moderate Republican.

His vast military experience helped shaped the so-called "Powell doctrine" of using overwhelming force when sending US troops to fight abroad. Such action would only be taken where there is a clear national interest and an exit strategy.

The Powell doctrine summarises the reigning conventional wisdom of the post-Vietnam officer corps and underpins his approach to military engagements - deploy armed forces only when the interest is vital and success is assured, and do so overwhelmingly or not at all. The doctrine is a vivid reminder of his, and America's, Vietnam scars.


Powell's appointment to the new Bush administration immediately brought experience to the team. The president is inexperienced in foreign affairs, and Powell provides gravitas and reassurance.

He is a realist rather than an ideologue. He brings savvy negotiating skills, honed as deputy national security adviser and then as national security adviser in the Reagan administration - when he was a key player at the summit meetings that brought the US and the former Soviet Union closer together.

Yet that does not mean he is any less keen to punish those responsible for the Washington and New York attacks.

He was the first member of the administration to use the term "war" and has had a central role in determining America's responses

It remains to be seen how he marries the principles of his famous doctrine with America's, and the world's, best interests.


Political uncertainty






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