Thursday, May 01, 2003

Hi All, sorry I have been away; there was a death in the family. My father passed on Easter Sunday, and I had to fly back east to attend the funeral, and deal with other family issues. As a result my mind hasn't been in the game--so-to-speak--for the last few weeks, but I am recovering. Please enjoy the following editorial I wrote for an upcoming issue of my school newspaper:

Powell v. Rumsfeld

These are troubled times. More troubling one could say than the heyday of the cold war era. At least then, there were sharply defined lines; we knew who the enemy was, and the world’s nations fell on one side of the iron curtain or the other. Life was simple.

Times have changed. The cold war has thawed and the United States stands alone in the superpower arena. We as a nation have no equal in terms of military and economic power. Democracy has proven itself the more resilient form of human governance and capitalism dearer to the human soul then any other economic model. The world is in flux as nations once dominated by the old dynamics of east-west conflict flex their political muscles, and radical Islam gives rise to a different flavor of threat.

At a time in world history when the United States could and should lead the world to a brighter future anchored in democratic principles and built on a foundation of liberty and equality for all, we are failing. We are faltering. The light is dimming and a darker tomorrow is dawning as the Bush administration conducts foreign policy with a school yard bully mentality.

In a skirmish that rivals the fabled War that just was, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld are engaged in a war of words and petty back room maneuvers. The stakes: who will be the voice of American foreign policy; the traditionally dovish Department of State, or the overly conservative and hawkish Department of Defense?

On one side there is Rumsfeld and his people: VP Cheney, Deputy Sect. of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, columnist William Safire, Fox News, the American Enterprise Institute, and the ultra-conservative members of the Defense Policy Board - Richard Perle, James Woolsey, Newt Gingrich, and Ken Adelman.

On the other side there is Powell and his people: Brent Scowcroft, James Baker, Deputy Sect. of State Richard Armitage, Richard Haass, the State Department and the Foreign Service, Senator Joe Biden, and well, the world.

The clash between Powell and Rumsfeld is so noteworthy because it goes beyond mere ego. It is central to whether the U.S. will lead by fear, intimidation, aggression, and force of arms, or by principles, diplomacy, moderation and example.

Conspicuous in his absence and leadership, has been the President. By not reining Rumsfeld in, Bush lends authority to his words and deed, and by not supporting Powell’s positions, he is in effect undermining Powell and the State Department’s credibility before the body politic of the world. At times it appears as though U.S. foreign policy is being conducted from the Department of Defense or worse yet, from the desk of the National Security Advisor.

The discredited former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, fired the latest salvo (most say with Rumsfeld’s blessing), when he personally attacked Powell in a recent speech at the conservative American Enterprise Institute calling the State Department “ineffective and incoherent” for “six months of diplomatic failure” and its “propensity for appeasing dictators and propping up corrupt regimes.” Dissimilarly, he noted that the Defense Department “delivered diplomatically and then the military delivered militarily.” Gingrich went on to rebuke State diplomats for undue deference to the U.N. and for tolerating terrorism in Syrian-occupied Lebanon.

Response from the Powell camp can only be characterized as ad hominem attacking Gingrich personally and not his message. Elizabeth Jones, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, said of Newt: “[w]hat he said is garbage…he is an idiot and you can publish that.” Armitage responded by stating that Newt was "off his meds and out of therapy"; Mr. Baker called Mr. Gingrich "someone with no foreign policy or national security experience…who was in effect forced to resign" as House speaker; a Powell aide said it was "inconceivable that Newt could have made this extraordinary attack on his own without running it past Rumsfeld.”

While it is possible that Rumsfeld may merely be the front man for Vice President Cheney, who sparred with Powell for being too cautious in the first Persian Gulf war, and ridiculed Mr. Powell's strategy of going to the U.N. before the second, the outcome is the same; the U.S. Ship of State is adrift between two competing ideological camps. And while the world holds its collective breath wondering where the next MOAB might slide to earth, Bush’s failure to lead his administration past this impasse leaves nine billion people jittery and unsettled.

On a barely positive note, Powell has won support from the President in his ongoing negotiations with Syria of its support of terrorist, North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, and the newly emerging Palestinian leadership. Absent is the President’s support for any of Powell’s initiatives in Iraq, which by and large has been left in Pentagon hands.

We are at a crossroads in human history, and I for one am tired of WAR. The world needs peace, but I fear the course Rumsfeld and company have set for the United States will only lead to more WAR and continued distrust of U.S. motives. Hatred for America is on the rise, and the fear of a once principled nation is so pungent you can smell it on the air. Come next election we have a choice to make: empire building and the constant strife it entails, or a peaceful coexistence rooted in mutual respect and humility.

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