A Panel Discussion on
October 23, 1995
Kenney Auditorium, The
1740 Massachusetts Avenue,
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A Panel Discussion on
October 23, 1995
Kenney Auditorium, The
1740 Massachusetts Avenue,
Michael C. Desch and
Sharon K. Weiner
U.S. Post Cold-War Civil-Military
Armitage, the President of Armitage Associates
L.C., has held senior troubleshooting and negotiating
positions in the Departments of State, Defense,
and the Congress since 1978.
Gordon was the national security correspondent
of The New York Times and will be the Moscow
correspondent of The New York Times. He is the
co-author with Bernard Trainor of The General's
General Bernard Trainor is the Director of Security
Programs at the Kennedy School of Government,
Harvard University. From 1985 to 1990, he was
the military affairs correspondent of The New
York Times. Mr. Trainor co-authored The General's
War with Michael Gordon.
Michael C. Desch
is Assistant Director of the John M. Olin Institute
for Strategic Studies, Harvard University.
Powell as JCS Chairman"
This panel discussion
was co-sponsored by The John M. Olin Institute
for Strategic Studies, Harvard University, and
The Foreign Policy Institute, the Paul H. Nitze
School of Advanced International Studies.
Panel Discussion on American Civil-Military
Auditorium, The Nitze Building
Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
ELIOT COHEN Ladies and gentlemen,
my name is Eliot Cohen. I'd like to welcome you
to the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International
Studies of the Johns Hopkins University for our
panel discussion on Colin Powell as Chairman of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This panel is being
co-sponsored with the Olin Institute for Strategic
Studies at Harvard University and I would like
to call on the Associate Director of the Olin
Institute, Professor Stephen Rosen of Harvard,
to make a few remarks.
STEPHEN ROSEN Thank you Eliot.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome. As Eliot said,
I am the Acting Director of the Olin Institute
for Strategic Studies at Harvard University. I
would like to welcome you to this afternoon's
discussion of the legacy of Colin Powell as Chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This talk is being
sponsored by the Olin Institute and hosted by
the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International
This afternoon's discussion is part
of a larger project being sponsored by the Olin
Institute concerning the future of civil-military
relations in the United States. This project began
when a number of observers -- including Michael
Desch, my associate at the Olin Institute; Samuel
Huntington, the founding director of our institute;
and myself -- noted that there have been a number
of serious and long-term changes that are likely
to bring about major changes in American civil-military
relations. The first change was in the international
environment. The collapse of the Soviet Union
brought increasingly to the fore problems we now
refer to as "operations other than war."
This has changed the balance between the requirement
for that kind of capability and the requirements
for more traditional warfare. The second change
taking place is within the civilian portion of
the American government. A generation of civilian
political leaders who had direct experience with
military affairs has retired and been replaced
by men and women who have had less direct experience
with the American military and war. The third
change has been in the nature of American society.
Sexual politics and racial politics have taken
on new and different dimensions in American domestic
social politics. Fourth, and finally, are the
changes in the American military itself. The American
officer corps has increasingly played a different
role, and perhaps a larger and more powerful role
within the American government, as a result of
many changes. The Goldwater-Nichols legislation
is among those changes as most certainly is the
impact of a forceful chairman such as Colin Powell.
The combined impact of the changes in the international
environment, American society, the civilian portion
of the American government, and the military branches
of the American government made us think that
in fact there was, if not a crisis in American
civil-military relations, a set of new and interesting
problems which deserved focused attention.
In that spirit, we are happy to
sponsor this discussion of the legacy of Colin
Powell as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Let me now return the podium and the microphone
to the moderator of the discussion, Professor
ELIOT COHEN Thank you Steve. In
today's panel we will be discussing Colin Powell's
tenure as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Despite some loose talk about first amendment
rights by members of the panel, I would like to
rule discussion of his presidential prospects
out of order. Indeed I would argue that the panel
discussion that we are having today would be no
less important, although it would undoubtedly
be less well attended, if Colin Powell had declared
yesterday that he had no intention whatsoever
of running for President of the United States.
Why is that the case? There are, I think, three
reasons. The first is that Colin Powell was possibly
the most powerful and the most influential Chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the history of
that office, by virtue of the expanded powers
available to him under the Goldwater-Nichols legislation
of 1986 and his own personality and experience.
Secondly, General Powell presided over the American
military at a time of both demobilization from
the Cold War and yet a tremendous amount of operational
activity. The United States put military operations
in Panama, the Gulf, and Somalia and has engaged
in a very heated debate, which is not yet ended,
about American military involvement in Yugoslavia.
Curiously as well, he presided at a time in the
history of American civil-military relations that,
on one hand, involved tremendous public approbation
for the military and support for it, and yet at
the very same time, strong, although by historical
standards hardly unique, civil-military conflict.
Thirdly, Colin Powell is the author of the Powell
Doctrine of overwhelming force, an approach to
the use of military power that is widely shared
in the American military and to only a somewhat
lesser extent among civilian decision makers as
I have asked the panelists to address
the following questions. First, did Powell's exercise
of the office of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff change the views that people have had
of that office and of its power within the Department
of Defense? How do you evaluate those changes?
Secondly, what was Powell's understanding of the
Goldwater-Nichols legislation? How did he act
in accordance with it and with what consequences?
Thirdly, Powell has alternatively been portrayed
as someone who pushed the margins of military
autonomy vis-a-vis civilian authority. He has,
on the other hand, been portrayed equally forcefully
as a dutiful soldier in the George C. Marshall
mold. Which of those two pictures is closer to
the truth? Finally, how did Powell's relationship
with his civilian superiors shape the advice he
gave and the responsibilities he bore vis-a-vis
the Panama, Iraq, Somalia, and Yugoslav crises?
Each panelist has been asked to
speak on one or more of these questions for five
to fifteen minutes. We will follow that with a
quick round of replies and then move to questions
from the floor. I will not recognize questions
from the floor that are not directed to the subject
of General Powell's tenure as Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff. We will conclude the discussion
at 7:00 pm.
I regret to announce that one of our panelists,
Professor Stephen Ambrose, had to withdraw due
to a sudden illness in his family.
Our first speaker today will be
Lt. General Bernard Trainor, Director of National
Security Programs at the Kennedy School of Government.
From 1985 to 1990, he was the military affairs
correspondent of The New York Times. Before
that he had a career of 34 years in the United
States Marine Corps, including several combat
tours in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars. He
is the co-author, together with another of our
panelists, Michael Gordon, of The Generals'
War, which devotes a great deal of critical
attention to General Powell's role in the Persian
He will be followed by Ambassador Richard Armitage.
Ambassador Armitage graduated from the United
States Naval Academy in 1967, and served three
combat tours in Vietnam. He has a long and distinguished
career of government service including tenure
as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International
Security Affairs, from 1983 to 1989. He is, as
well, a close personal friend of General Powell.
Our third speaker will be Mr. Michael
Gordon. For over a decade he has been the national
security correspondent of The New York Times,
where his award-winning reporting has caused at
least one major Pentagon investigation and a great
deal of embarrassment to senior government officials.
He will soon be the Moscow correspondent for The
New York Times.
He will be followed by Mr. Robert
Woodward, Assistant Managing Editor of The
Washington Post, author of seven books including
All the President's Men, Veil, and
of particular interest here, The Commanders,
an account of Pentagon decision-making in the
early Bush Administration.
I would like to start off by saying it is difficult
for me to imagine a panel more qualified to conduct
the kind of discussion that will now begin. With
that I would like to turn to General Trainor.
BERNARD TRAINOR Thank you, Eliot.
I will try and keep my remarks to five minutes
because this is a very short session and there
is much to cover. What I would like to do in my
remarks is to give a bare bones analysis of General
Powell's stewardship as Chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff and then we can flesh it out in
The first thing I think we should
look at is, "what were the major events that
took place during that stewardship?" We had
the Philippine coup in November of 1989 and the
Panama intervention in December of 1989. As a
matter of fact, just when he became the Chairman,
we also had the aborted coup in Panama which the
United States did not support. The events for
which, of course, he is very well known are the
Gulf War and the Somalian intervention and, in
the dying days of his tenure, the Bosnian situation.
He had success in some of these major events and
less success in others. In addition to those major
international events, he was the author of what
became known as the Base Force, which more or
less set the direction of the American military
in the post-Cold War period. Of course, he is
quite well known for opposing the President on
gays in the military. He is also associated with
what has become known as the Powell Doctrine and
its legacy in the Pentagon today.
I would submit that there were
three major influences on Colin Powell that were
reflected in his performance as Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff. One was Vietnam. The second
was the Defense Reorganization Act of 1986, the
Goldwater-Nichols Act. Third was his own political
Beginning with Vietnam, that conflict
scarred Colin Powell as it did most of the officers
of his grade, that is, officers who were captains
and majors during the Vietnam War. They felt the
politicians did not have a clear objective concerning
the use of force and they wasted not only force,
they wasted a lot of effort, and most of all they
wasted a lot of lives. He, and many of those of
his generation, came out of that war swearing
"never again." As a result of that experience
in Vietnam, he was inspired to come up with what
is now known as the so-called Powell Doctrine,
which in its earlier iteration, when he was military
assistant to then-Secretary of Defense Caspar
Weinberger, was known as the Weinberger Doctrine.
This idea favors setting aside obscure missions
and other morass-types of circumstances like we
experienced in Vietnam, in favor of having a clear
objective and public support for any military
commitment. We should use overwhelming force in
order to achieve a decisive outcome, always have
an exit strategy, and emphasize low casualties.
Each of these prescriptions is noble in its own
right. However, if you apply them rigidly and
literally, you will never use military force.
There seems to be a tendency of Colin Powell to
be ultra- conservative in this regard. He seems
to favor setting military force aside and using
it separately from diplomacy, whereas traditionally,
military force has been the steel fist inside
the velvet glove of diplomacy. The result is somewhat
of a paralytic effect on the conduct of foreign
policy and the use of military force by the President
of the United States in that the Powell Doctrine,
rigidly applied as it has been, more or less tells
the president when, and when not to use military
force. I would submit that this is not in the
interest of the republic yet this legacy is very
much alive in the Pentagon today.
Goldwater-Nichols also had a tremendous
influence on Colin Powell in that it really gave
all power to the Chairman and virtually turned
the Joint Chiefs of Staff into a general staff.
The other members of the corporate body, which
provided checks and balances to military decision
making, were downgraded to observers as opposed
to participants in the business of policy recommendations
to the National Command Authority. He also emasculated
the service chiefs and manipulated them in what
I would describe as a divide-and- conquer technique.
He describes this in his own book, My American
Journey. I think the end result, as well intentioned
as it might be in putting power in the hands of
one military advisor to the president, is that
it violates the long, well established and effective
tradition of checks and balances in the United
The third item is Powell's political
experience. I think it is safe to say that Colin
Powell was a political general. I do not say this
in a pejorative sense; we have had many political
generals. Those who are conversant with the Civil
War know about General McClelland but in more
recent times, certainly General Eisenhower would
qualify as a political general. General Marshall
was a political general, and we are all quite
aware that Douglas MacArthur was probably as political
a general as you can get. But there is an interesting
distinction between the worthies that I just mentioned
and Colin Powell. The others came up the military
ranks through a military route whereas Colin Powell
came up only to a certain point along the military
route. Then he branched off when he became a White
House Fellow. Thereafter, his rise to the top
of the heap was pretty much along political lines
and with the political assistance of those whom
he served. In doing this, he became an insider
who was able to maximize the powers entrusted
to him under Goldwater-Nichols. In the process,
as I have already mentioned, he turned the Joint
Chiefs of Staff into a General Staff with him
as the sole arbiter of military matters. His recommendations
reflected his background in that they were, in
most critical crises, of a political nature, or
of a political- military nature. This is in contrast
to what would be expected of a Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff under law, that he provide
military recommendations. I am not naive enough
to say that he was only expected to look at military
considerations. But, if politics were involved
in the recommendation, the recommendation should
have been in the form of military-political recommendations
rather than the converse which is what he practiced
and which he admits in his book many times. He
chides himself for this tendency to get out of
the box and also notes that he was chided by others,
particularly Dick Cheney.
From Powell's political experience
he knew that information is power and that the
way you position yourself determines how well
you can exercise that power. He was able very
effectively, particularly in the Gulf War, to
insert himself in the command chain between the
National Command Authority, that is the President
and the Secretary of Defense, and the CINC. In
this instance, it was a somewhat discredited Commander
in Chief, Norman Schwarzkopf. He made both sides
beholden to him. The National Command Authority
was in large measure beholden to him because he
was a military expert and because they had a certain
amount of distrust in Schwarzkopf. They depended
on him to make sure that Schwarzkopf did not make
any terrible or catastrophic mistakes. On the
other hand, Schwarzkopf, knowing that his standing
in Washington was not particularly high, was also
beholden to Colin Powell and therefore never challenged
him. Powell mentions in his book that he saw himself
as a conduit. The law requires a direct chain
of command between the National Command Authority
and the operational commanders. The Chairman of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the principal military
advisor but is not in the chain. But for all practical
purposes, despite his disclaimer that he saw himself
as a conduit, in fact he became a part of the
chain and this he exercised very strongly. Tying
that with the politically dominated advice that
he gave the President, I believe, led to some
poor decision-making in the Gulf war.
What is the legacy of Colin Powell?
He has left to the current Chairman, and probably
to subsequent ones, a role that is probably too
powerful. It should be balanced either with an
increase in the authorities and participation
of his fellow members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
or some sort of balance on the part of the civilian
leadership. The civilian leadership, in large
measure, is put in a position where they have
to get the blessing of the Chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff before they can do anything. That
is turning civilian control of the military on
The final legacy is the Powell
Doctrine. As I have already alluded, it somewhat
paralyzed the freedom of the Commander in Chief
for actions that use military force either as
a deterrent, as a support for friends, as a warning
to enemies, or in its active mode. I would say
while Powell's stewardship gets reasonably high
marks, there were certain aspects of his stewardship
which I think are dangerous to the best interests
of the republic.
RICHARD ARMITAGE Ladies and gentlemen,
good evening. I am delighted to join my colleagues
on the panel. You will all join me please in prayer
for the rapid recovery of Professor Ambrose's
wife from her present travails.
I think that you might be familiar
with this piece of legislation: the Goldwater-Nichols
Act, or Public Law 99-433, of 1 October 1986.
It comes to my attention, though I can't speak
to the experiences of my colleagues on the panel,
that perhaps Johns Hopkins could use a little
Public Law 99-433. I am in receipt of three different
letters, actually four different letters, asking
me to speak for three different lengths of time
and naming two different starting times for this
very event. Perhaps we ought to apply a little
99-433 here, Eliot.
I am going to speak a bit about,
what I believe is the Powell legacy as CJCS and
then I am going, in a one minute burst, to try
to respond to the four specific questions that
were directed to the panel. It is quite obvious,
I think, that Colin Powell was by no means an
empty vessel in terms of philosophy when he became
the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As
General Trainor has noted, as senior military
assistant to Secretary Weinberger, he played a
role in helping the secretary sharpen and articulate
what was then called the Weinberger Guidelines
for the commitment of U.S. forces abroad. As summarized
by Colin Powell, those guidelines are: Is the
national interest at stake? If the answer is "yes,"
go in to win, otherwise, stay out. Those guidelines
remain very controversial to this day.
It is by no means unusual to hear
Administration officials and members of Congress,
few of whom have ever donned a military uniform,
complain bitterly about impediments to their use
of an all-volunteer force. This sounds as if the
method of recruitment currently employed by the
U.S. armed forces somehow makes expendable mercenaries
of our sons and daughters in uniform. As Chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Powell kept
faith with our sons and daughters. Those who today
criticize him for having been a "reluctant
warrior" are, in fact, quite right. His reluctance
was, in my view, the personification of an American
ideal. That ideal is: slow to anger, but decisively
deadly when obliged to employ violence. Those
who cite General Powell's reluctance as a weakness
or a shortcoming might someday take a different
view if and when 20,000 uniformed Americans are
dispatched to the Balkans in order to help civilian
politicians and policy makers break out of a corner
into which they have painted themselves. There
were, in fact, some 28 deployments of American
forces during General Powell's tenure as Chairman.
That reluctant warrior orchestrated decisive actions
in Panama and in Iraq. His professional relationship
with Secretary Cheney was effective and quite
proper. He always worked within the bounds of
the Secretary of Defense's authorization.
In my lifetime, I have witnessed
a sea-change in American attitudes about the commitment
of military force abroad. The U.S. military, our
military, helped Presidents Kennedy and Johnson
to enter the Vietnam quagmire. It paid a heavy
price for its encouragement of the military option.
The lessons learned by the U.S. military about
the national interest, the national cohesion,
and the nature of the military as a foreign policy
tool seem to be lost on a generation of American
diplomats. Many of these diplomats seem to view
military intervention as a useful shortcut; that
is, a substitute for diplomacy and non-violent
means of coercion. I would like very much to see
our diplomats practice their craft with more determination,
more imagination, and frankly with more bloody-mindedness.
I would like to see them take some pride in being
able to achieve national objectives without resorting
to military force. I confess that I am not comfortable
with the situation in which the Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff must be constantly on guard
against armchair amateurism. Colin Powell's legacy
to his successors in this regard remains relevant.
In a broader sense, however, he
left a profound legacy on the profession of arms
itself: the abiding respect of the American public.
In a society in which professionalism is often
seen as an exception rather than the rule, Colin
Powell was instrumental in helping the American
public view this all-volunteer force as representing
the finest American ideals of competence, courage,
and teamwork. This is a strikingly different image
than the one prevailing when I left active service
about twenty years ago. This is the legacy of
which I believe General Powell, and his colleagues,
the company and junior grade field officers of
the Vietnam War, are the most proud.
The specific questions Eliot asked
were: What was Colin Powell's understanding of
the Goldwater-Nichols legislation? How did he
act in accordance with it? What were the consequences?
His understanding of the law is quite obvious:
the purpose of Public Law 99- 433 was to strengthen
civilian control through a reorganization of the
Department of Defense. It was also to improve
the quality and the timeliness of military advice
given to the President, the National Security
Council and the Secretary of Defense. Hence the
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was appointed,
in law, as the principal military advisor to the
President, the National Security Council and the
Secretary of Defense. This resulted in crisp,
clear and coherent military advice which led to
informed decisions. As to questions or comments
from an earlier panel member about the emasculation
of the service chiefs, Public Law 99-433 states
that the Chairman is the principal advisor. There
are, however, avenues for other service chiefs,
who have a difference of opinion with the Chairman,
to make their views known. The Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff is required, by law, to
carry those views to the president. During the
four years of Colin Powell's tenure, this happened
Second, did Powell's exercise of
the office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff change the way that position is viewed
and its power within DOD? Yes. Obviously it did.
Although Admiral Bill Crowe was the first Chairman
who could have benefitted from the defense reorganization
act, it was Colin Powell who brought about, I
think, the premier position of Chairman. He did
it with the integrity, confidence and competence
with which he worked. And he did it with the power
of his ideas. That is what is going to last long
after he has left the scene.
Third, Colin Powell is portrayed
as someone who pushed the margins of military
autonomy vis-a-vis civilian authority, or alternately,
as a dutiful soldier in the Marshall mold. What
is the right answer? There is a hidden question
here, a hidden suggestion. That is a suggestion
that Colin Powell somehow abused the trust of
his civilian masters and was upset by constitutionally-established
civilian control of the military. To competently
answer that question, you should have President
Bush, Secretary Cheney, Mr. Baker, Larry Eagleburger,
Brent Scowcroft or Dean Wolfowitz here. They know
very well that none of this is true. He never
abused the trust or upset this fine civilian authority.
In fact, none of those worthy gentlemen whom I
have just mentioned have spoken one word suggesting
they felt that civilian authority was somehow
gone around or abused. Quite the contrary. Now,
is he in the Marshall mold? Well, I would say
so. I think he is the most dutiful of soldiers.
He felt that one of his duties was to bring all
elements of a problem to policy makers' minds
so that they could think through the consequences
of their decision well in advance of that decision.
You can make sure that policy makers understand
it is bad business to start on level one if you
are not already prepared to go to the maximum
level of violence, if, after a careful analysis
of some course of action, several levels of violence
were called for. So I think you will see that
General Powell is a fellow that is most Marshall-like.
He did not want to squander the courage and lives
of American service-people without clear purpose
and without the country's backing and commitment.
Finally, the last question was
"How did Powell's relationship with his civilian
superiors shape the advice he gave and the responsibility
he assumed vis-a-vis several different items?"
I will just mention three. The Base Force was
one. I think this is the absolute perfect case
to see how he viewed civilian authority over the
military. Dean Wolfowitz, seated in the audience,
engaged in seven months of discussion, argument,
and negotiation with Colin Powell over the development
of the Base Force. All day long, from September
through July, they argued the proper mix for our
forces. It was the most, I think, efficient use
of civil- military relations. It came up with
a product bearing the name "Base Force."
That product is in existence today. It has lasted
for five years and more. That is the finest example
of civilian control and military advice.
The questions of Iraq and Panama
are quite different ones. In both cases, we obviously
used a great deal of force. In Panama, Secretary
Cheney arrived in office with a plan that had
been prepared by Admiral Bill Crowe. It envisioned
a massive military buildup, the evacuation of
all sorts of our civilian dependents from Panama,
a long buildup and massive use of force. The situation
in Panama was developing quite rapidly and, in
consultation with Dean Wolfowitz and others such
as General Powell and Max Thurman (Commander of
SOUTHCOM), the plan was reformulated, in the space
of several days, into what eventually became known
as JUST CAUSE. It was brought about, I think,
in quite good fashion.
The question of Iraq is slightly
different. You will remember that, in the initial
phases of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, we could
not fight. We were not there. We were not present
for duty in Saudi Arabia at least. Though there
was the time necessary for a buildup, we had a
relatively gentle message from President Bush,
initially. Thank God it was the Pentagon that
blew the whistle on this soft approach to Saddam
Hussein, began military planning early, and forced
the Administration to answer very difficult questions
before we committed our nation on a course to
war. That war was ultimately extraordinarily successful.
My answer is that I would give Colin Powell an
"A," and "A+" for his stewardship.
It was exactly as envisioned by the authors of
Thank you Eliot.
MICHAEL GORDON I, too, received
several letters. One said talk for five minutes
and the other for fifteen minutes. I do not consider
that a problem; I am going to talk for about ten
minutes and satisfy both requests.
I am going to try and bring this
discussion down to earth a bit and talk in about
specifics. I approach the Powell phenomenon sort
of as an empiricist. I do not have any personal
views on a Powell candidacy and I am not going
to talk about it. As a journalist and as somebody
who has written about defense, I have had an opportunity
to study him over the period of his various incarnations
in Washington, as President Reagan's National
Security Advisor, as Defense Secretary Weinberger's
Military Assistant, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff. I think the most enduring legacy that
I saw was really something that General Trainor
mentioned earlier -- the Powell Doctrine. This
still has a powerful grip in the Pentagon, on
civilians as well as the military. This is less
so now that General Powell has departed. This
has immense implications for American foreign
policy, let alone a future Powell presidency.
I want to talk a little bit about that in connection
with three examples, the Persian Gulf War, the
Bosnia conflict, and Somalia.
How do I understand the Powell
Doctrine? I think it is, simply put, that the
purpose of military force is to win a decisive
victory and if you are not certain that you are
going to win a decisive victory, you do not take
the field. Above all, the image of the American
military is to be protected. That is a short definition,
but I think it encapsulates it. I think the danger
in that sort of doctrine, and the way in which
it does not work to the interest of the United
States, is that it is a very risk averse approach.
Applied rigidly, it can amount to an all or nothing
doctrine that hobbles American military power.
I think it worked best in the case of the Panama
invasion where we could breeze in and breeze out
of a small Central American country in a matter
of days. Ironically, I think it worked less well
in the Gulf War, for which Powell gets a lot of
credit and sometimes is even described as a hero.
I think it was irrelevant and deleterious in the
case of Bosnia and it produced some odd results
in Somalia. I think it is controversial even among
the American military and that Powell's mentality
on the use of force is very prevalent among Army
infantry officers of the Vietnam generation, less
so among armored commanders. It is not necessarily
as prevalent among Marine officers, less so among
the Navy and Air Force who are more inclined to
think in terms of the limited application of force
to serve diplomatic objectives. Again, it has
enormous implications for foreign policy and one
of the ironies I have observed as a journalist
is that President Clinton has sometimes been criticized
for being too cautious about the use of power;
indecisive, for example, in the Balkan crisis.
The reality is that, in that particular issue,
Clinton has been a pillar of strength compared
to Colin Powell.
I would like to talk about three areas, not exceed
my time limit and leave it open to questions and
to rebuttal, which I am expecting. First, I would
like to discuss the Persian Gulf. Having heard
the previous presentation I feel like I have an
obligation to correct the record. Colin Powell
was very much a reluctant warrior during the Gulf
War. This is a story Bob Woodward first broke
in his book The Commanders and which Mick
Trainor and I had an opportunity to amplify in
our book The Generals' War. What do I mean
by this? By the way, Powell himself takes note
of this in his own book where he describes his
reluctance to go to war against Saddam Hussein
as a matter of prudence in trying to force the
civilians to better define their objectives. But
it really went beyond that. I am going to quickly
go over a few examples and then move on to the
In the Gulf context, what do I mean when I say
Powell was a reluctant warrior? Prior to the Iraqi
invasion of Kuwait, it was not unknown to the
Pentagon that Iraqi had 70,000 to 100,000 troops
on the border of Kuwait. The interesting question
is why we did not do anything about it. That is
a complicated question. For the record, there
was an option of using military force, to send
troops to the region to take some sort of deterrent
action, to signal to the Iraqis that they should
not invade Kuwait. As a matter of fact, Paul Wolfowitz
was among those who suggested precisely such an
action -- moving the MPS ships. There were others,
including the CENTCOM staff, who sent up options.
Powell was reluctant to do any of these things.
It reflected his judgement that you do not use
military force as a political signal. But that
was a context in which it might very well have
been useful to use military force as a political
More importantly, after the Iraqi
invasion of Kuwait, Powell was strongly opposed
to using American military power to kick the Iraqis
out of Kuwait. On the day of the invasion (the
day in Gulf time, but a day after in Washington
time) there was a meeting with Defense Secretary
Cheney which became rather heated. Powell basically
said that he did not think the American people
would go to war for $1.50 a gallon oil -- these
are quotes from a transcript of the meeting --
and that we should draw the line in Saudi Arabia.
This was not the only time he expressed this view.
He expressed it in the NSC. Interestingly enough,
he held this view for a period of months. It was
not accurate to say this was the mindset he had
during the period of the buildup and that he merely
was urging caution so that we could allow the
buildup to take place. He held this view for some
time. He expressed it outside the Administration,
for example, to allies. He took his concerns outside
the family, so to speak. I spoke with Sir Patrick
Hine, a top British official, who was here in
the October 1990 time frame. He met with Powell
and said that in that meeting, Powell made a very
strongly felt case for relying on sanctions for
a period of up to two years. He basically had
the same position as Senator Nunn at the time.
He also felt that, for a number of reasons, he
thought that war could go wrong. He was also concerned
about the backlash in the Arab world against American
interests, which was the dog that did not bark
in the Gulf context.
Admiral Crowe testified against
the war in the Congress, I believe in the November
1990 time frame. I remember covering that hearing.
As an author, it was interesting for me to learn
that, before Crowe did so, he consulted with Colin
Powell. And Crowe informed Powell that he was
going to testify against the war. It is Crowe's
view that Powell encouraged him to go ahead with
this testimony and signaled his agreement with
the sanctions policy. I had an opportunity to
talk directly on the record with General Powell
about that for the book and he said, I think this
is essentially a verbatim quote, "Well, I
don't know that I encouraged him, but I didn't
discourage him either." As a parenthetical
aside, I found Bob Woodward's book The Commanders,
a reliable book and very interesting. But Bob
you might want to update the section in your book
that deals with this because it has Powell being
shocked by Admiral Crowe's testimony when reality
is he acknowledges he knew about it beforehand.
BOB WOODWARD You did not read it
then, very well.
MICHAEL GORDON There is a difference
between a first cut at history and a book. It
is a quibble, but it is an important one. This
is a concern, not just for authors, but for people
who were civilians in the Bush Administration.
It is a fact that Cheney became concerned about
the slow pace of the American military planning
during this period. He actually took it upon himself
to develop his own ground war plan in conjunction
with Paul Wolfowitz and some others and briefed
it to the White House when Powell was out of town.
Cheney's perspective on this was that maybe it
was a good plan maybe it was not such a good plan
but at least it got the American military going.
This reluctance is something that was felt and
perceived by many of the civilians at the time.
I read with interest something Larry Eagleburger
said in International Economics, a journal
that I do not read regularly. I regard Larry Eagleburger
as a pretty reliable and honest person and I think
he is one of the few people who served with Powell
who is not looking to get back into government
or for a top position and therefore does not have
to craft his remarks to be politically-correct.
He said, "I love Colin Powell, I respect
him," but, "I know personally that if
Colin had his druthers, he would not have fought
the Iraq war." He said "I know personally
that President Bush and Brent Scowcroft pushed
him into it. Brent Scowcroft, in my judgment,
is a great hero because he sat there and shoved
Powell's military plans back at him until we got
the strategy of envelopment." In my reporting
over a period of three years, that assertion by
Larry Eagleburger, which he made very recently,
is essentially accurate in terms of describing
what went on behind the scenes in that Gulf period.
One last word on the Gulf war and
then I will, very briefly address the two other
areas. Powell certainly had strengths in the Gulf
period. He was decisive. He held Schwarzkopf's
hand. He was a steadying influence. He was a very
effective spokesman for the policy. I think you
cannot argue with his decision to have a big buildup.
That was eminently sensible. However, one of our
goals in the Gulf War was to destroy the Republican
Guard. It was a very central objective and was
committed in writing. It was not peripheral and
it was important because we did not want to have
to go back every time Saddam Hussein sent a Republican
Guard division toward the Kuwait boarder. Powell
expressed this for public consumption with his
famous quote: "We are going to cut it off
and kill it." He discusses this at great
length in his book, how we first thought we were
going to cut it off and neutralize it but then
he thought it would be better to use the phrase
"we were going to cut it off and kill it."
It was a very good sound byte. That goal was not
achieved to the extent that it should have been.
It is a matter of public record. The CIA After
Action Evaluation shows that half of the Republican
Guard Armor escaped, including the Hammurabi Division,
which came back to menace Kuwait in October 1994.
This triggered another near-deployment of American
forces and movement of materiel.
In my judgement, the most important
figure in making the decision to end the war prematurely
without completing that military objectives was
General Powell. Certainly it was Bush's responsibility,
but he deferred to the judgement of the Chairman
of the Joint Chiefs on that military question.
I know this because the note taker who was there
at the meeting made note of this. Powell's advice
was decisive and I think it turned out in the
light of history not to be good advice. Again,
I am not raising the issue of going to Baghdad,
I am just judging the American military by its
own criterion, its own standards, its own goals
-- to destroy the Republican Guard. Nor is this
something that only civilians complain about.
When we were researching the book, it was striking
to me the number of Army generals that expressed
dissatisfaction with the way the war ended. I
am talking about people like General McCaffrey;
General Arnold, who is now a three star; Cal Waller,
General Schwarzkopf's deputy; and others including
the general who is now Defense Secretary Perry's
military assistant, Paul Kern, who was then a
brigade commander and whose criticism was more
muted but he still expressed this concern.
Now to wind it up, because Eliot
passed me a note saying "pick up the pace."
I want to quickly address two last issues. One
Bosnia, the other Somalia. I will do it very quickly.
With respect to Bosnia, General Powell advised
two presidents against doing exactly what the
Clinton Administration recently did effectively
in the Balkan crisis: use limited airpower not
to win a victory, but to try and encourage a diplomatic
outcome and to not lose American lives needlessly.
This is described in Secretary Baker's book. I
think he is probably regarded as a reliable source
about how both Cheney and Powell strenuously opposed
the use of airpower in this context. We know he
did it in the Clinton Administration. One reason
Clinton has been criticized for not doing much
was Powell was telling him not to do much for
a period of time. There are people who can defend
that policy of inaction, but I think it had enormous
consequences. A lot of people died and I think
it also had a deleterious effect for the NATO
alliance. It is something to keep in mind when
you think about what foreign policy might be like
in a future Powell presidency.
Last off, Somalia. I will not discuss
it in detail now because I want to close off my
presentation. I am prepared to discuss it in detail
in response to questions. This is a white-hot
political issue. Defense Secretary Aspin lost
his job over it. Clinton's popularity plummeted
over this issue. This is much more complicated
than a lot of people realize. I will state two
facts which are indisputable. First, we took on
the mission to hunt Mohammed Farah Aidid at the
suggestion of the field commanders and General
Powell called Les Aspin and so recommended and
Aspin concurred. Whether that was the right decision
or the wrong decision -- personally I did not
object to it at the time -- Powell was instrumental
in the American decision to assume the mission
to hunt Aidid. He acknowledges this in his book
very briefly. Subsequently, when the October 3,
1993, Ranger raid went awry, and 18 Americans
died and a lot of people were wounded, post-mortums
showed that there was not just one issue pertaining
to the equipment that these soldiers might have
had during the Somalia conflict, there were two
issues. One issue, we all know, was the tanks
that were not sent. This might have had a beneficial
effect. The other issue was the AC-130 gunships
that were not sent that the Rangers very much
wanted. There was a recent report that came out
by the Senate Armed Services Committee, a Republican-controlled
Panel. In it General Downing, a four-star general,
was quoted on the record as saying he asked for
them and that General Powell opposed them and
the Rangers regard this as having had a significant
negative effect on their ability to deal with
that conflict. I am not trying to point fingers.
I think Somalia is a very complicated case. There
is responsibility to go around to many, including
the media. But I think that if you are trying
to create an accurate, objective, and complete
portrait of General Powell's record, it is necessary
to take into account his decision not to furnish
this equipment. I have read General Powell's book
and there is not even a mention of this entire
episode in there.
BOB WOODWARD My letter said that
everyone else would be so long winded I would
have 30 seconds. I will try to keep it to fifteen
It was interesting to hear Rich Armitage. If we
did not know that Rich was privately advising
his friend General Powell not to run for president
we would think that Rich was test- marketing at
least an op-ed piece in his talk today.
I will try to cover three things. I think it is
important to look at Powell's time as Chairman
of the Joint Chiefs. With all the Powell-mania
and the discussion of Powell and politics, when
you really look at it, he is the stranger in American
politics. We do not know much about him. He seems
to have a political persona that people have pinned
on him but, in fact, the best way to find out
who he is, is to see how he performed in the military
role he had as the number one military man in
this country. He was, as has been pointed out,
in the chain of command. As the Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, you are the number one,
the principal advisor to the president, the secretary
of defense, and the National Security Council,
but you are only an advisor. General Trainor's
suggestion here that Powell somehow inserted himself
between President Bush or the National Command
Authority or Secretary of Defense Cheney and Schwarzkopf
in the field is not correct. In fact there is
a memo specifically assigning the Chairman that
communications role. There was no expropriation
of authority in that role on Powell's part.
It seems to me, if you look at Powell's
tenure, I would give him two "A's" or
"A+'s" on some things and I would give
him an "incomplete" in the third area.
The first area where I think he really deserves
an "A" and did a rather magnificent
job as a military person and as a political general
in the best sense, is figuring out the solution
to the end of the Cold War for the American military.
Though many other people were involved, it was
Powell who essentially came up with the idea of
the Base Force, the idea of cutting the American
military 25%. He managed this in a very elongated
way, by dealing with the White House, Congress,
and the civilians in the defense department. I
have written about this but it is something Powell
did not write about in his book.
The second thing I would give him
a strong "A" or "A+" on is
his role as the representative of the soldier,
of the person who had to go out and fight and
perhaps die. On the eve of the Gulf War, Colin
Powell, in his office alone, was asking the right
question which was "How many will not come
back?" "What effort have we made in
the military, among the civilians, to make sure
that we have such good equipment, so much force,
that we can almost guarantee success?" This
is called the Powell Doctrine. The Powell Doctrine
not only made Presidents happy and allowed this
country to win wars, what is just as important
is that it saved lives.
The area of the "incomplete"
has to do with the Gulf War. I want to turn to
Powell's book for a moment. Page 478 is where
he talks about what I think everyone would agree
is the crucial meeting with President Bush --
he puts it in September 1990 -- on whether it
is going to be sanctions or whether we are going
to go to war. Powell writes, "Something was
bothering me." It sounds like a novel. "On
September 24 I went to Dick Cheney's office. "Dick,"
I said, "the President's really getting impatient.
He keeps asking if we can't get the Iraqis out
of Kuwait with air strikes." Powell then
goes in some detail to say that he laid out two
options, sanctions or building up the force to
go to war. He said to Bush, "Sir, you still
have two basic options available." Then Powell,
the Chairman, the number one military advisor
to the president says, in recounting this, that
he did not advocate either. "I was not advocating
either route, war or sanctions, on this day."
Then Powell goes on to say, "My responsibility
that day was to lay out all options for the civilian
leadership. However, in our democracy, it is the
president, not generals, who make decisions."
But in this most crucial moment for the Bush Presidency,
for the American military, for the United States,
Colin Powell had no advice. He made no recommendation.
It interests me that later on, when Powell testified
before the Senate about six weeks later right
before the war, it was Senator Bill Cohen who
quoted Henry Kissinger and asked Powell in open
public testimony, "Kissinger says that the
military people rarely challenge the Commander
in Chief. They seek excuses." Then, Cohen
went on to ask Powell, "Do you stand in awe
of the Commander in Chief?" Powell said,
"I am not reluctant or afraid to give either
the Secretary of Defense, the President, or any
other member of the National Security Council,
my best, most honest, most candid, advice. Whether
they like it or not." It turns out, by Powell's
own account, and I think it is bore out by all
the reporting on this, he had no recommendation.
Anybody who ever serves in an advisory role knows
that the advisor, in the end, will be asked by
the decision maker, "What is your recommendation?
You have all the facts. Granted it's my decision,
but what do you think I should do?" Interestingly
enough, significantly, Bush did not ask, Scowcroft
did not ask, and Powell did not volunteer. That
is where I would give Powell an "incomplete."
There is all of this discussion in the land, much
promoted by my colleagues in the news business,
on television, and in the newspapers, that Colin
Powell, as this hypothetical candidate, should
be elected president because he is a leader. When
you go back, and I and others have, it strikes
me as very interesting that in the moment when
the rubber hit the road, Colin Powell, this leader,
this person who an astronomically high number
of people in the polls say they want to be President
of the United States, in fact, had no advice on
one of the most crucial issues for the country
and for the military at that time. "Incomplete."
ELIOT COHEN Let me give the members
of the panel an opportunity for very brief rebuttals.
Then we will move to take questions from the floor.
I would urge you to be brief.
BERNARD TRAINOR With regard to
Mr. Armitage's remarks, I think he has given us
a very accurate description of the Goldwater-Nichols
Act. Beyond that, he describes the characteristics
of Colin Powell as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff. Of course, he gives him accolades on
all of these counts. But I listened to what he
was saying and I thought to myself, the same characteristics
he ascribes to Powell as Chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff could equally be applied to his
predecessors, Bill Crowe, and Jack Vessey. Any
number of former Chairmen did exactly the same
thing that he credits Powell for, presumably exclusively.
The exception is they also did it with the support
of their fellow chiefs.
Just two points on Mr. Woodward.
On the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff being
in the line of command authority, he is an advisor.
The Chairman is an advisor. You are correct in
that he was, as Powell himself describes in his
book, a conduit. The messages or decisions of
the National Command Authority go through the
Chairman out to the field. This is primarily so
that the Joint Staff presumably can take the decisions
of the civilian leadership and transcribe them
militarily-understandable terms. The point is,
however, that he was more than a conduit. He was
a power-broker between the field and the White
House. I would maintain that if it walks like
a duck, quacks like a duck, it's a duck. He put
himself in the chain of command.
RICHARD ARMITAGE Thank you very
much. It is such a target-rich environment that
I hardly know where to begin.
ELIOT COHEN Use cluster munitions
and get it over with.
RICHARD ARMITAGE I will make five specific comments.
First, if we think through what happens, I believe
General Powell would endorse the use of force
to send a political signal. If the signal is sent,
but not received or if we send the signal but
it does not work, than what if we are not ready
for the next step? The United States is not some
third world nation. We, at least in my view, are
the leader of the free world. It does matter that
we get it right.
Number two, on Admiral Crowe's comments, I believe
it happened just as you suggest, Mr. Gordon. They
had lunch in the Chairman's office and my understanding
is that General Powell did not respond one way
or the other, at least he does not recall responding
one way or the other.
MICHAEL GORDON He does not recall
a lot of things.
RICHARD ARMITAGE That is an unfair
thing to say. We are talking about the luncheon
and I know that Admiral Crowe, curiously enough,
both testified against the war and, then after
the war, criticized the Administration for not
going to Baghdad. That is quite a good trip, to
be on both sides of that issue.
On the question of the Balkan air
crisis, I take your point seriously about the
use of airpower. But I wonder myself whether the
use of airpower is what brought about the changed
situation in the Balkans or whether the Bosnian
Government-Croat offensive and their successes
might have had more to do with it. That is something
we can discuss.
Now, to the question of Somalia.
You referred to the Senate Report. Senator Levin
has a two page addition to the Senate Report where
he says the problem in Somalia was the policy.
Mr. Warner has a somewhat longer introduction
to the Senate Report. He said the problem was
the policy and some equipment issues, including
the two you mentioned. It is interesting to me
to note that tanks in a city, for those who have
been on the ground, are not very useful generally,
particularly in a city like Mogadishu. With the
AC-130 gunships, I do not know how, in a city
like Mogadishu, you limit your targets to just
the bad guys. I think the real problem in Somalia
frankly was that we had a U.N. resolution which
declared former Mogadishu police chief Aidid a
"war criminal." If you take the President
at his own words in that same report, he speaks
to one of the fathers of a casualty and says,
"He didn't know anything about that resolution
going through the U.N." And I do not believe
the Pentagon did either. That is where things
went the most wrong in Somalia. All of those things
I mentioned are, I think, matters of opinion.
You can debate and argue endlessly. Public Law
99-433 is not a matter of opinion. General Powell
did not insert himself in the chain of command;
he was put in to it. The Secretary and the President
saw to it to put him in the chain of command,
as a communicator and as a spokesperson for the
combatant commands to the president. He was inserted
into that situation by the President and the Secretary
of Defense. He did not insert himself.
MICHAEL GORDON I am going to speak for thirty seconds and address
only one point in the interest of economy of time.
Just as a factual matter though, on the AC-130
gunship issue, in the Senate Report General Downing
said, "I advised I would like to have the
AC-130s. General Powell advised we needed to keep
the numbers down. The AC-130s would not have prevented
October 3-4, but they would have been useful once
the battle started. I said I thought they should
be included. I so recommended. My sense was that
OSD and the NSC were fairly supportive. The problem
was differences within the Joint Staff."
Isn't that a different way of looking at the problem?
One last quote, from Colonel Boykin, the Commander
of the Special Operations Forces: "The single
biggest void was the absence of AC-130s. It would
have made a big difference. It would have provided
fire support, eyes and psychological impact. It
could have told us of the massing of forces, it
could have leveled the Olympic Hotel and broken
the back of the SNA." There are also several
other quotes from the Rangers. I was not the field
commander. I was not in that battle. The Somalia
fray was an admittedly complicated issue, but
one in which Powell played a role. The last quote
is from General Powell: "I do not have any
recollection of the AC-130s being a part of the
Ranger Task Force package." He is the only
participant interviewed for this report published
by the Senate Armed Services Committee who did
not recollect that decision.
BOB WOODWARD One thing I think
we are overlooking is that it was very hard to
serve as a senior official in the Bush Administration.
If you look at the number of political casualties
-- people who worked for President Bush who came
out of their service in his Administration with
diminished reputations -- it would be a rather
long list. When you look at some of the decision-making,
not only as it pertains to defense and foreign
policy but domestic policy, it was one hard job.
If you were to go through everything that Powell
did, he is one of a handful of people who not
only ended his time in service in the Bush Administration
honorably, but with his reputation enhanced. That
is very unusual. Dan Quayle, Jack Kemp, Dick Cheney,
and all kinds of people decided not to run for
president. Those, indeed, are personal decisions.
But they have a lot to do with the legacy of the
entire Bush Administration.
ELIOT COHEN Thank you. If you would
like to ask a question, please raise your hand.
We don't have a walk around mike, so I would ask
you, when I call upon you, to stand up. Speak
your name loudly. Also, if you would give your
QUESTION Mike Desch, the Olin Institute,
Harvard University. It seems to me that one of
the most interesting aspects of Powell is the
whole question of what the legitimate venue is
for the Chairman, or any members of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, for expressing legitimate dissent
with the policies of the National Command Authority.
There are two extremes. I think none of us would
agree with President Eisenhower's position that
JCS candor in responding to congressional inquiries
was "damn near treason." But I wonder
if we have moved too far to another extreme where
a serving Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
publishes op-ed pieces or, in the case of the
gays in the military issue, plays a fairly public
if behind the scenes role in undercutting an Administration
policy. While all of us believe there should be
some means of legitimate dissent, has that gone
too far and does that exceed legitimate military
ELIOT COHEN Do you want to address
that to anyone in particular or to the entire
MIKE DESCH Mr. Armitage in particular,
but also any of the other panelists. Just one
other point. Mr. Armitage suggested it would have
been nice to have Cheney or President Bush up
here. It would be nice to have President Clinton
or, if we could bring him back from the dead,
Les Aspin, because Powell's Chairmanship spanned
RICHARD ARMITAGE What is the proper
role of dissent? My own view is it's internal
to an administration. It is not external. In all
circumstances that I can imagine, one has a responsibility
to be truthful to Congress. If someone were going
to take such a dramatic step away from an administration,
they would first resign. Although this is not
such a fixture in our administrations, it is in
The question you specifically address
had to do with an op-ed piece, and I've heard
this comment from time to time. Why does the Chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff publish a view in
a newspaper, or more, why did he have the temerity
to write some views in Foreign Affairs?
I think this is generally criticized by people
who haven't served in administrations. As far
as I know, all published materials by General
Powell were cleared fully by the Department of
Defense and the clearance process is not a joking
matter. The fellow to your right can tell you
a bit about it and probably had something to do
with it. I don't think it is so unusual when you
realize those are views that are fully in consonance
with the Administration as cleared by the Department
QUESTION Fritz Ermath. I work at
CIA but and I worked for the Commission on Roles
and Missions. First, General Trainor, what is
your reaction to Michael Gordon's observation
that the American officer corps is far from unanimous
in its support of the so- called Powell Doctrine?
Second, there was a sharpening of anxiety at what
you might call a sociological level, during the
very end of Colin Powell's CJCS tenure. This is
seen in the gays issue, the perceived insult of
General McCaffrey, and a sense of alienation on
the part of the armed forces from a society which
seems strange to them, even as they seem strange
to society. General Powell, as the Chairman and
as a military officer, was a moral figure, a commander,
and a military decision-maker and he takes that
very seriously. The Army is family. What is his
legacy in that department? Could you comment on
the sociology of civil- military relations?
BERNARD TRAINOR On the officer
corps' view of the Powell Doctrine, as you might
expect, it's mixed. You get a lot of different
views. For example, in terms of putting ground
forces into Bosnia, you could find within the
Army and the Marine Corps a fair number officers
who are opposed to that. That doesn't necessarily
mean that they are signing on to the Powell Doctrine.
The Powell Doctrine really goes back to the Weinberger
era and there is a generation of officers that
have come along that take it as gospel and embrace
it. This gets to your third question, in that
they see the doctrine as something that stands
to benefit the troops and their families, i.e.
they are not going to be put in some sort of a
wasted war to be blown away. I would also say
that there is a rising concern among quite a few
of the senior officers on the rigid application
of the Powell Doctrine -- a so-called Doctrine
because it is never explicitly stated -- as opposed
to it being only a guideline. In particular, this
business of "whatever we do, we can't have
any casualties." In the Pentagon today, at
the beginning of any planning process the first
question that is asked is about casualties.
In a certain sense this gets back
to Bob's point on the eve of the Gulf war. This
extreme aversion to casualties is not particularly
useful. A number of senior officers have expressed
that to me in a number of ways. Number one: war
is a dirty, messy thing. When you do go to war,
you have to expect casualties and I think the
American people understand that far better than
they do in the Pentagon. The second thing is that
the senior officers believe that, if it becomes
a writ -- that we cannot suffer casualties --
it makes it relatively easy for mischief makers
around the world to raise the bloody shirt, or
raise the body-bag issue, and scare off American
intervention. If you subscribe to the virtues
of studied ambiguity in response to a threat,
this is not particularly useful. I think you get
a mixed bag on the issue of the Powell Doctrine.
On civil-military relations and
social alienation, that's the subject of the study
that is being undertaken by SAIS and by the Olin
Institute at Harvard. With the all-volunteer force,
there is a certain alienation taking place. George
Will wrote about the military seeing themselves
as a selfless island in an ocean of selfishness,
meaning the general public. I don't know the answer
to that but hopefully at the end of the SAIS and
Olin study, we should have some pretty good views
on the changing nature of the military in society.
The fundamental thing is that traditionally, from
the founding of the republic, the U.S. military
has been a people's army. I hate to use the ideological
phrase from a defunct state, but it is a people's
army, the whole militia concept, the minuteman
concept, where the military is tied to the people.
Whether the all-volunteer force is eroding that
connection, I don't know but we hope to find out.
ELIOT COHEN I would ask our
questioners to be brief and our panel members
to be the same. We have a member of the Bush Administration
who also decided not to run for president. He
said he was drafted to become Dean of SAIS. Paul
QUESTION Paul Wolfowitz. I don't
know whether I'm in the graveyard of dead careers
or not but I must say I found that a striking
description of the Bush Administration. I want
to be careful that I don't seem like I'm fishing
for a job in the Powell Administration. Not because
Michael would take a shot at me but because my
wife would be very upset.
I have a two part question that
is mainly for Michael Gordon and Mick Trainor.
The first part relates to Goldwater-Nichols and
civil-military relations. General Trainor said,
I think correctly, that the strengthening of Powell
as Chairman was at the expense and power of the
service chiefs. He then went on to say that this
is a violation of the American principle of checks
and balances. I don't think the American principle
of checks and balances is one that applies indiscriminately
across the board. It seems to me the heart of
the question is what this does to the power of
civilian authority. From my own perception, and
at the risk of sounding like I'm applying for
the Powell Administration, it seems to me that
what I saw was a much more effective Secretary
of Defense and control over the military, at least
more effective than has been true given what was
in the Pentagon ten years earlier when, in fact,
whatever the Secretary of Defense wanted, it was
guaranteed there would be at least one or two
powerful service chiefs who would oppose him.
I think we would have ended up with something
like the Base Force even without Goldwater-Nichols
but it sure would have been a lot more difficult
without a strong chairman pushing through a group
of chiefs that really were resistant in the most
unthinking, conservative sort of way. My sense
is that Goldwater-Nichols really has strengthened
civilian control over the military, at least with
respect to the issue you raised of weakening the
The second question has to do with
the Powell Doctrine. What is it precisely that
the two of you object to? I must say I find myself
rather taken with it, at least with the caveat
that Mr. Armitage added which is it doesn't mean
you always use force overwhelmingly, but if you
do use force or threaten to use force, you follow
through to the end of the process of what you
are going to do. I don't think it means that you
don't use force unless you are guaranteed to win.
General Powell's career involved deep commitments
in Europe where we were almost guaranteed to loose.
And deep commitments in Korea where there was
certainly no guarantee of victory and much less
a guarantee of low casualties. It seems to me
you have to ask the question "In what circumstances
would you want to commit American forces and not
commit all forces available to you?" It is
the heart, I think, of the problem in Somalia.
We had said we were going to go for an objective,
but because congress would be unhappy if we sent
tanks, or if we did this or that, we didn't go
at it wholeheartedly. It seems to me that is a
real problem. I have to note historically, it
is not the case that General Powell insisted only
on the maximum force. When we were arguing with
the State Department, in the early ten days when
Saddam started threatening Kuwait, it was the
Pentagon with General Powell very much on board
that fought the State Department for the one puny
little show of force we did make in sending tankers
to Kuwait. The State Department didn't like it
and our Arab allies liked it even less and we
kind of quit. I think it was a mistake. When we
had the Philippine crisis...
INTERRUPTION Tankers to UAE you
mean, not to Kuwait, to the UAE.
PAUL WOLFOWITZ UAE, yes. Thank
you for the correction. It was the Kuwait crisis,
the tankers went to the UAE. The Kuwaitis were
too afraid to ask for anything. When we had the
Philippine crisis, and some people said let's
bomb the airfields so the Philippine Air Force
can't deliver coup plotters to Manila, General
Powell said you don't have to do that. Put an
F-4 up in the air and it won't fly. We put an
F-4 up in the air and it didn't fly. And most
dramatically, in PROVIDE COMFORT when we went
into Northern Iraq with something far less than
overwhelming force, it was with that reputation
for overwhelming force that American battalion
commanders could face down Iraqi divisions and
tell them to back off. Some of the military, and
myself as well, wanted to pull out because the
ground component was a little worried we would
be thin on the ground. General Powell said "I've
just been in Northern Iraq and I was bugged by
an F-16. Believe me, it scared me and it will
scare the Iraqis."
BERNARD TRAINOR Let me, very quickly,
first go to your second question on the Powell
Doctrine. As I mentioned in my opening remarks,
the so-called Powell Doctrine and it's elements
are virtuous, and everybody subscribes to them.
My concern is the rigid application of the Powell
Doctrine. There is no flexibility to it. It is
a prescription. We don't do floors and windows
and we don't go to war unless it is on Thursday
and the weather is clear. The problem is this
rigid application of what is, in itself, a useful
guideline. What seems to be emerging is that this
has become holy writ. And it is not just overwhelming
force, it is all the other elements: clear objectives
and exit strategy. We are dealing with a dynamic
world. We sometimes don't know what the objectives
are and they may change along the way. Are you
not going to use military force in those instances?
If you can't figure out an exit strategy are you
setting aside military force as an option? This
is the problem of the rigid application of the
Powell Doctrine. This is probably not what he
intended. I don't think it is what Weinberger
intended when the prescriptions first emerged.
But it seems to have taken on its own life along
In terms of the weakening of military
authority under Goldwater-Nichols, I think the
verdict, frankly, is still out. There is only
so much power to go around. If somebody gets enhanced
power, it is at the expense of somebody else.
In this instance, it was clearly at the expense
of the fellow chiefs. They are not villains though
they certainly have been painted as villains.
They clearly do some pretty constructive work
and have done so in the past. But the loss of
power is that you don't have competing views.
Competing views do not necessarily mean insidious
parochialism. Competing views are very, very useful.
But that's gone. In a sense a secretary of defense
who is a civilian is then hostage to a single
individual or his views. I think this was reflected
in the Gulf War, when Dick Cheney was somewhat
disappointed with the advice that he was getting
from the military and went outside the circles
to put together a team of civilians, although
there were retired military involved, to come
up with a different strategy. And as he said subsequently,
he did this to light a fire under the military
to get them to react. The genius of the American
system is that the secretary of defense can probably
always find work-arounds to any sort of inhibition
of his legitimate exercise of authority and Cheney
did it in this instance. I'm simply saying that
the checks and balances concept which has served
the republic so well is somewhat neutralized by
the Goldwater-Nichols Act and it is still too
early to tell if it is really going to have a
major negative effect. I think it is something
that should be reviewed for unintended consequences.
RICHARD ARMITAGE I think General
Trainor is right to look at the question of casualties.
I don't think that anyone would not agree that
casualties are going to come out of military conflict
or the provision of military force no matter how
seemingly gentle. It is the nature of the beast.
The question is whether casualties will be endured
for a lofty reason and explicable goals. We are
a people's army, even though we are all-volunteer.
When that army gets in a jam overseas, what is
the people's response here? They are quite vocal.
Those are their sons and daughters, no matter
that they happened to volunteer. If you cannot
explain why they are sacrificing and why they
will be called upon to sacrifice, you will not
carry the day with the people's representatives
in the U.S. Congress. We have to always keep that
in mind. That's not quite the same thing as keeping
in mind that we can't have any casualties.
As to the second point, General
Trainor I don't know, historically, where you
and I sat in different tank sessions. The notion
that someone like General Al Gray, former Commandant
of the Marine Corps, or General Tony McPeak of
the USAF, would sit on their hands in a tank session
with Secretary Cheney and not speak up, is not
descriptive of those two people or the people
I know. That is not the way things happen in the
tank sessions. People speak. People go back and
forth. This is particularly true with Secretary
Cheney who was wont to argue with his service
chiefs, if not fire them, from time to time. So
there was plenty of discussion in there. I just
don't think it is fair to leave completely on
the record the image that the other service chiefs
were emasculated totally or simply sat on their
hands. You are right that there is only a certain
amount of power to go around. If you want to see
who really lost in Goldwater-Nichols, it is the
service secretaries. They lost.
MICHAEL GORDON Just very briefly,
on the point of the Powell Doctrine. Paul, you
know what the liabilities are of the Powell Doctrine
because I think you found yourself on the other
side of some of the issues from General Powell
during the Bush Administration. For example, after
the war when the Shiites in Southern Iraq were
being pummeled because of the exemption General
Powell charitably gave the Iraqis for helicopter
gunships, I believe you were not in agreement
with General Powell that we should walk away from
that because it didn't fit his model of warfare.
I think it is a matter of degree. I think, like
General Trainor, that certainly prudence is important.
I agree with what Rich Armitage said that if you
can't explain the sacrifice that has to be made
to the American public that you shouldn't take
on a war. It has to be done in a very sober way
and with a lot of thought. But when you apply
the Powell Doctrine very rigidly, so rigidly that
it leads you to oppose a war against an Iraq which
has nuclear ambitions, so rigidly that you are
against the most modest application of force in
the Bosnia situation -- air drops to the Muslims,
initially, for food and no-flight zones -- you
have to ask yourself if this is not an extreme
application of this Doctrine. If it leads to a
world in which Saddam Hussein's forces are still
in Kuwait and in which we are standing on the
sidelines while war is raging in the Balkans,
then you have to ask yourself, is this a sensible
doctrine for a country that still has pretensions
to be a superpower in the post-Cold War world.
QUESTION Richard Cohen of the University
of North Carolina. My question is for Mr. Armitage
and also for the rest of the panel. When General
Powell left office, the relationship between the
President and his Administration and the professional
military was the worst and most broken on record.
Probably in American history. One wonders if this
is not one of the legacies of General Powell's
leadership. Certainly he can't be blamed for that
because it could be argued that the President's
record and his raising of gays in the military
was responsible for it. My question is why did
General Powell not take steps to nip this as it
repeatedly happened? Why did he not exercise his
moral leadership as the senior military officer
in the American armed forces? He could, for example,
have asked General McCaffrey to keep absolutely
quiet. Since General McCaffrey was his special
assistant, he had occasion and he could have taken,
perhaps, other steps to try to repair that relationship
or at least to prevent it from deteriorating to
the point where it did when he left office.
RICHARD ARMITAGE I can't be in
the position of speaking for President Clinton
but it seems to me the President, by his actions,
has spoken for himself on this matter on several
occasions: by his actions when Chairman Powell
retired, by his attendance and comments at the
ceremony, and by his actions of consistently,
at least in my view, reaching out to General Powell.
It is not a secret that they talked. He, General
Powell, was asked by the President to go to Haiti
and try to do what he could. I would say that,
by the President's actions, he has shown that
he doesn't hold quite the view you do. I would
say that General Powell, taking the President
and literally leading him to the Vietnam Wall
and introducing him in a warm and dignified fashion
in front of some veterans who had differing views,
was moral leadership. I think those veterans expressed
their views in a very bad, distasteful way. That
seems to me to be exercising the moral leadership
one would want. As to the question of gays in
the military, it seems to me that the President
himself might have been better served had he raised
the question prior to the election when he and
General Powell had, what I think is described
by both gentlemen, as a very warm and in-depth
conversation. Powell said he knew of the President's
commitment on this issue during the campaign.
He suggested that it might be best, because of
the difficulties involved, if the President suggest
to the new Secretary of Defense that perhaps he
take a certain amount of time to study the issue
and have the military come back to the President
with the solution to the problem. But that didn't
happen and things took off from there. It went
to the Congress, etc. So I would say, look at
the President's actions and he might not quite
agree with the characterization you laid out.
ELIOT COHEN Would anybody else
care to address that? Ok. The gentleman in the
brown jacket back there.
QUESTION I worked in Somalia during
the emergency phase and I would like to revisit
that perhaps for comment. Two points on General
Powell's role. First, a number of American troops
were sent down. About 20,000 as a manifestation
of the Powell Doctrine. A smaller force could
have been more mobile, better adapted to the terrain.
Second, when General Powell on May 1 pronounced
that the U.N. was completely ready for the handoff,
we were warned subsequently that top American
diplomats there were reporting back that the U.N.
was not ready to take over this responsibility
for a number of logistical and practical reasons.
MICHAEL GORDON I don't think I
know enough to answer those questions properly,
to be honest with you. But I would say that my
instinct is that if General Powell thought it
took 28,000 troops to launch a Somalia intervention,
why not err on the side of the larger force? I
have absolutely no quarrel with him on terms of
sending a larger force rather than a smaller force
to do a military job, if it is the appropriate
force. My quarrel is when there are cases when
you ought to do something and you don't. I would
like to make just one observation. As a matter
of public record, when the critical U.N. resolutions
were passed -- for example, the one that led to
the extraction or withdrawal of the American force
and the establishment of the UNSCOM II operation
with the nation-building mission which later became
a dirty word for some reason -- I don't believe
it's accurate that the JCS didn't sign off on
that. In fact, I've been told that is inaccurate
and that the Clinton Administration did get the
JCS to sign off on the U.N. resolution. I'm not
in a position to decide myself which is accurate
but I'm not sure that the JCS was so out of the
loop on some of the key policy decision-making.
Of course, at that point in time, the JCS was
looking forward to getting its forces out and,
I think, was willing to accept a resolution that
implied some continuing obligations and nation
building as the price for that.
RICHARD ARMITAGE I might have left
a mis-impression with you. I didn't mean to speak
to a nation-building resolution at the U.N. as
being a resolution that the JCS didn't know about.
I have every reason to think they must have. But
I was speaking specifically to the "Aidid
as a criminal" resolution, which the President
addresses, found in the Senate Report. I have
not been able to find a record of the resolution
in the JCS, so it seems to me that if one exists,
then somebody ought to be able to come up with
it. I have yet to see it.
MICHAEL GORDON The only reason
I mentioned that was because, in some of the Somalia
Report before the Senate Armed Services Committee,
General Powell says the JCS didn't have an opportunity
to sign off on that resolution on nation-building
and somebody in the Clinton Administration said
that that is a matter of procedure. Maybe it wasn't
Powell. Maybe it was some subordinate. That indeed,
did occur. They did need sign off on it.
QUESTION I'm Larry Korb from Brookings. I would
like to follow up on Michael Desch's question
to Rich Armitage. You were talking about sanctions,
but what I picked up here today and from reading
all of your books is that General Powell was in
favor of sanctions. He didn't want to take the
offensive in operations. Yet, when Senator Nunn
held those hearings, he never let the American
people know that, in fact, he had doubts. That
was the whole debate, sanctions or war. Was he
correct, or should he have had the obligation
to at least let the rest of us know? I didn't
know about it until I read your book.
BOB WOODWARD There's a way to answer
that and that's in the chronology of events. When
General Powell had expressed to people his view
that maybe they should let sanctions go, and he
met with Bush and Bush made it clear, we're going
to build up for war, Powell realized he had received
his orders. It was a legitimate order. It made
sense. And I think history has demonstrated that
it probably was the wise choice. By the time Senator
Nunn held his hearings, Bush had already decided,
and Powell was on board. So, the decision then
would have been, should he have testified two
months ago, or ten weeks ago, to say that he favored
letting sanctions continue. It's not plausible
that somebody in that position is going to go
public with a position that they themselves have
RICHARD ARMITAGE Several things
happened during the Iraq buildup. I was on the
Defense Policy Board at the time and Secretary
Cheney said to us one day that he wanted to give
sanctions time to work but he felt that war was
inevitable. We saw, on the very eve of the war,
Jim Baker flying off to meet with Tariq Aziz for
one last chance at a peaceful solution. I don't
think that everyone in the Administration knew
that was going to happen. I think it was cooked
up between Mr. Baker and the President to give
it a last shot. Lots of things were going on in
this time period. I think Mr. Woodward is correct.
Chronology is important.
QUESTION Don Oberdorfer, former
journalist now at SAIS. I don't find it particularly
surprising, looking at two of my former colleagues
-- two journalists and a sometime journalist,
General Trainor -- no one here has mentioned what
may have been almost as important as Goldwater-Nichols
to Colin Powell and that is his mastery of the
media. As a person who was very favorably treated
during nearly all of his time as Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs, it gave him terrific power in the
Pentagon. It has a certain relevance to his future
possibilities, of course. How did he do it? Why
was he so very successful, at least in my view
as just the average reader, far more than most
of his predecessors?
BOB WOODWARD You want to talk about
how you manipulated Colin Powell?
RICHARD ARMITAGE It is interesting
to me that, on the one hand, many in journalism
have decried for years the lack of professionalism
among senior U.S. military officers and their
handling of the press and press relations. So
much so that now our war colleges have been teaching
press relations steadily, and inviting journalists
to come down to show the way to the U.S. military.
I think General Powell was ahead of the curve
on this. I think it is because he has had high
level positions and had observed Secretary Weinberger.
Or perhaps earlier, when he was a White House
Fellow, he saw the unique interaction between
the press, the public and an administration. Far
from being either intimidated or frightened of
it, he held the view that the press has an absolutely
vital role to play if they play it responsibly.
I think he, by virtue of his own experience, came
to this realization early on in his career.
BOB WOODWARD There are so many
dimensions to this. One of them is the jobs Powell
had. He was a senior officer before getting to
the White House, he was Secretary Weinberger's
military assistant for three years. He realized
that a secretary of defense and certainly a president
has to deal with the political implications of
things. He has to deal with public relations implications.
Powell was trained, I think by Tom Ross, who was
the spokesman for the Pentagon in the Carter years,
that you have to deal with the press. It is a
reality. They are probably going to find out.
You ought to be able to give them explanations
that will wear well with time. And I think he
internalized that lesson, but in no sense completely.
I think it is hard work to report on General Powell
or anything military. You have to go to lots of
sources. Things are not handed out.
MICHAEL GORDON I agree with Bob's
point on this. I think it is a relevant question,
particularly in terms of what's happening today.
I think Powell, as a human being, is a very likable
person. He has a sort of an emotional warmth to
him even when he gets angry. That's refreshing
in a place like the Pentagon. He's got characteristics
that people like.
BOB WOODWARD Not if you're a Lt. Colonel.
MICHAEL GORDON Right. But we're not Lt. Colonels.
He's a likeable person. He made himself available
to the media. He was a useful contact and source.
Bob, you and everybody else know that it is difficult
for people who are covering a beat, and I'm talking
about the realities of journalism, to turn on
somebody who is useful to them. In writing stories
and writing accurate stories there is an inherent
tension. Powell writes in his book how he learned
how to deal with the media in the Nixon White
House, which we might reflect on. But I also think
that it is true that Powell has really effectively
coopted a large part of the media. I think that
whether you are for him or against him, his record
with respect to Iraq and Somalia and Bosnia and
all these issues, really ought to be front and
center in any sort of discussion about who this
man is. The Pentagon is sort of like Powell's
Arkansas, the way it was for Clinton. It is a
track record. It's where he made his decisions.
It also gives us an idea of what his foreign policy
would be, if he were president. I think the media
coverage of this, sad to say, has really been
BOB WOODWARD What do you mean "coopted?"
That is a strong word.
MICHAEL GORDON Is the subtext,
"is that personal?"
BOB WOODWARD I didn't accuse you
of that. I gave him the only incomplete grade
MICHAEL GORDON I think he's somebody
who a lot of people in the Washington media establishment
like and want to stay on good terms with, both
because they think he is going places and because
he'll be useful to them in the future. He makes
himself available to do that. That is appreciated.
I think he does have a basically enlightened attitude
toward the media and the media respects that and
repays him with a certain amount of kindness.
BOB WOODWARD That's a great distance
from being coopted.
QUESTION Helm Sonnenfeld, Brookings
and Johns Hopkins. I know media baffle is fun
for everybody but let me just go back to one issue.
You've all mentioned the Base Force concept which
came out of the Bush Administration. None of you
have mentioned the Bottom Up Review, which was
also on Colin Powell's watch, in the Clinton Administration.
Without going into detail, it is commonly agreed
that the Bottom Up Review's basic propositions
are severely under funded and therefore un-doable.
Could you each say perhaps two sentence about
where Colin Powell was on that particular exercise?
BOB WOODWARD Two sentences is it?
I don't think there is anything in government
that is not under funded right now.
BERNARD TRAINOR You have to have
some sort of a yardstick to organize your forces.
We are in the post-Cold War world and whether
it was the technique of the Bottom Up Review or
whether some other technique, you have to have
something to start with and then evaluate. Whether
it is over funded or under funded, that comes
later. But I have no problem with the approach
that was taken, nor would I have had any problem
with another approach as long as there was an
approach that has some coherence to it which then
could be measured.
RICHARD ARMITAGE I could be seriously
wrong on this but I don't think I'm too far off.
I believe the Bottom Up Review looks an awful
lot like the Base Force. I believe, Mr. Aspin,
when he came in, wanted to put a mark on the Pentagon
and he hit on Bottom Up Review. It's remarkably
similar to the Base Force. As to the question
of funding, my own view is that the priorities
are kind of wrong, specifically the bottom line
amount of money available. For instance, when
you fund Seawolfs, B-2s and things of that nature,
and you have E-5s on food stamps in Norfolk, I
wonder about the priority of these things. Whether
it's funded or under funded, we are always under
funded, as Bob said.
MICHAEL GORDON I want to state
for the record that I completely agree with Rich
Armitage on the answer to this question.
RICHARD ARMITAGE Well, I disagree
with myself, then.
MICHAEL GORDON I think that the
Bottom Up Review was really "son of the Base
Force." I think the Base Force, however,
was an incredible but really unimaginative shrinkage
of American force structure in which all the services
pretty much kept what they wanted to keep. It
did not look in any kind of radical way at roles
and missions. It was something everybody could
live with. It was kind of a conservative force
structure. I would also note that General Powell,
when I heard him speak at the Kennedy Center,
said defense spending is projected by the Clinton
Administration as slightly under funded. So, if
he was elected he would have to change that and
spend somewhat more on defense. He also thinks
we have to cut taxes significantly. He said that
the other day. He wants to maintain the basic
guts of our social programs so how he squares
all that might be an interesting question.
ELIOT COHEN I'll ask our participants
to speak, actually in reverse order of the way
we started. Before they do, I would like just
to express a word of thanks to Dr. Andrew Bacevich,
the Director of the Foreign Policy Institute and
his assistant, Ms. Alicia Banks, who did all the
very considerable leg work that was involved in
getting this panel discussion organized. With
that, let me turn to Bob Woodward and ask him
to make any concluding remarks.
BOB WOODWARD I think Michael Gordon
made a very important point about Powell, there
is this fervor, the Powell-mania, this idea that
he should be president. There is this idea that
he should run, he should make this transition
into politics. He himself, as recently as several
days ago, said that he doesn't know whether he
has the fire in the belly. He doesn't know whether
he could get up every day, like he did in the
Army for 35 years, and say "This is what
I want to do. This is what I believe in."
Michael's exactly right. The Pentagon or Powell's
military career is Arkansas. And the measure of
his strengths and weaknesses, and he has both,
should be taken in those jobs that he had and
not this kind of speculative forecasting of "well,
we think he's a leader." Or, "he's offered
some views on political issues, therefore we know
where he stands." Or this idea that somehow
you can adopt one political party or another like
a new suit of clothes. You just can't do that
effectively. People are going to have to go back
if he runs and look very hard indeed at exactly
what happened at these points. We did not get
in an argument about the end of Desert Storm and
the feeling that Michael and the General have
that it was too early, that is was premature.
I really radically disagree with that. But that
is something that is going to be debated as well
as all of these other little steps along the way
of Powell's career.
MICHAEL GORDON Now I have to agree
with Bob Woodward.
BOB WOODWARD You've had a painful
afternoon, I guess.
MICHAEL GORDON I guess.
BOB WOODWARD Oh just say you agree
and stop talking!
MICHAEL GORDON I agree. We in the
media and others tend to make figures out to be
all good or all bad. We tend to make caricatures
out of individuals but life is much more complex
than the way it is presented on television and
in the news media and in forums. I would agree
with Bob. I don't think the full measure of Powell's
career has really been properly evaluated, pro
and con, strengths and weaknesses. I would think
that it is appropriate to do that, specifically
in relation to the kind of foreign policy debate
we are about to have in the country, whether Powell
is a presidential candidate or not.
RICHARD ARMITAGE Eliot, thank you
very much to the organizers, as you suggested.
They did a great job.
Several things. First of all, I
think we've heard today, at least I've heard,
perhaps I wanted to hear, that the so-called Powell
Doctrine is not just a rigid-in-cement set of
guidelines but it is a useful set of guidelines
which have to be tailored somewhat to a situation.
At a minimum, they provide a means to ask very
useful questions about the use of force and the
Second, what General Powell learned
or didn't learn at the Nixon White House, I think
one thing is for sure: he learned a lesson --
at least for his professional life from that time
on - - and that is bad news doesn't get better
with time. Get it out early. That is a pretty
good thing, whether you are in the press, the
public or in an administration. If there is bad
news, get it out early. A lot of bad happened
in that Administration but that particular lesson
learned is not a bad one.
Finally, why are we talking about
this guy two years plus after he retired? Well,
it is particularly this fervor, this desire for
some candidate. But I think it is also something
else. We live, unfortunately, inside this environment
here in Washington. Let's not kid ourselves. People
out there are a lot smarter than we give them
credit. I think they realize that when they listen
to General Powell when he articulates his views,
whether in a congressional hearing, in a speech
or wherever, he is man who has powerful ideas.
He's able to put those ideas out in a way that
is understandable to people and he has a life
that reflects his values. He has integrity, competence
and confidence. Those are pretty good things and
I think that lesson is not lost on the American
public. That's why, two years after his departure,
we are debating his legacy.
BERNARD TRAINOR Given the charge
to assess Powell's performance as Chairman of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I tried to look at
what he accomplished and whether he got an "A+"
or an "incomplete." This fell into two
categories. They are "transitory" and
what I would call "permanent." A lot
of the accomplishments that he had were transitory.
They have really come and gone. The things that
constitute his legacy get back to the Powell Doctrine
and the almost accepted assumption in many circles
that we should limit the use of military force
or only use it under ideal circumstances. I think
that is a dangerous legacy, a legacy that inhibits
the presidential use of power and I also think
it contributes to something which I think is not
so latent in this country, and that is a sense
ELIOT COHEN Gentlemen, thank you
very much. You were all instructive, to the point,
and perhaps most importantly of all, civil, despite
your disagreements. Thank you all for coming.
The meeting is adjourned.
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