The ideals, life and career of Colin Powell came to a climax today on NBC’s Meet the Press. The former secretary of state under George W. Bush, a Harlem-born Republican who endorsed Barack Obama for president—twice—after serving as Ronald Reagan’s national security adviser, a four-star military general and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced his support for Obama’s death pact known as the Iran deal.
This is the ultimate betrayal of the United States’ defense by one of its greatest pretenders. While Powell, whom I called upon to resign as secretary of state in a May, 2001 newspaper op-ed, has a reputation of being a competent, reasonable government official, the opposite is true. He has a long and undistinguished record in American government. In fact, his career is marked by blunder, failure and defeat.
This is because his philosophy is worse than his undeservedly decent reputation; Colin Powell is fundamentally anti-American.
The career military figure has always projected a measured, careful demeanor. In his early days as a military adviser in South Vietnam, where he was part of the unit involved in the My Lai massacre, Powell’s record is mixed and partly heroic; he was wounded and rescued comrades after he survived a helicopter crash. But from his service under President Nixon to Presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton, advising or commanding short U.S. military interventions in Grenada (1983), Libya (1986), Panama (1989) and the Gulf War (1990), his record is defined by short missions that accomplish little or nothing at all. He tends by his own admission to favor diplomacy over the use of military force that advances the nation’s defense and interest.
Powell’s limited, get-in-and-get-out incursions have shaped and defined U.S. military policy for decades with disastrous results; in Grenada, the U.S. rescued the medical school students but failed to dissuade Communist Cuba from militarily opposing the U.S., including supporting states that sponsor terrorism. In Libya, the limited bombing failed to accomplish anything and actually bolstered the dictatorship, which was unshaken by the strike. In Panama, the country was invaded by the U.S. for the sake of protecting Americans, helping others and stopping illegal drug trafficking and the dictator was removed, all to little effect. The Gulf War infamously liberated Kuwait at the expense of leaving an anti-American dictator in power in Iraq and abetting the rise of Islamic terrorism, which spread and led to the worst attack on America in history in 2001.
Powell’s half-measures leave enemy combatants essentially unopposed to do real harm and inflict major, lasting damage.
This is because Colin Powell’s ethics embrace selflessness, as against selfishness, as a virtue. He consistently and emphatically holds that the highest morality is helping others. He is mixed, as evidenced in his opposition to Clinton’s policy to help others in Bosnia on the grounds that it did not also benefit the United States. What drives Colin Powell, however, is the antithesis of self-interest. Powell opposes any act which explicitly advances U.S. interest, such as advancing toward Baghdad during the Gulf War to take out Saddam Hussein or get oil or annihilate Islamic terrorist state sponsors—and he does so exactly because the proposed act advances U.S. interest.
Powell opposed any unilateral U.S. military action following the September 11, 2001 attack on America, for instance, insisting that the U.S. must plead for permission from the United Nations instead. When, as secretary of state, Powell got his way and pleaded to the U.N. for an invasion of Iraq, he did so not on the grounds that the U.S. retains the moral right to eradicate state sponsors of terrorism but on the argument that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction—which Powell was also wrong about—posed some vague, general threat to the world. The invasion proceeded, accomplished nothing, sacrificed thousands of innocent American servicemen and women and failed, all but delivering today’s Iraq into the control of America’s arch-enemy, Iran.
Now, Colin Powell supports Obama’s deal with Iran.
From castigating Israel for acting in its self-defense, offering praise and support for Communist dictator Fidel Castro and trying to schedule a meeting with Arab terrorist and Munich Olympics massacre chieftain Yasser Arafat while he was secretary of state, Powell’s anti-Americanism is fully, alarmingly steady and consistent. That he wants this death pact with Iran, too, is part of Powell’s doctrine of self-sacrifice.
I do not doubt that this is his sincerely held philosophy. Colin Powell, who opposed neoconservatives in the Bush White House and defends a woman’s right to an abortion, expresses sincerity in all of his convictions. But he is mixed and the mixture is bad for America with deadly implications for U.S. national defense. For this reason, he is the worst type of American leader: one who claims that America is good and ought to be defended but only because America helps others at the expense of American interest and strictly on the condition that America seeks and obtains the approval of the others whom it’s morally obliged to help.
From the beginning of his military career, when he served as an adviser in South Vietnam, to today’s deplorable sanction of a deal to engage nuclear advancement for America’s foremost enemy, Powell consistently acts against America. Powell’s selflessness goes back decades, to his earliest experiences when he says he “found himself” in what he sees as service to the state. It was never more explicit than when he asserted in 1997—spearheading the Bush-Clinton initiative to impose “national service” under the Orwellian term volunteerism—that each individual has a moral duty to serve others, the opposite of the founding American ideals of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of one’s own happiness for one’s own sake. This selfless statesman’s dogged anti-Americanism is never more wicked and dangerous than it is now in defense of those who seek death to America.