Friday, December 12, 2008

Colin Powell And The GOP's Future

A response to KevDog at Beautiful Futility:

I wasn’t one of those who cracked on the man for the U.N. speech. I think he was more deceived than duplicitous. The Frontline special Bush’s War makes a good case for exactly how pissed Powell was by what happened.

More recently, I think that he has been one of the leading voices of reason (sorry, Andrew) on the ills of the GOP. As a Democrat, I hope they don’t take his advice. There does need to be an opposition party, but the Republican party as it is currently formed needs to go the way of the Whigs.

A) As to Powell: I am simply disappointed that at no point he voiced his anger. I can’t remember where exactly it was sourced (The Daily Show poked fun at it), but when he received the first draft of the UN Speech, he apparently threw it up in the air and shouted, “This is bullsh**.”

Furthermore, if you look at the Powell Doctrine of the use of force, it actually seems to me that even if you believe what the Bush Administration was putting forward during the lead-up to war, the war doesn’t qualify under his own guidelines. I have a huge respect for the Powell Doctrine, and it hurts that he didn’t stand up for it when it was tested.

He should have known that. He should have investigated the plans for a post-war Iraq, and as the Secretary of State he should have realized that there was no plan. As the head of the diplomatic corps, he should have understood that there would be a more complex situation in a post-war Iraq than “being greeted as liberators;” he should have mentioned the words “shi’ite and sunni.”

Maybe he didn’t know everything. But I remember Albert Speer, in his memoirs about his time as a Nazi, saying that although he didn’t know anything about the concentration camps, he was always ten minutes away from knowing, if he really wanted to know.

Contrast Colin Powell to General Eric Shinseki. Shinseki still didn’t go as far as I’d have liked in terms of vocalizing his belief in the misguided lead-up for war. But Shinseki did not back off on his statement that we would need more troops. Powell went out there and defended the planning for the war, for the post-war; he defended Bush as going to war “only as last resort.”

I think he was neither deceived nor duplicitous. I think he abdicated responsibility. And the responsibility was his. He should know the responsibility to soldiers that the Presidential Administration has.

B) You’re right that the Republican Party as it is currently composed should go the way of the Whigs. But Democrats will be worse off if the Republican Party doesn’t take Powell’s advice. As Obama understands, if you have a smart, organized opposition that its actually in conversation with you, your ideas will get /better/. The ideas that lose out are the ideas that should lose out. If we’re actually debating on the issues in a smart and informed way from two different perspectives, Democrats may not get what they want, but their progressive positions will be better served.

The same goes for the Republican Party. Conservativism will be better served when they understand how to communicate with liberal groups and find common ground. There was an article recently somewhere about the pro-life argument for Planned Parenthood–if only they would understand that PP seeks to reduce abortions, the way that the conservatives say they want, then they should support it. There will always be fringe liberals and fringe conservatives whose ideas won’t have a place, but the mainstream of conservative and liberal thinking should come together to constructively criticize each other and create better policies.

I like Democrats, but recently I saw an ad with Nancy Pelosi and Newt Gingrich sitting on a couch, and Nancy Pelosi was telling the viewer to “Contact their Congressmen and tell them to support legislation against climate change.” And my first instinct was: “What the hell are YOU doing? Aren’t you the head of the House? Isn’t that your job? who exactly is running this boat?” Democrats have a lot of sins that I think a strong, sane Republican party can help wash out of them.