General Colin Powell is a man that I respect and admire very much. He is one of the most decorated military leaders in modern American history, and you don’t get to that point by being a dishonorable man. So when Rush Limbaugh says that he can’t think of any “inexperienced, white liberal candidates” that Powell has endorsed, I take exception. He is basically accusing the General of racism, and racism is dishonorable. Powell is career military, and the military has a zero tolerance policy on racism; plus battlefield commanders – more than anyone else – know that we all bleed red. I find Limbaugh’s comments in very poor taste. I think Powell would have endorsed just about any Democrat candidate this year and I have my reasons for thinking this.
First, Powell is not a Republican. He hasn’t said or done anything to give me the impression of GOP loyalty. Plus, you’ll find that most military folks are not partisan either way, and many have voted for both parties at one point or another. Powell is a moderate and he seems to me to lean Left on most things, including foreign policy. He served as Bush’s SecState because Bush ran as a moderate and because Powell served under his father, and obviously respected the elder Bush very much. Bush Sr was a moderate on foreign policy…he stopped short of Baghdad for a reason and you can bet that Powell was in agreement. The notion of furthering combat, perhaps unnecessarily, was something that Powell would never agree to. Ditto for pre-emptive military action.
You see, in history there are basically two kinds of military commanders. The first is the hawk, the bloodthirsty leader who likes nothing more than combat. He is aggressive, relentless, and often looked at as egotistical. Think of Patton, MacArthur, Napoleon. The other is the dove, the general who hates to see blood spilled for any reason and absolutely despises war. He recognizes that combat is sometimes necessary but will avoid it whenever possible and will end it as soon as possible. Names like Lee, Eisenhower and, yes, Washington come to mind. I also place Powell in the latter group. Keep in mind that I don’t think one type of general is any better than the other. Instead, I think the context is the deciding factor. In times of peace, I want the dove commanding the army. But if you’re facing extermination and literally fighting for survival, then I want Patton out front.
Something else came to mind when I heard of Powell’s endorsement. This was no surprise to me, since I don’t think of Powell as a Republican, but I still couldn’t help but think of George Pickett after Gettysburg when he said of Lee, “That old man destroyed my division.” You see, generals have very special regard for the troops they command, and even though Powell was no longer commanding the troops he still felt connected to them. Every life lost in Iraq was taken personally, and I don’t think Powell will ever forgive Bush for it.
Powell does not believe in pre-emptive military action. That’s just the sense that I get from him. And I honestly don’t think George W Bush was a pre-emptive war kind of guy either, since his father wasn’t the type. But 9/11 changed a lot of things, including Bush’s own foreign policy, and this is where he and Powell eventually split. He decided that pre-emptive action was better than waiting to respond to an actual attack. I get the sense that Powell still disagrees. Yes, Powell argued the case against Iraq to the UN, but I felt he did this against his better judgment. And when Bush sided with Rumsfeld on how to handle post-war security, Powell was done. He wanted no further part of it. Again, he is honorable, and it’s hard for an honorable person to support something they don’t believe in. It’s no secret why he left after Bush’s first term.
To put it simply, Obama will not continue Bush’s policy of pre-emptive strikes, McCain will, and that’s why Powell endorsed Obama. Make of that what you will. On that matter, I will respectfully disagree with the General and continue to always wish him well with a deep sense of appreciation for his service to our country.