I'm talking about Colin Powell who, on Face the Nation this morning, first tore to shreds the Bush Administration's troop surge gambit and then offered a realistic assessment of what we can usefully do going forward. It was surreal.
At a fundamental level, Powell's criticism of the troop surge gambit is that it comes without any discernable rationale. In response to speculation that the troops will go to Baghdad and be part of an effort to stabilize the city Powell says, refreshingly, that 40,000 troops can't do that and that "The American army isn't large enough to secure Baghdad."
Plus, in a nod to all the wonks out there, he linked this critique to a three point test for evaluating any further use of military force in Iraq. Here's how it goes:
- Is there a clearly articulated mission?
- Can that mission be accomplished?
- Do we have enough troops to accomplish the mission?
I don't know about you, but I've always been a sucker for a Powell doctrine.
As for his plan going forward, it's basically the ISG recommendation without the permanent bases and rapid reaction force. That is, Powell thinks that we should work with the elected Iraqi leadership to help them train police and put in place the political pieces that are going to make possible the establishment of stability.
Will this work? I'm not overly optimistic, but then, neither is Powell. Which is, I'll say it again, refreshing. It's not a give up and get out plan and it's not a stay the course plan. It's a figure out what we can productively do, do it, and live with the consequences plan.
All of which brings me to this. Whatever happened to the Colin Powell presidential speculation? I know that the conventional wisdom is that he lost his chance with his WMD testimony at the UN, but I have trouble seeing why that's supposed to matter so much. The bad spin, I guess, is that it shows that he's either dishonest or won't stick to his principles. But, you know, it's hard to see how that sets him apart from the field. And, anyway, there's positive spin too. Namely, that Powell is a team player.
I wouldn't go so far as to say that I'm on the Powell 2008 bandwagon, but he looks pretty good to me on the key issue of getting the hell out of Iraq. Unlike establishment Democrats, Powell wouldn't feel the need to prove his hawkishness. And unlike establishment Republicans he's not a melange of batshit crazy and evil incarnate.
Update: Video of the appearance is up at Crooks and Liars.