6: Colin L. Powell and the Iraq War: Bureaucratic Actor and Foreign Policy Dissenter
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SIX Colin L. Powell and the Iraq War BUREAUCRATIC ACTOR AND FOREIGN POLICY DISSENTER Michael L. Clemons Although race, ethnicity, and culture have been substantial motivating forces in the arena of U.S. foreign policymaking, only recently have African Americans penetrated the upper echelon of the foreign policy establishment . The harsh reality of African American exclusion from institutional participation is a reflection of the racial double standard that guided U.S. foreign policy for many years. The observation made by James A. Moss almost forty years ago continues to hold: “Our foreign policy posture is alarmingly colored by the racial complexion of the countries with which we are involved. We do, indeed, have a bipartisan and racial and ethnic foreign policy; one which operates positively toward countries most similar to us—predominantly white, and another which operates negatively for countries whose inhabitants are predominantly non-white” (Moss, 1970, 80). This perception abroad has been compounded by a lack of diversity among State Department personnel, a trend that has reinforced the view that U.S. foreign policy is racially biased. It is somewhat ironic in the face of recent developments that the long tradition of African American participation is largely overlooked by scholars . However, this may be the case for several reasons. First, in addition to the impact of racism, there has long been a disproportionate focus on the role of the state in the study of foreign policymaking. Because of this thrust, individual-level analysis and the study of nonstate actors essentially have been relegated to a position of secondary or even tertiary importance. In addition, the position of whites, the dominant group, all too often has become the expression of “the national interest.” Elucidating this point, Charles Henry asserts: “Foreign policy debates often obscure the fact that 144 states are political entities while nations represent a cultural grouping. Most nation-states reflect the domination of and expansion of the national interest . This is true of the United States as it is of developing societies” (Henry, 2000, 11). However, even in a democratic context this can lead to a lack of capacity for inclusion in foreign policymaking and ineffective consideration of the effects of racial, ethnic, and cultural variation on the accomplishment of objectives and goals. Further, Johnson (2007) astutely observes, “African-Americans have rarely benefited from a melding of interest with the U.S. government due to racial inequality. The African-American perspective regarding American foreign policy begins on an uneven playing field because of the nation’s interest and struggle over the legitimacy of American democracy” (49). Although cloaked in the values and motives of nationalism and patriotism, the failure to evolve a paradigm that takes into account factors of race, ethnicity, and culture, domestically and internationally, is a continuation of the denial of the global linkages of U.S. citizens and the perpetuation of a xenophobic foreign policy marked by ethnocentrism. The study of foreign policymaking and international politics reinforces the perspective that African Americans are disengaged as a group by neglecting racial and cultural variables and negating their significance at the domestic and international levels. However, with the rise of African Americans to high-profile, institutional foreign policymaking posts, it is critical that these dimensions be addressed to understand the possible effects of diversity on foreign affairs and the achievement of foreign policy goals and objectives. On November 12, 2004, Colin L. Powell announced to the world his decision to resign from the office of secretary of state—a position he occupied during the first term of the administration of President George W. Bush. Powell’s resignation, which reflected the solidification of the administration’s policy in regard to Iraq, drew myriad reactions. This conclusion, potentially damaging to Powell’s legacy, gave rise to the pervasive opinion held by insiders and laypersons alike that he had been asked to resign, in part because many of his views tended to conflict with White House policy. Major news sources filed reports indicating Powell’s interest in continuing as secretary . For example, cnn reported that “for months Powell said he served at the pleasure of the president, suggesting he might stay if asked.” However , the president opted not to make such a request, and neither was Powell asked to leave. Why did Powell’s illustrious career end with a thud rather than the kind of thunder that could have potentially catapulted him to a place among the historically revered, and if he so desired, to the zenith of U...



Subject Headings

  • African Americans -- Politics and government.
  • African American politicians.
  • African American legislators.
  • Political participation.
  • World politics
  • International relations.
  • United States -- Politics and government.
  • United States -- Foreign relations.
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