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Can Powell Stop The Surge?

postreviewPowell biography
[DeYoung] leaves the reader with the sense that Colin Powell was a good man in a bad administration, and that he deserves mostly sympathy for his predicament. He argued against war right up until war became inevitable, then, like a good soldier, followed his orders. Only he wasn't a soldier. He was a wily old political hand. I don't doubt that Powell acted as brake rather than accelerator. But he has preserved this kind of deniability in almost every aspect of his public life. He seems never to have accepted a promotion without making the promoter beg him to take it, and he seems never to have gone along with a plan without first warning that it might not work. His one theoretical contribution to statecraft--the Powell doctrine--is a kind of extension of his flank-protecting instinct. The doctrine, articulated by Powell, is that "if in the end war becomes necessary ... you must do it right. You've got to be decisive. You've got to go in massively. You've got to be wise and fight in a way that keeps casualties to a minimum. And you've got to go in to win." It's hard to disagree with any of this--which is the problem. What it amounts to, really, is an escape hatch in the event of failure. "You see," it enables the speaker to say, when the day of public reckoning comes, "we didn't go in massively enough. We lost because we didn't go in to win." But the thing about war is that you never know in advance how it's going to end, or what it will take to win, or what it will lead to.
"There really are no additional troops. All we would be doing is keeping some of the troops who were there, there longer and escalating or accelerating the arrival of other troops. . . .That's how you surge. And that surge cannot be sustained."
Jason Zengerle