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Interview by James Kitfield of National Journal

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
March 12, 2004

(3:45 p.m. EST)

MR. KITFIELD: So we have read your piece in Foreign Policy * , was very interested by it, thought that in this election foreign affairs is probably going to play a bigger role than any election we've seen, at least since Carter and Reagan, maybe since Vietnam. So I thought it was good time to look over, sort of, Bush first-term legacy in foreign affairs.

As someone who covers foreign affairs, and I give talks, et cetera, people always ask me, you know, after Iraq, this Administration has looked more multilateral -- looked, you know, it's gone back to the UN, gone back to NATO.

Give me an after action review in your mind of what you have learned from the last year and year-and-a-half. Has your thinking changed? Or is the stylistics? Or?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, my thinking, I think, has been consistent throughout the three years; and frankly, I think the President's thinking and the President's strategy has been consistent throughout the three years.

If you go and look at what I said in my confirmation hearing about the challenges we face and the opportunities that exist for the new Administration, and you look at the Foreign Affairs piece several years later, I think you will see some consistency, at least in my thinking. And my thinking, I'm quite sure, is like the President's thinking.

You said that we returned to multilateralism. I would submit that when the President went to the United Nations on the 12th of September, 2002, I don't know a more multilateral form than you can use than the General Assembly of the United Nations, 191 nations present, to make the case that Iraq was in violation of its obligations to the UN, and the UN should do something about it.

We're pretty multilateral in waiting several months and arguing it, debating and fighting for several months to get a resolution, 1441; and then when we decided that we now had to take action, and we couldn't get another resolution. We really didn't think we needed one, but we couldn't get one. But our -- some of our colleagues in the coalition thought they needed one.

We didn't get it, but tried to get it, gave them the political cover they needed. And we went into this conflict with the United Kingdom, with Australia and others. And now that we are in the aftermath of the conflict, there are some 30-odd countries that are in it with us.

So I would submit, even though the President was the leader of this coalition, he made the decision that we had to go to war and invited others to participate in this liberation effort, I'd say that we tried to do it in as multilateral a way as we could.

Afghanistan, the same thing, we were the ones who were attacked on 9/11, and we were attacked by al-Qaida that were in Afghanistan supported by the Taliban. We had to go after them. We didn't ask anybody. We had 3,000 dead people on our hands, so we went in. But at the same time we were going in, we reached out to other nations, once again, our British colleagues were with us, other colleagues were with us. And now in the reconstruction effort in Afghanistan, there are many, many nations that are involved.

So I would submit that we have always tried to do things multilaterally, but we have not put ourselves at the mercy of multilateral decisions. Now that those two crises are in a different phase, I think the President and his foreign policy approach is back in that mode of working with our partners and working with aligning allies around the world and sustaining our great alliances.

Throughout all of this, we have been supportive of NATO. Most NATO nations are with us in Iraq and a lot of them are supporting us, and the Alliance is supporting the effort in Afghanistan.

MR. KITFIELD: Okay. I'm going to obviously touch on things I want to go into more. But you mentioned the Iraq issue just before the war, what do you say to critics who say if you are really multilateral, that you have taken it to the multilateral organizations, and then it was asking you to give it some more months, wasn't it worth waiting to maybe get that final resolution that you were looking for?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, what a number of our colleagues in the multilateral forum, the Security Council, were saying to us is that we're going to veto it. We're not going. And we didn't think there was any utility in waiting any longer. Even before the inspectors had finished their work, France was saying, we're going to veto any resolution that goes to war. I think it was pretty obvious that there were some members of the Council who were not going to be supportive.

MR. KITFIELD: Even if you had waited?

SECRETARY POWELL: Even if we waited. And what our concern was is that you wait until you get through this UN season, and you're right back in UNGA the following September for another round of desultory consultations and another warning resolution to the Iraqis.

MR. KITFIELD: Okay. You mentioned in your article that the 2002 National Security Strategy was sort of the blueprint, the vision. Did you play a big role in developing that?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah. It was, as is always the case, something like that is championed and spearheaded at the National Security Council. But my policy planning shop under the leadership of Richard Haass participated in the writing and the authorship of it, and I have read a number of drafts as it went through.


SECRETARY POWELL: I am also the proud author of the first National Security Strategy in 1987 or 8 of the National Security Council.

MR. KITFIELD: I would have to go back and read that one.

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, it's really interesting. I ought to read it. But when the law first came in, setting up, setting that up, it was on my watch. So I'm quite familiar with what such a document is.

MR. KITFIELD: You put out in your article that, you know, preemption was the thing that was picked up on by a lot of the media and a lot of the allies, but it was, you know, a small part of a much bigger vision that goes into a lot of democracy spreading, in spreading our values and human dignity, et cetera.

So granting that, the preemption did get picked up and it's become sort of a lightning rod for people's fears about how we're going to wield our power.

You said that, in your article, that you basically wanted to put rogues and terrorist organizations on notice that, you know, they could not -- we were not going to wait anymore, that they were under, you know, peril, if they continue their actions.

You would argue, I guess, that, in the case of Libya, maybe that had an actual -- a positive effect that you hoped?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, let me come back to preemption, and then I'll touch on Libya. I'd have to re-read the article. But I'm not sure I restricted it just to rogues and terrorists.

Preemption, I think I said, at least this is my view, preemption is a tactic, a strategy, if one chooses to call it, that says you will preempt the danger that is heading your way, whether it comes from a rogue, a terrorist or another nation. If we had known that the Japanese aircraft carriers were sailing toward Honolulu on that fateful morning in 1941, we would have preempted it.

So preemption is something that is not all that extraordinary to me, but maybe it's because of my military background. But what caused me to be concerned about the way people put the label on preemption as our whole strategy is when you read the National Security Strategy, you don't get to preemption until way into it.

You have chapter after chapter about partnerships, about alliances, about helping people, about disease, all the things that people say this President isn't for, but this document says that is what he's for. And then, finally, you get to, I think it's no more than two or three lines, perhaps, that says we'll -- you know, we reserve the right to preempt those threats that are coming at us.

The security strategy, after reading it, may talk about non-state actors, but I will always view it as a strategy or technique that can be used against any threat that is coming your way, as part of a broader strategy, and preemption is certainly a tool available to you.

The other thing that got so much attention was that back in the defense section, which is at the very end of the strategy, there was a reference to, we want to be stronger than anyone else. People said, oh, my God, what a shocking thing to say. We're shocked, shocked.

We are? Why have been working all these years to have the finest, strongest military on the face of the earth?


SECRETARY POWELL: And my view of why I have always worked hard to have the finest, strongest military on the face of the earth is so that you can scare people into not bothering you or threatening your interest or attacking you.

MR. KITFIELD: Mm-hmm. So on the preemption issue, you know --


MR. KITFIELD: Well, on Libya, I mean, I was going to save you Libya because it seemed to have worked there. But I would also --

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I would say, Libya, as much as we would like to say, see, that's the cause. I think the Libyan case is more complex than that. I mean, we don't know the whole story, unless you know how to get in Qadhafi's mind.

MR. KITFIELD: God forbid.

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, God forbid. But what I think happened in the case of Libya is Colonel Qadhafi -- and here I'm speculating -- but let me just do a little out of body experience and go into one of those great desert suits he has.

Colonel Qadhafi took a look around and what did he see? He saw that he had spent a ton of money. He had worked with some very, you know, unsavory people, even more than him. In North Korea, A.Q. Khan, he had bought equipment that would develop a nuclear weapon, but he hadn't quite figured out how to put it all together yet.

He had produced some chemical weapons that he has to keep hidden in a turkey farm. And all he has achieved for this massive expenditure of his money was to become even more a pariah of the world. And it didn't do anything for his country. It didn't do anything for his people. And he, apparently, was no longer scaring anybody either. Reagan proved that. So what's the point?


SECRETARY POWELL: And then he takes a further look around and sees that the Bush Administration comes in with a strong foreign policy and with a determination to respond to the threats. And so he watches that a little bit, and then he sees what happens in Afghanistan and Iraq. And he says to himself, you know, it's time to get out of this. But I think it was a number of things.

MR. KITFIELD: Okay, fair. All of these things are complex, clearly.


MR. KITFIELD: My other point though is --

SECRETARY POWELL: The conversation started long before that.

MR. KITFIELD: My other point is that if you talk to our allies, clearly, you know, everyone understands in the world of a lone superpower, the way we wield that power makes people nervous. That's unavoidable. But the preemptive part of the doctrine, combined with the "axis of evil" speech, confounded them. They really thought we were off the reservation.

In retrospect, was that? Did we take into account how our actions would be perceived, even by our closest friends?

SECRETARY POWELL: I must say that I didn't expect quite as a strong a reaction as we got. I saw the line before it was delivered. And I -- you know, it really put an exclamation line underneath the point he was trying to make. But he said that there are nations in this world and policies that are evil, and he was absolutely right, and he fingered three of the worst.

And so far, we have seen that one of them is no longer under the leadership of a dictator; the other one is starting to make adjustments to its massive weapons of mass destruction policies and practices; and the third one is now enmeshed in six-party talks that it would just assume not be a party to.

But it is, and it will stay a party to those talks, because, ultimately, they have to deal with the problem. So is that -- it may have been a shocking policy, but nobody, I think, could call it an unsuccessful policy with respect to the results that have been seen in the case of Iraq, some of the changes that have occurred within Iran and within North Korea.

MR. KITFIELD: So and it's still operative?

SECRETARY POWELL: What's still operative?

MR. KITFIELD: Prevent preemption?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, now, let me shift this a little bit. Because what have we done with respect to other nations?

The suggestion in your remark was that we're going after everybody. We haven't invaded anyone else. We haven't attacked anybody besides Afghanistan because they attacked us, and Iraq because they violated their obligations. But I don't think there is anybody in town thinks that the President's getting ready to attack or invade North Korea or Syria.

MR. KITFIELD: There is a lot of nervousness about North Korea in his second term, actually.

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, yes, but you need to listen to the President and not those who are really not in power to speak for the President.


SECRETARY POWELL: The President said he's looking for a diplomatic solution, and he is not just waiting for a second term in order to start another conflict with somebody. Why would we?

MR. KITFIELD: Well, let me get off preemption, just one last question. You stood up there on February 5th and made the, you know, the strong case for his stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. We haven't found that. It's become a big controversy.

Given that experience -- and I know how seriously you take your own credibility on the world stage -- is our intelligence and what we're learning about what intelligence is and how subjective it is and all these things we're learning, is it -- is our intelligence good enough to support a doctrine of preemption?

SECRETARY POWELL: Our intelligence is quite good, but no intelligence system produces perfect intelligence. It is always a matter of getting information and through inferential reasoning and other kinds of reasoning, you try to draw conclusions from that intelligence.

Sometimes you can see something perfectly, you know exactly what's going on; other times it's much less clear; other times, to cite First Corinthians, you're really looking into a glass dimly and trying to discern shadows and shapes of reality. It's only afterwards when you can actually go in and see.

MR. KITFIELD: But having been through this experience and learning the fallibility?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, it's not my first occasion to go through this experience. I mean, I've been in a few wars and I've handled a few crises, from Panama to Desert Storm, lots of other things.


SECRETARY POWELL: I've been through a lot of these, and I think I know how to analyze it, how to analyze intelligence for political and policy use.

In the case of the 5 February speech, it was the best assessment that was available to us by people who worked very hard at it. And a lot of it, I think, has stood the test of time. They were developing long-range missiles; they were developing UAVs; they did have the intention and capability to have such weapons. We haven't found the stockpiles. That's a surprise to me, to the intelligence community, to Dr. Kay, to all of us.

MR. KITFIELD: I wore a chem-bio suit for three weeks in that war just because I thought they were going to have --

SECRETARY POWELL: Maybe you lost some weight, you were carrying --

MR. KITFIELD: Lots of weight. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY POWELL: But in any event, the work of the ISG continues, and I wouldn't totally rule it out yet. It's a claim we were totally wrong. Yeah, just surprised a little.

MR. KITFIELD: So you're not a little more skittish about the idea whether intelligence can support this really forward-leaning document?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, because I always understood that intelligence was giving me their best understanding of the data that was available to them.


SECRETARY POWELL: And these guys did. And I sat with them. And I have got enough experience to sit with them and get down to what they really believe. And what they gave me, and what I presented on the 5th of February last year is what they really believed and what British intelligence really believed and what -- although they may not acknowledge it, a lot of other country intelligence systems believed.

And it also reflected the 12 years of resolutions. Now, some people are saying, "Well, the UN is now saying that it was going long before." Well, if it was, then why did they keep passing resolutions?

MR. KITFIELD: Switch to NATO. You, in your article, and it's also in this National Security Strategy, you know, make a big point that, you know, our alliances are the sort of the ground rock of our National Security Strategy. After 9/11, NATO invokes Article 5, and they hear this mission defines the coalition, this, as you also note.

SECRETARY POWELL: You never heard me say it.

MR. KITFIELD: No. Was that a mistake? And is that, given the fact that we've now asked NATO to come in and help us clean up the mess in Afghanistan and we're now pressuring NATO to come in and help us in Iraq, is it a viable doctrine to say that, you know, ad hoc coalitions when we go in, but afterwards we're going to ask our friends in NATO to come help us?

SECRETARY POWELL: Sometimes the way it has to work. Frankly, we didn't need NATO to go line up with the Northern Alliance to attack and get rid of the Taliban. So it just wasn't something we needed. I was proud of the fact that NATO, an alliance that is very dear to my heart --

MR. KITFIELD: I know it is.

SECRETARY POWELL: -- I started and ended my operational career in NATO --


SECRETARY POWELL: -- came forward on the first day and invoked Article 5. We didn't have an immediate need for the alliance as such. They were a bit abused by that. They wish they could have been a part of it.

MR. KITFIELD: Very much so.

SECRETARY POWELL: Very much so. Because it's the first time they had ever invoked Article 5, said, "Let's go."

MR. KITFIELD: Right, right.

SECRETARY POWELL: They didn't need it at that point. But it was a nice, strong political statement for them to have made, and so they invoked Article 5. We were in conversations with them as to what we might need, and when we took care of the Taliban in relatively short order, it was really the Northern Alliance. And, you know, the 5th Corps did not sweep across the steps of Afghanistan. It was guys on horseback with some special forces captains trying to keep up with GPS receivers.

It's a fascinating war. And as I used to kid about it, it was a "Fourth World" army coordinating and integrated with a "First World" command and control system and Air Force. But it wasn't NATO ground troops that were needed at that point. It was the kind of sophisticated and integrative technology in connection to airpower that we applied.

MR. KITFIELD: The question that I'm asking you is, I mean, you said -- we never heard you say the mission defense coalition.

The question I'm asking: Is that still an operative part of our doctrine? Or is ad hoc coalitions the way to go? Or do we do the same things that we're asking the Europeans to do, which is defer to NATO first, if it says no, then ad hoc coalitions?

SECRETARY POWELL: It depends. Sometime an ad hoc coalition is the right way to do it. And maybe sometimes it is the coalition of the willing.


SECRETARY POWELL: Maybe other times it is the established alliance that gives you the coalition.

MR. KITFIELD: But you realize this, more than I, every time you go around NATO in these crises, it causes them to question whether we are their bedrock of --

SECRETARY POWELL: It's not a matter of going around NATO. NATO does not have first call on everything we might want to do to defend our interests around the world.


SECRETARY POWELL: I mean, if we didn't call on NATO the other night when we decided to send troops into Haiti as part of the peacekeeping mission, nor would NATO have wanted us to call on NATO.

And so Haiti is another case of a willing coalition coming together. I called a bunch of foreign ministers and said, "Let's do this." And I've got one NATO member in that coalition. And you talk about irony, it's France. (Laughter.)

MR. KITFIELD: There's irony for you.

SECRETARY POWELL: Oh, oh. (Laughter.)

MR. KITFIELD: The United Nations -- something else we've gone -- you will argue that we never stopped going at the UN. But the President said himself the relevancy of the UN Security Council is on the line with Iraq and it really looked bad when it failed to reach -- basically in paralysis, failed to reach any resolution.

We've now gone back and asked the UN to be an interlocutor with Sistani because it has legitimacy in the eyes of the Iraqis that we, as an occupier, as the single superpower, don't have. Talk to me just a second about --

SECRETARY POWELL: We went back to the UN almost immediately after termination of hostilities and we got UN Resolution 1483, then we got UN Resolution 1500, and then we got UN Resolution 1511, which is the basis upon which we are doing our work.

So we, of the five resolutions that we went for, we got four of the five: 1441, 1483, 1500, 1511. We didn't get the famous second resolution. That's the one the French and the Russians were going to veto -- the French --

MR. KITFIELD: But the Pentagon's been pretty clear on that whole period you're talking about that it was very -- was unwilling to cede a lot of responsibility to the UN in that period. You can argue for or against that, but --

SECRETARY POWELL: We haven't ceded any responsibility to the UN yet. The UN has not asked to have this put in their lap. What the UN has --

MR. KITFIELD: Aren't we trying hard to put it in their lap?

SECRETARY POWELL: No. We're trying hard just to get the UN to play a role in helping us work with the parties in the region to come up with a way forward to elections and a way forward to an interim government. And we are staying in charge of this until the 30th of June under the CPA; and on the 30th of June it will be handed over, not to the UN, but to an Iraqi government.

And the UN, then, can play a more active role in preparing for elections, helping the Iraqi government prepare for elections.


SECRETARY POWELL: But neither -- Kofi Annan has never asked to be in charge of Iraq and to, say, have a High Representative for Iraq. He hasn't. They haven't.

MR. KITFIELD: What I was trying to get at was this issue of legitimacy, and it gets to how we wield our power, and you're as aware of these arguments as anyone.

Is there a role? I mean, does the UN have a special role in giving some legitimacy to some of our actions in the world? Doesn't it go down easier with the rest of the world when it's --

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, sure. And that's why we went to the UN to get 1441 and the other three that I mentioned -- I won't repeat the numbers, you know them -- in order to take it back to the international community.

Look, we felt it was important to conduct this military operation. We did it with most of NATO. I mean the alliance per se was not there. But if you look at the 26 nations in NATO or about to accede to NATO, the seven that are about to accede -- Adam?

MR. ERELI: Sixteen.

SECRETARY POWELL: No, no. It's 16 of the 19, and it's something like 21 of the 26. Don used the number the other day, but you have to add the seven, who are about to accede to the alliance. And it's something like -- we'll get the exact number -- but it's 20 of the 26. The only thing that's not there is the alliance headquarters and the structure of the alliance.

But NATO is there in the form of interoperability, of commonality of weapon systems. And so to say we're doing this all by ourselves when, you know, not only is NATO there, but I just had lunch with the new South Korean Foreign Minister and we spent our time congratulating ourselves about the South Korean troops that are on their way to Iraq, following the Japanese troops who are on their way to Iraq.

And we didn't bludgeon them. They want to be a part of what they believe is an important operation to restore stability in Iraq and to help the Iraqi people to a democratic government.

MR. KITFIELD: Okay. Between you and me and the fencepost, having been over there, I didn't see a whole lot of foreign troops during that war. I thought, I think it was --

SECRETARY POWELL: No, during the war it was --

MR. KITFIELD: It was miniscule.


MR. KITFIELD: The size of it, it was miniscule.

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah. But we didn't -- you know, it's not --

MR. KITFIELD: It wasn't a big coalition.

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, but be fair, now. It was a war that started rather suddenly, you know. There was a big buildup. And we had us, the Australians, the United Kingdom and one or two others. I don't want to get, get --

MR. KITFIELD: Yes, I remember.

SECRETARY POWELL: It was a relatively small number of nations that went in at the beginning. But it's not as if the danger went away. And even to the continuing danger after the war, that coalition has been built up to something like (inaudible) nations.

MR. KITFIELD: Okay, then. I'm going to start speeding up, just a couple more questions.


MR. KITFIELD: The divide between you, the Pentagon, the Vice President's Office in the run-up trying to figure out -- and I talked to you last year and you said, you know, this is the way the President likes to manage, that he gives a fairly free rein to the various power centers; and then he makes a decision, we all salute and go down the road.

And that sounds great, but it seems to me there's some dysfunction to this, especially when the ideologies seem to be steering in different directions.

And I went back and dissected it when I came back from the war, you know, how that diplomacy broke down so badly, talked to the French and the Germans, et cetera, and they -- this is there comment. Here's how I think it was dysfunctional.

They heard you say we hadn't made a decision to go to war. But they had been thrown off their stoop by some of Rumsfeld's comments. They thought that Rumsfeld with his -- that Secretary Rumsfeld with his deployments were sort of driving the timetable, and were going to drive it faster than they were willing to hang on.

So they did the thing that did to you in the January 20th meeting, knowing they were probably cutting the knees out of the one person in the Administration who most reflected some of their views, but they no longer trusted that you were driving the policy.

I mean, isn't there some dysfunction when there seems to be parts of our government steering on such a critical question in different directions?

SECRETARY POWELL: That's what everybody likes to write. (Laughter.) No, it's a stereotype everybody likes to write. If there's anything going in the government in which there is a disagreement, it's obviously between Powell and everybody else. And that's kind of the stereotype which is inescapable. Stereotypes are inescapable.

I said to the President, "Take this to the United Nations." I said it in August.

MR. KITFIELD: August 5th, I believe.

SECRETARY POWELL: August 5th was the first time I raised it, but it wasn't the defining -- it was a week or two later he defined it. Secretary Rumsfeld agreed, Vice President Cheney agreed, the President agreed. We started writing it and we took it to the United Nations.

When we took it to the United Nations, it was clear in my mind that one of two things would happen: We got a resolution and started down the road of the Resolution 1441, which it turned out to be; we would either solve it peacefully with inspectors doing what they're doing, and frankly, with Saddam Hussein giving it up --

MR. KITFIELD: Would change his stripes, yeah.

SECRETARY POWELL: Change his stripes. A lot of people said he's not going to change his stripes. And that's a reasonable point of view. My point of view was, let's test him. Let's give him the chance.

I also knew that if he didn't change his stripes then we were going to take it to conflict. And so there was no disagreement. Now, between -- within the team, there were those who were more optimistic or less optimistic as to what course of action might actually unfold. And so there was no fighting about that.

Now, it was also clear and it was no secret -- we couldn't keep it a secret if we wanted to -- that we were building a force. And Don was building that force so that if the President made a decision at some point that this wasn't working, that the force would be ready. We were not going to get stretched out and find ourselves with a decision made but no force ready to perform that.


SECRETARY POWELL: And so the force was phased in very carefully, over time, and the President had control of that. And it would have been quite a different thing if Saddam Hussein, when he got this 30-day notice to turn in his declaration, had turned in a full, complete, accurate declaration that could be seen as such, and started to turn over everything that he had: all of his documents, all of his scientists, everything else that was necessary. It might have come out differently.

MR. KITFIELD: But you don't buy my point that this difficulty in reading whether you were driving the train, or whether it was Rumsfeld or Vice President Cheney, leads to miscalculations in our allies, even amongst our allies, much less amongst our enemies? Is that -- do you not see that possibility?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think the President was driving the train and I knew what he was doing now.

MR. KITFIELD: But you understood they didn't trust you. I mean, what the French did to you was -- I would imagine -- infuriated you.

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, it was annoying, but I don't know how -- we could debate how conscious it was.

What happened was, my colleague Dominique de Villepin wanted to have a meeting on terrorism or something. And we didn't think we needed a meeting on terrorism because it was so close to other discussions.

MR. KITFIELD: We were going to have Iraq, right?

SECRETARY POWELL: But nevertheless, he said we ought to do it, and we did. And if you look at what happened in that meeting, there was one reference to Iraq.

MR. KITFIELD: It was after (inaudible) --

SECRETARY POWELL: There wasn't but one reference to Iraq, except Joschka Fischer made a reference to Iraq, and I responded to what Joschka said. Then the meeting broke up and we all went off to have lunch at the French residence.

And unbeknownst to most of us, Dominique had gone out to give a press conference. Now, here you can take any story you want -- that somebody asked him a question and he went after the Iraq issue, that he didn't intend to, but he did. It didn't make any difference. But it came across as being an ambush.

MR. KITFIELD: I have it from good sources.

SECRETARY POWELL: Dominique is quite good at these things. Yeah.

MR. KITFIELD: Okay. You say this divide; it becomes a sort of a cliché. Newt Gingrich, on the Defense Science Board, writes a major piece basically accusing you of being disloyal to the President.

And he seems to speak for the Richard Perle, the neo-cons in the Administration, who are saying you're not even loyal to the President, you're trying to sort of subvert his vision.

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't care what Newt Gingrich or any of them say. The only one I care about his view of my loyalty is the President.

MR. KITFIELD: But you see how we get the idea there's a divide, when --

SECRETARY POWELL: No, have fun. Write it. Because you all enjoy writing it and it's constant in all of the articles that come out. There's always the need to find some debate like this, some disagreement like this.

And, frankly, there are debates and disagreements. I've never been in an Administration where there weren't. I was, you know, I got my milk teeth on Weinberger and Schultz. (Laughter.) I mean, you know, this is not new to me.


SECRETARY POWELL: This is government.

MR. KITFIELD: That's right.

SECRETARY POWELL: It would be a very boring government if we all sat around agreeing with each other. And I've said this many times.


SECRETARY POWELL: We have strong views and we are strong personalities in the Administration, and we argue these things out. And I am generally regarded as a moderate chap who tries to solve problems, and who tries to solve problems working with friends and allies.

MR. KITFIELD: You're happy with that view?

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm guilty, totally guilty. (Laughter.) I was raised as somebody who knows all about war, who knows what it is to see dead people, who knows what it is to kill people. And if I can avoid that, I will try to avoid it.

And if this paints me as whatever label you choose to put on me, I can care less. I am beyond caring. I have seen it. I have lived it. And I am proud of those instances where I have prevented war, just as I am proud of having served my nation in war.

MR. KITFIELD: Okay, last couple questions. The Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. So much momentum at Aqaba. So much hope. It looked like your policy of sort of neutralizing or marginalizing Arafat was working.

Now it seems kind of stymied and we're hearing again from many people that this Administration doesn't seem engaged enough. Even Republicans on the Hill are saying, "Where is the special envoy, somebody who can give us -- "

SECRETARY POWELL: What is a special envoy going to do?

MR. KITFIELD: Give it -- I mean, I don't know, shuttle diplomacy, all that stuff. Give it some more --

SECRETARY POWELL: Who is he going to shuttle between, and for what subject? It's another one of these -- special envoys have their purpose and have their use, and if we had received the -- if we had achieved the kind of progress that we were looking for after Aqaba, where President Bush was the special envoy and went to Sharm el-Sheikh and Aqaba, then if we had seen that kind of progress we were ready to do a lot more, both me and Condi -- we were going to double-team this on a regular basis -- and we were considering a special envoy and we sent Ambassador Wolf over to do the monitoring piece of it.

But it fell apart, just like it's fallen apart so many times before, on the issue of security and terror. And right now, we've got some new ideas floating with the withdrawal and pullout of Gaza, and maybe it'll work this time. But as I said to my Palestinian interlocutors, to include Mr. Fayyad, the Finance Minister who was here today, this is interesting, we're looking at it and seeing how we can make something comprehensive out of it, but you need to go back and tell Prime Minister Abu Alaa this won't work either unless he does something about security and terror.

MR. KITFIELD: North Korea. How can we -- I know that without -- I'm doing shorthand now. But how can we be safer with 8,000 fuel rods of plutonium being made into weapons-grade plutonium? It seems to me that -- and a lot of people -- that an increasingly dangerous situation is developing and we haven't got an answer for it, we're not putting carrots on the table to try to kick-start it.

SECRETARY POWELL: We're not going to give them carrots. And all those who criticize us want us to adopt a policy of immediately going to the North Koreans and saying, "Oh dear, you've misbehaved again. You've deceived us again with respect to what you are doing. You have an HEU program. We know it. And now that we have discovered your HEU program, you want to be paid for it and you want carrots."

We're not going to give them carrots. We have said this repeatedly for a year and a half. We're not going to change.

MR. KITFIELD: But is it working?

SECRETARY POWELL: You know, you never know what's working until it works. You know, people -- George Mitchell had a great sentence. He said that the Good Friday Agreement was terrible; for 700 days everybody said I was failing -- until Good Friday came along and suddenly it was a great success.

But with respect to North Korea, I would submit to you that the situation has not gotten worse, even though people like to keep writing it's worse. North Korea is now not facing just the United States of America across the table; it's facing four other neighbors who are not particularly happy with this behavior.

I submit to you this is a major accomplishment. They are facing their biggest supplier of aid, energy, commerce, goods -- China. And China is saying CVID. You know the acronym by now.


SECRETARY POWELL: South Korea, a great source of support and sustainment, is saying CVID. Japan is saying CVID and abductees.

MR. KITFIELD: Good luck on that Good Friday on that, I mean, I'm serious, good luck. I hope that works.

SECRETARY POWELL: But, you know, what the -- what our critics are saying is we should be so terrified by this little country with its 8,000 rods that we should collapse our position and seek -- seek -- their willingness to give up their program because we are going to pay them for their misbehavior. That's what happened before, and we've made it clear that's not what's going to happen this time.

What we've achieved -- five countries are now "like this" on North Korea; secondly, we have exposed the A.Q. Khan network; thirdly, we have pretty much exposed everybody that North Korea has been selling things to; fourthly, we are looking at other activities in North Korea which are not very much in their interest to have us look at, such as some of the things they've been selling, some of the things they've been counterfeiting.

This is a regime that is under pressure, and 8,000 reprocessed rods will not produce one pound of rice, one more light bulb going on in North Korea. You know, I think the pressure is on them. And we will not yield to the pressure that we hear domestically from people that we must compromise and pay the North Koreans for their misbehavior. The only thing the North Koreans will learn from that lesson is let's let the Americans look at some stuff while we go find something else we can sell.

MR. KITFIELD: Last two questions. World opinion. You mentioned it a couple times in your article that, you know, you feel like the world has misjudged our foreign policy and that if we just stay the course and our good intentions will, you know, change the tide. The tide's pretty strong, a lot of reports on this, and I certainly get them when I travel overseas.

Stylistically, have we, has this Administration, have you, learned anything about how sensitive the world is to a superpower that's --

SECRETARY POWELL: The world is sensitive. There is always both pride, respect and resentment -- or not both -- but there was always pride and respect and resentment, and a bit of fear with respect to having a superpower such as the United States on the world stage.

And we have to learn how to encourage that pride and respect, but at the same time not make people fearful of our power, except those who we want to be fearful of our power. And so that puts a particular burden, I think, on a lot of us, and especially on me, to reach out to friends and neighbors and allies, to write articles and to give speeches.

I gave a major European speech ten days ago. I gave an Asia speech this week. I'll be doing more of that to say to our friends and those who are uncertain about what we're about, what we're about. We're about peace, we're about partnerships, we're about solving the problems of people who are dying from HIV/AIDS, we're about Millennium Challenge Account, we're about a lot of things. But if enemies show up that threaten our security and our well-being or the well-being of our allies, then preemption remains a tool in that box.

MR. KITFIELD: As the diplomat in the group, do you ever, to your colleagues in this principals group, do you ever mention this to them, that, you know, style does matter, that the rhetoric does matter?

SECRETARY POWELL: Sure, we talk about it all the time.


SECRETARY POWELL: I think the President understands it quite well. But the President also understands the value of speaking clearly and directly when you want to send out a message and you don't want it to be confused. The "axis of evil" may not have been a phrase headed for a diplomatic award, but it sure got everybody's attention and the ability to talk about it.

MR. KITFIELD: Last question. Powell legacy. This has been one hell of a ride, this period that you've been Secretary of State. I'm just curious. You mentioned the great power relations in your piece. But I'm just curious, in your heart of hearts, what do you think your legacy will be from this period?

SECRETARY POWELL: I hope everybody will say that I -- well, first of all, I'm not through.


SECRETARY POWELL: It's a little hard to write your legacy when you're not through.

MR. KITFIELD: This is a good --

SECRETARY POWELL: And I don't want to give you a laundry list, but I think we've accomplished some very significant things: Two tyrants are gone, one in Kabul and one in Iraq, and we're building two new democratic nations. We're going to do that, and that's going to be a tremendous legacy of this President, and I am glad to be part of it.

I think what we're doing with HIV/AIDS and the Millennium Challenge Account, although it doesn't get a lot of attention, will be part of this Administration's legacy.

We've worked with our allies in expanding NATO. We're assisting our allies as they expand in Europe.

We dealt with a number of problems in Africa that people thought we wouldn't get involved in: Liberia; working with the French in Cote D'Ivoire, working with the Congo; hopefully, with a little luck, we'll do something in the Sudan.

These are old, lingering problems that are being solved. In Asia, we have the best relations with our allies that we've had in decades, and we're all now working together to do something about the big remaining problem in North Korea.

Is there still anti-Americanism out there? Yes. Particularly in the Muslim world? Yes. Particularly in the Arab world? Yes. Any movement or solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would improve that enormously.

MR. KITFIELD: Yes, it would.

SECRETARY POWELL: And I think as people see Iraq start to get better -- we've got tough work ahead -- then attitudes will start to change. And we're going to continue to work on it.

But legacy, that's what you do, Jim, not me.

MR. KITFIELD: (Laughter.) Okay, Mr. Secretary. I sure appreciate you taking so much time with me.

SECRETARY POWELL: That's all right. Sorry it'll be a little hard to trim down.

MR. KITFIELD: I like complex answers to complex questions. Nice to see you again.

SECRETARY POWELL: Okay, take care.

# # #

* So we have read your piece in Foreign Affairs , was very interested by it, thought that in this election foreign affairs is probably going to play a bigger role than any election we've seen, at least since Carter and Reagan, maybe since Vietnam.


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