Many will lament Powell's departure. The former General reportedly was the voice of moderation in George W. Bush's White House. He argued (unsuccessfully) against the "enemy combatant" label applied to al Qaeda and Taliban fighters, for example. With Powell out of the way, the pathway will be clear for Bush loyalists and/or neocons.
Then again, numerous critics will never forgive Powell for his "loyal" February 2003 Iraq presentation to the United Nations Security Council. It is now clear that the Secretary's so-called "Adlai Stevenson moment" was more of an "Ad" and "Lie" moment, so as to justify war. Those weapons of mass destruction Powell featured never turned up.
Why did Powell depart? Here's the conventional wisdom, based on Powell's unique status within the Bush administration:
"In so many of this administration's policies and pronouncements, he has been the note off key," says Karl Inderfurth, a former assistant secretary of state. "When they said 'alone,' he said 'with the world,' when they said, 'preemption is a doctrine,' he said it is 'an option.'"The thinking is that Powell's friend Richard Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State, will also be leaving and that will mean the loss of another voice of moderation.
...Many Europeans, in particular, view Powell's departure with trepidation. "He was the one member of this team who knew about working with allies and showed he understood why that is important," says the European official. "He still sold US foreign policy, but he reached out and didn't just tell us about decisions already taken."
Perhaps Powell is frustrated from years of playing second fiddle to Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld on foreign policy? Powell is the only member of the President's top team who now even hints that he might have been reluctant to go to war in Iraq without evidence of WMD.
Or maybe Powell is tired of the personal hypocrisy he faced? This appeared in Daniel Schorr's op-ed of February 20, 2004:
In his 1995 memoir, "My American Journey," General Powell wrote: "I particularly condemn the way our political leaders supplied the manpower for that war [The Vietnam War]. The policies determining who would be drafted and who would be deferred, who would serve and who would escape, who would die and who would live, were an anti-democratic disgrace.... I am angry that so many sons of the powerful and well-placed ... managed to wangle slots in Reserve and National Guard units. Of the many tragedies of Vietnam, this raw class discrimination strikes me as the most damaging to the ideal that all Americans are created equal and owe equal allegiance to our country."In fact, as I've blogged before, there's certainly no shortage of hypocrisy in US foreign policy these days.
Condi Rice and John Danforth have been mentioned as possible replacements.