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Colin Powell — America’s Ambassador

Will Colin Powell be able to leave a lasting mark on U.S. foreign policy?

August 9, 2001

Will Colin Powell be able to leave a lasting mark on U.S. foreign policy?

For all the international controversy about the heavy-handedness of the new Bush Administration, one of his top officials earns high marks in many quarters. After the Clinton Administration appointed the first female U.S. Secretary of State, President George W. Bush made Colin Powell the first African-American Secretary of State. Our Read My Lips feature captures how Mr. Powell sees the world.

What surprised you the most about your new job?

“90% of my time is spent on 10% of the world.”

(July 2001)

What is your guiding principle?

“Perpetual optimism is a forceful multiplier.”

(March 2001)

How do you view U.S.-Chinese relations?

“We’re not working on converting China to an enemy. We do not need another Soviet Union for an enemy in order to give us a sense of purpose.”

(July 2001)

But what about Beijing’s recent military spending?

“Are they also trying to modernize their military? Yes. Does it look like it’s being modernized to go on the march? Not to me so far.”

(July 2001)

How about the challenges in dealing with Russia?

“I think what Putin is trying to do is restore pride among the Russian people, trying to embed democracy in the Russian system.”

(July 2001)

How do you pan to approach Africa’s volatile regions?

“We cannot make peace among Africans. Africans themselves must bear the lion’s share of the responsibility for bringing stability to the continent.”

(May 2001)

Do you have a special connection with Africa?

“I am African. My roots are in Africa.”

(May 2001)

What about tackling AIDS in Africa?

“This is not the Middle Ages. We know that a virus causes AIDS — and we know how to prevent its spread.”

(June 2001)

What about U.S. military presence in Europe?

“There is no end point. We have established no time by which U.S. troops have to be out.”

(April 2001)

Any disagreements on policy with the Secretary of Defense?

“Secretary Rumsfeld is always looking for opportunities to back off on some of the overseas commitments we have — and that is his job. The President wants that.”

(May 2001)

How do you justify National Missile Defense to your allies?

“The problem is simply that there are nations on earth who are developing these weapons that can threaten their neighbors and can threaten us.”

(February 2001)

How do you view sanctions as a tool for U.S. foreign policy?

“When you’re mad about something or when there is a particular constituent interest, please stop, count to ten, call me before you slap another bureaucratic process on me.”

(Testifying before the U.S. Congress, February 2001)

How should they be applied?

“For gosh sake, please give them all a sunset clause, make them all go away at the end of the year.”

(February 2001)

What are your views on the trouble spot Middle East, Secretary Powell?

“We can’t come up with another idea every two weeks. If this doesn’t work, I don’t know what will.”

(June 2001)

Any suggestions for the parties involved?

“Get the rhetoric down. Watch what you are calling each other.”

(July 2001)

How do the Arabs view him?

“Colin Powell said he cannot look us into the eye and say he can deliver something he cannot. He is honest.”

(Saeb Erekat, Palestinian lead negotiator, on his first meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, June 2001)

And what about the Israelis?

“He is trying and learning – and making mistakes.”

(Ghassan Khatib, director of the Jerusalem Media and Communications center, June 2001)

And finally, what does your staff think about you?

“He is a very gracious person in a town not known for attracting and rewarding gracious people.”

(Barbara K. Bodine, U.S. Ambassador to Yemen, on Secretary of State Colin Powell calling her within hours of her release from a hijacked airplane, March 2001)