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Monday, Apr. 05, 2004

Is Condi The Problem?

As critics accuse the Bush Team of bungling the fight against terrorism, TIME takes an inside look at the role played by the President's National Security Adviser


Sometimes, you just have to leave your mentor behind. In an interview with TIME in August 2001, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said her "model" for the job was Brent Scowcroft, the only person to serve in the post under two Presidents, and the man who, in 1989, had brought Rice from Stanford University to work with him in the White House of George H.W. Bush. Scowcroft was self-effacement personified. For most of his time in office, he would not have been recognized by tourists squeezing their faces between the bars of the north fence of the White House. Indeed, at a conference Rice attended in January 2001, Scowcroft argued that a National Security Adviser should be seen occasionally and heard less.

Rice could not have been listening. On the morning of March 22, hours after Richard Clarke, the former counterterrorism chief in the Administrations of George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, had made his explosive charges on the war on terrorism, Rice performed a rarely seen grand slam, appearing on the breakfast shows of ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN. Interviews with Tom Brokaw of NBC News and Sean Hannity of Fox News followed; so did sit-downs with network and print correspondents as well as an op-ed piece in the Washington Post. For a woman who was once said to have been unfairly criticized"”actually, by none other than Clarke"”because "she doesn't run around telling everyone in the media what she thinks," Rice was doing more running and telling than anyone else since P. Diddy bragged about completing the New York City marathon.

Just about the only place that Rice did not appear was before the commission looking into the attacks of Sept. 11 during two days of gripping public testimony last week. Citing Executive privilege as a member of the President's staff, Rice said she could not appear under oath in a public session but would be happy to talk to the commission privately, as she already has done for four hours. Perhaps inevitably, given the manifold outlets for her ire, not everything Rice said was internally consistent. At one time she claimed that most of Clarke's ideas for combatting al-Qaeda had been tried and rejected under Clinton, while at another she insisted that the Bush team had acted on them. And Rice sometimes contradicted"”or was contradicted by"”Administration colleagues who were doing their own briefings for the media and appearing before the commission. Rice, for example, disagreed with Vice President Dick Cheney's claim that Clarke was "out of the loop" on decisions on counterterrorism.

Her showdown with Clarke got bitterly personal. On ABC News, Clarke lumped Rice together with Cheney as "mean and nasty people." But Rice gave as good as she got. Clarke's claim that he once divined from her body language that she had never heard of al-Qaeda, she told the network correspondents, was "arrogant in the extreme. I find it peculiar that Dick Clarke was sitting there reading my body language. I didn't know he was good at that too." But all the sarcasm and backbiting in Washington could not obscure a central truth: by casting doubt on the performance of the Bush team in the months before Sept. 11, Clarke had taken aim at the competence of Rice, who was not only his boss but is also the person charged with making sure that the President's foreign policy priorities are straight and that the best intelligence is landing on his desk. For the first time in more than three years, during which she has usually been the subject of coverage so flattering that it would make Donald Trump blush, the first woman ever to be National Security Adviser was on the spot.

It was inevitable that, sooner or later, Rice's performance would come under scrutiny. That would have happened with or without Clarke's book. Any fair-minded observer would admit that the Bush Administration has had its successes in foreign policy, but with continued instability in Iraq, Osama bin Laden still at large, a steady drumbeat of terrorist atrocities around the world and an extraordinary degree of popular opposition abroad to its policies, the Administration's performance is, at the very least, wobbly. If Bush is to be criticized for his Administration's foreign policy performance, then Rice will be too.

The commission looking into Sept. 11 is bound to focus, as it has, on the record of the Administration in its first few months. That will necessarily involve asking if Rice effectively staffed the National Security Council (NSC)"”which had primary responsibility for coordinating policy and action on terrorism"”whether she set the right priorities and if she had the standing to go toe-to-toe with enormously experienced figures like Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

In 2001, there was no doubting the source of Rice's power. During the election campaign, she had forged a deep personal bond with Bush, building on relationships with his family that she had established during his father's presidency. Rice used the confidence that Bush had in her to consolidate her position in Washington. The big personalities of the Administration's foreign policy team had not yet shown their muscle. Though it was well understood that Cheney would be a key figure in the new Administration, Bush did not know him as well as he knew Rice. There was speculation at the end of 2000 that Cheney would chair the Principals Committee meetings"”a key policymaking forum on foreign and security policy. Rice was given the assignment, although Cheney managed to place some associates of his, like Robert Joseph, an expert on nonproliferation, in important positions within the NSC.

Rumsfeld, no friend of Bush's father, spent much of the first half of 2001 fighting (and seemingly losing) a battle with the uniformed military to rethink their priorities. So Rice was central to Bush's team. Granted, she had only had a scant two years' experience in government, but from the time of her childhood in Birmingham, Ala., nobody ever doubted that Rice was a quick study. At the time of the transition, said a senior member of the Clinton team, "she came in and listened attentively to what the experts told her. She was very, very cordial."

But for all her cordiality, Rice was a critic of the Clinton Administration's policies and habits. She had said as much, in the kind of language that one of Oscar Wilde's more waspish characters might have used. In a famous 2000 article in Foreign Affairs, she insisted that the "Clinton Administration has assiduously avoided implementing an agenda" that "separates the important from the trivial." In an interview with the New York Times just before the election, she dismissed Clinton's affection for peacekeeping by stating that "we don't need to have the 82nd Airborne escorting kids to kindergarten." The Bush team, says Scowcroft, had a sense that "if the Clinton Administration did it, it was suspect," though Scowcroft says that in Washington attitudes like that are "standard procedure."

Rice, however, brought more than a distaste for the Clinton way to her new job. There was also her expertise and her President's initial agenda. Arguably, neither has turned out to be ideally suited to the world with which she and Bush have had to cope. Rice had been a distinguished scholar of the Soviet Union, which by 2001 did not exist. During the presidential campaign, she freely admitted to the New York Times that "I've been pressed to understand parts of the world that have not really been part of my scope. I'm really a Europeanist." Even Clinton officials not unsympathetic to Rice and her colleagues saw trouble brewing at the time of the transition. "The biggest thing they have to work on is adjusting their perception of the world to realities," said the official who had praised Rice's cordiality. "They've been on the outside for quite some time. They're going to discover it's not the world they thought it was."

Whatever their failings may have been, Clinton's people knew one way in which the world had changed since the early 1990s. At the January 2001 conference at which Scowcroft spoke and which Rice attended, Samuel Berger, Clinton's National Security Adviser, said that "America is in a deadly struggle with a new breed of anti-Western jihadists"”nothing less than a war." In answer to a question, Berger was blunt: "We must understand as a nation that we are engaged in a wholly new battle against an international terrorist network in dozens of countries, which is deeply committed to injuring and destroying the United States and its allies. This is one of the most serious threats the next Administration will face."

There's no reason to doubt that the incoming team appreciated the importance of terrorism. In 1999, in the introduction to the report of a Stanford conference titled The New Terror, Rice wrote that "the threat of biological and chemical weapons is real and growing," and that such threats "can come from small states and terrorists just as easily as from one powerful adversary." Speaking to TIME last week, Rice said, "We were clearly worried about weapons of mass destruction and rogue regimes." Before Sept. 11, she said, Bush had 46 sessions with CIA Director George Tenet "in which there was a piece presented to him on al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda-related issues."

But two other things are equally true. First, whatever their sense of the urgency on the terrorism threat, Bush's officials"”who started their own policy review of the subject"”didn't think much of the Clinton team's approach to the problem. "There was a sense they hadn't handled it well," Cheney told TIME last week. Second, the new Administration had a lot on its plate. Some things it had heaped there itself, like a commitment to stand down the Antiballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty of 1972"”which, Cheney pointed out last week, needed to be done because "we had campaigned on a platform of missile defense." And some things had been heaped there for them. In April a U.S. reconnaissance plane was forced down in China, leading to a long standoff with Beijing.

From Rice's perspective, it must have seemed during the first months of 2001 that the world had changed less than the Clinton team had thought. Her Foreign Affairs article had stressed the importance of Washington's relations with great powers. And now she was helping manage a crisis with China while preparing for negotiations with Russia on the abm treaty. In June she accompanied Bush on a trip to Eastern and Central Europe, the very territory that had been the focus of her time in government 10 years before. She wept as the President, in Warsaw, made a commitment to a "great alliance of liberty" with Europe; in Slovenia she watched Bush look into the soul of Russian President Vladimir Putin and find it good. A month later she was in Moscow, negotiating with Putin as if it were 1991 all over again. If there were new threats in a new world, as the Clinton team had said, it surely couldn't have seemed so in the summer of 2001.

Sept. 11 proved that officials in the Clinton Administration had been right; the calculations and practices forged during the cold war were inadequate to new conditions. Rice told TIME that for her the attacks that day meant that the idea of the nation being at war was no longer just a figure of speech. "For both the eight years of the Clinton Administration and for the first eight months of ours," she said, "we were not on a war footing. War really came to us in a different way on Sept. 11."

Rice had no direct experience in dealing with Islamic nations or terrorism. That in itself was no bar to her continuing to perform the three tasks that she sees as central to her job"”acting as an adviser and confidant to the President, performing as his staff officer on national-security matters and coordinating the government machinery so all voices are heard. In the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, Rice chaired numerous Principals Committee meetings, on everything from force protection to diplomacy with Central Asian countries, to keep Bush's agenda moving forward.

But the attacks on Washington and New York City did more than just shift the focus of policy away from great-power relations. The crisis reminded the world that"”quite apart from the President"”there were plenty of people among his top advisers with far more experience than Rice and with very firm agendas of their own. As the war against al-Qaeda and the Taliban morphed into plans for an attack on Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, it became clear that the Bush team was deeply split.

By 2003 there were at least four different streams of thought among Administration officials. Some people, epitomized by Deputy Secretary of State Paul Wolfowitz, wanted to use U.S. power to sort out the arc of crisis in the Muslim world. There were those"”Rumsfeld, usually supported by Cheney"”whose purpose was less to change the world than to defend America's interests in it and who were willing to use force unilaterally and pre-emptively snuff out what they considered potential threats. The State Department, for its part, continued to press for multilateral solutions to crises and wanted to explore nonmilitary policy prescriptions as much as the use of force. And then there were sub-Cabinet officials like Clarke (who was not alone) for whom the war on Iraq was a mistaken diversion from the fight against al-Qaeda and other jihadists.

Top Administration officials gloss over these splits by saying they have all known one another a long time, that arguments sharpen policy and that they all just serve the President. But some observers believe the turmoil has meant that Rice has been unable to assert the traditional role of National Security Adviser. After September 2002, for example, she set up four interagency task forces, chaired by her staff members, to examine various aspects of Iraq policy. The process never got much traction. Both Defense and State had their planning operations on Iraq (looking at very different things in very different ways), and according to a participant, Pentagon officials regularly skipped meetings of Rice's group that was planning for a postwar Iraq.

Rumsfeld, for one, has not always treated Rice with due deference. At a planning meeting on the war in Iraq and its aftermath, an organization chart was passed around at the top of which were the initials NSA. "What's NSA?" asked Rumsfeld. "That would be me," replied Rice. A senior Republican statesman outside the Administration thinks Defense has undermined the proper functioning of the machinery of government. Rumsfeld, says this source, is "a master of bureaucratic manipulation. He just frustrates the system until he gets his way." Cheney, defending Rice's handling of the Administration's heavyweights, insists that "she's tough and decisive when she needs to be tough and decisive."

In the past few months there have been signs that the NSC has become more central to at least one crucial area of policy. Since last fall, the council has had responsibilities for coordination between Washington and the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq"”in effect supplanting the Pentagon. Rice speaks at 6:30 every morning to Paul (Jerry) Bremer, the U.S. proconsul in Baghdad, and"”augmented by experienced operators like Robert Blackwill, her top staff member on Iraq"”has taken the lead in working through tough issues like the Iraqi constitution draft.

It follows that as the U.S. prepares to hand power over to the Iraqis in June, even as attacks on American forces and their Iraqi supporters continue, Rice can expect to remain in the hot seat. The commission examining Sept. 11 will continue to do its work, nosing around the decisions and nondecisions of the bureaucracy before that awful Tuesday. Clarke's belief that the Administration needlessly compromised its ability to fight terrorism by invading Iraq may begin to resonate with the public. Rice's reputation, so stellar three years ago, now depends on whether, by November, voters think the terrorists are in retreat and Iraq has been stabilized. If both things happen, Rice will be back on the air, this time leading not an attack but a parade.

With reporting by John F. Dickerson/Washington

Copyright © 2004 Time Inc. All rights reserved.


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Following persons/"leaders" blindly or otherwise, under dire circumstances such as mass killings of innocent persons, to gain preposterous wealth for personal gain, is a horrendous problem.

It never ceases to amaze me how killing one person in this country can reap the killer the death penalty (unless it's a cop), while killing on a mass scale, with the OK from some "leader" can get the killer a medal. All at the OK of a Caucasian. He has replaced God on this planet. That's just Satanic in my book.

Condi's not a "leader", she's a follower. She's gonna HAVE a problem eventually. A big one!!
No Delta,

It is what happens when you play the loyal negro role when everyone else around you is know like when clarence Thomas votes with Scalia even when other conservatives think he has lost his little satanic mind......once I read condi's views on civil rights in emerge a while back.....i knew then she was one of those black conservative an academic myself...yes I was a college professor at a very young age also.....I realize (unlike others) that if you study for many years.....that does not qualify you for everything......just your field of endeavor.....remember when they tried to minimize Colin Powell at the time of the weapons inspections and put condi up front? (just like slave times when the black man was marginalized like a child and placed under the supervision of women along with the children) Once they realized she was in over her head, Colin took the lead role again.......she doesn't know jack about military deployment and approaches like colin.....her background is in Russian cryptology or something like that. Since she put herself out there to say that clarke communicated directly to her....any intelligence gaps between clarke and bush will fall back on she's got what is coming to her....good or bad...........
I don't know if Condi is "the" problems ... but she dang sure has one right about now ... a bit one!!

And did you know that agreeing to let her testify was part of a "deal" made between the White House and the Commission, that if Condi testified, she'd be the only member of the White House who would have to testify!! Regardless of what she said or who she named, that person would not have to come before the Commission to explain his/her actions!!

It seems they had visions of Watergate, and remembered how the house of cards fell one at a time as more and more people testified to what they knew. It's incredible to me how Bush can talk about justice and the American way out of one side of his mouth, and totally manipulate the system out of the other side! Eek
I'm still unclear as to WHOM the oath is given, 'cause God has been removed from the premises. He's NOT mentioned any longer in so-called "oaths". As far as the questioning of "Condi's" concerned: she's only "allowed" one appearance, so the "Commission" better have allllllll their questions in tow. She's a "one shot deal"; no seconds!! The Honorable Barbara Jordan would have turned her every way but loose. I looovvveedddd her!!
What Condi's gonna find out, as I already know, is that as she sah-sheys all around "uppity" white men with "titles" and "rank" that they've bestowed upon THEMSELVES, thinking she's all that with her degrees and jazz, is that she's DISPENSABLE!!! There's no one African in America who is going to reach the hierachy of the White man, woman or child. They'll go to the highest degree of KILLING to keep that FAUX THRONE. That's how we got here and it's what placed the Indigenous People (for SoulDoctor73) on the reservation. That's what makes America TICK!!!!! It be's like dat!!!!!!!!!!!!
The Family Retainer
Written by Frederick Hudson
Saturday, 03 April 2004

Condoleezza Rice standing behind President Bush's chair. Photo byChuck Kennedy of KRT.
By Frederick B. Hudson

In 1967, a relatively unknown actress took a role as a maid. This breakthrough role showed her maintaining the home and family of Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn for years. Besides polishing the silver, she has raised their daughter, played by Hepburn's real life niece, Katherine Houghton, who wishes to marry a black man, portrayed by Sidney Poitier.

The maid, played by Isabel Sanford(later to become Weezy on "The Jeffersons") warns Poitier that she has raised the daughter and will not let him hurt her. She admonishes the black doctor that she is not going to put up with any black power mess in "this house."

The maid in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" has her political counterpart in one Condoleezza Rice. With a doctorate from the University of Denver and stints as senior director for Soviet and Eastern European Affairs on the National Security Council staff from 1989 to 1991, and as provost of Stanford University, she escapes the strident reality of peoples' commitment to self-determination.

Just as the maid played by Butterfly McQueen in "Gone with the Wind," escapes helping a white woman in the throes of labor, by exclaiming, "I don't know nothing bout birthing babies!" Rice escapes consideration of indigenous nations' efforts to breathe free air and lift their own arms to build their own roofs.

Rice managed to thrust simultaneous arrows of scorn at two independent Caribbean nations last week when according to Randall Robinson who spoke on an interview on the syndicated radio and television show "Democracy Now," she told the Jamaican Government to expel President Aristide. According to the former president of Transafrica she emphasized that if anything happened to any American forces in Haiti, that the consequences of that would be exacted against a president or against Jamaica by the United States with full force.

This level of contempt against two independent nations characterizes Rice's career which has been molded in a cast made from an alloy of Western European interests. This container holds no place for the interests of people of the African Diaspora or the Middle East.

Rice was trained at the feet of her professor of international relations,Josef Korbel, a former Czech diplomat, refugee from communism and the father of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Like her mentor, Rice's area of specialization has long been eastern and central Europe--the Soviet bloc of the Cold War.

This area of emphasis has left her with blinders towards the fractious strife of the Middle East and the religious fervor which compels the composition and proliferation of terrorist cells.

So it should scarcely be a surprise that the Washington Post reports that on Sept. 11, 2001, that Rice was scheduled to outline a Bush administration policy that would address "the threats and problems of today and the day after, not the world of yesterday" -- but the focus was largely on missile defense, not terrorism from Islamic radicals.

The sad tragedy of her "career" as we approach the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King is that she has ignored the role models of her own native Birmingham Alabama who infused the historic bus boycott there with their refusal to ride the buses to their "madames'" houses after Rosa Parks refusal to surrender her seat.

The maids of Alabama walked and carpooled to their jobs while Condoleezza was studying piano with dreams of a concert career. These family retainers wanted something of dignity for their own homes while caring for their employers'.

Condoleeza has surrendered her dignity for a few pieces of silver and apedestal of dung.

There is a old saying: "call me by my righteous name." That doesn't apply to Dr. Rice.

When President Bush told Spanish state-run television in Washington that he looked forward to meeting King Juan Carlos and Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, the latter came out as Anzar.

When the delegation arrived at the Zarzuela Palace to meet with the king, it was the monarch extracted revenge by playing with the name of National

Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice - although he did it as a joke. Playing on the fact that many senior White House officials are said to be studying Spanish, King Juan Carlos greeted Rice by saying 'Buenos Dias, Arroz' - literally, Good Morning, Rice, as in the food. A British reporter wrote that Rice reacted with a big smile.

Call her Auntie Ben!

Her lack of self respect has not gone unnoticed in the Middle Eastern community.

A Jordanian newspaper wrote of her earlier this year: "As for you, blackCondoleezza Rice, swallow your tongue, remember your origins and stop talking about liberation and freedom. Have you not been taught by your cowboy masters that 'slaves' cannot liberate themselves, that they are not capable to capture the large Islamic world whose cultural roots are planted in the depths of history. The slaves who are happy with their enslavement, O Condoleezza, will continue to be enslaved. They will never be free and will never free others."

As this daughter of Birmingham, Alabama flies around the world and sits with world leaders, the simple solitary steps of maids have no echoes for her.

As she eats at banquets in palaces; the brown bag lunches that mothers packed for themselves at dawn have a sweeter taste; the knees that scrubbed floors have more appeal that those that emerge from designer skirts. The maids of Birmingham knew something about birthing babies. And nations.
Interesting article:

NEWSWEEK EXCLUSIVE: Before Rice Agreed to Testify in Public, 9/11 Commission Executive Director Faxed White House 1945 Photo Showing Presidential Chief of Staff Appearing Before Pearl Harbor Congressional Panel
Sunday April 4, 11:00 am ET
Zelikow Warned White House Counsel That Unless Rice Testified in Public, Photo Would '...Be All Over Washington in 24 Hours'

NEW YORK, April 4 /PRNewswire/ -- Last Monday morning 9/11 commission executive director Philip Zelikow faxed a photograph to the White House counsel's office with a note saying that if the White House didn't allow national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice to testify in public before the commission, the photograph would" all over Washington in 24 hours," Newsweek has learned. The photo, from a Nov. 22, 1945, New York Times story, showed presidential chief of staff Adm. William D. Leahy, appearing before a special congressional panel investigating the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The point was clear: The White House could no longer get away with the claim that Rice's appearance would be a profound breach of precedent.
(Photo: )
Zelikow, a University of Virginia historian, had been poring over records of the Pearl Harbor inquiries for months, report Investigative Correspondent Michael Isikoff and National Security Correspondent John Barry in the April 12 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands Monday, April 5). Those probes, Zelikow believes, are the clearest blueprint for the 9/11 panel's work. "This is what happens when you hire historians," jokes commission chairman Thomas Kean.

A White House aide says it is "fatuous" to say the Leahy photo forced the White House to capitulate. But after battling with the panel for nearly a year over documents and testimony, the White House finally relented and said Rice would testify publicly under oath. Next week, the panel is slated to hear from Attorneys General John Ashcroft and Janet Reno, and two former FBI directors, Louis Freeh and his interim successor, Thomas Pickard.

People close to the commission are expecting a bitter confrontation between Pickard and Ashcroft. Pickard is expected to scorch Ashcroft for showing little interest in terrorism before 9/11, Newsweek has learned. The A.G. denied proposed funding increases for FBI counterterrorism programs. Ashcroft is expected to say that Pickard could have shifted resources if he thought it was so important. Commissioners will ask both of them why bin Laden family members were flown out of the country after the attacks.

The FBI lapses have led some commissioners to consider recommending an overhaul of U.S. intelligence in their final report, due July 26. That could include a proposal to break up the FBI and create a new domestic spy agency, similar to Britain's MI5, to hunt terrorists inside the country. "This is perhaps our most difficult choice," Kean tells Newsweek. FBI Director Robert Mueller is fighting the idea. A possible compromise: a semi-independent anti- terrorist unit inside the FBI.
Colin Powell, Forever the 'Good Soldier'
By James Mann

March 28, 2004

As the United States marked the first anniversary of its invasion of Iraq, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell toured Afghanistan, met with Pakistani and Saudi rulers, testified before the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks and flew to Madrid. He was, as usual, hard at work on behalf of an administration in which he often seems philosophically out of tune.

As chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1989 to 1993, Powell was the nation's best-known proponent of caution in the application of military force. He was reluctant to go to war to reverse Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, and he opposed sending U.S. troops to the Balkans. These days, quite a few Americans wonder why Powell went along with last year's war and why he has seemed so marginalized within the current administration.

Such questions are rooted in misconceptions about Powell. On foreign policy, despite his caution, he has never been the liberal he is often taken to be. In the 1980s, he served as Ronald Reagan's national security advisor, supported aid to the Nicaraguan Contras and led the way in the American military intervention in Panama. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, he worked closely with then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney and then-Undersecretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz in preventing a Democratic Congress from making far-reaching cuts in the defense budget. When Clinton took office in 1993, Powell later wrote in his autobiography that he felt "like a skunk at the picnic. I had been up to my eyeballs in Reagan and Bush national security policies."

Still, the question lingers: Powell was such a dominant force in the last two Republican administrations; what happened in this one? To answer that, look to recent Republican history.

After losing the White House in 1993, the Republicans moved further to the right on foreign policy. The tone of George W. Bush's campaign in 2000 was noticeably more hawkish than that of his father eight years earlier. But in fact, the positions the younger Bush took "” supporting missile defense and a tougher policy on North Korea, for example "” were not new; they were similar to those of Bob Dole's 1996 presidential campaign. (Dole's top two advisors for foreign policy that year were Donald Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz.)

During the late 1990s, leaders of past Republican administrations regularly met with congressional Republicans and leaders of conservative think tanks to talk about where the party was heading. Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz and, later, Condoleezza Rice were all at the table, but Powell was not. The organizers didn't invite him. ("Maybe he was too high up," said Martin Anderson of the Hoover Institution.) And he probably would not have gone anyway; he views himself as a concrete problem-solver and tends to avoid "study groups" and abstractions.

Powell played a vital political role in Bush's 2000 campaign. He helped reinforce the theme of "compassionate conservatism." That fall, Bush told voters that Powell, one of the most popular figures in American politics, would have a prominent role in his administration. Still, Powell was not heavily involved in the campaign's internal foreign-policy discussions among Rice, Wolfowitz, Cheney, Rumsfeld and others.

After the Supreme Court decision that settled the 2000 election, Bush quickly named Powell as secretary of State, his first Cabinet appointment. The decision was showcased to demonstrate the president-elect's desire for healing and national unity. But Powell's nomination quickly set off a campaign against him within the Republican Party.

Neoconservatives had fought Powell on Bosnia; social conservatives disliked his support for gun control and affirmative action; some veterans of the first Bush administration remembered how much independent authority he had wielded as chairman of the Joint Chiefs. All feared that the former military leader would manage to dominate both the State and the Defense departments and become the new administration's preeminent foreign policy voice. The Bush team brought in the experienced, assertive Rumsfeld as Defense secretary, a man who could limit Powell's influence.

In short, Powell's role was circumscribed even before the start of the administration. Then, in the administration's first few weeks, Bush undercut Powell's authority in public by disavowing what the new secretary of State said about North Korea. And as the administration began to move against Saddam Hussein, Powell became the leading voice urging his colleagues to move more slowly, to work more closely with other countries.

Why doesn't Powell quit? One reason is simply that he disagrees with the administration's policies far less than outsiders assume. Typically, on a recent trip to India, he told students that the Iraq war was not a mistake: "We believed at the time ... that Iraq had stockpiles" of weapons of mass destruction.

The other factor involves Powell's affinity for the role of the good soldier, the loyal subordinate. He recently reflected upon the career of George Marshall, the former Army chief of staff who served as President Truman's secretary of State.

Discussing the fact that Marshall had disagreed with Truman's decision to recognize the state of Israel, Powell pointedly noted that the secretary of State didn't resign. "He had given the president his best advice," Powell told a Washington Post reporter. "He had presented it strongly, forcefully ... and the ultimate responsibility lay with Harry S. Truman." Marshall believed that "nobody made me president; I serve," Powell said.

Those words go as far as anything to explain how Powell views his years in the Bush administration, which will no doubt go down as the most controversial ones in Powell's long and path-breaking career.

James Mann, a former correspondent for The Times, is the author of the just-released "Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet" (Viking).

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