Monday, November 15, 2004

Secretary of State Colin Powell is stepping down, after serving with distinction as America’s chief diplomat during a period of global peril and convulsion. While some of America’s chief foreign challenges and threats could not be addressed through Mr. Powell’s diplomacy, such as those posed by al Qaeda and other terror groups, the statesman ably and loyally executed the president’s foreign policy, performing with integrity, dedication and creativity.

Mr. Powell played a pivotal role in bringing Libya out of its proliferating and rogue status and, in doing so, not only neutralized the Libyan threat but also revealed a global network of proliferation, which implicated Pakistan, Iran and North Korea. The secretary helped broker Afghanistan’s transition to democracy and the NATO mission there. Mr. Powell in July 2002 drew up an agreement that defused a standoff between Spain and Morocco over Parsley Island. That incident would be far better known today if Mr. Powell hadn’t adeptly intervened. He has effectively leaned on nuclear powers India and Pakistan to vigorously engage in peace talks, and he helped promote the roadmap for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.

Mr. Powell also handled with aplomb the fact that the details he gave to the U.N. Security Council in Feb. 5, 2003, on Iraq’s suspected weapons of mass destruction have not been borne out. Although those weapons were never found, we have no doubt the secretary spoke honestly and to the best of his understanding that day.

Mr. Powell has taken a lead role in combating crises in Africa, and went far out in front of the United Nations and others in declaring that genocide had been committed in the Darfur region of Sudan. He effectively supported the African Union peace-keeping mission in Liberia that has brought relative stability to that country. Mr. Powell, along with President Bush, believed in helping the developing world empower itself through freer trade and by combating the scourge of disease, particularly HIV/AIDS. The administration helped set up the Global Health Fund and established a $15 billion emergency fund to help combat the disease.

A four-star general and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during Bush I, Mr. Powell had an established service record before taking his post as secretary of state. He won the respect and affection of leaders and policy-makers around the world. Yesterday, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said, “He is a remarkable man and has been a good friend to this country over a very long period.”

Mr. Powell’s successor will face considerable challenges in dealing with the State Department bureaucracy, which has at times been unenthusiastic in carrying out Mr. Bush’s directives. That task may not be as formidable as the one the new CIA director, Porter Goss, faces. Mr. Goss will have to cull disloyal officials from the CIA that have aimed to undermine the president’s policies. We wish the new secretary of state, and Mr. Goss, Godspeed in the missions ahead.

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