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Paperback Soldier: The Life of Colin Powell Book

ISBN: 1400075645

ISBN13: 9781400075645

Soldier: The Life of Colin Powell

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The first full biography of Colin Powell, from his Bronx childhood to his military career to his controversial tenure as secretary of state, with a new afterword detailing his life after the Bush White House.Over the course of a lifetime of service to his country, Colin Powell became a national hero, a beacon of wise leadership and one of the most trusted political figures in America. In Soldier , the award-winning Washington Post editor Karen DeYoung...

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Colin Powell: an officer and a gentleman

It will be said of Colin Powell that he was truly an officer and a gentleman. Powell's story about his life is best described in his autobiography: My American Journey. Karen DeYoung's biography of Powell is most powerful when she chronicles Powell's civilian years: specifically when she addresses Powell's life in his role as President George W. Bush's Secretary of State. DeYoung is both critical and sympathetic. While Powell may have cooperated with DeYoung in the writing of this book she evidentially exercised final authority on the end product. This however, is not surprising as Powell both understands and respects the concepts of hierarchy and authority. There are those that will view many of Powell's assessments in DeYoung's biography as "Bush bashing"; however I would urge the reader to be open minded: this is more a contrast of styles. President Bush acts primarily on his political and spiritual instincts while Powell is detailed in his analysis of the same situation. And while Powell might disagree with the President's ultimate decision, like a good soldier he defers to his commander-in-chief. Clearly, President Bush was wary of Powell's advice. Consistently the President relied more heavily upon those with whom he was more comfortable: Secretary Rumsfeld, Vice-President Cheney and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. Here the reader is allowed to make her own assessment of the various personalities and their impact on this country's foreign policy during President Bush's first term in office. It is quite revelatory how Powell was consistently undercut by the forenamed. Looking back, it is apparent now how the President could have been better served had he listened more instead of less to his Secretary of State. DeYoung thoroughly and competently deals with some of the Secretary's key issues during President Bush's first term: Powell's role as ambassador to the United Nations; his address to that body on the existence of WMD in Iraq; his preference in dealing with Iraq diplomatically instead of mounting a costly invasion; his visit to Israel in 2003; and his opposition to the treatment suffered by detainees and enemy combatants as it related to the rules of warfare (read that Geneva Conventions). After reading this book I have a greater respect and admiration for General Powell and what he endured with the President and the President's various constituents. Regardless of your political persuasion, I highly recommend this book but not for the reasons one might ordinarily expect. DeYoung uses the contrasting personalities of Secretary Powell, the soldier and President Bush, the politician merely as backdrops in order to provide an interesting snapshot of Washington politics during one of this nation's most controversial and dangerous periods.

A fascinating portrait of an enigmatic political figure

You don't hear much about Colin Powell these days. A man who until recently was featured routinely in the daily news and once courted by both political parties as Presidential timber now passes his time quietly in private life. Like an inactive volcano he is still there, quiet but respected for the power he could wield if he chose. Karen DeYoung, a senior editor and foreign policy reporter at the Washington Post, examines Powell's life in fascinating detail in this book. She does her best to get inside his head and explain some of the puzzling aspects of his personality. When you turn her final page, you know an awful lot about Colin Powell as a person and about his career path, but whether you truly understand what makes the man tick is hard to say. In important respects he remains an enormously respected enigma. DeYoung covers the early stages of Powell's military career in workmanlike detail, but inevitably her main focus, dominating the last half of her 523-page text, details his four-year tenure as George W. Bush's Secretary of State and his involvement in the run-up to the Iraq war. The obvious questions abound: What was his attitude toward the Iraq venture? Did he try to derail it? Why did he not resign when his counsel was ignored? Why did he reject the idea of running for President himself? Is he in any sense blameworthy for the unfortunate turn of events in Iraq? If he is not, who is? DeYoung's portrait of Powell, buttressed by an impressive amount of research, shows us a man trained in the military virtue of loyalty, not by nature an activist firebrand, convinced that persuasion and diplomacy must be tried before guns are fired, utterly repelled by down-and-dirty politics --- and caught in the middle of fierce ideological brawls without the means or temperament to make his own views prevail. Her account of the "catfights" among Bush's advisers is not pretty. Powell himself, unwillingly caught up in the crossfire, comes across as noble yet often ineffectual. DeYoung's book amplifies some of the points made in Powell's own 1995 memoir, MY AMERICAN JOURNEY --- but back then the big question was simply, "Is Colin Powell a Democrat or a Republican?" Powell himself then seemed unsure and craftily did not answer the question in his book. Eventually he decided he was "about 55% a Republican" --- but when in 1996 the pressure on him to run for President demanded an answer, Powell and writer Joseph Persico actually drafted two speeches, one saying "yes," the other "no" and virtually up to the last minute Powell was not certain which one he would give, comparing his vacillations to the back-and-forth of a windshield wiper. One factor in his decision not to run was his wife's revulsion at the idea. Another was his genuine liking for President Clinton. A third was the idea that not since McClellan ran against Lincoln had a general run against his commander-in-chief. When Bush asked him to become Secretary of State in 2000, Powell knew he was

Colin Powell Portrayed Honestly and Extraordinarily Accurately!

There are two verses that appear to summarize the essence of Colin Powell, as portrayed by Karen DeYoung in her brilliant biography of this beloved American hero.: " . . . soldiers didn't' quit when they disagreed with the decisions of their commanders . . . he would be a soldier until he drew his last breath." "I've had tough days. I've had great days . . . There are days where things don't go so well and a position you might have been pushing isn't successful . . . That just comes with the business. And if that's going to put you into a blue funk, then you're in the wrong business . . . I've been shot at for real, as opposed to the way I get shot at now." The reviews of excellence written about DeYoung's large-scale undertaking about this extraordinary man are accurate. The story of Powell's life from the time he was asked to resign by President Bush to his family ties in Jamaica, and his beginning in the United States Armed Forces and back again, to give a speech at the War College . . . and everything in between is simply brilliantly and fluidly portrayed. DeYoung answers, as I needed answers, why this man of great integrity appeared to have lost his credibility during the sent off mission he was asked to extend himself to with respect the WMD issue during the Iraq War. DeYoung further answers a very important question of why Colin Powell, now going on age 69 (I didn't know that!) chose not to become involved with electoral politics. Nevertheless, here is Colin Powell, personally the one individual who could have brought this nation closer together in a way not seen since the times of President Lincoln. Missed opportunity or a soldier being a soldier? Perhaps a little of both. Somehow, I believe Colin Powell is far from done. Let's hope so. In this superb journalistic work, Karen DeYoung does not back off the hard questions about Colin Powell, cross references and makes accessible her diligent research, and stylistically writes in a manner most every reader will appreciate. There is no meandering, no drifting, and no wondering: simply put, DeYoung has written an extraordinary book about an extraordinary man, who I like many hope he realizes that his duty to the public is far from over.

A Real American Hero!

DeYoung begins by relating how Bush pushed Powell out at the end of his 1st term, without the courtesy of even personally discussing it with him; making matters worse was the fact that Bush didn't even know why Powell was at the White House when it came time to say "Good Bye." Colin Powell came from Jamaican parents (often called "Jewmaicans" by American Negroes because of the emphasis they placed on hard work and education), and during his early life in the NYC area suffered little, if any, racial prejudice. Later on, unfortunately, the insults were quite aggravating, but Powell was determined to not let them inhibit his performance. Powell was an indifferent student in high school and at CCNY (majored in geology); however, ROTC piqued his sophomore-year interest and he soon became a standout. Powell went on to be selected outstanding cadet, and top graduate (or very close) in every military training setting he undertook, as well as a top MBA student at George Washington University. He also was top-ranked by superiors in almost every military assignment, leading to his being offered a White House fellowship, which in turn provided Powell with travel to Russia and China and brought him in contact with a number of influential people who were impressed enough to forward Powell onto Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, National Security Advisor, and Secretary of State. One of Powell's "secrets of success" was to enthusiastically implement all orders, even those he considered silly - Powell himself believed that doing otherwise grounded the careers of many talented others. Unfortunately, Powell eventually crossed paths with Dick Cheney (a bit of a problem during Gulf War I; a serious problem when Cheney became V.P.). Between Cheney's far-right bias ("out on the looney fringe" - per Powell) and Bush II's "disturbingly disjointed" decision-making - per Treasury Secretary O'Neill), Powell's contributions as Secretary of State were severely limited and constantly undermined and countermanded - often with Don Rumsfeld's help. In addition, he was often left out of important decisions, especially when out of the country. Ultimately, Powell's credibility suffered from the inaccurate information provided in his U.N. speech attesting to Saddam's WMD. The big question, still debated, is "Why didn't he resign?" His supporters believe the reason is that Powell's nature simply didn't allow anything less than 100% support. Bottom Line: If Cheney had not been such an ideologue (telling Bush there were no candidates good enough to run as his V.P. - ignoring Powell, and then sliding into the position himself), Powell would be V.P. today, possibly President in 2008. Similarly, if Bush #41 had not been so stubborn and instead replaced Quayle with Powell in '92, Powell might well have become first V.P., and then President.

Outstanding biography of an outstanding American leader!

Washington Post reporter Karen DeYoung clearly finds the mark in her most auspicious biography of, in my opinion, America's finest leader in recent memory. Colin Powell truly is a great American and merits such a treatment of his life's story. I had the good fortune of speaking with him at some length one time on the telephone and found him to be a leader among leaders, in charge without being dictatorial, and utterly "cool." I trust that he will continue to inspire budding leaders of like integrity and ability to step forward and serve. DeYoung captures the essence of Powell by delving deeply into his world. This she accomplished through a series of comprehensive interviews that offer a full picture of the man. Powell may have his shortcomings, but try and find another like him! DeYoung also succeeds, because of her skills and experiences as a Washington insider. She talks Powell's language of "intel-speak" and "Realpolitik." A pragmatist and not an ideologue, Powell always has been a good soldier. He is at once loyal in service, yet also unafraid to raise a flag as a referee might do at a sporting event. He kept administration extremists at arm's length and tried to exert a moderating influence over policies and events. As good as he is, Powell is not Superman. In some ways, he fell short of steering administrations away from such pitfalls as the Iran-contra affair and the present quandary in Iraq. Even the euphoria of the 1991 liberation of Kuwait did not translate into a regime change in Iraq, because it would have fractured the coalition, turned the Muslim world against the US, and left America hard-pressed to win the peace amid sectarian violence and groping to come up with an exit strategy. Like today. From the 1980s on, Powell has rubbed shoulders with the likes of Gorbachev, George W. Bush, and almost everyone of power in between. Most of them he influenced for the better. A few got the better of him. Powell's 2003 UN presentation on Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) in Iraq exposed some of his flaws, but we can be sure that Powell did his homework. Perhaps his priorities got discombobulated, since hindsight now tells us that North Korea is a WMD threat, Iran is well on the way, and Iraq was grossly exaggerated. DeYoung presents all this and much more in a book that may well have a shot at a Pulitzer Prize or National Book Award. DeYoung gives us Powell's personal life as well, including a vignette about how relieved he and his family were when he finally let go of his quest for the presidency. Somewhat of an outsider, Powell was better suited to become an appointed Cabinet member and sounding board for a president open-minded enough to take advice from someone gutsy enough to disagree with him. And Powell is centrist enough to have served with such polar opposites as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. DeYoung also reveals that Powell is pro-choice on abortion, a stance that I disagree with strongly. Overall, howev
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