Trained in the military code that you don't publicly criticize your superior or brother officers, Powell does not speak ill of his colleagues in government. He is a neo-Wilsonian in seeing America's role as spreading democracy through the world and considers that mission a post-Cold War success story for the United States. But he is clearly no admirer of the doctrine of pre-emption. Iraq was the only instance of a Bush pre-emption in the opinion of Powell, who saw the military operation in Afghanistan as a counterattack against Osama bin Laden.
While believing better relations should be sought with France and Germany, Powell is more concerned with anti-American public opinion. He feels the problem is more a question of how U.S. officials talk than what they say. Americans often talk as though they know best and know exactly what has to be done, which Powell does not believe works well in diplomatic circles.
Colin Powell is no slug today. He is feisty, confident and, at 67, not nearly ready for retirement. The leadership of New York's desiccated Republican Party would love for him to run for anything he wants, but he will not do it. He crossed that bridge when he decided not to run for president in 1996.
But would he rule out a return to government someday? "No," he says, "I would never rule that out because I don't know what the future might hold. But I have ruled out any political office." That is for the distant future. For the immediate future, he will be missed in the second Bush administration, where there is nobody to take up his legacy.