Colin Powell predicts U.S. troops won't intervene in Syrian war
Tribune-Review, Greensburg, Pa.
GREENSBURG, Pa. — With the United States withdrawing from the decade-long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, former Secretary of State Colin Powell on Thursday predicted the nation will not send troops to intervene in Syria's devastating civil war.
“We're not going to get involved in Syria,” Powell told about 1,500 people during a 45-minute speech at the Pittsburgh Diversity & Leadership Conference at California University of Pennsylvania's new convocation center.
“We don't need another war,” said Powell, who served as secretary of State for four years under President George W. Bush.
The 76-year-old Powell said he sees soldiers who still are recovering from those conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan when he visits the wounded soldiers at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
“Those kids have done enough,” said Powell, a veteran of the Vietnam War and retired four-star general.
While not offering any advice to President Obama on what he should do in Syria or other battlefields around the world, Powell did not hesitate to take Congress to task for what he considers “a failed system in Washington that isn't functioning the way it should.”
Powell said he has worked for four presidents at a senior level and has “never seen this kind of polarization on the (political) right and left.”
“Beating up on Congress — it's a real easy target,” said Powell, who is the founder of America's Promise Alliance and a partner in a Silicon Valley venture capital firm.
He ripped into those in Congress who would “hold the whole government hostage” by not approving an increase in the government's debt ceiling by Sept. 30, which is the end of the fiscal year.
“It is a disgrace. It is an absolute disgrace,” Powell said.
The solution to the gridlock in Washington, however, will not come from the outside, Powell said.
“Don't think Superman or some Superwoman is coming to solve this,” Powell said.
The failure to compromise and the polarization of political factions is not only occurring in Washington, but in the nation as well, Powell said.
“We are polarizing ourselves by what we watch on TV,” Powell said, referring to news channels that favor a conservative or liberal point of view.
Students should be wary of the news media and the information it presents, Powell said. He warned the students in the audience to “not just fall for the right or fall for the left.”
As he stood in front of the audience and spoke without any prepared text, Powell gave his listeners a view of life at the top of America's political and military system, and how he still thinks about those heady days.
As secretary of State, he would fly around the world in the government's Boeing 757, meeting and dining with world leaders, walking down a red carpet to the music played by military bands. And when it came time to leave a foreign land, the plane would not take off until his soda was served on a silver platter.
“Every king, every prince, every president wanted to call me,” Powell said.
But the day that Condoleezza Rice succeeded him in January 2005 the phone stopped ringing, his security detail left him and he was on his own as he walked into his house after leaving the State Department.
“An intellectual gap opens up,” after holding such a position, Powell said, followed by a depressive feeling.
Powell said it was not unlike when he left the military after 35 years and became “a retired G.I.”
As for the secretary of State job, Powell confessed he does not miss that part of politics, but does miss that Boeing 757.
“They gave it to Condi (Rice) and Hillary (Clinton). I don't know where the hell (John) Kerry has it now,” Powell quipped.