In government, especially in the area of foreign policy, diversity of thought is a strength, not a weakness. And this, if for no other reason, is why the American public will sorely miss Secretary of State Colin Powell.
The waste and carnage of war was seared into Mr. Powell's psyche 30 years ago. Having survived two combat tours in Vietnam as an army infantry officer, he came to the job of secretary of state understanding that diplomacy is the least destructive way to resolve conflicts between nations rather than force of arms. It is this harsh experience that prompted Secretary Powell to warn two presidents that occupying a foreign country was akin to owning it and going to war without a clear exit strategy was sheer folly. Unfortunately and ironically, the elder Bush held Mr. Powell's sage advice in higher esteem than our current chief executive.
More than ever before, the president needs courageous, independent thinkers who will refrain from telling him what they think he wants to hear and instead focus on what he needs to know in order to make informed public policy decisions. With so much at stake, the nation is ill served by advisers who are reticent to express the unvarnished truth and by a chief executive who ignores them when they do.
With Colin Powell's departure, America has lost a patriot whose candor and skepticism will not be equaled by any other cabinet level official in the Bush administration. Filling the vacated ranks of the State Department, office of the attorney general and Homeland Security Department with compliant public servants who are culturally diverse but who lack diversity of thought does a grave disservice to the institution of the presidency and the republic.