Retired General Colin Powell answered questions Wednesday about his qualifications for Secretary of State.
SPOKESMAN: This is one of those easy days.
MARGARET WARNER: Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee made it clear from the outset that General Colin Powell, a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would sail through the confirmation process to become the next Secretary of State. But Democratic Senator Joseph Biden, the Committee's temporary chairman, said he was concerned about the incoming Republican administration's view of America's role in the world. He cited a couple of issues.
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN: I don't believe that President-elect Bush push or General Powell are isolationists --far from it, but there are prominent voices, General, who is often suggest we should act unilaterally, such as those who would deploy national missile defense without concern, although legitimate interests of our European and Asian allies -- it seems to me we have to guard against the unilateralist approach to American foreign policy. Let me state my concern bluntly: I believe it would be a serious mistake to withdraw U.S. forces from the Balkans. Our presence, which amounts to about 20% of the international force, is still the linchpin of the peacekeeping forces in both Kosovo and Bosnia. And we should stay the course, in my view.
MARGARET WARNER: General Powell said President-elect Bush has every intention of staying engaged in the world.
COLIN POWELL: The guiding principle of President-elect Bush's foreign policy will be that America stands ready to help any country that wishes to join the Democratic rule, any country that puts the rule of law in place and begins to live by the rule, any country that seeks peace and prosperity in and a place in the sun. We have the strength to take risks for peace. We must help the world that wants to be free. And we can take these risks because we are so strong. We're economically strong, we're politically strong, and underneath it all we have an insurance policy that allows us to take risks. And those insurance policies go first by the name of the armed forces of the United States, the finest, the best in the world.
MARGARET WARNER: But he said another part of that insurance policy -- the State Department -- is badly under funded.
COLIN POWELL: If you visit some of the dilapidated embassies in the region, you would wonder whether the same government is taking care of them. That's not right. We have exceptional people in the State Department. If we want them to do the people's work, then we must give them the resource they need to do it.
MARGARET WARNER: Turning to the Balkans, Powell said the new administration wouldn't act precipitously, but he didn't back off Bush's stated objective of reducing U.S. troops there.
COLIN POWELL: President-elect Bush has promised to look closely at an area that I know is in the mind of so many of you, the situation in the Balkans, and especially the commitment of our troops in the Balkans. I can assure you that President Bush understands the commitments and obligations that we have made to our NATO allies and to the people of the region. And as we look at the possibility of reducing our troop levels in the region, this will be done carefully. It will be done as part of an overall view of all of our commitments overseas. And you can be sure it will be done in the closest consultation with our allies.
MARGARET WARNER: Biden probed further on the Bush team's commitment to develop a national missile defense shield.
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN: Let me ask you if you could get an ironclad agreement ending North Korea's long-range ballistic missile development programs and its sale of long range missile technologies to countries like Iran, would that give you a few more years and more time before you would need to deploy a national missile defense, the years that you could devote to building a system that would be more effective and pose fewer concerns to our allies and our potential adversaries?
COLIN POWELL: I think if we could move North Korea in that direction and make an ironclad verifiable agreement about which there is no question, that certainly would be factored into any calculation anyone would make about the threat. But there are still other nation that are moving in this direction, particularly Iran. Until Iraq comes into compliance and we can be assured of what they are able to do, I would say that at this point we should continue to move ahead as aggressively as possible. We can always make a judgment later as to whether to deploy or slow the deployment. But I think at this point, it would be very unwise to bet on the come that this threat will not be there in a few years.
MARGARET WARNER: During the afternoon session, Republican Jesse Helms asked Powell about an issue on which Bush has promised a new direction: Iraq.
SEN. JESSE HELMS: Now, tell me how you intend to reenergize sanctions and how you're going to proceed about removing Saddam Hussein.
MARGARET WARNER: Powell said the U.S. should remind its allies in the region, that Iraq's weapons program threatens them and make sure that the money generated by the U.N.-sponsored Oil-For-Food program, isn't diverted to Iraqi weapons development.
COLIN POWELL: As long as we are able to control the major source of money going into Iraq, we can keep them in the rather broken condition they are in now. Mr. Saddam Hussein can put a hat on his head and shoot a rifle in the air at an Army Day Parade, but it is fundamentally a broken, weak country, one-third the military force it had some ten years ago.
MARGARET WARNER: He struck a less confident tone on the effectiveness of funding opposition activities within Iraq.
COLIN POWELL: It's easy to say "Let's just go in and take over the land." But we really have to make sure we have an understanding of how this is actually going to be operationalized, and that there really is some sound basis for believing that people could be successful, once they go onto Iraqi territory. We have to make sure that our friends in the region are supporting us.
MARGARET WARNER: At mid-afternoon, Senator Russell Feingold finally asked Powell about the standard he'd follow in advising President Bush when and where to intervene militarily.
SEN. RUSSELL FEINGOLD: Perhaps you might be referring to what is sometimes called in the press the "Powell doctrine." I don't know. I thought you'd never ask. (Laughter) High threshold is okay. It's not the choice of terms that I would have made, but the doctrine that I think-- and the guidelines, I think that President-elect Bush will be following, reflect a point of view that says, before we commit the armed forces of the United States, make sure we have a clear political objective, we know what we are trying to accomplish with the use of those armed forces. It doesn't say you never intervene. It doesn't say that, maybe, you can't meet those tests and you've got to go anyway. That's why we have Presidents, to make those kinds of choices and those kinds of decisions. But it seems to me the bias in decision-making, before you make those kind of choices because CNN says "you've got to do something," it is very wise to go through a process that says, "what is it we're trying to accomplish? Is a military force the way to do it? Are there others who can do it?" We can just give them support, help them -- financial support, provide whatever logistic support they need, and use that kind of regional grouping to handle it, rather than America feeling it has to respond to every 911 call that's out there. When people think you are going to act that way and you think that way, they are less inclined to put you into a position of acting that way. And, therefore, I think that has a stabilizing effect.
MARGARET WARNER: The Committee is scheduled to vote on Powell's nomination tomorrow.