With the 2006 midterm election over, many of the political books published over the last few months will rapidly lose any sense of currency or timelines.
Hastily-written tomes from both sides of the political spectrum will fade away into bargain bins to be forgotten until the authors come up for reelection. Among these literary will-o-the-wisps, however, a few books continue to stand tall.
Foremost among these is “Soldier,” a biography of retired Army general and former Secretary of State Colin Powell by “Washington Post” political reporter Karen DeYoung.
Exhaustively researched and engagingly
penned, “Soldier” provides a moving portrait of an unassuming New York ROTC cadet’s meteoric rise to the world’s most influential political circles.
It is, DeYoung writes, the story of “the complicated human core where a man’s deepest beliefs about himself and the world around him reside.”
Capturing all the color of Powell’s background and personal life, DeYoung brings to life the events surrounding three wars and three decades of American foreign policy in a manner that is, above all other things, engrossingly readable.
While “Soldier” touches on Powell’s developmental years, its focus is clearly on his adult public life. Beginning with his Army service in West Germany during the late 1950s, DeYoung chronicles the twists, turns, ups and downs of Powell’s career as he ascends through both the military and civilian ranks to become America’s top diplomat.
DeYoung devotes approximately one-third of the hefty book to Powell’s tenure as Secretary of State to President George W. Bush.
In pages, almost chapters, of foreshadowing, she repeatedly hints at mounting tension between the moderate, pragmatic Powell, and the conservative ideologues for whom Iraq was always a target.
The tale of public posturing and behind-
the-scenes humiliation that emerges is chillingly believable.
If “Soldier” has one flaw, it is the starry-eyed adulation that DeYoung heaps upon Powell while characterizing conservative hardliners like Vice President
Dick Cheney in a decidedly negative manner.
Her glowing endorsement of Powell’s every action, while it does not compromise the book, at times causes the reader to wonder if the whole story is really being told.
Encompassing three major wars, countless conflicts and skirmishes, Karen DeYoung’s “Soldier” is the story of a man striving to balance military and public service to always fight the good fight.
Regardless of political ideology, the reader will surely come to at least respect, if not admire, the soldier and statesman’s upright service.
As Colin Powell puts it in the epilogue to “Soldier”: “As long as I’m remembered as somebody who served, that’s good enough for me.”
Peter Chomko can be reached at email@example.com.