Secretary of State Colin Powell, as many have been expecting, has tendered his resignation, effective once a suitable replacement has been found.
Powell did the best he could, but had been saddled with a bureaucracy of entrenched interests that often went to the contrary of the President’s policy objectives. Powell also had to deal with the arrogance and the cynicism of European powers who had every interest in constraining the United States no matter what the cost. Such circumstances would be straining to anyone. However, Powell did some impressive shuttle diplomacy in securing the release of American pilots in China early in the Bush Administration, as well as helping get as much international support as he could for the war in Iraq. No amount of persuasion would change the minds of Jacques Chirac or Dominique de Villepin, which meant that Powell’s task was nearly Sisyphean in scope.
My guess would be that Condoleezza Rice would be the natural successor to Powell. She’s fluent in several languages, is extremely accomplished, and practically unflappable – all qualities necessary for success in the cutthroat world of international diplomacy. She also has the will to reform the Foreign Service and ensure that State works for American interests rather than against them. It’s a difficult task, but she would be one of the few who could pull it off.
UPDATE: Also resigning is Secretary of Education Rod Paige, Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman, and Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham. Cabinet resignations between Presidential terms like this are fairly normal, the turnover of Cabinet-level personnel is quite high.
One wonders if Rumsfeld will stay on or not…