Book Review: “Soldier: The Life of Colin Powell” by Karen DeYoung

This is a good complement book to Colin Powell’s own memoir, I supposed, as it’s written by a third party – not Colin Powell himself. The audio book, downloaded from OverDrive, was very long – 23+ hrs. I had a hard time staying on track but the narration and story lines flowed very well, which helped when my mind wondered off and came back without missing the essence.

1. This book highlights how much power within George W. Bush’s administration has been hijacked by Dick Cheney. Who’s the real president? How much of Iraq war was attributed to Dick Cheney’s own agenda? How sad.
2. Colin Powell is a very lucky, patient and smooth guy. He survived the short stint in Vietnam and kept on being promoted from the ranks. He doesn’t make too many enemies and was able to turn all adversarial situation into his advantage. He’s also very patient in turning his reputation into a financial asset much later in life but going on the leadership speech circle.
3. Colin Powell is a good and loyal soldier to his superior (including lying for his boss – Bush, on the Irag’s nuclear buildup), to the country. As a result, he has lots of credibility.
4. He is a natural leader, partly because he thinks for the lowest rank – the solider. He was very hesitant to go to any war, attempting to resolve the issue diplomatically (like in the Haitian coup). But when it’s time for a fight (like the 1st and 2nd Iraq war), he prepares to win the war in the most decisive manner.
5. He was able to concentrate on his career and moved around so much because his supportive wife and understanding family members.
6. Having served 4 US Presidents, he saw four very different style of Presidential leadership. Ronald Reagan was very hands-off. He didn’t care much for the details and ended up with the Oliver North’s Contra Scandal. The 1st Bush had a very good leadership style; he stood by Colin Powell when needed. Powell didn’t exactly worked for Clinton but he helped out whenever he could and spoke very highly of Clinton. George W. is probably the President he held least respect for, because his tolerance for Cheney’s manipulation and his easily being influenced by the last person who spoke to him.
7. One must have principle in life and look at things at a much longer horizon. Doing all the right things most of the time is what leadership is all about.
8. I’m amazed how the Whitehouse administration make decisions. Managing the country seems to take a very different skill set than the political process of winning the election. Everyone seems to have their own agenda, even under the same Presidential leadership.