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Colin Powell saw ‘the dilemmas, blowback and contradictions of US foreign policy,’ expert says

Professors available to comment on Powell’s legacy

EVANSTON, Ill. --- As the country remembers former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, Northwestern professors from the fields of history, political science and international studies are available to discuss his role in key events that shaped U.S. foreign policy.

Political Science:

Ian Hurd is professor of political science and director of the Weinberg College Center for International and Area Studies at Northwestern. His research on international law and politics combines contemporary global affairs with attention to the conceptual frames that serve to make sense of the world. He can be reached by contacting Mohamed Abdelfattah at

Quote from Professor Hurd: 

“Colin Powell’s experience from Vietnam to the 1980s taught him that the U.S. military is not a straightforward tool to fix the world along lines desired by U.S. presidents. He saw the dilemmas, blowback and contradictions of American foreign policy. He will mainly be remembered for the principal moment when he forgot these lessons — in 2003 as he was enlisted to mobilize public support for the U.S. invasion of Iraq. His speech to the UN Security Council that year was tremendously effective in generating positive media stories in favor of the invasion but had no basis in fact. We don’t know if Powell sought actively to deceive the U.S. public or whether he himself was deceived by the White House, but either way, his eagerness to take the U.S. into war in Iraq helped repeat the mistakes he saw on the ground in Vietnam in the 1960s.” 

Alvin B. Tillery Jr. is an associate professor of political science and director of the Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy. His research and teaching interests are in the fields of American politics and political theory. His research focuses on American political development, racial and ethnic politics and media and politics. He can be reached at


Michael Allen is an associate professor of history. His research interests are U.S. political and diplomatic history. He is the author of “Until the Last Man Comes Home: POWs, MIAs, and the Unending Vietnam War.” His current work-in-progress, “New Politics: The Imperial Presidency, The Pragmatic Left, and the Problem of Democratic Power, 1933-1981, focuses on evolving left-liberal relations to presidential power in the postwar era. He can be reached by contacting Stephanie Kulke at

Interview the Experts


Ian Hurd

Professor of political science

  • International relations, organizations, and theory
  • Law and politics
  • Foreign affairs
  • Political science research methodology

Alvin B. Tillery Jr.

Associate professor of political science and African American studies Director, Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy

  • American politics 
  • Race relations
  • Presidential leadership
  • Affirmative action and diversity policies
  • Social movements and protest politics
  • Immigration 
Michael Allen

Michael Allen

Associate professor of history

  • American History since 1900
  • War and Empire in History