Powell tells advisers upheaval in Mideast could be downer for U.S.

Former secretary of state warns that ‘revolutionary changes' in the Middle East may not benefit the West

Feb 3, 2011 @ 3:56 pm

By Andrew Osterland

“Follow me.”

That was Gen. Colin L. Powell's motto as a young army lieutenant leading infantrymen, and it could apply just as well to registered investment advisers. “Your clients are your followers, and your purpose is to serve your clients well, to give them financial security and preserve their assets,” the former secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told a room full of advisers at TD Ameritrade Institutional's national conference in San Diego.

Mr. Powell was an inspirational and humorous stand-in for former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair as the first speaker at the conference today.

Mr. Blair, special Middle East envoy for the Quartet was called to that region in response to the protests in Egypt. The Quartet is a mediating group comprised of representatives from the U.S., Russia, the European Union and the United Nations that is committed to finding a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Mr. Powell was involved in the formation of the Quartet in 2002 while serving in the Bush administration. “We haven't solved the problem, but we won't stop until we have peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” he told the audience.

Though unsettling to see violence escalating in Egypt, Mr. Powell suggested the events unfolding in the region are not surprising.

“People want jobs and they want better lives for their kids. The autocratic governments [in the Middle East] have not been giving that to them and those governments are now at risk,” he said. Mr. Powell warned that the outcome of events in the Middle East is unlikely to benefit the United States. “There's revolutionary change taking place in the region and it's probably not going to be as friendly towards the U.S.”

Paying homage to the optimism of former President Ronald Reagan, under whom he served during the collapse of the Soviet Union, Mr. Powell said that despite the problems in the Middle East, the world is experiencing significant growth and development.

“This new world is being shaped by the creation of wealth,” he said. “We have problems, but we've already come so far.”

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