Gen. Colin L. Powell
Chairman of the Joint
The youngest-ever and first black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Colin L. Powell, 53, was President Bush's chief military engineer and manager of Operation Desert Storm, having spent the five months prior to the airstrike preparing for war.
The son of Jamaican immigrants, he told the president early on to "draw a line in the sand." When asked at a January Pentagon briefing about his strategy for going after the Iraqi army, the cool, unflappable, four-star general from Harlem boldly declared, "First going to cut it off, and then we're going to kill it."
A decorated Vietnam veteran, the ROTC-trained "soldier statesman" has alternated between military service and GOP political appointments, serving as national security adviser to President Reagan in 1987. His success in steering U.S. military operations, first in Panama, which came soon after his appointment as Joint Chiefs chairman, and now in the Persian Gulf, have stepped up whispers of vice-presidential and even presidential possibilities -- even though General Powell likes to refer to himself as "just a foot soldier" at heart.
James A. Baker III
Secretary of State
If there was ever a chance for a diplomatic solution to the Persian Gulf crisis, it appeared to evaporate on Jan. 9 when Secretary of State James A. Baker III, 60, met with Iraq's foreign minister Tariq Aziz for 6 1/2 hours, both of them coming away empty-handed. "Regrettably, I heard nothing today that suggested to me any Iraqi flexibility," Mr. Baker announced after the Geneva meeting that had been cast as a last-ditch effort to avoid war.
President Bush's longtime best buddy and fellow HoustonianMr. Baker was thought by some policy-makers to have given insufficient or imprecise information to April Glaspie, U.S. ambassador to Iraq, last summer when, a week before Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, she told Saddam Hussein the United States had no interest in "Arab-Arab conflicts." But Mr. Baker has said he knew nothing of any specific instructions to Ms. Glaspie.
Chief of staff and secretary of the treasury for President Reagan before leaving to manage George Bush's presidential campaign, Baker is thought to be the president's most trusted adviser and confidante.
As he now visits nations throughout the Middle East to assess possibilities for peace, his work as the nation's top negotiator may be just beginning.
Secretary of Defense
Four days after Iraq invaded Kuwait, Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, 50, flew to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to offer to Saudi Arabia's King Fahd U.S. assistance in a military effort to contain Saddam Hussein's aggression. The king accepted the offer, Mr. Cheney called the White House and the first U.S. troops were ordered to the desert.
Mr. Cheney, a former Wyoming congressman and chief of stafto President Ford, was noted for presiding over Operation Desert Storm with a high measure of confidence and cool-headedness. When he and General Powell made a trip to the gulf region in February, their second trip to the region together, the secretary signed a bomb being prepared for a Stealth fighter, "To Saddam, with affection. Dick Cheney. Def. Sec."
Although some questioned his fitness under stress because of a history of heart problems including 1988 bypass surgery, Mr. Cheney -- appointed to the Cabinet post after President Bush's first choice, John G. Tower, was rejected by Congress -- has said his health is fine.