Albright participates in foreign policy discussion at UCSD

    Travis Ball
    Guardian

    Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited the Institute of the Americas Auditorium on Feb. 13 to participate in a foreign policy discussion with two UCSD international affairs experts. Albright was joined by Susan Shirk, professor of political science at the Graduate School of International Relations/Pacific Studies, and Jeffrey Davidow, president of the Institute of the Americas.

    Cosponsored by the IR/PS and the Institute of the Americas, the “Conversation with Secretary Albright” featured the former secretary of state’s thoughts on notable political dilemmas, particularly terrorism, nuclear proliferation in North Korea and the war in Iraq, among other issues.

    The auditorium was filled to maximum capacity, and prospective attendees were redirected to an overflow room with live video broadcast of the talk.

    Albright began the dialogue by claiming that the major problem of this century thus far has been terrorism. She proceeded to present her view on how the Bush administration has handled the issue.

    “President Bush has divided the world into those who are against us and those who are with us, which I think is an overly simplified way of looking at what is becoming an increasingly complex international system,” Albright said.

    When asked about government intelligence and American knowledge of Osama bin Laden prior to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Albright said that the United States “did know Osama bin Laden was a danger to us” and former President Bill Clinton was “very cognizant of the danger of terrorism and had made statements and taken actions to fight terrorism.”

    According to Albright, Clinton had set up a series of structural approaches within the American government to deal with terrorism at the beginning of his administration. Clinton added to the budget of the CIA, tripled the budget of the FBI and set up offices in the White House which coordinated anti-terrorism activity, she said.

    Albright said that it is not simply the possession of crucial intelligence documents that prevents attacks, but also how that intelligence is interpreted and read by the administration in power that dictates what, if any, action will be taken by the government.

    “I would say President Gore would have seen it differently, and therefore I’m not sure it’s fair to call it an intelligence failure, because it is the assessment of the intelligence that is the way decisions are made,” Albright said.

    Another topic that was touched upon during the discussion was that of the North Korean nuclear weapons. Albright said that United States and North Korean relations have been tense for years as the United States, frustrated with North Korea’s refusal to disarm itself of its nuclear stockpile, refuses to recognize North Korean leader Kim Jung Il.

    “I think [Kim] wants recognition by the United States, and punishing him with the hope that he will implode is not an answer to dealing with what is the most dangerous place in the world at the moment,” Albright said. “Their nuclear program, as far as we know, has been unfrozen.”

    Midway through the program, Shirk asked Albright whether or not President Bush’s actions with Iraq were a mistake.

    “I understood the why, but I didn’t understand the why now,” Albright said. “I was willing to believe there were still weapons of mass destruction because in 1998, when the inspectors left, not all weapons there had been accounted for from the Gulf War. By deduction, you would think that some of them were there … but I did not think [the inspectors] thought it was a great and gathering threat.”

    Albright also said that peace is necessary.

    “I thought this was a war of choice, not of necessity,” Albright said. “But I now feel equally strongly that peace is a matter of necessity and not a choice. We have to continue to try to figure out what to do.”

    Albright said she felt the United Nations should be brought into Iraq.

    “While I think that [the Bush administration] has set an exit strategy based on artificial deadlines, and while I would not have done this war, I also think that now that there is this chaotic situation, it is our responsibility not to ‘cut and run,’” she said. “You can’t have instant democracies … the president needs to explain to the American people that this is a long-term commitment.”

    Albright closed the discussion by giving some words of advice to young women aspiring to careers in foreign policy.

    “Ultimately doing foreign policy, I think, is one of the most exciting things in the world. The more women there are, the better it will be for all of us because we will be able to support each other,” Albright said. “I hope very much that I was not a historical accident and that I showed that it is possible and important for women to have the ability to have high-level foreign policy jobs.”

    Student reaction to the talks were positive.

    “I really enjoyed it,” Eleanor Roosevelt College sophomore Sarah Kaplan said. “[Albright] provided an interesting perspective on the current administration and the war in Iraq, and most of her views paralleled mine. As a political science major, I thought her message about women was very inspiring.”

    On Jan. 23, 1997, Albright became the 64th secretary of state, making her the highest-ranking woman in the history of the United States government. Prior to her appointment as secretary, she served as ambassador to the United Nations under the Clinton administration and served for the National Security Council under the Carter administration.

    Both Shirk and Davidow previously served in the State Department under the tenure of Albright. Shirk served as deputy assistant secretary of East Asian and Pacific affairs, while Davidow has served as assistant secretary of state for Latin America as well as ambassador to Mexico.

    After the conversation, Albright signed copies of her recently published autobiography, “Madam Secretary: A Memoir.”

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