If the coming years do produce a mult-polar or polarless world, "We shouldn't see American power as a zero sum game. Just because there are other powers rising, such as China and India and Brazil and Russia, doesn't mean we lose all the power. It just means there are other powers out there that we have to work with." And Albright added, "We need them."
The first woman ever to lead the U.S. State Department addressed a crowd of about 1,000 in the Green Center for the Performing Arts' Kresge Auditorium.
"The winner of this year's presidential campaign will face a series of very hard tests," Albright asserted in her opening remarks. They include, in her words:
"How to fight terror without being so aggressive that we create a new generation of terrorists."
"How to withdraw responsibly from Iraq, while at the same time operating more effectively in Afghanistan."
"The need to prevent nuclear weapons from falling into the wrong hands."
"Developing an energy policy that will generate the power that we need without destroying the environment we must have to survive."
"Guiding globalization so that technology and investments benefit everyone, including the poor and disadvantaged."
"Dealing with the global financial disasters" which have dominated this week's headlines.
Complicating matters, says Albright (whose latest book is entitled Memo to the President Elect: How We Can Restore America's Reputation and Leadership), is the nation's next commander-in-chief will take office "at a time when our armed forces have been stretched thin, our economy is shaky, our deficit has reached a record level and our allies are divided."
In a wide-ranging conversation with Doug Frantz '71, senior writer for Condé Naste Portfolio and former managing editor of the Los Angeles Times, Albright stated that the next president of the United States will have "an exceptionally difficult job because of the record of the last 7 1/2 or 8 years."
As U.S. Secretary of State from 1997 to 2001, Albright is credited with reinforcing America's alliances, advocating democracy and human rights, and promoting American trade and business, labor, and environmental standards abroad.
In recent years, "I think America's reputation has suffered greatly and it's due to Iraq," Dr. Albright declared, saying the war "will go down in history as the greatest disaster in American foreign policy. Which means that I think it's worse than Vietnam, not in terms of the numbers of Americans who've died or Vietnamese versus Iraqis, but in terms of its unintended consequences."
Since the fighting began, she says, "I think that Iran has actually done very well, that the region has been put into even greater disequilibrium that it is under normal circumstances, and that we have lost our moral authority."
Albright, who was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, added: "I am a child of World War II and (the) Cold War, and when you'd say to people, 'What are the words you associated with the U.S.?' they'd say Omaha Beach. Now ... they say Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. And so our reputation has been deeply sullied by this war." Still, in her travels, Albright meets people who "want to see American leadership, it's just that American leadership has been wanting. And so, the question is how to revive that sense of the goodness of American power and how to operate in the world a bit differently."
In giving the current administration's foreign policy a "D," Albright argued "the Bush administration has taken so many concepts and pushed them to such a far degree that they then lose what it is that you originally thought about. And so imposing democracy, as they have done in Iraq, has done more to damage the reputation of democracy than anything else. I don't buy when people say 'X country isn't ready for democracy' or 'Asian values don't allow for democracy' or 'Middle Easterners can never have democracies' because I believe that we're all the same and we all want to make decisions about our own lives."
Intelligence is the "Achilles' heel" of the Bush doctrine of pre-emption, according to Albright, who served as the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations from 1993-1997 and is the first Michael and Virginia Mortara Endowed Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. She says she tells her students, "If somebody comes here and points a gun at me and I can pull my gun out and shoot that person right away, it's just self-defense ... But if somebody comes to me and says there's somebody outside with a box that looks kind of weird and I say go out and shoot them and it turns out it's a trombone and not an AK-47, I have murdered somebody." Frantz offered, "That's kind of like Iraq, isn't it?," and Albright responded, "I think this is the bottom line" and that successful foreign policy "does depend on having accurate intelligence."
Just as former congressman Lee Hamilton -- the 1952 DePauw graduate who co-chaired the Iraq Study Group and 9/11 Commission -- said at last night's Discourse session, Albright expressed great concern about the possibility of nuclear materials winding up in the hands of terrorists in Pakistan. And like the veteran statesman who played on the Tiger basketball team, she believes that America needs to be in continuing discussions with all nations, friends and foes. "I happen to think that one needs to deal with people that you don't like and have a dialogue with the Iranians. I met with [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic and [North Korean leader] Kim Jong-il." She stressed that as a diplomat, "you need to know who you're dealing with."
Albright is currently principal of The Albright Group LLC, a global strategy firm. She also serves as the first Michael and Virginia Mortara Endowed Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. She chairs both the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, and the Pew Global Attitudes Project and serves as president of the Truman Scholarship Foundation. Albright is also chairperson for the Women, Faith and Development Alliance, which aims to end global poverty among women.
Her visit to DePauw included a news conference, dinner with DePauw Discourse attendees at the Walden Inn, and a book signing event in the Great Hall of the Green Center following her presentation.
The former secretary offered her take on the two major parties' presidential nominees, observing that John McCain "has much more kind of 20th century solutions to issues and does, in fact, return to language that is more confrontational." Barack Obama, in her view, "is somebody who has a different approach in terms of how you do business in the 21st century."