Good morning, my name is Patricia Stranahan, and I'm dean of the faculty and provost here at Hobart and William Smith and it's my privilege and honor today to be moderator and host for our very distinguished guest, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
Thank you very much and I'm very, very happy to be back in a classroom. I used to spend a lot of good times in classrooms and plan to again, so very glad to be with all of you. I mostly want to answer your questions as honestly as I can; probably more honestly than I would have if I were Secretary, so I think that this will be a lot of fun.
I have tried often in framing discussions on foreign policy to kind of go back to things that I actually taught about--and kind of basic foreign policy 101 is that a country has a foreign policy in order to protect the territory, the people, and the way of life. Mostly it has gotten much more complicated. Our territory, last time I looked, was still behind two oceans, but basically the borders for north and south are extremely porous to people and to environmental aspects, various environmental issues. And also porous from top and bottom again in terms of global environmental issues. Our people don't sit still, and as President Gearan has been telling me, none of you do either. You travel all over the world and people want to travel and invest and live all over the world--which creates a very different job for those who make foreign policy. And then finally our way of life, I think, is inextricably involved with everybody else's way of life, which is quite different from the way people lived when I was in school or further back. I've just been reading John Adams, so clearly another period, so that very simple thing about how to do foreign policy is obviously much more complex in the year 2001 than it ever has been.
When I went to the U.N. as Ambassador in February 1993, being a professor I felt that I needed a conceptual framework so I looked--at that stage there were 183 countries there and I tried to, in my own mind, organize a little bit of what I was seeing. These are overly generalized comments, but they've helped me quite a lot in thinking through how we see the world.
I think that there are basically four groups of countries. The largest group is composed of countries that believe in an international system, believe in a set of rules and regulations, and have diplomatic contacts. We might not all agree with each other about the form of government, but on the whole we agree on the fact that we're part of a system. The second group are called transitional, countries going through transition who basically want very much to be a part of the first group but don't have the institutional structure to be a part of it yet. The third group have been called various things--rogues, or as we later called them "states of concern." Countries that not only are not part of the system, but a lot about their very existence is to be outside the system, and to try to do everything to destroy it in some form or another--they are basically countries that have no structure at all, that are figuratively and literally eating their seed grain. When I started at the U.N. the two countries that were examples of that were Somalia and Haiti. A long term goal that I took up when I was Secretary was basically very simple. It was to strengthen the first group by strengthening the institutional ties among them, and examples of that were the enlargement of NATO or the creation of the World Trade Organization or various other ways of getting the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Those were ways that we were going to strengthen the first group.
The second group we spent a lot of time and money on helping get institutional structures. The third group we either contained, as in Saddam Hussein, or tried to reform as, for instance, in my trip to North Korea to visit Kim Chong-il. And the fourth group, we did the best we could to kind of hold their head above water. The ultimate goal, I think, of American foreign policy should be to try to get all the countries into the first group. You know, when people say 'what is the vision' thing, that is, in a very simplified way, what we were trying to accomplish. So now we can go to questions.
Okay, thank you very much. Our first question is from Shannon Le Beau, history major, Class of 2002. Shannon?
Shannon Le Beau:
Throughout the years, you've been a great role model to women in the workforce, and I'm wondering, how did you begin your career and what have you learned along the way that has helped you strive to the top?
Well, I'm just now writing a book…it's really weird to write a book about yourself, but I am doing that and I am dealing with that issue along with other parts, but let me give you a simplified version. I went to Wellesley and I graduated in the class of 1959, which in many ways was kind of a class that was on two steps. I got married three days after I graduated, which was the thing that people did but at the same time I also wanted to do something beyond being an interesting mate. So I began by wanting to have a career in journalism. My husband was a journalist, so he said, "Honey, what are you going to do?" and I said "I thought I'd be a journalist."
He said "no, I don't think so because you can't work on the same paper as your husband and it would be stupid to compete with me so find something else to do." Believe it or not, I said yes. Were I in your shoes, I might have said something else.
But then I decided that perhaps the thing to do would be to become a professor because that would really work very well in terms of my continued interests. So I went on a very long, long, long trek to get a Ph.D., and I had three children, and ultimately I got my Ph.D. What I wanted to do though, was also be in the government, so without going into the full story, what I basically did was to keep combining my interests of foreign policy and history and politics with real work in the government.
The only advice that I really have is that women, I think, have a huge advantage, which is that our life automatically comes in segments, some of it to do with child-bearing. Men actually get bored doing what they're doing all their lives. We have a great excuse for moving to different careers and I have felt that I've done a number of different things in different segments and have found actually that everything that I did in one segment has helped me in the other. You have to remember that every job that you have, whether it's an internship or anything, is part of your résumé, and to do a good job and never, ever have a chip on your shoulder.
Let's move on then. Kelly Heekin, political science, Class of 2002. Kelly.
My question is actually specifically about an article that I read recently and also in general about Africa. I recently read Robert Kaplan's The Coming Anarchy, and in it he describes a vision of Africa that is on the verge of collapse in terms of economics, social collapse, in terms of environment, over population and many different facets, and I was wondering if you agreed with that vision and whether or not you could speak about where you see foreign policy in Africa going in the next few years.
Well, first of all I've always found Kaplan depressing and overly pessimistic about everything, and I think on Africa it's too general and not cognizant enough. I mean we talk about Africa as if it were a country and it is many countries, all of which are quite different, and we have focused very much on the 'bad news stories' and should be focusing on some of the better news stories. There are countries that work in Africa that may have very serious problems but function. Botswana is a very good example. I think that Mali is also a country run by a democratically elected president that functions very well. The good news stories about Africa are ones which need to be supported, which we did in the Clinton administration through the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act which would show that it is possible to develop normal trade relations with countries in Africa and not just aid recipients, though obviously assistance is very necessary.
I think that there are some huge tragedies going on in Africa. Obviously the foremost one is HIV-AIDS which we decided was a security issue, a health issue obviously but also a security issue, because it destabilized the society so terribly and created upheaval. Attention must be paid to Africa. It can't be the last thing on the list. It has to be at the top and it has to be a major priority. I went to Africa every 12-month period as Ambassador to the U.N. as well as Secretary of State. President Clinton went. We tried to pay a lot of attention to Africa. I think it's very good that Secretary Powell went there, but that isn't enough and what has to happen is to have a concerted policy. Now there are some terrible tragedies going on and the sad part is that obviously for hundreds of years whites exploited Africa, but what you see now in some countries are black leaders exploiting their own people or going backwards as things have happened in Zimbabwe. Kaplan's analysis, to me, is counter-productive because it is so negative. If you see it as just hopeless, you're not going to do anything about it. Africa is a very rich continent, both in human and natural resources, and needs to be dealt with in a very serious and significant way.
Now, one of the things that I really thought about a lot was democratization generally. I think, of the various things, what I worked on harder than anything else was to promote democracy around the world-not because we have it here, but because I think most people in the world want to live in countries where they can make decisions about their daily lives and not be told what to do. I thought that it would be useful because the U.S. government, for reasons that are never clear to me, doesn't have enough money to give in assistance. What we ought to do is concentrate our money in different ways to see where we could do the most good. For me, the biggest hole in Africa was the absence of Nigeria for a long time, having been controlled by dictators and so we tried to put a lot of assistance into Nigeria because if it was able to really, with President Obasanjo, take hold it would have the possibility of not only being good for the people of Nigeria, but also spreading out across a very difficult part of the continent. We could talk about this forever, but mostly I think there has to be an active African policy, support for the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act and money for HIV-AIDS.
We have two follow-up questions, I think we'll proceed with those. The first one comes on behalf of a first year seminar titled 'Genocide in the Modern Age' with Professor Richard Salter, an assistant professor of religious studies. One of the students, Donna Richardson, will ask the question on behalf of the class.
As a class we've been struggling to make sense of the genocide in Rwanda and the U.S. response. We know that this was a problem 100 years in the making and 40 years in execution and we can't understand how the U.S. could have not been aware of the massacres and the upsurging Hudu power politics and the human rights violations that laid the groundwork for the genocide. At the same time, we have spoken with a survivor of the genocide and she suggested to us that a better question to ask is not how it did happen, but rather what are we doing now? Our question to you tries to bring together both of these perspectives. U.S. officials from President Clinton, Vice President Gore, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Richard Holbrooke, and you yourself have expressed deep regret over the U.S. role in Rwanda. Given that regret over the past, what can we as a nation do as a current response to the genocide in Rwanda? Are we funding higher education opportunities? Are we funding local community trials? Given the regret expressed over Rwanda, how have our mistakes there helped us reshape our foreign policy generally to prevent genocide? For example, has our regret over Rwanda helped us reshape our policy in Burundi?
That's an excellent question. Let me say first of all that hindsight is a wonderful thing. It is obviously very important in writing history and doing analyses and thinking about once you're able to put the story together in some consistent way, and unfortunately history is written forward, not backward in many ways, or you do history forward. There is no question that one of the biggest failures that we had was Rwanda. But, were we to do it again, or were we to be in that position again-a lot of us have talked about this endlessly-we don't quite know what we would have done then. That's different than answering your question about what we would do now and I will get to that, but let me just do the 'then'.
I've just been, again, writing about this for my book and trying to put the pieces together. First of all, I think it's very important to get into the picture of where we were at that time in terms of a number of things. When I took over as Ambassador to the United Nations it was a glorious time because all of a sudden the United Nations was unblocked in its ability to work. The Cold War had blocked it completely and every time we wanted to do something, the Soviets would veto it or the Chinese would object and we never could get anything done. With the end of the Cold War it became possible to function, and what was interesting actually was that President Herbert Walker Bush's putting together the initial coalition for the Gulf War was a sign that the Russians all of a sudden would cooperate, and all of a sudden there were a whole bunch of peacekeeping operations that were put out under Boutrous Ghali.
The question was how were these peacekeeping operations functioning. There was no Operations Center that really worked at the U.N.; it was like a 911 number that only answered between 9 and 5 and usually it was busy. There were 70,000 peacekeepers that were out in various places. I took it upon myself to go and visit every peacekeeping operation and in some ways they were remarkable. I went to Cambodia, for instance, and I saw Japanese soldiers working with Canadians and we flew up on a Russian helicopter. It was everything you would every dream of as an international organization functioning properly. But the problem was that there were 70,000 out there. We, the United States, had not paid our bills under President George Herbert Bush, not Clinton, and we were trying to figure out how to pay our bills, and the bills are not just somewhere sitting in a room. They are to pay the peacekeepers because countries provide the peacekeepers and then they need to be paid for them. So it was very hard to talk about additional peacekeeping activities when we weren't paying our bills and we're not providing a lot of peacekeepers, so that was kind of a general picture.
So then, when we came in to office, Somalia had been originally started as a humanitarian operation. We wanted to change it to a United Nations operation, which we managed to do, and there are lots of stories about that, but the disaster of it was that 18 Americans died. And that happened right around the time that the President of Rwanda died on the airplane crash. Before that there had been discussions about how the Arusha Agreement was working out, whether Hutu and Tutsis were at all working together. There began to be problems. There were very sketchy reports from the U.N. about what was really going on. I know you all read, or should have read, the article in the Atlantic about General Dallaire. A lot of those things were not evident at the time. It's very interesting. We didn't get those reports. But the main problem was that once the airplane had gone down it was like a volcano bursting and nobody was providing peacekeepers. There were no peacekeepers to be had and Boutrous Ghali actually didn't try very hard but even if he had, there were no forces that were willing to go. And the United States was not willing to go because we had just lost all the peacekeepers that we had put into Somalia and it was impossible to get any kind of congressional approval.
I had instructions to vote for withdrawing the entire force at that time of peacekeepers. I was an instructed Ambassador. I hated my instructions. I very rarely did this, but I got on the phone and I screamed to Washington and said 'we can't do this,' so in the end, we compromised and left some of them there. It's a very bad story, but it's a story that you need to understand within the context of the fact that there were not enough peacekeepers to be had anywhere and that the whole thing blew up very quickly.
Now, what are the lessons? I think the lessons are that we need to listen more carefully when reports come in from various countries. We need to do everything we can ahead of time to prevent things. In Burundi, people have been working for 10 years on trying to get that resolved. When I went to Burundi, I had just come from Rwanda and I said "I've just seen your future." You have to hold back from this kind of horror.
Whether they listen or not is very hard but President Mandela has been involved in trying to get Burundi straightened out; it's very, very difficult. But I think what has to happen ultimately is there have to be trained peacekeeping forces that the United States either supports financially or in person, and there are things that we should be able to do. What appalls me about the people that are currently in office is that they don't understand the value of organizations where you do things with others. At the moment the way I state it is, and as I stated my four groups, I have some question as to whether the United States is a member in good standing of the first group-one that understands the value of various arrangements. Part of what has to happen here is there has to be a recognition that horrible things are happening somewhere; we have to be willing to call it genocide when it is genocide and we have to have peacekeepers available to go in because if you don't have them available it doesn't do any good to do all those other things.
We have a follow-up, or I think an interesting question from Molly Johnson, a history major from the Class of 2003. Molly?
My question is about racism and how America is dealing with it. I believe that racism is a really significant issue in the world and the current conference in South Africa, which we just left, is dealing with a very complex and critical issue. What are your thoughts on how America is dealing with racism, both in America and abroad?
Well, I think that there's an awful lot of work that needs to be done in the United States about racism. You probably won't be surprised to hear me say this, but I still think we're better than most countries in the world, even though there is a great deal of work that needs to be done, in terms of obviously teaching about the sins of it and the problems of it, but also factually doing things in terms of integrating our schools better, offering greater opportunities in employment, and recognizing everybody for being individuals that are worthy and appropriately participate in the system. But, this conference is a huge tragedy because it is a conference that is on a very important issue that has been completely diverted by another important issue.
The U.N. has always been quite unfriendly towards Israel, but after we managed to have that scene on the lawn in 1993 with Rabin and Arafat and President Clinton I went back to New York and we took a lot of the bad anti-Israeli language out of a lot of resolutions, and I think we managed to move things forward. And then, actually, I could tell you about the good things we did during the administration, but the other horrible thing that happened was not being able to get an agreement at Camp David. We were very, very close. And then, as that fell apart and the violence continued in the Middle East, I think there has been a sense of despair about what to do. Moderate Arabs are increasingly critical of everything that the Israelis are doing and Israelis are doing some things that they need to be criticized for. That's my personal view, but I think that the United States needs to participate in times of getting ready for these conferences.
In an international system, you don't agree with everything that happens. To go back to my first group analogy, there are lots of treaties and agreements and conventions that are being negotiated all the time and if it is a negotiation, you need mediators. You need people who really can work out language. Those of you who are sometimes told by your professors that you may not be writing clearly, I've found that what you really need more than any other skill in diplomacy is the ability to write, and certainly the ability to punctuate, also occasionally the ability to use some Latin word like 'inter alia.' But I think that what happens is that you have to be a part of the process and the United States didn't make itself part of this process. It didn't take this conference seriously, it didn't want to be in this conference. I think pulling the people out is a mistake. I also think that Secretary Powell had an incredibly difficult decision and I think probably he should not have gone, but he should have sent an undersecretary, somebody higher than a deputy assistant Secretary of State. That may sound big deal to you, it's a pretty low level job. I think that doing that and then abruptly leaving is not the way you basically handle an issue because now the racism issue, I don't know what's going to happen with it. There's no question that equating Zionism with racism is unacceptable. But there also are ways that in these negotiations, if they are thought about more in advance, we can do a better job. We didn't do a perfect job. We didn't negotiate right on the Land Mines Treaty because we thought we could hold out longer than we should have. I happen to believe that basically the U.S. needs to be a part of negotiations early on to try to help shape the discussion more.
One of the nice perks of being the moderator of this conversation is I can interject my own question. No one asked you a question about my particular area of expertise and real love-China-and I would like to ask for your comments on current U.S./China relations and policy in China and if you would mention something about the current tension between Taiwan and China and U.S. policy.
Well, I think that one of the interesting things that I had the privilege to watch over eight years was the increasing assumption of power by China as a regional power and potentially a global power. It was very interesting in the Security Council to watch how differently Russia acted, Russia as a country that was losing power but still had kind of great-power mentality in the way it behaved, and China, which was clearly on the ascendancy but stayed out of things because it couldn't quite see itself as a global power.
What I think is important to say is that East Asia is undoubtedly the most dynamic area in the world at the moment-a combination of what is happening in China in terms of its economic evolution and change of leadership that will happen soon, the issues with Taiwan, the loss of power by Japan and yet an increasing nationalism in Japan, which has irritated both Korea and the Chinese, the North/South Korean relationship, and then India. Though it's not in East Asia, the ascendancy of India as a power has clearly played a dynamic there, and then Indonesia, which everybody always forgets is the fourth most populous country in the world with huge strategic spread. There's an awful lot going on there. And China within that is the rising regional power needs to be recognized as such, and making it an enemy doesn't help. I think that it is a huge mistake to look for enemies and the Chinese relationship is a-we used to call it a multi-faceted-relationship, where you have to be very clear about criticizing them on their human-rights policy. There wasn't a time that I didn't go there that I didn't make clear that their behavior towards dissidents, or to the various religious groups, or the way they treated their workers was unacceptable. At the same time, I think it's very important to engage with them. I especially believe now, at a time of transition when there's the potential between what you'd call kind of economic reformers versus hard-line military people coming in after Jiang Zemen, it's important for us to show them the value of working with the United States and the west. Taiwan, obviously one of the more difficult issues, requires Americans behind the scenes saying that it's essential to have a peaceful resolution and to keep trying to put it together. Not to do what I understand has happened in the last couple of days where we are kind of winking at the fact they are building up missiles across from Taiwan in order to be able to get them to agree to NMD.
We now turn to a question from Professor Michael Dobkowski, a professor of religious studies.
If I could bring you back to the Middle East. What do you see currently as the major obstacles to peace in the Middle East? Obviously the violence on both sides and the general deterioration of the process, the climate of the racism conference that you mentioned and so on. Do you see a possibility of some short-term reconciliation here and do you see a role for both Yassir Arafat and Sharon in this process or do you think we have to get beyond these particular actors?
First of all, I think the hardest part to remember when you're in a leadership position or making decisions for your country is that you don't have the luxury of choosing some other country's leaders. You have to work with what you've got. I had to work with Benjamin Netanyahu and was very glad when Barak came into office, and he wasn't easy to work with either, so you've got to take what's there. So I think nobody can afford to wait beyond Sharon and Arafat.
What I think is essential is that there has to be an American role. I wasn't very eager to get involved in the Middle East. I'd seen Warren Christopher go to Syria I don't know how many times and cool his heels and it just sucks up all the air. I wasn't crazy to go at the beginning, and then I picked up Jim Baker's book and I saw a sentence I could have written myself, which is 'he who didn't want to go to the Middle East.' Nobody wants to do it. It's the bread and butter of being Secretary of State and you have to go. You can't kind of have a drive-by schmooze, you have to go, and you have to spend time there nd go from one leader to another and try to make suggestions.
So, what I think needs to happen now is that George Tenet, who stayed on as Director of the CIA, had six weeks ago or so laid out a plan for dealing with some of the security issues. Then, George Mitchell had ideas about confidence-building measures and I think that we should insist that those things go forward and at the same time try to go back to dealing with some small steps that would work towards mitigating some of the dangers. I also think Rabin did a remarkable thing. He decided to negotiate through violence. If you decide that you're not going to negotiate while there's violence you basically have given the veto to the extremists. They can just keep the violence going, so you are holding a gun to your own head. I think what has to happen is to start taking it in small steps and try to get them to disengage in some way. I know there are ideas now about putting a wall up. I don't see that as a solution. First of all, they couldn't decide where the wall would go. That's part of the problem. They can't figure out the delineation of the territory. I think there is the option, very difficult, but it requires high-level American involvement. Again, not sending somebody. I know all the people and so I hate to put the people down, but it's often the position. You don't send deputy assistant secretaries to do jobs either a Secretary of State ought to be doing or a special envoy who is designated full-time to do that kind of thing. And it looks to me now as though the United States is just trying to wait this one out, and I don't think that's a rational option.
Erinn McNamara, a history major from the Class of 2002 has another question. Erinn?
I'd just like to know what were your reasons for not acting upon President Havel's many invitations to be the presidential candidate in the Czech Republic?
Well, many. The most important reason is that I love being an American. I wasn't born here, I was obviously born there and I came here in 1948. Having American citizenship is very important to my family and I was very honored, obviously, by what President Havel suggested. But my place is here. I loved being Secretary of State; it was the best job in the world for the best country in the world. I came here in 1948-November 11-so since we were celebrating the 50th anniversary of everything for the last few years I decided I would celebrate the 50th anniversary of that. I went down and took my citizen's oath again, and you swear allegiance to one sovereign. I think it's a little hard to have a divided loyalty. It's a nice country, but this one is better.
We have time for one final question and we will ask it from Eva Shepard, assistant professor of history.
Hi. Diplomacy is a traditionally male field and I was wondering whether the fact of your being a woman affected your ability to negotiate, either helped you in some cases or hurt you in others, and if you might share a couple anecdotes, if that's the case.
I think that the main thing to remember is that you sit there often in meetings with the sign of the United States in front of you so it doesn't matter who you are, and I think when you deal with foreigners they see you as representing the United States and I think that makes a big difference. To the extent that it made a difference, I think it was an advantage and there are a couple of examples of that.
When I took over there was a French foreign minister called Hervé De Charette. He and Warren Christopher did not get along at all. Warren Christopher didn't speak French, and the fact that he called him Dee Charette didn't help and as a parting present they gave him six volumes of Guy De Maupassant in French. I do speak French but that is not the main point. They wanted to have a gesture of some kind so when I arrived there were pink roses in my room and when I got to my meetings there were lots of kisses and then pictures of Chirac and Charette were in all the newspapers in France, and that kind of helped.
By the way, the kissing ritual is a very important one that I learned. The French kiss on both cheeks, the Dutch kiss three times, Botswana-three times. The Latin Americans I never could figure out-some kiss on the left cheek, some on the right. Arafat is the weirdest of all because he will kiss you on the lips, one on each check, one on the forehead, and the hardest part was when he was trying to kiss President Clinton because he's so much taller so that Arafat would end up with his head on Clinton's chest.
Wait until you see what we're going to do out here. (laughter)
What I've found and I think this is going to be the hardest part to say, is I found fewer problems doing diplomacy with foreign men than dealing with American men, because, as I said, with the foreign men I was the United States. For the men that I dealt with in the Administration I was Madeleine, whom they'd known for 20 years or something. The other part that I found interesting is there were a number of women foreign ministers and being American I organized a caucus, so when I left there were 14 women foreign ministers, having started at seven. We had promised to always take each other's phone calls, now, granted some of them are from smaller places like Lichtenstein, but it created a network of support which I think was very important. We talked a lot about whether women make decisions differently or whether women are softer. I don't think women are softer, I think women are just as tough as men on issues of national interest, but I think there really is a kind of instant understanding of issues. A lot more of what I would call 21st century issues are what in the past have been called women's issues-the so-called soft issues, environment, drugs, health, hunger-and therefore I think there's a great advantage to being a woman in diplomacy.
On that note, I'd like to thank you very much for joining us.
We may have a couple minutes-any follow-up from any one as a result of the conversation we had?
I'm sure that you all continue to be troubled by Rwanda. Professor? Yes? No? Please.
Professor Richard Salter:
I want to ask two questions-you can choose which to answer because I know there's not enough time for me to actually ask both. One is the issue of Iraq hasn't been mentioned and you should address that because there have been so many e-mails and debates going on the campus. I'm going to give you an option not to here because I'm going to ask my own question also and it's a kind of theological kind of question. Mark and I talked about it. In taking a position of great power you assume great responsibilities and at the same time you enter into a system which you know is imperfect and in which you know you won't be able to do all that you do, in fact, you may not be pleased with some of the things that you're asked to do. The earlier mention of the Rwanda situation is a good example. To paraphrase the theologian Reinhold Nieber, "It's possible to be a moral person but we always act in a society that in some ways is amoral or immoral." Could you just reflect on your experience of that dilemma and the weight that it has on you and how you think about that.
It's a terrific question. I think that one of the hardest parts, having been an academic and gone into government-I've done that twice now, is the difference of view that one has when you actually have to make the decisions, none of which are black and white. I think that is the part that, to me, is the most stunning, that you believe often that there are truly situations that are clear and that you're on one side or the other. They never are presented quite that way. So you don't find yourself in as clear a moral dilemma as you think because a lot happens incrementally and you are constantly trying to solve a problem and you think 'okay, this is some way that I can manage to try to get to the right answer.' I don't mean it in a put-down way, since I am an academic-it's not that academic. I think that the hardest issues for me, and this is one part that being a woman made a difference, is the right time to use force.
The huge dilemma, you know that there's no such thing as surgical use of force, no matter what, and I'll get to Iraq because I do want to answer that actually, because it all looks like some kind of a 'Pac-man' game and it's not. I mean, ultimately there are either people you hit on the ground accidentally or you lose a pilot or something like that. So I got identified, and I'm happy about that now, with the use of force in the Balkans. I can say with some certainty had I not been there we wouldn't have done it. It was the hardest thing of all because there were a lot of dilemmas about the fact that would it unleash greater killings by the Serbians? Would we hit people by mistake? Were the Kosovar/Albanians such good people that we should be defending them? Who had committed ethnic cleansing? Was there genocide? All those questions were out there in great difficulty.
And you then have to commit American forces to it, because part of the problem, and it goes back to the Rwanda problem, I think it's impossible to get other countries to commit their forces if we're not willing to commit ours, at least theoretically. So, the question was they'd say "Madeleine, are willing to see Americans die for what's going on in Kosovo?" I made it a point, actually, I visited troops every where I could, I went as often as I could to the service academies, and tried to do something which is impossible to do, which, as you review the parade, is to make those cadets make eye contact with you. They're trained not to do it, and I thought 'I've got to make eye contact with them so that I get it in my head that these are the people that I am sending somewhere to fight.' I think you then balance it and decide that an American life is very important but so is the life of a Kosovar who could be eviscerated.
So those were the hardest moral dilemmas for me. You know, it's interesting. It was called 'Madeleine's War' when it was a mess and then people forgot that that's what they called it. It was very important. I think we solved it in the right way, but those are the hardest because there's no clear answer to things. When you say you've got to drop a balance sheet that's sounds really cold-blooded, but you do have to somehow weigh what you're sacrificing one for the other.
I often asked myself was there an issue over which I would resign and it never quite comes up that way, frankly. And you always think, well, I can do some good here if I do this. It's very important that that voice is heard, so you kind of talk yourself into it; actually there wasn't anything that even came near, so it's not an issue.
Can I answer the Iraq thing? Because I know it's on people's minds. I spent more time on the Iraq policy than almost anything else if you figure the U.N. years and being Secretary of State. When the war ended there were a bunch of resolutions that were passed, all of which required review periods every 30 or 60 days, so it was a constant subject of discussion at the United Nations.
I can admit this-I wasn't in favor of the Iraq war when it was started, mainly because I didn't have the facts as I look back on it. I did see a dictator cross an international boundary and trash a country, but I was not aware of all the weapons that Saddam Hussein had and his capabilities. When I got to the U.N. and I really spent a lot of time talking to Kuwaitis and various other people about this, it was evident that first of all, he did cross an international boundary; he took Kuwaiti prisoners of war, he took a lot of their goods, he had gassed his own people, the Kurds, he had basically destroyed the life of the Shi'as in the south and was terrorizing his people in the north. A horrible human being, if one can call him that. There were a set of resolutions which were designed to keep him contained and we worked very hard on keeping that coalition together. Not easy because especially the French and the Russians wanted to trade with him.
The hard part for me, and for all of you I presume, is the fact that the Iraqi people are suffering. Now, there has always been a complete misunderstanding about something. There is no, never has been, an embargo on food and medicines to Iraq. It is a question of whether Saddam Hussein wanted to purchase those foods and medicines and then make sure they got distributed throughout. So, originally, before I even got to the U.N., there is a mechanism that he finally agreed to about distributing some of the food and medicine, but he kept saying he didn't have enough money for all this. Our national intelligence means, as we call them, national technical means, were able to take pictures of how many palaces Saddam Hussein built for himself and his cronies since the end of the war. There's something like 50-plus palaces, at a cost of a billion and a half dollars. They make our White House look puny. He has built artificial lakes, he has tried to destroy the Gardens of Babylon and generally, he's got plenty of money. But, again, as I toured the region with these photographs in order to show the Arab leaders what we knew, they kept saying 'but you've got to do something about the Iraqi people.' So we, the United States, invented the oil-for-food program, which was that he could pump X-we keep changing the number-X-amount of oil every three months in order to have money to get the food and medicines so there was no excuse any more about the fact that he didn't have money. He is pumping like mad, he now has a lot of money. It is not the fault of the United States that the people of Iraq are hungry. Believe me that Saddam Hussein is one of the worst dictators that we have seen in a long time. The question is how to continue to keep him contained.
I know I've been to enough universities where I have been picketed and all kinds of things over this but I am not responsible for the hunger of the Iraqi people. I grieve with everybody over what he has done to the population of Iraq but he is the responsible party and not the United States.
I think we should conclude now because I know some of you want to come up and greet the Secretary and we need to keep her on schedule so we can move towards the Convocation.
Thank you very much.
Question and Answer Conversations with Madeleine K. Albright
Sept. 4, 2001