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May 16, 2006

Madam Secretary Albright's Speech

Former SecState Madeleine Albright spoke today at the Chicago Council on Foreign Affairs. Many shout outs were given to Swellesley, a group photo of alums was taken (who knows if I'll be seen since a very tall woman decided to stand in front), and I purchased her new book and it was signed. The following is a transcription of my notes from the speech and Q&A:
Shout out to Wellesley alums. Albright realized post 9-11 that religion can't be separated from International Relations (IR). Major themes of her speech include morality and diplomacy; and liberals v. conservatives. She was SecState 1997-2001; received BA from Wellesley College, MA and Ph.D from Columbia. Currently heads the Global Strategy Group, part of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, a professor at Georgetown, and recently publishes The Mighty and the Almighty.

Will discuss themes from my book; different from writing a memoir: I'm the foremost authority on myself, but there are many people more knowledgeable on religion. Writing this book was a genuine learning experience. I'm not a theologian nor a mystic; I continue to be a problem solver.

It is evident that religion is a major part of international affairs. For example, Jerusalem: if it was just a real estate issue, it could have been solved by now. I enjoy giving this book tour b/c it allows me to explain my views better than the sound bites expected from television interviews.

My book has four themes.
1. US has to have a moral foreign policy.
State what our values are
Use vast power.
Not a moralistic - i.e. lecturing
There is an artificial division between realists and idealists in IR theory. I'm a realistic idealist or an idealistic realist.

2. DC is toxic.
People don't talk to one another.
There are subject that the right and left can agree on.
For example, I've been working with Senator Sam Brownback, a conservative Republican from Kansas. We created a conference at Georgetown that look at four main themes:
1. stopping genocide
2. stopping human trafficking
3. refugees
4. religious tolerance

3. I don't like the concept of clash of civilizations.
We are involved in a battle of ideas.
There are major differences between the rich and the poor.
State v. non-state actors.

Iranian President's letter
involved saber-rattling
basic questions were raised
it is important for someone at a high level to lay out what we're for.
Questions raised resonate with people and we must respond.

4. What the role of the individual is
For example myself: I was raised Catholic, married an Episcopalian, and found out I'm Jewish. I was also raised in the US instead of Czechoslovakia, giving me the opportunity to become SecState instead of having a career as a college professor.
The concept of the individual should be understood better.
It is part of all the Abrahamic religions.

We need to look at religion as a way to solve problems, rather than dividing people.

What really is the role of the US? From my book:
Have reponsibility to lead.
Liberty is G'd's gift, which makes it morally neutral.
Democracy is a human creation.
US should help others who desire help.
Promoting democracy is a policy, not a moral position.
We are not above the law.
Not a divine act: we can ask for G'd to bless America, but we should never assume that G'd blesses America.

Questions & Answers
"I loved being SecState; but one of the advantages of not being SecState is that I can actually answer your questions."

(1) Supporting religious charities?
We're dependent on charities / NGOs. How much are they accountable? It's good to support these NGOs. American missionary movements knew more about IR and other languages than other Americans. We must insure that those we work with have free access / tolerance instead of proselytizing.

For example, Palestinians.
Our official policy is that we don't deal with Hamas.
We're expecting NGOs to pick up the slack.
What is the end that happens with the money given? That is the question to be asked. Compare this to Saudi support of religious charities.

(2)First time a moral foreign policy is being suggested?
There are various periods in history where moral policy was emphasized (eg Wilson) then swing to realpolitik, personified by Henry Kissinger. Carter modernized moral FP with an emphasis on human rights. It's not that we're convinced we're right about everything. It is difficult to have a totally consistent FP b/c pragmatic steps are needed, therefore take cognicense. We need to stop lecturing.

The division between good and evil emphasized by Bush is difficult to accept because the definition of "good" is hard.

(3)I do think the US is an exceptional country, as an immigrant (legal)

The US is an indispensable nation. President Clinton originally said that, although it has been ascribed to me. I said that originally to get Americans hooked in to have interests internationally. Why do I believe this?

Things don't happen if we're not a part of them.
That doesn't mean we're above the law.
Whether you read the New Testament or Spider-man, "to whom much is given, much is expected."
Morality is not necessarily national.
For the foreseeable future, US will be a managing partner in world affairs; emphasis on partner. Therefore, building bridges is important.
The US gains from international support.
We can't be treaty allergic.

(4)Why do you think Democrats have such a difficult time stating what they're for?
1. We don't have control of anything.
2. The thing that makes us so charming - that we have a lot of different opinions - makes it difficult to articulate.
3. We have no leader.
4. We aren't disciplined. "I don't belong to any organized group; I'm a member of the Democratic Party." -- Will Rogers
5. Republicans have think tanks that stick around when Republicans are in power.
6. I'm involved in the Center for American Progress.
7. During the 2008 Presidential primary process, I hope we don't create a firing line in a circle.
8. US government has to function in checks and balances.

(5)[Oddball question re the power of 12 step programs]
It is necessary to recognize the power of people's individual faith. We still believe in the separation of church and state. That was originally conceived as keeping the state out of the church, not the other way around. We need to respect how people practice their religion.

(6) What brought on the toxicity in Washington?
"I'm going to try so hard to be good."
What happens when there's a complete shift in power: You try to explain national security policy of the S to people you don't like and you have to hand it over to. When I was gaining the seat of power, I listened carefully to the other side. We need a sense of continuity between presidents. The Bush admin had a complete disregard for Clinton's domestic and foreign policy. Bush said his national security team is the best the US has ever had. Maybe, but for the wrong decade. They really did have an ABC policy: Anything But Clinton. For example, re North Korea: I still have the dubious distinction of being the highest ranking US official to ever meet with Kim Jong Il. Even Congress feels it is not allowed to set the agenda.

We tried to have a bi-partisan foreign policy. For example, I worked with Jesse Helms, who at the time was the head of the Senate foreign relations committees.

Bush has convened former top level officials: in January he met with 13 of us, 7 former SecDefs and 6 former Sec States.

But there is a fundamental lack of respect for the other side's point of view and this is self-perpetuating.

(7)Wellesley Alumnae Club President's Question: What can we as individual micro-powers do to help achieve a moral foreign policy?
*We have a tendency to take the US for granted because we feel powerless because "they're taking care of it in Washington." (I assure you, they're not.)
*We in Washington want to hear from people.
*We need to take our duty as citizens much more seriously.
*Asking questions is important.
*Keep asking questions out loud: e.g. Are we really fighting terrorists in the right way?

(8)How do we reconcile the US' bloody history with working with others?
*American model isn't the only model of democracy.
*I believe we are all the same and want to make decisions for ourselves.
*As I tell my students at Georgetown, foreign policy is trying to get another country to do what you want.
*For example with Iran: Carter was forward leaning on human rights, but he did deal with the Shaw.
*We need to favor working with the N.
*But for example on Kosovo, we weren't able to get force approval from the UN. So sometimes you have to take a difficult approach.
*We'll never get complete approval for everything we do.

(9)Chavez is calling us a paper tiger and seems to want to take the mantle of Castro when he dies.
The Bush administration is not as unilateral as they are uni-dimensional. They only understand military power and only in the Middle East. I told Bush, you act as if you created democracy, whereas in truth I did. I created a community of democracies. I used to carry around this map of the evolution of Latin America from authoritarian to democracy. But democracies have to deliver. I don't mean to sound Marxist, but people prefer to eat rather than to vote. Land reform is needed throughout Latin America. When a populist becomes elected, he often becomes authoritarian. Free trade needs to move forward through bilateral agreements.

Countries are beginning to group in opposition to the US. Things happening aren't being paid attention to. Policy is about framing the choice. When the choice is between being for the Iraq War, Guanatanamo Bay, etc vs. other, people are going to choose the other. Then more people are against us. We can't have certainty that we're always right.

Posted by cj at May 16, 2006 9:46 PM


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