The University Record, March 4, 2002

Albright expresses concerns with current U.S. foreign policy

By Laurel Thomas Gnagey

Albright at Hale Auditorium (Photo by Martin Vloet, U-M Photo Services)
From President George W. Bush’s “axis of evil” comment to what she believes is the administration’s leaning toward unilateralism, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was highly critical of current foreign policy during a recent visit to the University. Albright, the first distinguished scholar with the William Davidson Institute of the U-M Business School, addressed a number of foreign affairs issues during a special guest appearance on U-M Public Radio’s “Todd Mundt Show,” recorded in Hale Auditorium Feb. 21, before an audience of media, students and faculty.

Albright said the president’s State of the Union reference to Iran, Iraq and North Korea as the “axis of evil” was a mistake. Bush borrowed the World War II phrase to link the three countries he maintains are building weapons of mass destruction. Critics have accused the president of using the language to justify possible future action against those nations in an expansion of the war against terrorism. “I think that while there is a problem with each of those countries, they don’t necessarily belong together in that kind of rhetorical flourish,” Albright said.

One of Albright’s primary concerns involves North Korea where she said progress was beginning to be made during the Clinton administration on establishing an agreement with regard to the export of missiles and missile technology—momentum she says the former administration hoped would continue under Bush’s leadership. “I think the North Koreans may be confused as to what the message is, and they are waiting to sort it out,” Albright said.

The former secretary is against any plan for the U.S. to lash out against Saddam Hussein. While she agreed, Hussein is a “dictator who has tortured his people . . . and needs to be contained,” Albright said any action against Iraq, other than a continuance of economic sanctions, would be premature. “I’m not opposed to taking action against Saddam Hussein, I am opposed to diverting our attention from what needs to be done in Afghanistan.” Albright said the U.S. is too quick to claim early victory and that much still needs to be done both militarily and with efforts to help a new regime rebuild Afghanistan.

Albright said she hoped one lesson learned from Sept. 11 was that the U.S. “can’t do things by ourselves,” but she says recent actions would suggest that message was lost on the current administration. “While there is no question that we have the best military in the world, and that our ability now to fight a high-tech war is unparalleled, and there’s no question about what military role our allies can play, there also is no question that we cannot fight terrorism alone.” Albright said she is “troubled” by statements from the administration that seem to suggest a unilateral view.

If there was any praise to be offered the current administration, it was in regard to China. Albright was pleased that, as she spoke, the president was visiting with Chinese leaders. “I’m very glad actually that there are discussions with China because, if you remember, prior to Sept. 11 we were systematically turning China into “Enemy No. 1.” I think engagement is a very good thing.” Albright admitted negotiations with the republic represent a slow, tedious process.

Following the formal taping of the radio program, a few members of the audience were allowed to ask questions—a majority of them critical of Albright’s positions. On more than one occasion, she urged those with questions to get their facts straight. She also was greeted with signs from audience members accusing her administration of, among other things, causing the deaths of over a million people through sanctions against Iraq. “I continue to maintain it is not the United States that is starving the Iraqi people, it is Saddam Hussein who is starving the Iraqi people,” Albright responded.