Albright talks about Iraq War, current crises in the Middle East during APCO 2015 address
WASHINGON, D.C.—Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright yesterday shared stories of her childhood amid international warfare—and its impact on her world view—and offered insight on diplomatic approaches to problems in the Middle East while delivering a keynote speech during the opening session at the APCO 2015 show.
Born in war-torn Czechoslovakia, Albright broke barriers by becoming the first woman to fill the role of secretary of state, making her the highest-ranking woman during her service from 1997-2001. During her tenure, she helped foster free trade and international business relationships. Albright, who now teaches international relations at Georgetown University, also advised President Bill Clinton on the United States’ course of action during the Kosovo conflict.
Since leaving office almost 15 years ago, overseas threats—for example, ISIS and Iran’s nuclear power—continue to be issues that Albright closely follows.
“Our daily headlines are dominated by discord and violence, both at home and abroad,” Albright shared during her address yesterday. “The world and economy is held back by uncertainty and risk and climate change is putting our future in jeopardy. Meanwhile, the global movement toward democracy is slow. As leaders in some countries turn to nationalism, repression and other failed policies from history’s graveyard … there is ample cause for concern and an urgent need for us to learn from the mistakes of the past, rather than repeating them.”
Albright identified the Iraq War as one of the mistakes of the past that has ushered in the lone-wolf attacks and violent social-media propaganda of ISIS. Incidents like the recent killings in Chattanooga, Tenn., by an alleged follower of ISIS speak to the local impact international crises can have on public-safety officers and first responders.
“We are in the interconnected and technology-driven world, where what happens anywhere affects people everywhere,” Albright said. “That means the safety of our communities can be put in jeopardy by events in faraway places. We cannot simply log off to keep these challenges at bay.”
Albright admitted that she did not have a “5-point” plan to solve the ills facing the world, but—as she did while serving the country—she promoted taking diplomatic approaches that consider the perspectives of those in the Middle East.
The crowd erupted with laughter when she mentioned listening to Rush Limbaugh as an example of the approach that American and European leaders should adopt to better understand the issues in Syria.
“I never agree with him (Limbaugh). I listen to him, because he makes me rethink my beliefs,” she said. “It helps me understand that some of the arguments I make are stronger than others … It is not pleasant, but it is educational. In the same way, it’s important for our leaders to make a serious effort to understand how others view the world. Nowhere is that more important than the Middle East.
“The one thing we’ve learned these past 2,000 years is that the Middle East does not solve itself. No outsider can pose peace, but we must do all we can to provide incentives for progress, encourage the parties to compromise, and show that problems can be resolved with negotiation.”