Albright will spell out peace dividend

She's a stalwart of the Democratic Party and a life-long liberal, but that doesn't make Madeleine Albright a pushover.

india Updated: Dec 12, 2003 13:26 IST

She's a stalwart of the Democratic Party and a life-long liberal, but that doesn't make Madeleine Albright a pushover.

As secretary of state during Bill Clinton's presidency, she accused the Pentagon of being gun-shy, famously telling one of them, a certain Colin Powell: "What's the point of having this superb military you're always talking about if we can't use it?"

Albright is clear that while she is not against military intervention, she differs with George W. Bush in believing muscle is best used multilaterally. Bush's foreign policy, she has been saying, "is not good for America, not good for the world."

In the lead article of Foreign Policy magazine, Albright warned that the US still needed the United Nations. "We must be on the same side, work with other people in the world."

During the Clinton administration, Albright maintained a savage sanctions policy, peppered with missiles, against Saddam Hussein's regime. But she gives a thumbs down to the present invasion. "I don't understand why the war happened now. I would have liked to see us concentrate on Afghanistan."

Her personal past is one reason Albright believes democracies should not shy away from punch-ups with dictatorships. Her father was a Czech diplomat who fled Communist oppression.

Late in life she discovered her grandparents were Jews, murdered in Auschwitz. But it's a past that also makes her suspicious of overbearing, illegitimate power.

Albright released her memoirs this year, the acclaimed Madame Secretary. In the book, she unflinchingly writes of her refugee childhood; a husband who cheated on and then divorced her; the life of a single woman juggling career, education and raising three daughters; and her rise to the highest-rank ever held by a woman in US history and, that too, in the male-dominated world of diplomacy.

Albright is still driving on all cylinders. Vaclav Havel recently urged her to run for the Czech presidency.

Albright is a key voice in promoting ethical foreign investment and was recently elected to the board of the New York Stock Exchange.

Despite a busy schedule, she agreed to give the concluding keynote address at the Hindustan Times Leadership Initiative's conference "The Peace Dividend" on December 13. The world has been her oyster.

But it is often forgotten that South Asia was part of her life before the State Department was — her father, Joseph Korbel, was a leading expert on Kashmir.

First Published: Dec 12, 2003 00:00 IST