Thursday, February 9, 2012

Madeleine Albright on Iran, Syria ... and NASCAR

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stopped by the Observer this afternoon to chat. We had a fascinating conversation that delved into Iran, Syria, the nature of foreign policy and how it has changed, and her plans to bring 300 or more foreign leaders and diplomats from more than 100 countries to Charlotte this fall for the Democratic National Convention. Also, how she can leg press 400 pounds and would be up for driving a NASCAR car around Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Albright chairs a group called the National Democratic Institute that tries to foster democracy around the world. She hosted 500 foreign dignitaries at the Democratic convention in Denver in 2008 and will bring hundreds to Charlotte in September. She said she wants her guests to get beyond Washington and New York and see “real America.”

What makes Charlotte “real”? Among other things, our “fabulous” museums, she said, (her collections of 200 pins will be at the Mint) and NASCAR. I suggested she, at age 75, might want to drive around the track. “I would love to do that. You have no idea the kinds of things I do.” She confirmed rumors that she can leg press 400 pounds. “I’m pretty game.”

On more substantive issues: Albright called Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “one of my best friends” and said they talk often about foreign policy. She supports what the Obama administration is doing on Iran and on Syria and emphasized that in foreign policy, clean, final solutions are a rarity.

“Part of the hardest part about actually doing foreign policy versus observing it is that, and also being an American, you kind of think that things get done and you check a list and it’s over,” Albright said. “The bottom line is foreign policy to a great extent is managing things and having incremental decisions and you very rarely have one of those ‘Oh my God, it’s solved!’ moments. So what they’re doing with this is watching it unbelievably carefully, working on managing so it doesn’t blow up and also looking at what the indigenous and exogenous forces are.”

She circled back to that same theme later when we were talking about Egypt and the Arab Spring.

“This is going to be a very long process. The kind of initial coverage … made it seem as if it had a time limit on it and it would be over soon and everyone would live happily ever after,” she said. “This is a long story and in many ways much longer than the end of the Soviet empire because these are very complex societies. … This is not going to have a quick solution, and we’re not very patient.”

The job of secretary of state keeps getting harder, she said. The world has grown so much smaller, and things of strategic importance can happen anywhere. “I was in a discussion the other night and the issue of Russia didn’t come up for like an hour. It used to be foreign policy questions were about what was the Soviet Union doing. … We’re now dealing with 193 countries in the United Nations and many of them have issues that are really important that can affect the lives of a lot of people.”

How’s this for racking up frequent flyer miles? Albright said she traveled 1,038,000 miles in her four years as secretary of state. She said Clinton has already passed that because so much is going on around the world.

Look for more news about programs Albright will be hosting in Charlotte. The public, she said, will be invited.

-- Taylor Batten


Garth Vader said...

Did you ask if she still believes a half a million dead children is a worthy price for the posturing of the Iraq sanctions? Is she ready to double down on a million dead Iranian children?

Skippy said...

Did you ask her why Clinton did nothing while 900,000 Rhawndian citizens were killed? Or is he just a Democrat racist?

Vader, spot on and the "caring" Dems get a hall pass every single time:

When asked on US television if she [Madeline Albright, US Secretary of State] thought that the death of half a million Iraqi children [from sanctions in Iraq] was a price worth paying, Albright replied: “This is a very hard choice, but we think the price is worth it.”