Madame Secretary

Madam Secretary
A Memoir
Madeleine Albright
Miramax, $27.95, 562 pp.

Madeleine Albright’s mea-s-ure as secretary of state (1997-2001) could be taken by comparing her to Warren Christopher, her predecessor, and Colin Powell, her successor. Christopher was the passive instrument of the Clinton administration’s first-term aversion to foreign affairs. On his watch, Bosnia festered and Rwanda blew up in a genocidal rage. Colin Powell has become the accommodating instrument of the Bush administration’s plunge into a war during which he has witnessed the violation of every cautionary principle he pressed on the Clinton administration as head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (During the Bosnia crisis, Albright famously asked Powell, “What are you saving this superb military for, Colin, if we can’t use it?”) Christopher and Powell, for all of their intelligence and integrity, are likely to be counted poor stewards of U.S. foreign policy. Not so Madeleine Albright, who was an effective advocate of the activist policy she reshaped to the challenges of the post-cold-war world. She had the good fortune to head the State Department in Bill Clinton’s second term when foreign policy could no longer be set aside (and Colin Powell had retired). In Kosovo, assisted by Richard Holbrooke, she pursued diplomacy with Slobodan Milosevic; and when that failed, assisted by General Wesley Clark, she supported war-diplomacy by other means, as she says, with Clausewitz. She fostered peace agreements between the Palestinians and Israelis, first...

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About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.