When big-name Democrats return to academia after leaving elective or appointive office, they may go through withdrawals. “I’m starting a group of former foreign ministers called ‘Madeleine and her exes,’” the first woman to serve as U. S. Secretary of State said last Tuesday.
Currently, Madeleine K. Albright teaches at Georgetown. “This weekend my class is doing a simulation on Iran,” she said at the seminar co-sponsored by the Center for American Progress. “We were doing North Korea but I got tired of that.”
Albright addressed a symposium on human rights held at Georgetown Law, the other sponsor of the event. “Foreign policy is just a toolbox to get people to do what you want,” she told the audience, which was composed mainly of students and a few professors.
And that, she claims, is what she tells her students. Sanctions are one of these tools but she cannot endorse them without reservations.
“I was in the White House when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan,” she remembers. “I do not think that the Olympic boycott of the Soviets after their invasion of Afghanistan was particularly effective.”
“I think it punished our athletes.” Such a demurral begs the question of whether dictators should be rewarded for their most dictatorial behavior, whether in the Soviet Union then or China now.
As for human rights, she groups the environment as one of these. Moreover, she avers, “We must have proof that freedom leads not only to political rights but to food on the table.”
She argues that food and medicine should be allowed to flow into sanctioned nations and admits that efforts to do so while she was at the United Nations may have contributed to more recent UN scandals. “Oil For Food was an attempt to get around Saddam’s refusal to let in medicine,” she says of the program which, though targeted at the Hussein government of Iraq, served to enrich UN bureaucrats, their progeny and friends.
She remembered other misadventures that occurred in Turtle Bay when she served there as the United States representative to the UN. “NAMBLA undermined the cause of human rights by advocating things many people do not believe in,” she said of the North American Man/Boy Love Association.
Close encounters of the odd kind continued with the gay community on her travels. “”When we went to China, they threw sheets over the lesbians and somebody asked where the country of Lesbia is,” Albright recalled.
Albright’s memories of her service in the Clinton Administration evoke a harder line policy than many remember the Clintonistas evincing, particularly towards China and the Middle East. As a matter of fact, in a panel at the same conference later that day, another Clinton appointee, former Tennessee Senator James Sasser recalled that the Clinton Doctrine on China softened during his tenure in Beijing as U. S. ambassador.
“During my time in China, I saw human rights become less and less important and economics become more and more important.” Meanwhile, on the other side of Asia: “Hamas is on the terrorist list,” the former Secretary of State notes of the group that dominates the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. “I put it there.”
As might be expected, she criticized the Bush Administration for its policies towards Hamas but her critique contains a valuable insight. “Hamas won that election,” she observes. “The U. S. pushed for elections in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip without any entry fee which Hamas did not have to pay.”
Even out of public office, for now, Albright remains quite peripatetic. Indeed, she had just returned from a trip abroad.
Whether or not she will resume her old duties as diplomat-in-chief in the event of another Clinton presidency remains an open question. She has probably spent as many years in Georgetown as she has in the cabinet.
Her observations on the state of education today are also of some interest. “We need a different way of understanding of what geography is in education,” she said. “Most maps have the Western Hemisphere in the middle and these two things on the side.”
“I always ask for a globe.” The import of what happens next in these show-and-tell sessions seems to be lost on the lady.
“This leads to some interesting questions as students ask whether people on the other side fall off,” she recounted. What she does not mention is that Columbus and the world he proved to be round are no longer taught as widely as they once were.
Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.