December 26, 2007
Madeleine Albright

Ipek Cem was recently in Washington to meet with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. In this candid interview, Secretary Albright talks about her support for Hillary Clinton, her days as the highest ranking female in U.S. politics, as well as how her European heritage impacted her life.

Ipek Cem: My guest today is Madeleine Albright. She is the first woman to serve as the Secretary of State of the United States. Welcome to Global leaders.


Madeleine Albright: It's great to be with you.


Ipek Cem: You seemed to have lived the you are still living the American dream, having come to this country when you were 11 with an immigrant family and then rising through the ranks in your academic career and your political career. And in the world now we are going through a phase where the US is viewed as being a bit more closed towards the world and immigrants. Do you feel that the people who are coming to the U.S. in the way you did have the same chance to become who you have become?


Madeleine Albright: Well you know that America is truly an exceptional country because it has taken immigrants in through its history. Nobody was here except the native American Indians, but it's a country of immigrants. I think things are a little bit different. I was a legal immigrant. I think that part if the issues are the illegal immigrants. The United States I think still has a very open official immigration policy. But it's the illegal immigrants who are posing the problem. I do think that for legal immigrants the opportunities are still the same. People who can come to the United States and find a home…American people are very generous and very open and friendly to people who come here. And I think if you are willing to work very hard…and that's what it takes it's just very hard work…then I think that the American dream is still there. But it's for the legal immigrants and that's the question that is making it difficult for everybody.


Ipek Cem: You have mentioned in your book that there is some sort of closing up to the world to some degree of the United States, after September 11. Do you feel that this is a trend that will be reversed?


Madeleine Albright: Well I think that America has never been a country that saw itself as a global power. It's a very large country but most Americans don't speak another foreign language and think that this is the best place. I do think that the Iraq war has made it less attractive for Americans to feel the need to be a part of the world. I think that people know that the U.S. is not particularly popular. I have been stunned in Turkey for instance, where when President Clinton went to visit the popularity was very high but now 9 percent of the public view America positively. But what I think may happen is despite the fact that Americans want to think about themselves a little more after the war in Iraq, so much of our lives these days depends on being part of an interdependent world. Our economies depend on trade. Our people love to travel, invest abroad, and so I don't think there can be a turning inward totally.


Ipek Cem: You first caught the world's eye when you became the ambassador of the United States to the U.N. And in fact in your book you mention fourteen suits and a skirt referring to the security council.And then later on you became secretary of state. How were these two roles different for you as a woman? Do you feel being a woman made any difference?


Madeleine Albright: First of all, I was not the first American woman at the United Nations. Gene Kirkpatrick had been ambassador there. And there were other women, although I have to tell you not a lot of them. When I got there, there were a 183 countries at the UN and at the time there were only seven countries including the United States that were represented by women. So there are not a lot. I think it's not easy to a woman in national security. It is primarily a male world. I think that there are those who think that woman cannot make hard decisions about using force or defending their country. And I think I showed that that's not true. We are defenders of our national interest just as much as men. I think the differences are that women do try to come to agreement more. That's a generalization but I do think that many women in various countries try to make peace with people that they don't agree with because they have to make a life. But it wasn't easy. I can assure you that it wasn't easy.


Ipek Cem: Now you have Senator Hillary Clinton running for presidency and we know that you are a supporter of the Clinton campaign. How do you see her chances of becoming the nominee for the Democratic Party and then as a presidential hopeful?


Madeleine Albright: Well we are involved in an extraordinarily long campaign. I think that's the part that is so different from other countries. It is now a year before the real elections and people have been talking about this for a year already. I personally believe that she will be the nominee and I believe she will be president of the United States. But as you pointed out, I am supporting her. I think the chances are very good. Other countries have been able to elect women leaders, your country for instance, has. And Germany has Angela Merkel. I have just come from Argentina where there is now going to be another woman president, Cristina Kirchner. Chile and other countries have had women, and they had in Pakistan. So I think that Americans always love to be first, and we are not first in this but we are just going to have to show that we can have a woman. But I believe that Hillary is the best candidate, man or woman, because she is the most experienced.


Ipek Cem: I guess as you said there are many other countries where there have been and there are woman leaders but the United States being such a world power being led by a woman, it makes it more of a global impact, and so people are especially interested in this campaign. What kind of president would Hillary Clinton make in terms of foreign policy and the areas which you focus on?


Madeleine Albright: Well I have followed obviously what she said very carefully and she has a very interesting article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, one of our major magazines, explaining her ideas. But in short, I think she sees the fact obviously the United States is very powerful, but that our only tool cannot just be the military tool. We have to use our power in a way where we are listening to what other countries are saying, to be a partner more than a country that's always telling everybody else what to do. So she has talked about the importance of alliance structures, of the United States being more interested in treaties and how we can re-enter the discussion on climate change in a positive way, how to restructure international institutions, how to deal with problems like nuclear proliferation, terrorism, pandemic disease, in partnership with other countries. So I think that what we will see when she is President is a different approach in terms of America reaching out to partners in order to deal with common problems.


Ipek Cem: Would you say more in line with Bill Clinton's presidency and your time where you sought to bring in more partners in formulating foreign policy like in Eastern Europe and other parts of the world. What would be the differentiation from that time?


Madeleine Albright: Well I think that the differentiation is that the world is different. But in terms of approach I think it would be similar to the first president Clinton in terms of believing that the US benefited when we were in partnerships with other countries. But the world is different since 9/11 had a big effect on the United States and I think that she would seek to deal with the problems that are out there – proliferation, terrorism, climate change, energy crisis. In a similar approach looking for friends and allies. But of course the world is a little bit different. I think the main difference would be with the Bush administration, which in fact has had a very unilateral foreign policy, and also what I have said, which is a unidimensional foreign policy, which is one focused on one part of the world with one tool, the military. And what Senator Clinton has been talking about is the importance of being involved or participating in problem solving in other parts of the world, Africa, Latin America, reaching out to other countries. She has been fascinated by Turkey. We have been there and I think she sees Turkey as a very important friend and ally.


Ipek Cem: That was going to be my next question actually. Turkish American relations have always been an important part of the NATO alliance and in their own right very strong, but every since the advent of the operation in Iraq, especially in 2003 when the Turkish parliament rejected the use of Turkish soil by American soldiers to pass into Iraq. We see a real cooling off of Turkish American relations, at least this is how we feel in Turkey. Is this also your observation?


Madeleine Albright: Yes, it has been my observation. The question is why this happened. It's always very hard for me in talking to the foreign press to be critical of the President of the US. It's not always appropriate. But I do think it's important to explain the context which is that a lot of people in the United States disagree with the war in Iraq and thought that we should have been worrying about what was happening Afghanistan and not in Iraq, that while Saddam Hussein was a terrible dictator that he was not an imminent threat to the United States. And the hope was, I know that Senator Clinton had this hope, was that president Bush would work through the UN, and let the inspectors go in and see whether there really were WMD. My sense was that there could have been a better negotiation process with Turkey, in terms of whether the troops could go through Turkey in order to work in the war, (for Turkey) to be an ally as far as the war in Iraq is concerned. But obviously I only saw it from the outside. There is no question that it did make it more complicated, just in following the military campaign, it clearly changed what the military campaign was going to be, and then one thing led to another and the relationship has cooled, and that's why the numbers in terms of how we are viewed is a problem. I love going to Turkey and I don't think there is antipathy or antagonism towards individual Americans, at least to those of us who worked in the Clinton administration. And the same is true the other way around. But I do think that the relations between the capitals have cooled.


Ipek Cem: I remember when you and president Clinton came to Turkey after the earthquake. He met with a lot of enthusiasm in Turkey.


Madeleine Albright: It was wonderful I think I came before him and then we came together. I think there was such an outpouring of help for the earthquake victims. I spent time with your father, a very respected foreign minister and good friend. And then when we came for summits President Clinton also spoke to the Turkish parliament. It was amazing. There was this sense there that we really were NATO friends and allies.


Ipek Cem: There is also the problem, its an ongoing problem, the resurgence of terrorism through Iraq into Turkey with the terrorist organization PKK and this is also a point of controversy between the United States and Turkey because Turkey is willing to take more extended action, but of course this is a complicated situation. Do you have a view on this?


Madeleine Albright: Well I do think the PKK is a terrorist organization. I am the one that put it on our terrorist group list. And I think that we need to all help each other in dealing with terrorist groups. I think that the situation in Iraq is very complex. And it is not helped by more military action. I can understand the concern with the PKK and as I understand it president Bush and prime minister Erdogan have a really important meeting over how to deal with this issue together. I was just reading the transcript of their meeting. President Bush indicated that the PKK was a terrorist organization and he said "an enemy" and that there would be more sharing of intelligence and information and cooperation on this, and I hope that that very much happens, in fact.


Ipek Cem: I guess the problem is in our part of the world and more so in the Middle East and other parts is that what you are fighting is not well defined, with Al Qaida and other terrorists groups. So it's become very unsettling in Iraq and even more unsettling in Afghanistan and Pakistan. At this point in time everyone is criticizing the Bush administration, there are saying something is going wrong. What can be done to reverse this trend, knowing that the United States is a major force in world politics and knowing that what is does has an impact on the world?


Madeleine Albright: Well there's no question that we are dealing with a very serious problem. There are terrorists in the world who want to kill us, and I don't think that's something we are making up.And the question is what is the best way to deal with them.It is not the kind of thing where, even though the US has the most powerful military in the world, it can't solve everything. So I think dealing with terrorists requires the kind of cooperation that I hope Turkey and the United States now has, and sharing with intelligence and working on it. The question is, and we all talk about this, how do we fight terrorism without creating more terrorists. Because even former secretary of defense Rumsfeld said at one point that there are more terrorists being created in Iraq than we were killing. And so the struggle against terrorism is a very complicated one. And it is the challenge we face in the 21st century. The question is who are the real terrorists that are trying to kill innocent people and who are the people who are just dissatisfied. It is a very difficult issue and it does require a common understanding and a sharing of intelligence to catch the real terrorists.


Ipek Cem: We know that fundamentalism is on the rise in the world and deprivation of resources or not having access to education, is creating more terrorists so to speak. How can we deal with this? For example how should we deal with Iran? Should there be sanctions? How should they be implemented? What is the way to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons? At the same time you are almost against the constituency of the country when you implement sanctions so it is kind of a difficult situation. So how can we resolve this conflict?


Madeleine Albright: I think that the most important way to act is to try to act as an international community. To understand that if a country like Iran develops nuclear weapons and threatens to wipe out the neighbor Israel that that is a threat to everybody. And therefore I think that the approach that the United States is taking in terms of trying to get sanctions at the UN is an important aspect to it. But that requires cooperation from everybody, and it's not easy to get. I think that it's worth following out a plan of diplomacy, of trying to talk to various Iranian diplomats to try to see if this is something that could be resolved. But to go back to something you were saying earlier, we don't really know what creates terrorists. One can say that if people are poor and dissatisfied, it creates a climate for terrorists to recruit them. But we have also learned the profile of terrorists and that they are not poor, they are not uneducated and they operate within our countries. So I think the hard part is trying figure out what really creates terrorists. It isn't fundamentalism, it's extremism. But that is the difficult part. We can't all agree on what creates terrorists. And there isn't just one profile of them. But I do think it requires common effort.


Ipek Cem: When you talk about the international community being more involved in crisis situations of course we have the EU and then we have countries like Russia, India and China coming into the picture. European countries are often criticized for not taking action as was the case in Kosovo or in other cases where dire action was needed so the US usually steps in. Do you see a better cohesion of foreign policy in the EU and do you see this willingness coming out or is it still individual countries?


Madeleine Albright: Well the Europeans are trying to develop a common approach, a common foreign policy, and I think sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't. I think that one of the real questions now is can there be common European agreement on how to proceed in Kosovo, as you mentioned. I think the Europeans are going through a self-analysis of trying to figure out how they bring together this continent, where there have been so many disagreements over decades, centuries. And the project is moving forward, very slowly I think. But there are times when there really is a common effort. Again to go back to Kosovo, we couldn't get Kosovo done through the United Nations, because it was very clear that the Russians were going to veto it. But we were able to get actions through NATO and Turkey was an integral part of that. So there are different institutional structures today that allow you to deal with a common enemy. And to go back to something which I said about Senator Clinton is I think she is going to be much more interested in looking at what kind of partnership structures exist in order to take common action.


Ipek Cem: Many people know you as the face of the United States globally, but you were born in Prague and after reading your biography I know that you are almost following in the footsteps of your father who was a diplomat, who was a university professor a very well known one, and an author. How does his legacy impact your life? How has your career been impacted by the European legacy and your family legacy?


Madeleine Albright: Well, in every way. You can't really separate your family background and emotional baggage that comes. I am a child of a war-torn Europe, and also of the cold war, and somebody who is very grateful to have come to the United States. I think that the way that my background impacts upon me is that I feel that I am in a position to make a difference about things so that when I saw terrible things happening I felt that by some miracle I was in a position that could make a difference. So a real sense of drive to use what has been given to me in some positive way. The other part that's kind of interesting a lot of people always ask me how much of use is European and how much of me is American. And it's hard for me to fully explain that. I know that I am an American because I've lived here since I was 11 years old and I see the world from the perspective of the major power. On the other hand, I think it has helped me to understand some of the psychology of European countries. And to understand how hard it is to get along with your neighbor. And the fact that the distances are so small. That there is an interdependence is Europe. So it's kind of an interesting mixture. I consider myself the epitome of the Euro-Atlantic alliance, and that there is a sense about what it is to be a European. I hope very much that Turkey will be a part of that.


Ipek Cem: In your life you have fit in both the academic career and the very public political career and at the same time you have three daughters, six grandchildren and right now you are dividing your time between also your responsibilities in the Albright group. How do you find the balance, as they say?


Madeleine Albright: Well. I don't. I mean it's very difficult. You are a young mother so you know how difficult it is. I think that I do the best I can. But everything I do I like doing and so that develops a certain energy and passion, but it is very hard to balance everything and there have been periods in my life when it has been out of balance but I do believe that if you work hard and like what you are doing then there is a way to figure out that maybe every day isn't balanced but in the long run it kind of evens out.


Ipek Cem: On that not I want to thank you for your time.


Madeleine Albright: Thank you for your great questions. And you also are following the legacy of your father.


This transcript was typed from a transcription unit recording and not copied from an original script. Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, NTV networks and Ipek Cem cannot vouch for its accuracy.