Madeleine Albright

Taking stock of people and ideas in the news.
April 25 1999 3:30 AM

Madeleine Albright

The diplomat who mistook her life story for statecraft.

25000_25859_brodner_albright

Click here for Slate's complete Kosovo coverage.

(Continued from Page 1)

The Bush administration's approach to the unfolding disaster in Yugoslavia might be characterized as inaction backed up by indifference. Until last month, the Clinton administration preferred calls for action backed up by indecision. Writing in the New York Review of Books, Mark Danner has argued that the administration's predilection for tough talk, coupled with its political timidity, did much to make matters worse in Bosnia. In 1993, Clinton, urged on by Albright, rejected out of hand the Vance-Owen plan for partition of the country, saying that it rewarded Serb aggression. Two years later, after the massacres at Srebrenica and Vukovar, the slaughter and displacement of tens of thousands more Croats and Muslims, the decimation of Sarajevo, and the Serb conquest of more territory, the administration pushed through the Dayton Accords. This agreement, which gave the Serbs a great deal more than Vance-Owen would have, was puffed as a Nobel-worthy diplomatic accomplishment. In the meantime, Albright had promoted the United Nations' disastrous "Safe Havens" policy, which placed masses of unarmed Bosnian civilians under the "protection" of minuscule numbers of U.N. (but no U.S.) troops--that is, left them at the mercy of Serb paramilitaries, who systematically set about driving them from their homes and killing them.

Advertisement

The administration's failure to act effectively in Bosnia (or in Rwanda) can't be blamed entirely, or even primarily, on Albright, whose job at the time was peripheral to the making and implementing of policy. Nor can the Kosovo campaign be called "Albright's war," even though it was the utter failure of her attempted diplomacy at Rambouillet (along with the failure of her one-time rival Richard Holbrooke in Belgrade) that helped to precipitate the current conflict. But the NATO campaign against Milosevic is often, and rightly, viewed as the victory of Albright's interventionist position over the more cautious views of colleagues such as National Security Adviser Samuel Berger and his predecessor Anthony Lake. The genesis of that position, Albright has insisted, lies in her own life story: Her view of the world, she repeats as though it were a mantra, was formed not by Vietnam, but by Munich, by the failure of the great powers to check totalitarian aggression in Central Europe. But as the war over Kosovo escalates, such analogies prove to be of limited and rapidly diminishing use. It is likely that future secretaries of state will say that the formative experience of their lives was Kosovo. What they mean when they say that, rather than how she got to be where she is, will determine Albright's place in history.

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

Why Do Some People See the Virgin Mary in Grilled Cheese?

The science that explains the human need to find meaning in coincidences.

Jurisprudence

Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

What to Do if You Literally Get a Bug in Your Ear

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 8:43 PM This 17-Minute Tribute to David Fincher Is the Perfect Preparation for Gone Girl
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 16 2014 11:46 PM The Scariest Campfire Story More horrifying than bears, snakes, or hook-handed killers.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.