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April 1999

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Three Scholars React to a Policy Statement
by Secretary of State Albright



Editor’s Introduction ~ ol  

In its November/December issue,
Foreign Affairs published an extended analysis by Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright entitled “The Testing of American Foreign Policy.”* While her presentation included more concepts and observations than can be covered in this brief introductory segment, two areas appear to be central to her formulation of tasks facing the United States in the foreign policy field. These are the following: 


1. Challenges  

Four categories of countries exist in the world today: full members of the international system; those in transition that are seeking to participate more fully; those too weak, poor or mired in conflict to participate meaningfully; and finally, those that reject the very rules and precepts of the system. 

For Secretary Albright, this categorization presents a four-part challenge: 

  • The United States must strengthen the bonds between and prevent ruptures among the leading nations.
  • The United States must fortify the international system by helping transitional states become full participants.
  • The United States must give a boost to the weaker states that are most willing to help themselves.
  • The United Sates must repel threats to the system that affect the security of all nations.

2. Tests of Leadership 

Although diplomacy requires vision and pragmatism, it also requires spine in the Secretary’s formulation. Diplomacy calls for leading nations to act firmly and cooperatively to repel threats to international security. Five new tests of international will and American leadership can be cited: 

  • Nations must unite against terrorism; there can be no middle ground.
  • The U.N. Security Council must deal firmly with Saddam Hussein’s threats and defiance.
  • The United States must be resolute in its dealings with North Korea.
  • The United States must continue to stand firmly behind implementation of the Dayton Accords on Bosnia.
  • Finally, the international community must redouble its efforts to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

The Secretary of State notes that Americans, leaving aside the six weeks of the Gulf War, now have known peace longer than the interval between Versailles and Pearl Harbor. With no single powerful opponent in world view, for most Americans U.S. foreign policy has assumed less importance than in earlier years. Nonetheless, the Secretary holds that the demands upon the United States have not lessened; new dangers replace receding ones and old dangers reemerge. The test of U.S. leadership, therefore, is essentially as severe as that faced by the post-World War II generation. The stakes have not changed. 

Drawing from the Foreign Affairs article, the Raleigh, NC, News and Observer published an abridged version of this compendium of challenges and tests of leadership. Appearing  in conjunction with the Secretary’s views was commentary by three scholars in the field, which we reproduce in the following pages.  

  • Richard H. Kohn, professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, “Indecision is our Fatal Flaw.” [CLICK HERE]

  • Nancy Mitchell, assistant professor of history at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, “Use Moral Example Instead of ‘Spine’.” [CLICK HERE]

  • David Thornton, director of government studies at Campbell University, Buies Creek, NC, whose oral interview comments are titled “Albright’s Position is Hard to Justify.”[CLICK HERE]

Readers are invited to share their comments with us by email, whether about the challenges cited by the Secretary or about the responses of our three scholars.

* Foreign Affairs, Vol. 77, No. 6 (Nov./Dec. 1998), pp. 50-64. 


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