Kissinger Albright
Kissinger and Albright have both been the leading lights of US foreign policy Image Credit: Gulf News

Henry Kissinger is forever loathed by liberal America for being not only complicit but also for being practically responsible for most of the atrocities the United States committed between the late 1960s and early 1970s in Vietnam and Cambodia.

Yet, US top diplomats continue to be guided by his foreign policy principles, which may very well have been shaped literally by Machiavelli’s The Prince. The German-born right wing thinker and author Kissinger served between 1969 and 1973 as National Security Adviser and Secretary of State under former Republican Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.

However, he has had disciples from the other party, the Democrats. One of those devotees was Madeleine Albright, the former United States Secretary of State who died last week, of cancer at the age of 84. For seven years, between 1993 and 2000, she was a key architect of American foreign policy and one of the most powerful women in the world.

She served as the US ambassador to the United Nations from 1993 until 1997, when Democrat President Bill Clinton, described by his Republican rivals as a ‘bleeding heart liberal’, nominated her to become the first female Secretary of State in US history.

During her tenure as the top US diplomat, she defended US power and okayed policies that led to the death of hundreds of thousands around the world in the name of promoting US interests. In a recently surfaced clip from a December 1996 ABC’s programme ‘60 Minutes’ interview with her as she prepared to take her post as Secretary of State, Albright was asked by the show’s host Lesley Stahl about the impact of the US sanctions on Iraq:

“We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?”

‘A very hard choice’

Another politician may have needed to take few moments to think of an answer to a question about their responsibility for the death of 572,000 Iraqi babies at the time of the interview. Not Albright. She didn’t need those few moments. She knew exactly what she has been doing and what she wants to say.

With a strikingly calm and determined voice, she said: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price – we think the price is worth it.”

Yes, that was the answer of the woman described by President Joe Biden as “a force for goodness, grace, and decency – and for freedom” upon her death last week. Her ex-boss, Bill Clinton, paid a long tribute to his former staff calling her “a passionate force for freedom, democracy, and human rights” whose death “is an immense loss to the world in a time when we need the lessons of her life the most.”

Clinton may have not seen that 1996 clip or he probably has but doesn’t think the human right thing applied to Iraqi babies when he was the leader of the ‘free world’. Either way, these two men probably speak of a different Albright: one the world never knew anyway. The one we knew was a female version of Kissinger.

And like her predecessor, Albright was a foreign-born who came to the US as a teenager with her parents. She was born Marie Jana Korbelova on May 15, 1937, in Prague to an anti-Communist father who worked as a diplomat before the Communist Party took over the rule in the former Czechoslovakia in 1948. She adopted the name Madeleine when she was studying French in Geneva before immigrating to the US.

The Albright Doctrine

In a long obituary in the New Yorker, her longtime friend, foreign policy author Robin Wright wrote that the late secretary came up with her own foreign policy doctrine. She called it ‘the Albright Doctrine’. “It blended her profound moral values from her childhood experience in Europe with US strategic interests. In most cases, she advocated for ‘assertive multilateralism’,” Wright wrote.

The use of ‘moral values’ here can be evidently questioned as we have established from that infamous ‘60 minutes’ interview. As the Soviet Union disintegrated, she advocated the use of US military power to advance America’s position as the sole superpower. She put the foundation of that project which was continued by the next administration led by George W. Bush.

Her work during those fateful seven years thus is very much relevant. At the core of the Russian war on Ukraine is Moscow’s repeatedly declared opposition to the expansion of Nato in eastern Europe. Albright was the engineer of the Nato expansion eastward.

“Her childhood experience,” as put by Robin Wright, led her to apply hawkish policies vis-a-vis Russia. Albright’s family sought asylum in the US following the fall of the multi-party system to the Communists in 1948. It is safe to say thus that she had intrinsic hatred for that ideology. That explains her successful campaign to admit as many former Soviet republics as possible into Nato.

“We will continue erasing — without replacing — the line drawn in Europe by Stalin’s bloody boot,” she said, in 1999. Her country of birth, the Czech Republic, along with Poland, and Hungary were admitted into Nato that year, the first three countries of the former Soviet bloc to join the alliance. During her speech at the signing ceremony, she shouted: “Hallelujah!”.

Her resentment towards Russia can be seen even when she was on her deathbed. In his obituary, former President Clinton joked that “even until our last conversation just two weeks ago, she never lost her great sense of humour or her determination to go out with her boots on, supporting Ukraine in its fight to preserve freedom and democracy.”

Albright might have been successful as a Secretary of State from the US perspective. But through her ‘assertive’ doctrine, she might have planted the seeds of a new global war that could see the ultimate destruction of today’s world. As for the other part of her doctrine, ‘the moral values’, well, the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children shall be forever a damning proof of that.