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Madeleine Albright: The road forward

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Korbel Albright was nominated by President Clinton as Secretary of State in 1996. Secretary Albright is the first female secretary of state and the highest ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government. Secretary Albright is now chairman of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. She joined the chat room from Washington D.C.

CNN: Welcome to, Secretary Albright, and thank you for being with us today.

SECRETARY MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Let me say how very glad I am to be able to participate in this kind of discussion. So, hello everybody, glad to be with you.

CNN: As the U.S. tries to come to grips with last week's terrorist attacks, how will we strike a balance between the protective measures that will be implemented and the preservation of our freedoms in a democratic society?

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ALBRIGHT: I think that this is one of the crucial long term questions for all of us, because the magic of America is that we have, over our 225 years, got this delicate balance right most of the time. We have to make sure that we take the measures that are really protective of us, but do not necessarily take away other people's liberty. To be safe at the expense of the liberty of other people is a difficult equation. There clearly are steps that can be taken to increase security at airports and other public places that are inconvenient, but don't really impinge on our liberty. There are other measures that will obviously be discussed in the future that really might impinge and we just have to look at them one at a time. But the best security for our people is democracy.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: During these tricky and dangerous times ahead, what would your message be to the leaders of the Middle East?

ALBRIGHT: My message to them is that they have as much to lose from terrorism as the rest of us; that their long-term national interest and ours do not necessarily diverge; and that they should join us in what is an international fight against terrorism. We are all on the same side. Now let me say that I realize this is not an easy proposition. Some of the countries in the Middle East have within them extremist groups that are trying to destabilize them. And sometimes highly visible statements from their own governments make things much more complicated for them. So, I think we should be looking for actions in support of our policies, not just look for words.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Do you think the forming coalition will hold up under pressure, or are the promises of aid from Middle Eastern countries empty?

ALBRIGHT: I think that the hardest part about all this is that this will take a long time. And to have a sustained will anywhere is obviously a difficult proposition. What I have seen in some of the statements is some of them do have some redefining of what the support is, or some way of limiting it. And I think that what this means is that U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and other diplomats will have to, on a daily basis, talk and touch base with these countries to ensure that a coalition holds. During the Kosovo war, which was a small campaign in comparison to this, I touched base every day with those who were in the fight with us, just to make sure we were all on the same page. This is what diplomacy is all about. So, there is a lot of work ahead.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: What is the American response that Osama bin Laden fears most?

ALBRIGHT: That is very hard to tell because he can turn around a few things. What he would fear the most is what we are trying to do; getting everyone together in support of one policy. What he would like best is if we would shut down and didn't pursue a normal life. Frankly, it is up to us if he is successful or not. He controlled the event, but the victory is controlled by us.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: I've heard that France is coming up short of full agreement and cooperation with our efforts to search out and eliminate Osama bin Laden and his forces. Which other European countries are stating some reluctance, and what is their biggest concern with our efforts?

ALBRIGHT: The most difficult part here goes back to an earlier question. The countries look as though they will nuance their response. President Chirac is coming to Washington, and I am sure that this is the question the two leaders will be discussing. Generally, each country wants to maintain control over its own foreign policy and doesn't want to have its decisions made for it. The hard part is to make other countries do what you want them to do. We should listen to what our friends and allies are doing. It is important to have an international coalition. At the same time we should remember that we were the ones who took this hit, and we have to do all we can to persuade our allies to see it the same way.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Should Americans just continue on with our daily lives, knowing that people are trying to kill us over issues we have no direct input over?

ALBRIGHT: This again is the hard part about the horrendous event that took place last week. We are the only ones who can give the terrorists a victory by shutting down. We need to stand tall. We need to invest in America -- literally and figuratively -- because everyone is watching our markets and stores, and if we exhibit confidence, then that will reverberate throughout the world. The terrorists want us to hunker down, constantly look over our shoulder, and be afraid of our fellow citizens. We cannot give them that victory. Now, I don't want you to think I've lost contact with real life. I am a mother and grandmother. I worry about my family and I want them to take appropriate precautions. But, we cannot stop our lives because then the terrorists have won.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: China has been awfully quiet. Pakistan has met with the Chinese. Now, the Chinese want this to be under the UN Charter. Is China supporting this effort, or could they align with Pakistan if things escalate?

ALBRIGHT: Well, I have just been looking at some stories out of China. They are being their normally cautious selves in terms of tying themselves to international action, mainly because they are always looking towards not supporting policies that allow interference in other nations' affairs because they do not want any interference in Chinese affairs. So, I think they would like to see whatever response takes place go through the UN Security Council where they have a veto.

Part of the question was about Pakistan. At the moment, from the reports I have seen, the Pakistanis are aligning themselves with us. We should do all we can to make clear to the Pakistanis that their future lies with the coalition against terrorism.

CNN: Do you have any final thoughts for us today, Secretary Albright?

ALBRIGHT: I think that we all need to realize that this is one of the most difficult times in our history. There are those who have compared this to Pearl Harbor, but at that time, we were attacked by planes from a place we knew, Japan. They had markings. We now are less clear about the enemy itself and all the hangers on. And we also know that this is a long-term struggle.

I think it is very important that our leaders keep talking to the American people and that we find sustenance in each other for a long sustained fight. And that we can keep the will to go forward without sacrificing what this country is about and without lashing out in anger and frustration, because neither of those are long term policies. The greatest thrill in my life was to represent the United States of America. I have been asked whether any of our policies were responsible for this. The answer is no. Only those who hate democracy and human rights and freedom would be opposed to what America stands for. These are hard times but we all stand together.

CNN: Thank you for joining us today, Secretary Madeleine Albright.

ALBRIGHT: I'm very pleased to do this. I wish it was under happier circumstances, but it is a wonderful way to communicate with people.

Secretary Madeleine Albright joined the chat room by telephone, and CNN provided a typist. This is an edited transcript of the interview which took place on Tuesday, September 18, 2001.

• National Democratic Institute for International Affairs

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