10 Questions For Madeleine Albright

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When Madeleine Albright became Secretary of State, the Czech-born exile was the first woman to serve in that post. On the eve of the publication of her memoir, Madame Secretary (Miramax; 592 pages)—which covers everything from discovering belatedly that her family was Jewish to her years in the Clinton Administration—she spoke with TIME's J.F.O. McAllister.

Unlike other memoirs, Madame Secretary has hardly a hint of score settling. If you didn't want to set the record straight, why did you write it?
The day-to-day making of policy is arguing all the time. You're trying to get the right approach and the right answer, and there are moments that aren't very pleasant. But in the end, you look at the overall product. Any differences we had [in the Clinton Administration] were so minimal compared to what I see in the Bush Administration, I thought: It's just not worth it.

Did you neglect the threat posed by Osama bin Laden and leave it for the Bush Administration to clean up?
President Clinton focused on terrorism from the start. The CIA set up a special bin Laden division, and the President authorized the use of lethal force against him. We struck his camp in 1998 after the embassy bombings, and we came close. President Bush has been in Afghanistan with 8,000 troops, and they still haven't found him.

Should the U.S. have invaded Iraq?
I always believed Saddam has the kind of record that justifies taking action. I didn't see Saddam as an imminent threat, which is where I parted company with them ... I think the whole thing has been mishandled.

Has the war made the problem of terrorism better or worse?
The Administration immediately tied Sept. 11 to Saddam. They said, basically, that Saddam and Iraq were a hotbed of terrorism. While I had many criticisms of Saddam, that's not the way I saw it. But now Iraq is in fact a breeding ground for terrorists.

What should the U.S. do next?
Frankly, if there was a President Gore, we wouldn't be in this particular mess. But we are, and we cannot fail. I very much hope there will be a U.N. resolution that makes clear the U.S. has military command but that would set up a U.N. high representative to coordinate the political and humanitarian things the U.N. does very well.

Bush's foreign policy started as "Anything But Clinton" in almost every area—the Middle East, North Korea, China. Now events have pushed it back much closer to your approach. Do you ever succumb to schadenfreude?
No, I'm much too kind and generous a person.

Has Bush been right to sideline Yasser Arafat in the Middle East peace process?
I think that's been a mistake. Now, that doesn't mean it's much fun to talk to him. I don't think he's a force for good, but he's part of the story.

Is Sharon as big an obstacle to making peace?
I am willing to believe that he can do a Nixon in China. The U.S. has to play the role of making sure that both sides really do what they're supposed to do on the road map. But it requires the constant attention of the Administration at a very high level. I may be wrong, but I don't see that happening.

What did being a woman mean to your term as secretary of state?
I think the personal relationships I established mattered in terms of what I was able to get done. And I did bring women's issues to the center of our foreign policy.

You're known for wearing pins that make political statements. How many do you own?
I honestly don't know—probably about a hundred. I think I've revived the costume-jewelry industry.