Women and US foreign policy |

Madeleine Albright

Madeleine Albright



This is a transcript of an interview Matthew Alan Hill conducted with Madeleine Albright for the Women and US Foreign Policy Interview Project at The Institute for the Study of the Americas, University of London.

Interviewee: Madeleine Albright (MA)

Employment position referred to in interview: US Ambassador to the UN (1993-1997); US Secretary of State (1997-2001).

Interviewer: Matthew Alan Hill (MH)

Date: December 2, 2011

Location: London, UK


General questions about your career [00:22 – 13:02]

Inspiration was from Father was a Czechoslovak diplomat and would discuss foreign policy with Albright and professors and others such as Edmund Muskie, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Bill Clinton; studying international relations at Wellesley College; father was in the Czechoslovak government in exile during WWII, post-war Ambassador to Yugoslavia; meeting Yugoslav leaders as a child; university peers learning from experiences as a diplomat’s child; working hard and obtaining a Ph.D. when businesses began to see importance of having women as part of the team; explaining why gender equality and bringing a different approach increased role of women; being told she could not be a journalist because of her husband’s career as a journalist; men putting her down at meetings when working for Encyclopaedia Britannica; the higher the position the more people discriminated based on sex; discusses questions over whether a woman could be a secretary of state; difficulties of balancing motherhood with a professional career; importance of fathers playing a more active role in redressing the difficulties professional mothers face.

Non-gender specific issues and events you were involved in during your FP-related career [13:03 – 34:03]

Explains the problems of applying lessons learnt in one case to another case due to specificity of local conditions; difficulties of bureaucracy and short-term political priorities in supporting case-specificity to international situations; benefits of bureaucracy is that it enables decision-making to be fully explored; citing Kosovo in 1999 as an example the negative of bureaucracy is that the event does not wait for a careful-exploration of the issue; discusses UN peacemaking role in Haiti, 1994 as an example of the changes post-Cold War in the activist agenda of the UN; compromising national sovereignty due to a responsibility to protect individuals; problems encountered when discussing when to enforce human security issues; constant balance between employing human security and protecting national sovereignty; responds to question on whether the US would have engaged in Rwanda in 1994 had it not been for Somalia and the killing of US military personnel in the Black Hawk Down incident; US would not have made a difference to the ‘volcanic genocide’ in Rwanda; UN should be blamed for Rwanda and the US for Somalia; discusses how the she would have explained a possible US intervention in Rwanda to the American public in terms of national interests; long-term versus short-term national interests.

Experiences and knowledge of US engagement with gender issues in foreign policy [34:04 – 49:10]

Decision to incorporate women’s rights in US foreign policy decision-making due to the benefits to prosperity and stability; “women’s rights were human rights and human rights were women’s”; treatment of women in Afghanistan is cultural not religious; supporting the voices of local women not imposing America’s perspective of women’s rights; political and economic development go together; importance of societies to recognise that empowering women is beneficial to the society; tailoring US responses to needs of women in the country; working for Georgetown University to train women for a career in international relations; changes in the foreign service to enable married women to continue with their careers; importance of being the Secretary of State for the US and not just for women.

Views on recent US foreign policy related issues [49:11 – 52:24]

Discusses the difficulties of employing multilateralism as a US foreign policy tool; discusses how the US should react to the Arab Spring.

Madeleine_Albright_02.12.2012_audio.mp3 (to download right-click and ‘Save link as…’)