MADAM SECRETARY: A Memoir

Madeleine K. Albright, Author, Bill Woodward, With
Madeleine K. Albright, Author, Bill Woodward, With . Miramax $27.95 (562p) ISBN 978-0-7868-6843-8
Reviewed on: 09/15/2003
Release date: 09/01/2003
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-1-4013-9742-5
Compact Disc - 6 pages - 978-1-4013-9745-6
Compact Disc - 978-0-7927-3021-7
Hardcover - 456 pages - 978-1-4050-3369-5
Paperback - 736 pages - 978-1-4013-5962-1
Hardcover - 576 pages - 978-1-4050-4831-6
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Albright proposes to "combine the personal with policy" in these memoirs, a sensible narrative strategy, considering her emblematic struggles as a working mother breaking through the glass ceiling of the foreign policy establishment to become U.N. ambassador and secretary of state. Albright's recollections of her background as a child refugee from Czechoslovakia and its twin scourges of Nazism and Communism (later, she accounts for the belated discovery of her Jewish heritage) suggest a basis for her belief in "assertive multilateralism." Although she laments coining this derided term, it's an apt name for her doctrine that human rights should be protected by the international community, led by American power. In the Clinton administration, this was the hawkish position, opposed by Colin Powell, William Cohen and others more cautious about military commitments. Albright treats these and other rivalries with restraint, but she is relatively candid about policy and personality conflicts, to an extent unusual in a diplomat and welcome in an autobiographer. Pitched at a popular audience, Albright's anecdotal style is engagingly direct, but it's not suited to mounting a comprehensive defense of humanitarian interventionism in light of failures in Somalia, Rwanda and Bosnia. Albright is willing to admit mistakes, though she generally pursues the political memoirist's standard agenda of spinning the historical record. Filled with shrewd character sketches of world leaders, Albright's descriptions of the Balkan conflicts, the Middle East peace process and other critical negotiations are thorough and insightful. This memoir captures the disarmingly blunt purposefulness that made its author an irrepressible force in foreign affairs. (Sept.)

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