Madeleine Albright: 'Madam Secretary'

Former Secretary of State Recounts Her Diplomatic Career

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Listen: <b>Web Extra:</b> Listen to Juan Williams' extended interview with Madeleine Albright.

Listen: <b>Web Extra:</b> Hear Albright read an excerpt from 'Madam Secretary,' about the U.S.-led victory in the war in Kosovo.

'Madam Secretary' book cover

Madam Secretary: A Memoir, by Madeleine Albright hide caption

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This book is available for purchase online. Your purchase helps support NPR.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's new memoir is simply called Madam Secretary. In an interview with NPR's Juan Williams, Albright discusses what it was like to be the first female secretary of state, her opinion about the timing of the recent war in Iraq and the lessons of the U.S.-led war in Kosovo.

Albright directed U.S. foreign policy from 1997 until the Clinton administration left office.

Being a woman in a male-dominated field of foreign relations "has some downs, but mostly it has ups," she says. "It gave me the ability to use whatever feminine charms... I might have and, at the same time when I needed to be tough I could be very tough."

Albright questions the timing of the U.S. war in Iraq, she does not take issue with the Bush administration's now contested claim that Baghdad was hiding weapons of mass destruction. "I had every reason to believe that in 1998, when the [U.N.] inspectors were thrown out, that in fact all the weapons of mass destruction had not been accounted for. So the assumption was that some of them might exist. I never thought that Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat, which is why I understood the 'why' of the war but I didn't the 'why now.'"

In her book, Albright details the intense behind-the-scenes diplomacy leading up to the 1999 war in Kosovo that resulted in the ouster of Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic. She cites several lessons of the Kosovo conflict. "You cannot stand by for a long time watching terrible things happen. We also learned that as powerful as the United States is, we cannot do things alone."

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