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Today marks the third day of the U.S. led attack on Libya. American and European forces have been hitting Muammar Gadhafi’s troops by air and sea. The United Nations’ sanctioned operation aims to protect civilians from attack. Some critics are asking is it too little too late while others question getting into a third war in the Muslim world. President Obama said he’s aware of the risks of military action but also said, “we can’t stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people that there will be no mercy.” Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright joins Diane in the studio to discuss the latest on the Libyan mission and what it means for U.S relations with a changing Arab world.
- David D. Kirkpatrick New York Times Cairo Bureau Chief
- Secretary Madeleine Albright Chair of Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategy firm, and Chair of Albright Capital Management LLC, an investment advisory firm focused on emerging markets, former Secretary of State in the Clinton Administration.
- Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the senior member of the Senate Finance Committee and Senate Budget Committee.
- Zbigniew Brzezinski Professor of American Foreign Policy, Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University. and former National Security Advisor to President Carter from 1977 to 1981.
- Amb. Richard Haass president, Council on Foreign Relations, author of "A War of Necessity, War of Choice: A Memoir of Two Iraq Wars," and former director of policy planning for the Department of State, where he was a principal adviser to Secretary of State Colin Powell.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. The U.S. and Europe began strikes against the forces of Col. Muammar Qaddafi over the weekend. The aim of the U.N. sanctioned mission is to protect civilians. Qaddafi spoke on state television and called the action "simply a colonial crusader aggression that may ignite another large-scale crusader war." Joining me in the studio to discuss the Libyan mission and its implications for U.S. relations in the Arab world, Madeleine Albright. She's chair of the Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategy firm, and former secretary of state in the Clinton administration. A bit later in the program, we will be taking your calls. First, joining us by phone from Tripoli is David D. Kirkpatrick of The New York Times. Good morning to you, David.
MR. DAVID KIRKPATRICKGood morning. Hello.
REHMI gather that the four New York Times journalists who were captured in Libya last week have been freed. What can you tell us about this?
KIRKPATRICKIt's true. They are on their way, as I understand it, to the border of Tunisia. With any luck, they'll be crossing over soon. They're in the custody of the Turkish ambassador, who's kindly agreed to stand in for the American diplomats here who've left the country. (unintelligible)
REHMCan you tell us what you're seeing and hearing there in Tripoli?
KIRKPATRICKWell, today, it's sunny and bright – people, the (unintelligible) seem to be going about its business. All the stores are open, but some appear to be -- at night, I observed (unintelligible) of shelling. The last couple of nights, it started around 8 o'clock. Well, the first thing we see are barrage of anti-aircraft flares coming up from the Libyan ground, and it's not very easy to see what they're shooting at. Last night, the most dramatic thing we saw was a bomb that exploded inside the Qaddafi town, not too far from the hill where they're keeping all of us.
KIRKPATRICKWe hear the bomb go off, saw a cloud of smoke. And, later, our hope that Libyan authorities' that (unintelligible) journalists over to inspect the damage, that now appears to have been a kind of administrative command and control headquarters for the Qaddafi forces there in the compound.
REHMDavid D. Kirkpatrick of The New York Times. David, I'm afraid the connection is not working well, so we'll have to let you go. But I so appreciate your joining us. Thank you.
KIRKPATRICKI hope we can do a better job the next time.
REHMI hope so. Thanks a lot. Turning to you, Madam Secretary. Good morning to you. It's so good to have you.
SECRETARY MADELEINE ALBRIGHTGreat to be with you, Diane. And I'm so pleased that those journalists have been released. I think...
ALBRIGHT... that's an important part of the story.
REHMWhy do you suppose they have been released?
ALBRIGHTWell, I think, that one never knows when somebody has been captured, what the cause of the capturing and then the release. But I think, partially, that the Qaddafi regime is trying to gain support from the outside and make it seem as if they are normal, civilized, which we know, on the other hand, they are not because they are trying to kill their own people.
REHMThere are some critics who argue that what the U.S. and the U.N. coalition are doing is too little, too late. There are others who say the U.S. is getting involved in a third war in the Muslim world. What is your opinion?
ALBRIGHTWell, I think it's very important to see this all in a very different context. I have been alive for quite a long time. I have seen, I think, some very major shifts in my lifetime -- not a lot of them, but some major ones -- obviously, World War II, then the end of the Soviet empire, the coming down of the Berlin Wall. I think that what is going on in the Middle East now is on that level -- a major, major game changer -- where people felt that the Middle East would always be the same, that they were not ready for a democracy, that they could be running a completely different way from other parts of the world.
ALBRIGHTAnd I think we've seen, as a result of a number of factors, which is the technological revolution, where people can talk to each other across borders, that there are also similarities in terms of young populations that are educated, unemployed -- kind of the youth bulge -- and that there is a viral aspect to this, that what happens in one country spreads to another.
REHMAt the same time, it has been said many times, we don't know who these rebels are.
ALBRIGHTWell, we don't, in different places. And one of the points here, I think, we need to realize -- and I'm sure we'll be talking about other parts of the Middle East -- each of these situations is slightly different. We do know, in Libya, the -- Secretary Clinton has met with some members of the opposition. President Sarkozy of France has, in fact, recognized them. But it is a group that has been pulled together, in many ways, by the desire to end Qaddafi's dictatorial, cruel control over them. But we don't know exactly who is who. But we do know that their desire is to have a different kind of Libya.
REHMIt's interesting to me that Secretary of Defense Gates came out last week and said we should not begin any military action against Libya. Then Secretary of State Clinton, who had previously agreed with that -- apparently with the U.N. representative from the U.S., Susan Rice, and a third woman -- persuaded President Obama that now is the time to go in. How do you see that?
ALBRIGHTI'm not sure I would put it all exactly the same way. Having been in a variety of discussions where, during the Clinton administration, we had to decide what to do in a particular place -- Kosovo, for one -- what is an appropriate procedure, I think, for a democratic country with a democratically elected president and a huge responsibility is to have meetings in which people voice their views very honestly. I've often said that national security council meetings, the principle meetings that the advisor -- the responsibility is to get different views from the various secretaries -- that's what the whole thing is about -- and to get different views voiced because the president is entitled and requires to have different opinions.
ALBRIGHTSo that's how the process works, and it goes back and forth. And there are really -- we were involved in some pretty honest discussions and disagreements. And then you come to an agreement, and it's a human process of putting options on the table. Now, in addition to this situation, domestically, what happens in the decision-making process, you have a changing situation internationally. And there was a hope for some time that the rebels or the opposition groups were moving along, that Qaddafi was not doing well in terms of maintaining control.
ALBRIGHTThere had to be discussions about what the appropriate approach was. And I would be willing to bet there was a lot of talk going back and forth. I believe that Secretary Clinton and Amb. Rice -- and, by the way, I had both those jobs, so I know what they're supposed to do -- did a brilliant job diplomatically in getting support for military -- this no-fly zone, which made it a much more tenable option, and presented that to the president. So it's a combination of changing the international picture.
REHMBut don't you think it's interesting that the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates would have said this is not what we should do, and the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said this is what we must do?
ALBRIGHTWell, without personalizing this too much, I had a similar discussion with Secretary Cohen. So I think that part of what happens is you're there representing the views of your department of what you know about the diplomatic scene. And the truth is, Diane, this has come way back. I have studied this a lot. And Secretary Weinberger, who was the secretary of defense, had a similar argument with Secretary George Schultz during the Reagan administration. So this is how the system works, and those kinds of arguments go on. And this is why it works because the president is entitled to have the different views of his or, ultimately, her advisors.
REHMAt the same time, the president is currently in South America. Does that send a mixed signal?
ALBRIGHTNo. I mean, I'll tell you, I think, again, one of the things -- the president has a -- any president has a very complicated schedule. There are signals he sends if he has planned a trip and then cancels a trip. I think that we are, as Americans, the American country, our military, are involved in all kinds of things. As you pointed out, you know, we're in Afghanistan. We're in Iraq. Now, there's this. At the same time, the president had planned a trip to Latin America, a very, very important area for us and sadly one that sometimes feels that it is neglected. And what happened is the president's main job -- he has said over and over again -- is jobs, jobs, jobs. And this is a trip in terms of trying to deal with the economic situation. I think it was a very important trip. And it does not send mixed signals.
REHMFormer Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. We'll take a short break. When we come back, you'll hear from Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security advisor to President Carter.
REHMAnd joining us now is Zbigniew Brzezinski of Johns Hopkins University, former national security advisor to President Carter. Good morning to you, sir. It's good to have you with us again. Oh, dear. All right. We have lost him for the moment, but he will be back with us very, very quickly. Turning back to you, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the story about Libya in The New York Times yesterday said that part of the reason for going in with the U.N. group was due to what happened in Rwanda during the Clinton administration. Do you believe that to be true?
ALBRIGHTYes and no, frankly. I mean, I think that we have had a great advance in the concept of one doctrine, which is the responsibility to protect, which is that we do know what is going on inside every country these days. One could say that previously we did not know, and that if the leader of a country is not -- not only not protecting his people but actually killing them, that then the international community does have some responsibility to do something about it. There's no question that Rwanda weighs very heavy on everybody's soul.
REHMAnd joining us now is Zbigniew Brzezinski. Good morning to you, sir.
PROF. ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKIGood morning, Diane. How are you?
REHMI'm very well, thank you. A former student of yours is here in the studio with us.
BRZEZINSKIA very good student.
ALBRIGHTHey, Zbig. (sp?)
REHMI would like to ask you, you have said that there should be some U.S. military invention -- intervention in Libya. What's your assessment of the current operations?
BRZEZINSKIWell, my assessment, basically, is that we stopped the worst because the worst was an increasing massacre, and it might have gone to horrible lengths. We now have to define some positive goals for this enterprise because, otherwise, we could get mired in a situation in which the country gets divided, in which there's a civil war, in which Qaddafi manages to mobilize a great deal of animus towards the West.
REHMAnd before we get to that, do you believe we should have acted sooner?
BRZEZINSKIYes. I think we could have had -- it would've been better, much better. It would have been best if we acted in the first week because Qaddafi was clearly on the run. Even Tripoli was rebelling. But we couldn't do it without international consensus, without an Arab umbrella. Unfortunately, that took more time than desirable.
REHMAnd what do you see as the intent of this operation?
BRZEZINSKITo be perfectly frank, I'm not sure that I know, because it's an operation involving several powers, and I'm not sure that we have yet defined clear goals and clear outcomes. In any case, I think, even if we have and we know ourselves what's being done, we need now to speak to the world more clearly regarding our objectives.
REHMMadam Secretary, what do you see as the intent of this operation?
ALBRIGHTWell, I think it is very clearly stated in the Security Council Resolution 1973, it is to protect civilians. And my good professor and boss made very clear, it would have been good to get in there earlier with international support. But in order to get that international support, there really was very careful drafting of this resolution, I think, very good diplomatic work. And to get the Russians and the others -- the Chinese -- to abstain on this, I think this is very clearly drafted, that this is to support -- to end killing of civilians.
REHMDr. Brzezinski, since the mission is to protect civilians and not to overthrow Qaddafi, what happens if he stays in power?
BRZEZINSKIWell, that's precisely the question. You know, the killing of civilians might stop, so to speak, but, if he remains in power, it could resume at any one moment. Moreover, it's likely that even then, the situation would not be that clear. There would be some killing but perhaps much less killing than was imminent. So we have to, I think, go back to the Arab Union and to the U.N. and seek some sort of a common stand regarding how Libya is to be governed and precisely regarding the question of Qaddafi himself.
BRZEZINSKIIn my view, he cannot stay in power because that would be a source of continuous conflict.
REHMWhat do you make of the criticism by the Arab league that the attacks have gone too far?
BRZEZINSKII can understand that because they're very vulnerable to the feelings of the people, so to speak -- the masses -- and the masses are probably quite ambivalent on it. But I think the Arab league has made a choice, having some Arab countries are getting ready to participate in the enforcement of these rules -- and I think we can still argue with them regarding more precise arrangements. For example, there should be some clear statement regarding the nature of the authority in Benghazi. Do we view it as a provisional government of Libya or what? There should be some provision for U.N.-mandated elections in all of Libya. There should be a common stand excluding Qaddafi because he is the source of the problem.
ALBRIGHTWell, I agree with that. And what's been kind of peculiar is the Arab League changed its mind a couple of times. And, I think, this morning, they're basically back saying that this is a good idea. I don't like to make comparisons with other events like this. But what happened in Kosovo was that we had an air war, and Milosevic had been indicted by the War Crimes Tribunal. There has already been some sense that Qaddafi needs to be up before the International Criminal Court. But what happened was a -- when the war ended in Kosovo, the air war, Milosevic was still in power. People forget that. And it was a year before the -- he had called an election. He lost the election.
ALBRIGHTWe also had very tight sanctions -- not just on him but on his cronies -- and did what President Obama had talked basically about, tightening the noose. So there are various ways to tighten the noose. I do agree with Dr. Brzezinski that, basically, it is not a good sign if he remains there for any extended period of time because, as the -- there was a viral aspect to the democracy movement in the -- all of these countries. There's also a viral aspect to things going backwards. And so we have to be very careful how this is observed in the other countries.
REHMDr. Brzezinski, what do you say to those people who ask, why Libya and why not some of the other countries, like Bahrain?
BRZEZINSKIWell, because there's the question of scale. In Bahrain, what has happened is very unfortunate, and a number of people have been killed. But, in Libya, you had the makings of a huge blood-curdling massacre. I mean, just look at Qaddafi's own words and look at the belated effort to storm Benghazi. That, I think, is a totally, totally different level of violence. Beyond that, I think there is larger international problem. We don't deal with this effectively on the basis of U.N. sponsorship, on the basis of the Arab Union. If he's allowed to persist, we may get greater polarization. Look, for example, what another colonel said this morning. I don't mean Colonel Qaddafi. I mean Putin.
BRZEZINSKIToday, he, in effect, embraced Qaddafi's slogans about the effort being, in some way, analogous to the Crusaders attacking Muslims. I think we have to be very, very clear in defining our objectives and particularly defining international responsibility for a democratic process. That gives us legitimacy that can mobilize a great deal of public opinion.
ALBRIGHTWell, I think that's absolutely right. I think the issue about the international support for this is very important. And it does have to do with this whole idea that you can't allow a leader to slaughter his own people, and that it is infectious if you allow that to happen. So I fully understand why we had to deal with Libya. Each of these countries is somewhat different, but the scale of what was going on in Libya is just mass killings, and that is unacceptable in the 21st century.
REHMAnd, finally, Dr. Brzezinski, will Qaddafi be held legally accountable for what he has done, in your view?
BRZEZINSKIWell, theoretically, he can be, and I believe some steps have already been taken in that direction. But if I had to venture a guess, my guess is he's going to fight to the end. So he will either end up -- if we waiver -- retaining half of Libya and be a source of major instability in the region, or he'll fight to the end and, in the process, maybe get killed. I think our objectives right now, in addition to external use of violence, should be -- as much as possible -- covert contact with the Libyan military because the Libyan military want to preserve the army. They want to preserve themselves. And I think they can be split from him if they become convinced that we mean business.
REHMFormer Carter administration official, Zbigniew Brzezinski. He was national security advisor to President Jimmy Carter. Thank you, sir, so much for joining us.
BRZEZINSKINice to be with you as always, Diane.
REHMThank you very much.
BRZEZINSKIHi, Madeleine. Nice to be with you, too.
ALBRIGHTGreat to be with you, Zbig. (sp?) It will be your birthday soon. Bye.
REHMAll right. And let's open the phones, 800-433-8850. Let's go first to Bill in Lewes, Del. Good morning. You're on the air.
BILLYes. Good morning. I'm interested in the cost of all of this. And my question is, when can we expect Republicans in Congress and the Obama administration to tell the American public that they will raise federal income taxes to pay for the new Libyan war?
ALBRIGHTWell, I haven't seen any estimate of the cost. But I do know that, obviously, we have a tremendous problem with the budget and the deficit, and it is a subject that should be being discussed much more energetically in Congress. I think we're in a very strange position with these continuing resolutions. But, ultimately, one of the hard parts is that we do need money for our national security, and, hopefully, the members of Congress will recognize that.
REHMFormer Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. And you're listening to the "The Diane Rehm Show." And joining us now by phone is Amb. Richard Haass, president at the Council of Foreign Relations. Good morning to you, sir.
AMB. RICHARD HAASSGood morning, Diane. How are you?
REHMI'm fine. Thanks. Tell me your opinion of the mission in Libya.
HAASSMy opinion of what we're doing in Libya is -- in a single phrase -- that it is ill-advised. This is to use terminology I am comfortable with -- a war of choice. Our interests there are less than vital. We have a whole range of military options and non-military options, more important, other than what the world has decided to do. And, in my view, what has been initiated is unlikely to bring about an outcome that is politically desirable. It's not clear to me where exactly this leads us, no matter what happens, whether Qaddafi decides to comply with the U.N. resolution or not.
HAASSI also think, more narrowly, from the perspective of the United States, this is something of a strategic distraction. You were just speaking with Secretary Albright about the budget. And this is yet another potentially expensive military intervention with, I think, very unclear prospects for success.
REHMAnd considering expenses, what about Qaddafi's threat to go from door to door to kill or eliminate each of the rebels?
HAASSWell, again, one of the things we should learn in the Middle East is that bad situations always have the potential to get worse. And if you remove governmental authority, as we saw in Iraq, you can really -- to borrow, in this case, from Shakespeare -- let loose the dogs of war, and situations can unravel very quickly. And it's quite possible -- I don't think it's likely, Diane -- that before this is done, some boots are going to be necessary on the ground. President Obama specifically said there would not be American boots on the ground. Well, that may be the case. We'll see.
HAASSBut either Mr. Qaddafi continues the fighting -- in which case what's being done from the air will not be enough to stop it -- or even if he were to comply and stop, there would be then potentially real vacuums of power. And the real question then is who is going to provide order? And are we so confident that opposition to Qaddafi is really benign? So, I think, it's more likely than not, if we are going to avoid an incredibly messy situation in Libya, that the international community, in one form or another, is going to be compelled to introduce ground forces before this is done.
REHMMadam Secretary, your views on boots on the ground.
ALBRIGHTWell, I think before we get to that, let me just say that -- you and I were talking earlier about the fact -- this is not a simple decision. There is no question about that. We talked about how it came about in the Obama administration, that there was careful consideration. There are those who believe we didn't do anything early enough. And, now, my good friend Richard Haass is saying we shouldn't be there in the first place. I believe that, as I said earlier, that while things are somewhat different in each of the countries, that each one is watching what is going on. And if we are not capable of stopping somebody that is exterminating his own people, it will have an effect on other countries.
ALBRIGHTWe have to also understand that Libya is next door to Egypt -- Egypt is clearly the strategically important issue here -- but that we have to be worried about what the lesson is out of this. And I think this will evolve, and I do think that this is an interest of the United States and of -- even more importantly, of the international community. And the way that the president is going about this with Secretary Clinton is to get the cooperation of the international community, which is not something to be sneezed at.
HAASSLet me say two things. I agree with the recent studies of this, the cornerstone along with Saudi Arabia. But I actually don't think what happens in Libya will have much of an impact on our more important interests in the region. Qaddafi has been isolated from the region for years. He's not taken seriously. And the fact that the Arab League, in an unprecedented way, actually agreed to a green light, this sort of humanitarian intervention, to me, that underscores the fact that Qaddafi has virtually no friends in the region.
REHMAmb. Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations. I want to thank you so much for joining us.
REHMWelcome back. Here in the studio with me, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Joining us now by phone from Iowa is Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley. Good morning to you, sir.
SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEYGood morning to you, Diane, and good morning, Madam Secretary.
ALBRIGHTGood morning, Senator.
REHMSo good to have you with us. Sen. Grassley, what is your assessment of the Libyan mission?
GRASSLEYWell, first of all, let me be very clear to you and intellectually honest. You know, I've had a little bit of discussion with staff, and I listen to the news as you probably do. And I'm not -- haven't had any of those secret briefings that we get on Capitol Hill from time to time. So my judgment is based upon the fact that we're doing what we have to do for humanitarian reasons because of the unpredictability of Qaddafi. And we're trying to save lives, and we're doing it in a multilateral way.
GRASSLEYWe're doing it under the auspices of a U.N. resolution. We're trying to abide by the rule of law as much as we can. We're taking it step by step. I think there's going to be major responses. I think that there's some criticism that there's not an end game that's been enunciated, but I think it's similar to what we did in the Balkans in the mid '90s when Europe was not responding. There was genocide. We decided that we had a responsibility to make sure that innocent people weren't killed, particularly when it was just because of a vacuum created by the rest of the world where we have a tradition of trying to maintain the rule of law and also maintain as much peace and lead people live their lives, you know. And that's what we're trying to do.
REHMHow do you think that the Libyan mission might impact U.S. relations within the Arab world?
GRASSLEYWell, I believe that one of the reasons we're there, along with the U.N. resolution, along with NATO nations, is because the Arab League had asked us to intervene. We know, over a long period of time, that the Arab nations, the Muslim region in the world, have had a lot of questions about Qaddafi. They've -- I think they've signaled that they don't agree with him, want to get rid of him. We've had our reasons for wanting to get rid of him. He's responsible for the killing of a lot of Americans in the Pan Am 103 during the Republican administration at that time. I spent a lot of time asking questions. I got legislation passed so that victims of terrorism could actually sue for assets that were -- that we had control of in the United States.
GRASSLEYWe all think that Qaddafi is an international criminal and that he ought to be -- ought to pay for the crimes he's committed. Besides 103, there was the killing of American troops in Berlin. And I don't know that we will be able to get him, but if we can, we ought to. And I think the Arab world then, in turn -- in answer to your question -- would appreciate it very much.
REHMMadam Secretary, do you agree with that, that the Arab world would appreciate it very much if, indeed, Qaddafi were out?
ALBRIGHTWell, I do. I think that the Arab world -- and it's hard to kind of make it monolithic, but the bottom line is, as Richard Haass said earlier -- the fact is that they don't like Qaddafi. They know that he has been a bully even towards them in various -- of their meetings. And I do think the statements that the Arab League has made were absolutely crucial in this whole operation. And I agree with Sen. Grassley that -- which you must be surprised about, senator. But I think that, in fact, we are doing the right thing here, that we can't stand by while people are massacred and that we learned a lesson in Kosovo.
ALBRIGHTThe only thing that I would say is that, in this case, we do have Europeans that are in support of all this in addition to, obviously, the Arabs. And the multinational aspect of this is a force multiplier. I really believe that. So I think we're on the right track. But it's not easy, and it has not been easy in the decision-making process.
REHMSen. Grassley, finally, the mission here is to stop the killing of civilians. But, frankly, isn't it also to get Qaddafi out of power?
GRASSLEYWell, the president said three or four days ago that he ought to be out of power. His Joint Chiefs of Staff said yesterday -- wasn't sure that that was our goal. It surely is my goal and the goal of the people that lost all those lives on Pan Am 103, and it ought to be the goal of the entire international community to make sure that tinhorn dictators, who are obvious international criminals, are bought to the court of justice.
REHMRepublican Sen. Charles Grassley. He joined us from Dakota City, Iowa. Thank you so much, sir. Good to talk with you.
GRASSLEYThank you very much, Diane. And call again if you need me.
REHMThank you so much. And we're going to open the phones now, 800-433-8850. To Alex in St. Louis, Mo. Good morning, you're on the air.
ALEXYes, good morning, Diane. My comment is the reason Col. Qaddafi is in power is because people support him. He's not going to go to anyone's house and look in their closet. He's going to send someone there that supports him. As it stands now, he's the only person pushing his political agenda in Libya over the media. He can come on the air and make threats or push his agenda to the public. I think the rebels need to have a voice. If they were given equipments to where they could broadcast over the radio, over television and they have a spokesman that can speak well for them, that they should not follow this person. They should join the rebels and fight their own fight.
REHMAll right, sir. Thanks for your call. The -- you were talking earlier, Madam Secretary, about the fact that, in this whole technological world, things have changed. These rebels, indeed, do have some voice.
ALBRIGHTWell, they do. And it's very interesting. We don't know the extent to which the whole social media has gone through Libya. We certainly saw it in Tunisia and in Egypt. But what I find interesting is that they are -- the rebels are getting their story out. There are an awful lot of very brave journalists that are in there. What is interesting -- and we talked about this at the top of the program -- is why is Qaddafi allowing journalists in. What he thinks is that they will provide a story that is positive to him, showing, quote, the damage, the "collateral damage and civilians."
ALBRIGHTBut the bottom line, from everything I've seen in the reporting, indicates that we are getting the story of how much suffering there is among the civilian population. But I do think that more needs to be done in terms of making sure that the rebels' voices are heard.
REHMI asked earlier about Bahrain. Doctors now say they're afraid to treat protesters because of the crackdowns. What do you think the U.S. can or should do as far as Bahrain?
ALBRIGHTWell, Bahrain is -- as we've said now many times -- is somewhat different story. What needs to happen here is that the -- for the U.S. and other countries to make clear that the only solution to Bahrain is to have dialogue, that there are legitimate opposition leaders and that there is a solution to this through restraint and dialogue. I do think, again, that we have to make more public the points that you've just made, is that humanitarian needs are to allow people to be treated and that the royal family there will be in a better position in terms of dialogue if it does not put itself into the position of being cruel towards those who have been hurt.
REHMAll right. To Cincinnati, Ohio. Good morning, Bob.
BOBI have a question, but let me first preface by saying that I voted for President Obama because he said that he would not resort to violence first, that he would talk to these leaders like Ahmadinejad, Chavez -- and I put Qaddafi in that class. So I'm very disgusted that the president has chosen violence first. But my question is Muammar Qaddafi is the leader of the revolutionary council, but the other portion of the Libyan government is the people's congress, which is elected every four years. And I want to know, where is the Libyan people's congress in all of this? I've heard no media mention that it even exists.
ALBRIGHTWell, first of all, let me just say -- on the point of President Obama's choices -- he has, in all cases, first offered the possibility of talk. And if you -- there were pictures that were on television of Secretary Clinton meeting with one of Qaddafi's sons. There had been a number of different attempts to deal with what the Qaddafi issue was before violence. And I think that this president has been exceptionally careful in not saying violence first. He is, in fact, being criticized by some who said that he was too slow on this. We just had some commentators on that. So I think he's been very careful and has made that point to Chavez, to Ahmadinejad, that he tries the diplomatic way first. But ultimately, he has to defend national interests and humanitarian interests. I think you have a very good point about the people's congress.
ALBRIGHTI don't think I'd venture to say that it was not a freely democratically-elected congress, but one does not hear much. And the problem in Libya is that there are no kind of intervening organizations between Qaddafi, as the dictator at the top, and then the people who really are victims of the -- of his ire.
REHMThanks for calling, Bob. Now to Duncanville, Texas. Good morning, Frank.
FRANKGood morning, Diane and Madam Secretary. I just want to make a comment that, as I've observed the discussions within the administration -- though some of it has been public -- as a member of the public and the electorate, I have been very comfortable with the way the administration has facilitated that discussion. And I agree with, Diane, what you said earlier, that the diplomacy of the three ladies, Secretary Clinton, Ms. Rice, and we ought to name the third lady -- and I'm forgetting her name.
FRANKYeah, their diplomacy behind the scenes and what they pulled off in the getting the Arab League support and getting the U.N. action, I mean, that's just been masterful. And at the same time, I think that the position that Mr. Gates took was great. I was glad that he took that position. I didn't see it for much as the opposition to action. He is -- was, to me, attempting to make sure that everybody knew all of the ugly risks that were involved. In fact, I wish that the politicians would do more of the discussion, those kinds of reality, rather than covering the discussion in ideology and platitudes. I thought his position was great.
FRANKSo I just think this administration should really get kudos for the process and the tactics it has employed in coming to, you know, this action and, you know, had the right amount of thought and action. And, at least now, we can just hope that the outcome is quick with as little loss of life and treasure. But I think -- I have been very comfortable with the debate.
REHMThanks for calling, Frank. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Madam Secretary, views all over the place.
ALBRIGHTWell, I think that they are very legitimate views, frankly, because this is not a simple situation as I said at the beginning. We are looking at this area through a whole new prism. It is not all black-and-white in so many ways, in deciding that nothing will ever change. I think people that -- they do want to make sure that we're not wasting money or that we are not someplace that we can't finish. On the other hand, I think we do live in a global community, and we are also responsible for what happens in other places.
ALBRIGHTThis is -- I very much appreciate the comment from the last gentleman because I think he got it in terms of that this is a hard decision, that the president of the United States takes spending blood and treasure very seriously, that he tries diplomacy and that we have an international commitment to end this killing of innocent civilians.
REHMWe've had several e-mails and Facebook questions about, why Libya, why not the Ivory Coast and other countries where civilians are suffering under the hands of dictators?
ALBRIGHTWell, that, again, is a very fair and difficult question. What is amazing is that the whole Ivory Coast story is off the front pages. Here -- in Ivory Coast, you have a democratically elected president, and the incumbent doesn't want to leave. And there's a lot of killing going on. I think that there is a hope that those are the kinds of issues that can be done diplomatically. The African Union is very involved there. But there's always this question of, do you -- if you can't do something everywhere, do you do nothing someplace? And so we have to be able to develop priorities. This is very high visibility problem where thousands of people are being killed, but this is a very, very difficult question.
REHMYou must have faced the very same kinds of question while you were in office.
ALBRIGHTWe did. And when the Clinton administration started, there were issues in Bosnia, in Somalia and in Haiti. The part that people don't fully understand is how they impact on each other. When we lost people in the Black Hawk Down in Somalia, that made people think they didn't want to do anything anywhere. And then Rwanda happened. And I think if you talk to anybody that was involved in Rwanda, we say, why didn't we go in there? And yet, these were the kinds of questions. What was our national interest? Why would we care whether there were people being slaughtered? So these are the issues that come up all the time and are the most difficult for decision makers.
REHMMadeleine Albright, former secretary of state in the Clinton administration, currently chair of the Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategy firm. Thank you for being here.
ALBRIGHTThank you, Diane, for a terrific interview. Thank you.
REHMMy pleasure. Thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Susan Nabors, Denise Couture, Monique Nazareth and Sarah Ashworth. The engineer is Tobey Schreiner. Dorie Anisman answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our e-mail address is drshow.org. And we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington. This is NPR.
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