In This Review

Madeleine Albright and the New American Diplomacy
Madeleine Albright and the New American Diplomacy
By Thomas W. Lippman
Westview, 2000, 372 pp

This first substantial account of Madeleine Albright's tenure as secretary of state is a good one, written by a Washington Post diplomatic correspondent who crisscrossed the world with her. Lippman found that a "flair for trenchant one-liners and rhetorical challenges would not serve Albright well as secretary of state, a job in which people expected her to translate her words into action, but it took her half her tenure to learn that." Straining to be fair, Lippman shows that Albright has articulated a clear world-view in which American ideals can be applied to just about all of the world's trouble spots and social problems. The actual applications seem guided more by serendipity than strategy. While observing her various missteps and criticizing her efforts to manipulate the press, Lippman also credits Albright with success in the Kosovo war and perseverance in Middle East diplomacy during Binyamin Netanyahu's tenure as Israeli prime minister. But what lingers is a character sketch that her British colleague at the U.N. once cabled home to his government. (This remarkable portrait is quoted more fully in Ann Blackman's Seasons of Her Life, pages 268-70.) Granting that Albright has skill at boiling the complex down to the simple, the ambassador wrote that she "conveys a mixture of authority and insecurity. She is not good at devising a detailed game plan for pursuing broad objectives."