“We believe the price is worth it,” Madeleine Albright: 1937-2022


Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is interviewed by John F. Kennedy Jr. for George Magazine. (Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)

Talk about pieces you don’t want to write.

The first thought that went through my head on Wednesday when the push notification arrived that former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had died was, “Man, I don’t have anything nice to say.” I was glad I didn’t had to write. I’m starting to believe in The Secret again.

Two hours later, my editor intervened.

I’ve been told I’m becoming something of a rock-solid obituary for dead blob members. Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld died last year. And I had compiled words on the more mercenary politicians (Bob Dole) and prolific writers like Mark Perry and Christopher Hitchens who thrived over the past 30 years as America — certainly not listed through the fault of everyone — slowly at first, then surely much more worse.

If the past year hasn’t been death-dominated, at least it has been — more so than any other that I can personally remember. We witnessed an uneasy and half-done changing of the guard even as the country agonized through its oldest-ever president and pondered the continuation of another.

So rest in peace, Marie Jana Korbelová, birth name of the 64th (and first female) head of the State Department, a position first held by Thomas Jefferson. For that she will go down in the history books and spare her a worse headline.

To break my writer’s block described above, and to follow the maxim of mothers everywhere: I’m going to say something nice about the late secretary first. Albright, unlike most of the American establishment and our current President, appears to have been somewhat of an opponent of the Iraq war, which is acknowledged by anyone not in the Bush library, running for Congress in Wyoming right alongside Ahmed Chalabi are related or are named John Bolton is said to have been the deadly sin of recent American statesmanship.

“It makes little sense now to focus the world’s attention and our own military, intelligence, diplomatic and financial resources on a plan to invade Iraq rather than on Al Qaeda’s ongoing plans to assassinate innocent people. We can’t have a second monumental fight without detracting from the first,” Albright wrote in the New York Times late 2002.

This recent story was unearthed during a dispute with then-insurgent Democratic presidential nominee Bernie Sanders, who suggested that Albright, a staunch supporter of Hillary Clinton, likely supported the invasion. His camp referred to PolitiFact and a quote from her in 2003: “Personally, I felt that the war was justified on the basis of Saddam’s decades-long refusal to comply with UN Security Council resolutions on weapons of mass destruction.”

Indeed, an examination of Albright’s view of the time can likely conclude that the way the Republican establishment argues today about the method of a Democrat-led crackdown on a Democrat bogeyman, Vladimir Putin, some Democrats had at the time Objections to the exact details of a Republican war of vengeance against Saddam Hussein. Putin certainly stole the 2016 election, and as summed up in Dave Chappelle’s parody of Our 43rd President, the late writer and President of Iraq tried to “kill my father.”

Or as Albright wrote in it Times Article: “At the United Nations yesterday, the President began laying out the what and why of our policy towards Baghdad. Ultimately, however, the wisdom of that policy will depend on when he decides to act.” Stuff like this feeds the cynical, if extreme, view that America would still have launched the Iraq crusade under the apt name of President Gore.

The continued ability of the neoconservatives to weave in and out of the two major political parties in recent years provides another pause: How would a third-term Democratic White House with perhaps a second term by Secretary Albright, Yes, really reacted to 9/11?

It’s certainly as interesting a counterfact as those related to Covid: Without a Republican president, would Americans have gone into lockdown to rally his own troops? Or without a perceived national political emergency that would be required blank power of attorney to the alleged public health and racial justice institutions?

Both blocs had been saying insane things with little attention for years. And, of course, there’s the downside: Would Republican vaccine hesitancy be so genuine and widespread under a second-term President Trump? Wouldn’t the white drug addicts of Razorback Country embody the holdout nexus, but the white drug addicts of Russian Hill? (If it’s still legal to call it that.)

But in foreign policy, counterfactuals are unnecessary: ​​the house always wins.

Few embodied this spirit more than Albright, daughter of the legendary internationalist Josef Korbel, today the namesake of the Denver School of International Relations, which taught, among others, Condoleezza Rice, a successor to his daughter. Like her mentor Zbigniew Brzezinski and her predecessor Henry Kissinger (who will simply outlive everyone), Albright made the unlikely leap of being born far outside the United States to represent it on the world stage. That is, the kind of accented advocacy that is the source of pride in Georgetown saloons and commentary on Unz.com.

Albright was born in Prague in May 1937, so the Allies had handed the house over to Hitler before she was two years old. In a way better worked out by others, it was a formative experience. Her subsequent tenure as UN ambassador, secretary of state, and then retired Washington warhorse was marred not only by a zeal in defending the “liberal international order,” but also by the kind of bigotry that led her to a career in which she claimed she was against it.

Its worth itthat is, “We think the price is worth it,” Albright infamously said 60 minutes when he heard the calculation that Bill Clinton-era sanctions on Iraq were starving more children than Truman had melted in Hiroshima.

disgusting Serbs, that is, “Disgusting Serbs, get out!” said then-75-year-old Albright loudly in a Czech bookstore in 2012, asking for accountability for her involvement in the bombing of Yugoslavia.

A special place in hellthat is, “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other” and voting for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders, as Albright said in New Hampshire in 2016 (apparently most women I know and most millennial women are headed for Hades…but certainly not Albright.)

Vice President Kamala Harris said in a statement yesterday that she first met Albright when she was “a young attorney in San Francisco.” Harris emphasized Albright’s “compassion,” and the vice president said Albright had not just “empathy,” but “deep sensitivity,” as the qualifier shows the word becoming a weary corporate muzak title. Harris, who is fading positively in the polls, no doubt envisions a future Albright-style tribute to herself. She was “the first ‘most powerful woman’ in US history” as the New Yorker praised this week.

This is the kind of brute force summation that would be absurd if the shoe was on the other foot. Lavrenti Beriawas a powerful man. And yet it’s all too fashionable that 1600 Pennsylvania introduces, with a sad irony of history, the first black woman to be nominated for the Supreme Court, emphasizing little else but her gender and race, which is exactly all that the racists of yore would have become aware of them. That doesn’t mean it won’t work. Ketanji Brown Jackson will be Supreme Court Justice, and count me among them so early: 10 cents on PredictIt for Harris 2024 will someday look like a steal.

Harris concluded that “Albright’s legacy will live on in the lives she has touched,” and I think everyone can agree with that.

If you came for a happier commemoration, I’ll steal from Hitchens on the death of mega televangelist Jerry Falwell. Speaking of Hannity & ColmesHitch expressed his indifference to the insult to the deceased’s family, noting that “they can take comfort elsewhere in the extraordinary piety and stupidity, and generally the uniformity of reporting.”

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