The Ambassadors REVIEW
Key Points from “Memo to the President Elect:
How We Can Restore America’s Reputation and Leadership”
Madeleine K. Albright
Secretary of State, 1997-2001
United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations, 1993-1997
merica’s next president will face an array of problems more daunting than
any since the Vietnam era and will be constrained to do so with US
assets—military, economic and political—under severe strain. Our new
leader must therefore arrive in the Oval Office equipped not only with the right programs,
but also the right temperament to handle the world’s most challenging job. Qualifications
include analytical skill, an understanding of global strategy, a willingness to recognize and
correct mistakes, and a gift for persuading others to do—and even more important to
want—what we want.
To begin, the new president must assemble a national security team that consists of
strong individuals who are also team players. He or she must choose to be surrounded by
people who speak honestly, whether or not their tidings are welcome. The White House
works best when it is a place of intellectual ferment, where knowledge is sought, reason
honored, and conflicting information sifted and weighed.
From its first day, the new administration should use the full range of
policy tools, including force (selectively), allies (respectfully), diplomacy (creatively) and
international law (assertively). Our leaders must learn from the past without allowing
historical clichés to dictate future actions. Not every enemy is Hitler and intelligent acts of
diplomacy should not be confused with appeasement. We must recognize, as well, that
torture is not a means for fighting terror, but a gift to al-Qaeda. Moral credibility is a
precious national asset.
Sitting in the Oval Office, the next president will confront five challenges that
have, in recent years, been mishandled or neglected. The first is developing a more
productive working relationship with the Arab and Muslim worlds. The second is restoring
an international consensus in opposition to the spread of nuclear weapons. Third is
defending democratic values against a new generation of dictators and demagogues. Fourth
is attacking poverty, ignorance and disease. Fifth is addressing the intertwined global
issues of energy supply and environmental health.
The new chief executive also will inherit three conflicts—Iraq, Afghanistan, and a
global struggle against al-Qaeda. These confrontations, though related, must be dealt with
separately. Each has its own variables.
With respect to Iraq, the next president must devise an exit strategy that will leave
this troubled nation reasonably stable and unthreatening to itself or to others. That is far
easier to promise than to carry out. To succeed, the administration must persuade Iraqi