Madeleine Albright challenged the Bush administration Wednesday night to seek international partnerships as it attempts to rebuild Iraq or risk failing in its critical role as nation-builder.
In a speech that at times was humorous and at others partisan, Albright extolled the virtues of cooperation before a crowd of about 6,000 at Colorado State University's Moby Arena.
Citing some of the partnerships with other countries and the United Nations she helped create as secretary of state under former President Bill Clinton, Albright said, "the costs and risks were broadly shared; many countries had a stake in their success, and no one questioned their legitimacy."
In contrast, she characterized the current situation in Iraq as a disaster, citing the chaos of repeated bombings, such as the attacks on Wednesday that killed five American soldiers and four civilians. In the latter assault, the bodies of the civilians were mutilated and dragged through the streets.
"What happened (Wednesday) is really appalling," Albright said, but she added that the United States cannot turn its back on Iraq.
"The war in Iraq was a choice, not a necessity. Winning the peace is a necessity, not a choice," she said, drawing some of the loudest applause of the evening.
She also advocated winning the war against terrorism in the same way the United States won the war against communism: by building alliances and spreading democracy.
"America will do its best if it stands with democratic states ... in opposition of those who see mass murder as just another political tool," she said.
In a press conference prior to her talk as part of the Monfort Lecture Series, Albright said she believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, but the threat didn't warrant an immediate, nearly unilateral war.
"I understood the 'why' ... but I did not understand the 'why now,' " Albright said. "I did not understand the 'what next.' When I looked at the plans for post-conflict Iraq, I didn't understand what was happening."
The war in Iraq has been a disruption to the war on terror, she said, because it has taken away from the focus of capturing Osama bin Laden and those responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. There has been a limited commitment to the battle in Afghanistan, where bin Laden is believed to be, and Albright said that has led to limited success.
"I think we took our eye off the ball in Afghanistan," she said. "There has been a resurgence of the Taliban, and Al-Qaida is reorganizing."
Albright said she believes in the goodness of American power and that it's the United States' role to help developing countries build civil societies and democracies. The United States is a superpower that none can challenge, so it must control itself, she said.
CSU junior Amy Schlachtenhaufen, who got an autographed copy of Albright's autobiography "Madam Secretary: A Memoir" Wednesday, said she was most impressed with Albright's passion. Albright, the first female secretary of state in U.S. history, is an inspiration, Schlachtenhaufen said.
"She really put herself out there," Schlachtenhaufen said. "It makes you want to pursue something if you're passionate like she's passionate."
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