Looking Back To Look Forward

The Early Show, Madeline Albright, ex-Secretary of State
CBS/The Early Show
In 1998, Saddam Hussein had been giving U.N. weapon inspectors a run for their money and, after months of playing cat and mouse, the U.S. and Britain began dropping bombs on Baghdad for four days.

Madeleine Albright was U.S. Secretary of State at the time and she tells The Early Show Co-Anchor Harry Smith it was a very difficult decision to use force.

"You have the military people who are telling you what can and can't be done, what the risks are; the policy people who are interested in knowing whether whatever else can be achieved in that particular way, and you always worry about casualties. So it's a series of conversations about whether the use of force could actually accomplish what you want it to," she says.

At issue was determining the value of bombing more heavily in "Operation Desert Fox," Albright says. The purpose was to make clear to Hussein that his behavior was unacceptable.

"We bombed very heavily at that time, believing and operating under the assumption that basically we were going to be able to keep him in a strategic box, which I think that we were able to do for a considerable amount of time," Albright explains.

At decision time, the president was looking for results. But there were other concerns. Albright says he was "very concerned about collateral damage, very concerned about what the ultimate outcome is, what the image of America will be as a rest of it. And whether what is being done is in our national interest. So those are the kinds of questions that are asked, and we always had fairly full discussions about this. Because we had been handling with issues not only of Iraq, but in the Balkans and the whole question about when is the use of force appropriate. And can you achieve what you want by using force, or is diplomacy at a particular time key, and when to combine force and diplomacy."

At the end, however the decision was the president's. That is what he is elected to do, Albright says, adding that how decisions are made depends on the style of the president.

"I think that President Clinton was always one who was very able to make the decision, but wanted to hear a lot of different opinions, considered very much what the effect of what we were doing was going to have not only on the immediate situation, but generally our position as leaders in the world. And how we were viewed. So there were a series of issues but ultimately the president, obviously, makes the decision," she says.

Now that the United States is embarking on an unprecedented and audacious new era of foreign policy, says the former secretary of state, she is concerned about a series of issues.

First of all, like all of those who had a role in policymaking, she says she is most of all concerned about supporting our troops.

Secondly, as a political scientist and a former policy person, she says she is looking for the image the United States is projecting to the world. "And are we, in fact, in an entirely new situation where the United States is taking preemptive action that will have a spillover in other parts of our dealings? And I think is of concern to a number of nations. So, it is the role of diplomats to begin to try to figure out how to mitigate some of the negative aspects of this, because there are so many situations in which the United States needs to have partners."

And finally, there are the challenges to be faced in rebuilding Iraq post Saddam Hussein, Albright says. "I would be looking out for generally how we operate with other countries; one, specifically in order to have support in rebuilding Iraq. And then, two, in terms of our general needs for international institutions."

As for the news that Yasser Arafat yielded power to Mahmoud Abbas, Albright, who worked with the new the new Palestinian prime minister and knows him well, says she is positive about the future.

"He is a very important and dignified smart leader with whom we had many, many negotiations," Albright observes.