Hawaii’s World

By A.A. Smyser

Thursday, October 21, 1999

Differing opinions
of Sec. Albright

WHEN I stayed recently at Washington, D.C.'s Georgetown Inn, I knew the home of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was nearby.

On a morning walk I zigzagged through blocks of tree-lined streets and town houses until I came to a home with traffic cones and two security guards in front.

It wouldn't take Sherlock Holmes, I told the guards, to deduce that here must be Secretary Albright's residence. "Yes," said one, "and she's a nice lady. Don't believe anything you read in print about her unless it's good."

The other chimed in: "And she's the boss. Like all women are these days." I got the additional information that she doesn't drive herself to work, she travels in a convoy.

A day later I had a chance airport meeting with Al Neuharth, former CEO of Gannett Co. and founder of the national newspaper USA Today. Since he knows everybody of importance I related the incident to him and asked if he considers her a nice person.

"She's brilliant," he said after a pause, "and tough."

Back home I listened to a talk about our foreign policy by Frank Boas, president of the Pacific and Asian Affairs Council. He is a former international lawyer with wide contacts.

Boas spoke to a sister group, Friends of the East-West Center, and was not kind to the secretary of state.

He thinks she practices "megaphone diplomacy," making threats where a quiet application of U.S. influence might work better. The danger of "Having Power Without Influence" was the subject of his talk.

He said the U.S. military has been called into action 90 times since the Berlin Wall fell 10 years ago and mostly under President Clinton. Of nine major engagements in that period, seven were ordered by Clinton. "The State Department is stuck in a rut," Boas said, "and all we have left is the military."

Boas believes bombing Kosovo might have been avoided had we strengthened the international force of peacekeepers there instead of the pull-out that led to ethnic cleansing.

He recalled President Kennedy's success in showing determination and strength in the Cuban missile crisis and avoiding what could have become nuclear war. "This is as close as we came to World War III," he said. "It is also an outstanding example of how the United States used both its power and its influence to prevent a major war."

He feels President Clinton made his military commitment in Kosovo without having thought it through.

By contrast, Boas feels President Bush engaged in Operation Desert Storm in a way that united the country and raised respect for it around the world. He sees today's State Department stuck in a rut and needing a revolution to revitalize it.

He urged that businesses overseas do more to help advance U.S. foreign policy interests. He expressed hope for a correction of the heavy European orientation of U.S. overseas investment to a more balanced one with Asia.

Boas also urged that more young people seek foreign service careers and praised the East-West Center for the capability it has to prepare them.

For artistic insight into our first woman secretary of state, one can turn until Nov. 7 to the Contemporary Museum in Makiki Heights. A show titled "Brooching It Diplomatically" presents 71 offerings of 61 artists from 16 countries. By invitation, they submitted brooches Secretary Albright conceivably might choose to wear to further her diplomacy. Offerings range from a snake and spiders to eagles.

A.A. Smyser is the contributing editor
and former editor of the the Star-Bulletin
His column runs Tuesday and Thursday.

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