Madeleine Albright, America’s first female secretary of state, has died
Albright, a tough-spoken diplomat in an administration that balked at getting involved in the two biggest foreign policy crises of the 1990s — the genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“We are heartbroken to announce that Dr Madeleine K.
Albright, the 64th US Secretary of State and the first woman to hold the post, died earlier today. The cause was cancer,” the family tweeted.
Albright, who had become US ambassador to the United Nations in 1993, had pushed for a tougher line against the Serbs in Bosnia. But during President Bill Clinton’s first term, many of the administration’s top foreign policy experts remembered how the United States got bogged down in Vietnam and were determined not to repeat that mistake in the Balkans. .
The United States responded by working with NATO on airstrikes that forced an end to the war, but only after it had lasted three years.
Albright’s experience as a refugee inspired her to push for the United States to be a superpower that uses that influence. She wanted “muscular internationalism”, said James O’Brien, Albright’s senior adviser during the Bosnian War.
She once upset a Pentagon chief by asking why the military kept over a million men and women under arms if they never used them.
Early in the Clinton administration, when unsuccessfully advocating for a faster and stronger response in Bosnia, Albright backed a United Nations war crimes tribunal that ultimately put the architects of that war, including Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and Bosnian Serb leaders in prison, O says Brien.
The outspoken Albright took a hard line on a 1996 incident where Cuban jet fighters shot down two unarmed US-based planes, saying: ‘Those aren’t cojones, that’s cowardice “, using a Spanish vulgarity meaning “testicles”. Albright, who was born in the former Czechoslovakia in 1937, was nominated to become the first female secretary of state and unanimously confirmed in 1997. She held the post until 2001.
The painful lessons learned in Rwanda and Bosnia served the United States well in Kosovo, when Washington saw the most powerful Serbs launch a program of ethnic cleansing of ethnic Albanians. NATO responded with an 11-week airstrike campaign in 1999 that extended to Belgrade.
During efforts to pressure North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program, which ultimately failed, Albright traveled to Pyongyang in 2000 to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, thus becoming the highest ranking American official to visit the secret Communist-ruled country.
After the Clintons and 1990s ended, Albright became an icon for a generation of young women seeking inspiration in their pursuit of opportunity and respect in the workplace. Albright liked to say, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”