The U.S. needs support from the Arab League and the African Union to halt the burgeoning civil war in Libya, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said today in New York.
Both Albright, who became the first woman to lead the State Department when she was named to the post in 1997 by President Bill Clinton, and Condoleezza Rice, who served in the same role during President George W. Bush’s administration, said the region’s turmoil is likely to unleash voices Americans don’t want to hear.
“What you have in Libya is a place that is run by a nut,” Albright told guests at the Women in the World conference organized by Newsweek Editor-in-Chief Tina Brown. The matter is further complicated because intervening in Libya would mean “the U.S. taking on one more Muslim country,” Albright said.
Rebellions in Tunisia and Egypt toppled governments in those counties in the past two months, and protests have spread to Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Libya. Fighting raged around Zawiyah and Ras Lanuf, Libya, today, the latter a key location because of its tanker terminal, storage depot and the country’s largest oil refinery, said Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, a spokesman for the opposition’s transitional national council.
It wasn’t clear whether Qaddafi loyalists, who took control of the city’s center yesterday, were able to hold their gains. Ghoga said Qaddafi is engaged in “a desperate attempt to get his hands on the oil,” and urged foreign powers to impose a no-fly zone to limit Qaddafi’s military options.
Uprisings in the region may not initially produce results the U.S. would like to see as Arab countries evaluate the role Islam will play in politics, society and individual rights, Rice said.
“Voices are going to be released that we don’t like and we don’t like hearing,” she said. “It’s going to be quite turbulent and very difficult.”
Both former diplomats said a no-fly zone over Libya is a policy option that requires careful consideration.
“No-fly zones are no small matter,” Rice said. “We flew a no-fly zone over Iraq for 12 years and almost every time we flew, he shot at our planes,” she said of the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
Before serving as secretary of state, Albright, 73, was the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations and taught at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, where she was director of the Women in Foreign Service Program.
No Role Models
Albright had no real female role models as a young woman pursuing a foreign policy career, she said in a 2008 interview with the Wall Street Journal.
“People said initially that a woman could not be secretary of state, primarily because I was dealing with patriarchal systems or some of the Middle Eastern countries,” Albright said in the interview. “But I didn’t have any problems, because I arrived in a large plane that said United States of America and they also knew that I had to be the one to talk with them.”
Rice served as national security adviser to Bush from 2001 to 2005. Before joining the administration, she was a professor of political science at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, where she served as provost. She returned to Stanford after her tenure in Washington and is now a fellow at the university’s Hoover Institution.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday she will go to Egypt and Tunisia next week and will meet with members of the Libyan opposition.