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Updated 11:00 AM March 15, 2004



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Albright: Goal of democracy should not trump
other Middle East efforts

Bringing democracy to the Middle East is a noble goal, but the United States must not postpone other efforts in the region in order to establish it quickly, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said.

Albright, speaking at the Business School March 9, said efforts to defeat al-Qaida, stabilize Afghanistan, rebuild Iraq and push for Arab-Israeli peace must go forward simultaneously.

"The democratic transformation of the Middle East would indeed be a great enterprise and one that I fully support," said Albright, a distinguished scholar in the William Davidson Institute and secretary of state in the Clinton administration. "But if that is our objective, we must be sure of exactly what we want to do."

About 100 invited faculty, staff and students attended Albright's speech, entitled "Prospects for Democracy in the Middle East." She also spoke March 10 at the Business School, and opened the Roots of Terrorism Initiative colloquium of Institute for Social Research (ISR) March 11 with a talk at the Michigan League.

Albright said last week's signing of an interim constitution in Iraq provides some direction. But she said making progress in the Middle East by creating a model democracy in Iraq will not—contrary to what President Bush has argued—immediately lead to a decrease of violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

"I only wish it were that simple," she said. "A stable and democratic Iraq would provide many benefits, but it will not by itself change Arab and Palestinian views about the rights and wrongs of history or what constitutes an acceptable outcome in the Middle East."

Albright said there will be no progress toward peace without the active, creative and persistent involvement of the United States. She added that a few high-level visits and a couple of speeches are not enough. U.S. leaders, she said, must work with both sides on a daily basis to turn the killing grounds into common ground.

Many people contend there is no hope, and that Israelis and Palestinians never can live together unless one side is crushed or the other is pushed into the sea, Albright said. The United States should not accept that view, she said.

"We are witnessing a massive failure of leadership in the Middle East," Albright said.

"The general shape of a possible peace between Israel and the Palestinians is no mystery; it is contained in the famous Middle East road map that really never has been taken out of the glove compartment."

Albright said the U.S. strategy for encouraging democracy in the Middle East must emphasize several factors, including reliance on local input and ideas; recognition of differences within the Arab world; and an aim at building democratic institutions gradually and from the ground up.

Albright said the toughest meeting she had as secretary of state was with a group of Palestinian high school students. "They asked me about what their future held, and I had no answer for them," she said.

At the ISR colloquium kick-off, Albright said the United States could do a lot to mitigate terrorism if it played a role in making the Middle East peace process successful.

"Terrorism is not a new phenomenon, but it is spreading in this day and age," she said. "Any group can go out and buy what they need and get a tremendous amount of publicity for what they have done."

Albright added that the only long-term solution to terrorism is education of children and future generations.

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