tv Amanpour on PBS PBS August 22, 2018 12:00am-12:31am PDT
welcome to "amanpour" on pbs. we're looking back at some of our favorite interviews this year. and tonight, my conversation with the former u.s. secretary of state madeiline albright. on the world of challenges facing the trump administration, from north korea to russia. and her latest book on fascism, then and now. ♪ edition of our program. i'm christiane amanpour in london. a year and a half into the trump presidency, america's friends and foes are still trying to
make sense of this administration's disruptive approach. but one thing is for sure, the old political order is under severe stress and strain, maybe even under dire threat. from breaking with decades of u.s. foreign policy, to ripping up international agreements, and imposing trade tariffs on allies and adversaries alike. president trump is shaking up geopolitics in an unprecedented way, often leaving just disruption in his wake. earlier this year, i put some of the biggest foreign policy challenges facing the administration to the former secretary of state madeiline albright, whose new book, "fascism: a warning," argues that the tendencies towards a neofascism pose a more serious threat now than at any time since the end of world war ii, including in america itself. i started by asking madeiline albright what kind of secretary of state she thought mike pompeo would be making.
secretary albright, welcome back to the program. >> great to be with you. >> so we have you as mike pompeo is undergoing his confirmation hearings, and that is to be one of your successors as secretary of state. what does he have to do to turn around the reputation that the state department has gotten under the year of tillerson? like emptied, very little diplomacy happening there. >> well, i think he has a very big job as far as the state really, in so many ways, has se been undermined and weakened by, first of all, the cuts that president trump proposed. and that secretary tillerson supported. and then the fact that so many of the diplomats actually have left, which i think is very sad, because they were accused of not being loyal. the diplomats, the foreign service officers and the civil servants, are dedicated,
patriotic americans, and they know what they're supposed to be doing to represent america. so i think the main thing that mr. pompeo has to do is to really appreciate the people that work there and do everything that he can to make sure that they have the resources for their job and learn little bit about the state department before he begins to think that he has to move everything around. >> i mean, look, the trump administration believes that, you know, in many ways it's all a question of money, of getting the best deal. in other words, the best bargain across departments with allies, as you've seen. but also in this age of, i don't know, e-mail and social media, maybe you don't need so many diplomats, maybe you don't need so many ambassadors. what do you think the state department diplomats, what is their real -- i don't want to say use, but their importance today? >> well, i think it's very similar to what their importance has always been -- they are the
eyes and ears and mouth of the president of the united states, or the head of any country. they are there in order to explain a lot about the country that they're representing, and to hearn about the country where they are stationed. and to spend time with people and be able to understand what's going on. i teach a course on the national security toolbox. and diplomacy is the major tool of international relations. it is the language and the means by which countries communicate with each other. so i do think that they are very important. the thing that has changed quite a lot, however, are the means of communication. and i do think that obviously information travels much faster, because sometimes you all have the news out there before the diplomats are able to send back information. so i do think that technology and information has changed a
lot about diplomacy. but not the role of the diplomats in terms of carrying on relationships with the country where they are stationed or multilaterally in organizations explaining and working out solutions. >> can we just focus on syria for a moment. for the last seven years, now going into its eighth year of war, it has really sort of been shocking. and now we see yet another shocking use of chemical -- use of chemical gas or whatever it might be, chlorine, barrel bombs, chemical weapons. the president has said there will be a big price to pay. you've been there before as secretary of state in some of these terrible situations where the u.s. has to respond. what do you think is going on inside the white house with the president's closest national security advisers? >> i have to tell you, i think it's very hard to understand fully what is going on in the white house. i know what it was like during
the carter and clinton administrations when, in fact, there were very detailed and very well prepared meetings of the various principles that were involved in decision making. and i think that it's unclear at the moment how that works. president trump seems to just kind of make decisions or tweet before that kind of consultation has taken place. john bolton is somebody that has not always exhibited collegiality when he's been in the government before. so i think everybody is going to wait to see what happens, because what is really needed, christiane, it's one thing to respond to this horrific attack, and it should be responded to militarily, but it needs to be done within some kind of a strategy. and we truly do not know what the strategy is, since last week president trump was saying that he was going to withdraw troops and now he's kind of -- we have
no idea what direction it's going. and so i will be very interested also to the extent that an outsider can follow the decision making process to see how a strategy is formulated, what has to be happening immediately, what's medium term and what's long-term. you better than anyone, because i've listened to you so much on this, know the tragedy of syria, and that in so many ways it's become a proxy war for everything that's happening in the middle east. >> and do you think that one of president trump's must-dos is to get a coalition together? of course, he hasn't been the most friendly when it comes to allies or alliances. >> i think a coalition would be very important. i was frankly appalled when i saw president erdogan, president putin, and president rohani meeting about syria, and there's no america there. i know what happens when america is not in meetings. and i think that that is a sign
that we need to be backin there, and it has to be done with a coalition. and so i hope president trump can figure out how to honor the responsibilities of our friends and allies when we need them in such a complicated case. >> you just mentioned putin, rohani and erdogan. you were one of the first, if not the first u.s. official to meet putin, even when he was just caretaker president. he hadn't yet been fully installed as president of russia. we're going back to the it will '90s, 2000. give us the benefit of your knowledge of him back then, and how you think he'll respond to any action in syria. he's already threatened against it. >> well, the first time i met him was at an apec meeting while he was caretaker, and he seemed very kind of small and somebody who was trying to ingratiate himself with everybody. the next time i met him is when
i went to moscow to prepare the summit of 2000. and then at the summit itself. and by then, i have to tell you, he was somebody that was very well informed. he was in the meetings without notes, and took notes, and knew exactly what he was going to say. i think he's a very smart man. i think he's played a weak hand very well. and we can't forget that his background is as a kgb agent. i think he's playing a hand well, and we need to respond to it in strength. >> but what does that mean, let's say, if president trump decides, as one of the israeli former air force commanders told me yesterday, that the only thing that would work in terms of getting rid of any more barrel bombs and chemical drops is to take out all the airfields. russia is so heavily on the ground. what do you think russia would do? >> i think that the sanctions that have finally been put on need to be really enforced.
i do think there needs to be diplomatic context. and then i don't want to be a military planner. i'm not. but if i were still secretary of state i would want to know what the pentagon has in mind, and what is the long-term here? because frankly, i don't think there's any solution in syria, unless there is a political settlement of some kind where the various parties are involved. and where there's a plan for what the next steps are. the problem has been, this is always immediate gratification on something, and what we need to do is to have a longer term plan, and it has to involve that combination of tools. >> now, another major issue on president trump's agenda that a secretary of state would clearly be preparing the way for is this planned meeting with the north korean leader kim jong-un. again, you are the only senior american official, the only secretary of state to have met with a north korean president, the father of kim jong-un, and
that was kim jong-il. how did your meetings come about? how did your discussions go? is trump, do you think, being properly prepared? >> well, we had spent in the clinton administration quite a lot of time dealing with north korea, from the first moments in '93 when they had threatened to pull out of the nonproliferation treaty through an awful lot of talks and agreements. but a year or so before i went there, what had happened was that the president then asked for a complete review of our north korea policy, which was led by former secretary of defense bill perry. and he was the initial person to go to north korea after the review to say, it was kind of fork in the road time. they should either negotiate on their issues, or we were prepared to use a number of our different tools. they decided to negotiate. and what happened was the number two man, vice marshal cho, came to the united states in order to
invite president clinton to come. and president clinton did, i believe, the right thing, saying, you know, i might come at some point, but this has to be prepared. and so i'm sending the secretary of state, which is why i went. but the main point here that is necessary to make is how well the talks were prepared. and even though we didn't have an ambassador in pyongyang in north korea, there were people that were very knowledgeable that was going on in north korea. we prepared with the south koreans and the japanese so that it wasn't just the united states. and it's that preparation. so what worries me is the lack of preparation now, and the main person, and it goes back to your first question about the state department, who was in charge of dealing with the north korean question has left. and so how this is going to be handled, and then also with two presidents, frankly, that it's unclear how they react with each
other. and so i do believe these talks need to take place, but i'm hoping very much that they will be prepared. and then finally, christiane, i think it's a question of definition. because people are pleased that kim jong-un has said he wants to talk about denuclearization. the question is what he means and what we mean by it. and so there has to be some real assessment of the terms. nothing can happen unless whatever agreements are made are verifiable. and there are an awful lot of steps here, and it's unchelear w well prepared the trump administration is for a major discussion and debate. >> can i ask you this, because john bolton, now the national security adviser, has a very hardline record on north korea and on iran. he talked about using military force there. but also, you know, what about these complicated negotiations where potentially a john bolton
or a president trump might think the only successful negotiation, in other words, if the u.s. wins every single one of its points? >> well, i'm always very worried when people see things in terms of zero sum. it is very hard to get a functional and useful agreement with anybody or any country if it is zero sum. because what you want to try to do is to have kind of a win-win situation. and even if it isn't totally equal, which i don't think it can be in this case, it does have to have some elements that doesn't look as though the other party has completely lost. it's counterproductive to do that. i am worried about another part of this, and that is that at the same time, john bolton and president trump have been very negative about the iran nuclear agreement. and the two really play off of each other, because if the
united states cannot live up to agreements that it has made, and talks about tearing them up, then, in fact, it undermines the negotiation and the credibility that the negotiators need to have in order to say that something that's agreed on will be carried out. so this is very complicated, and i think that it's troubling that we have problems in the middle east and in north korea, but they are related in terms of these nuclear agreements very specifically. >> and now can i ask you a slightly off-piece question about personal and context. president trump was really very angry and in front of a group of generals as they were discussing their syria policy this week, he was furious and venting about the fbi raid on his lawyer's office, mike cohen. all about this potential money that was given to the adult film star, stormy daniels, or not. or maybe it was something else.
but nonetheless he's furious. but then he said, we do have to discuss syria. now, because you went through some of this with the scandals surrounding president clinton in the middle of trying to sold saddam hussein accountable, cruise missiles being launched, what can we expect from a president who has all this other stuff on his mind while also facing some of the most challenging, difficult, and sensitive world issues? >> i do think that obviously we were all troubled by what happened with president clinton's personal life. but i can assure you that he had a character and capability which allowed him to be very serious about foreign policy issues or any other issues to do with the government. and they did not interfere in this. we actually did an incredible amount of very detailed and difficult foreign policy issues
in 1998. and so the question here is, is president trump a disciplined thinker? does he really delve into issues? you know, i haven't met him and all i know is what i read. so the bottom line is, i think that one needs a decision making process as i described earlier. and not kind of tweeting on the things that are as important as this, and being able to concentrate and really understanding the depth and problems of the issues. >> i want to turn to your book that's been published, "fascism: a warning." you mentioned a load of world leaders who, even in democratic countries, are becoming very authoritarians, if not dictatorial. you even have a chapter talking about president trump. do you put president trump in the same basket as a putin or an
erdogan or duerte, all these people elected but have shown very authoritarian tendencies? >> really what i see in president trump is a president that is -- doesn't really seem to respect democratic institutions. and that is what i'm warning about and troubled about. the role of the free press, which is absolutely essential to a democracy. the understanding of what the other parts of the government do, the judicial system. the legislative branch. an understanding that one has to respect the ideas of a minority group or a different group, not just to identify yourself with one group. to want to hear what the different opinions are. and so the thing that i did in the book is really spend time looking at a historical study. i was really frankly troubled and surprised that even
mussolini and hitler and now erdogan and most recently oraban in hungary, then in poland and turkey, are people that were either elected or power was transferred to them constitutionally. so i think it's important to understand how that happened, and that you have to have a president or leader that respects the law, does not just identify himself with this one group. and is not willing to use a variety of means in order to be sure that he has central power. so that's why the book is called "a warning," and i don't really put labels on president trump. i've just been writing about the signs. and there was a quote that mussolini used that i think really is so -- really visual, which is that you can pluck a
chicken one feather at a time, and it isn't noticed. so it's these steps that i'm pointing out. >> what do you hope the book accomplishes? >> well, first of all, i do think it's important to have this historical approach to it. and by the way, christiane, this comes out of my own experience. i was born two years before world war ii, and when the nazis took over the country i was born in, we moved to england. and were there all through the blitz. we came back to czechoslovakia, hoping to live in a free country, and then it was taken over by the communists. so i know what fascism is all about. and how it can really destroy people. there's a saying now, which is see something, say something. and i've added to it, do something. and my to-do list is basically some of the things i mentioned, which is to really understand the importance of a free press,
to demand that there be a president that is not above the law. to encourage people to be participants in the system, to run for office and to speak out. and then also something that seems to be missing at the moment is to have a civil discussion with people that you disagree with, and then i think take heart from the marches by the children who are dealing with the issue of -- trying to have gun sanity so that they don't have to go to school wearing flak jackets. and so that's my to-do list. and i decided that what i would do would be to write the book and call it out. >> so then tell us why, with all your vast experience from your childhood to today, why do you think the world, which was zooming along towards democracy after the fall of the iron curtain, why has it sort of put the brakes on now and some areas even done a u-turn? >> well, i think that we have
been looking at this for some time, and that is the effective technology on our society. i don't think that it was recognized enough that this was revolutionary. there was so many great parts about what was happening with technology in terms of connecting us together. on the other hand, what it did was displace a lot of people from jobs and our educational system were not prepared for those people to find new jobs and to find value in how they were viewed within their own society. so all of a sudden, it was very evident that there was some very angry people in our society. and when there were leaders, and this is not just the united states, i mean, you can see it in europe. you can certainly see it in england with brexit, who basically wanted change, and there were leaders who were willing to exacerbate the differences rather than trying to find common ground.
we've seen situations like this before. for instance, in the united states, the depression and frankly roosevelt was, in fact, attacked from the right and the left, and he tried to figure out a common ground, a middle ground in order to bring the country out of this kind of issue. and what we need are leaders that will find that common ground. but it really came because of displacement of anger and to some extent, based on fear. and the fear has now been created by those leaders who say the problem is the immigrants that are coming in, taking your jobs. and so that kind of demagoguery argument plays when there is such divisions in our society and it's irresponsible and very dangerous. >> you did mention victor alban in hungary, who has been elected by a very large margin, "the new
york times" said he built his campaign on castigating western nations as a multicultural force. his victory is likely to embolden other leaders, who used a similar playbook, including in poland where the governing party has emulated his tactics. as you hook aroulook around, is something you'll see more of, or any time in the future where this confluence of political tactics has somehow changed? >> i am troubled, and obviously the victory of arban has made this more -- it was anti-migrant. he was supposed to represent the real hungarians. and where i think there is a real issue, it used to be that the leader of the united states could point out what the problems were, and how to kind of explain what democracy was about in terms of free press,
rule of law, including people. and what's happened now is that the united states is not only not in that role, but president trump has placed himself beside some of these people. he went to poland, stood with the leader, and basically praised what they were doing in terms of denigrating their judiciary, and questioning what people that didn't agree with them were really doing. so the role of the united states, as the leader in understanding democracy, that chair is empty. and that is one of the things that really worries me is we are expected to stand up for the basic freedoms and liberties of democracy, and that is not happening at this point. >> secretary albright, before i let you go, as i always do, i would like you to explain the significance of your broach today. >> well, i was given it as a present, and i thought it was perfect for this trip and for this time. it is mercury, the messenger.
i think that what i'm trying to do is deliver a message as strongly as i possibly can, because this is a time to absorb what is happening and to make sure that chicken doesn't get plucked one feather at a time. i could wear a chicken, but at the moment i'm going to wear mercury. >> madeiline albright, still fighting and still fighting to keep america the indispensable nation. thanks so much for joining us. >> thank you, christiane. >> we hope you enjoyed dipping into our archives with us. that's it for our special edition. thanks for watching "amanpour" on pbs. and join us again tomorrow night. www.vitac.com >> you're watchin
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