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The Soft Power Summit

Our international betters--and Madeleine Albright--tell America how to fight the war on terror (and what's wrong with us).

11:00 PM, Mar 22, 2005 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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EARLIER THIS MONTH, hundreds of prominent politicians, experts and powerbrokers from around the globe convened in Madrid for the International Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security. A more eclectic yet influential gathering of people would be difficult to imagine. The participants' list included everyone from George Soros to Hamid Karzai.

The goal of the summit, hosted by the Club of Madrid (an elite society of 55 former presidents and prime ministers of democratic countries, including former President Clinton), was to formulate the "Madrid Agenda." Positioned as an alternative "soft power" strategy for fighting terrorism, the agenda is set to be delivered to the U.S. Senate later this year. The summit was also used by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to outline his institution's plan for a more multilateral approach to fighting terrorism.

The summit also served as a symposium for critics of the Bush administration and the U.S.-led war on terror. Disturbingly, a virulent strain of anti-American ideology ran throughout much of the summit's proceedings and the events afterwards. One of the most outspoken critics of the war on terrorism was former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

As a participant in the plenary on democracy and terrorism, Secretary Albright eschewed any recognition of the recent wave of Middle Eastern democracy. She made it clear that, in her view, the Bush administration's post-September 11 war on terror has been a failure.

"I'm an American," former Secretary Albright assured the audience, "but I'm not here to defend the administration." She added, "It's difficult always in a foreign setting, but I do think that the ways we're dealing with terrorists are, actually, maybe creating more of them."

Secretary Albright chose not to mention the successful elections in Iraq or Afghanistan, or the "cedar revolution" unfolding in Lebanon. Instead, she focused her attention on other matters, saying, "If you start a war, you have to bring it to a final victory so that you avoid disastrous effects like Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib."

A recurring theme of the summit was the delicate balance between civil liberties and increased counterterrorist security measures in democratic societies. Here, Albright--shortly after drawing a distinction between mild irritations caused by increased security measures and more serious "derogations of civil liberties"--offered a dire assessment of American society,

I hate to say this about my fellow-Americans, but at the moment we have been traumatized and lied to, and basically our news media operate on a level of idiocy that makes you feel as if . . . so the more that there's a sense of fear, the more likely you are to put up with more than irritations, and so, our election, frankly, it wasn't a values question. I know that people think that, it was an issue of protection, and President Bush was somebody that stood up to protect America after 9/11 and we are being systematically told that we're a threat [sic]. You know, that's why I hesitate saying I don't feel secure, because when I say I don't feel secure it just adds to this story about "Well, if you don't feel secure, you need different kinds of judges."

Thus, in the former Secretary's view: the war on terror has (maybe) created more terrorists; the American public has been "lied" to; the Bush administration uses a false sense of fear to abrogate civil liberties and push forward its judicial agenda; and the events at Guantanamo and Abu Gharib have been "disastrous," while the newly found freedom for millions in the Middle East is not worth mentioning.

DANIEL COHN-BENDIT, a student leader of the leftist 1968 May revolution in Paris who is now a German politician, agreed with Secretary Albright, adding, "Madeleine said it: Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo--delocalization of torture. Take people prisoner and put them in countries where torture is not forbidden: what the CIA did. This is the end of our civilization if we accept this."

Cohn-Bendit even explained that the rise of terrorism was at least partially the West's fault. Answering a question regarding the "the sense of injustice, poverty and unfairness . . . in the Middle East" that breeds terrorists, he explained, "I have a theory on this: we here, white men, me coming from the left, we have to say to the white man 'You produced injustice'. . . . without stopping injustice we won't solve it, but we also have the responsibility of our own family, because the illness is in both families."