The United States will ultimately defeat radical Islam and the Iraqi insurgency -- not so much with bullets, but with its ideals of freedom and democracy, former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright told an audience of about 600 at Beth Tfiloh Congregation last night.
Likening Osama bin Laden to a Cold War tyrant, Albright said his brand of Islamic radicalism shared a trait with Communism: an utter disregard for human dignity and freedom.
"We have to recognize that the fanaticism that exploded on Sept. 11 did not arise overnight and will not go away soon," Albright said. "Like the foundations of Communism, it must be made to crumble as its central fallacies are exposed, and its leaders are discredited, and its foot soldiers are defeated."
Albright, who came to Beth Tfiloh to promote her memoir, Madam Secretary, also criticized the Bush administration for its unilateral approach to what she called "a war of choice," but predicted that the United States would prevail.
"We are selling liberty, prosperity and peace," she said, "and -- given the chance -- I think most Iraqis will line up on the right side."
Albright spoke at the Pikesville synagogue as a follow-up to its annual forum, "Gender and Judaism, Women and Agents of Change." Sandy Vogel, who is head of the synagogue's adult education program, said Beth Tfiloh wanted her to speak because of her expertise in foreign policy, particularly the Middle East, and because she is a prominent woman of Jewish heritage.
Albright was raised in the Roman Catholic Church, but in 1997 The Washington Post reported that she was of Jewish descent and that three of her grandparents had died in concentration camps.
During her speech, Albright addressed the issue of her Jewish heritage and how a woman of her caliber could have not known about it, as she has insisted.
"Some people have said that I must have known earlier about my family's Jewish heritage, and the truth is: I'm sure I would have found out if I had asked the right questions," she said. "Although the dots were there, neither I nor my siblings had tried to connect them. We grew up without any doubts. We thought we knew our family's story."
In her memoir, Albright recounts her now-famous story as a Czech immigrant who fled Communism, married and divorced a U.S. newspaper heir, earned her doctorate while raising three daughters and eventually became the first female secretary of state.
Some in the audience who had read the book declared themselves fans. "Mrs. Albright, I love you," said Bernice Kuryk, 80, of Grey Rock, as Albright arrived in the synagogue's sanctuary. "Your book was such an inspiration to me."
In a phone interview before the speech, Albright talked about the effect of the war in Iraq on global security.
"I think the war in Iraq has made the world more dangerous," she said, adding that she is glad Saddam Hussein is in jail and did not agree with critics who blame so many of the world's problems on U.S. policy.
Albright served as secretary of state from 1996 to 2001, becoming the highest-ranking woman in U.S. history. Before ascending to the secretary's job, she served as the United States' Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Albright now runs the Albright Group, a global strategy consulting firm based in Washington.