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The Doability Doctrine in the age of Donald Trump

Madeline Albright’s latest book is a global warning against rising fascism

Eleanor Dudley, Editor in Chief
Originally Published May 4, 2018

Madeline Albright is one of my heroes. I say this not only because of my interest in international relations and foreign policy. I say it not simply because she paved the way for women in high-ranking political positions as the first female secretary of state. I say it mainly because of her character — her willingness to speak her mind, her nuanced positions on complex issues, her eloquent and efficient solutions to situations that must be solved, and above all, her commitment to doing what she believes is right.

Her most recent book, “Fascism: A Warning,” is relevant and thought-provoking. As one of many high-profile speakers in the Seattle Arts and Lectures series Albright spoke with Mark Suzman, the Chief Strategy Officer for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, at the Paramount Theater in Seattle about her latest work.

The book centers on the idea that fascist seeds have been planted across the world and are beginning to grow. It’s part history lesson, part prediction. For the first chapters Albright dives deep into historical figures Josef Stalin, Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler before transitioning to an examination of modern leaders leaning towards totalitarianism, in countries such as Venezuela, Turkey, Hungary, North Korea, Russia and even America.

She introduces her book and presentation by sharing her experience with fascism.

Unlike some historians writing from afar, Albright witnessed the effects of fascism firsthand. Fleeing her home in Prague as a young child after the signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938, she saw what happens when a demagogue takes over. Decades later, as Secretary of State, she discovered that her grandparents died in the Holocaust. Thus, this book was intensely personal.

Albright’s motivation behind the book was concern based on the growing decline of democracy, the corrosion of political discourse and the rise of dehumanization around the world. She specifically references the negative consequences of the technological revolution and the rise and acceptance of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

“Some may view this book and its title as alarmist. Good,” Albright writes. “We should be awake to the assault on democratic values that has gathered strength in many countries abroad and is dividing America at home.”

The book oberserves and defines what fascism means and what it looks like. In conversation with Suzman, Albright noted the patterns that define fascism. “There’s a movement from the bottom of dissatisfied people and a leader from the top,” Albright said. “There is always a scapegoat as a result of hyper nationalism.” These dangerous signs are what Albright observes in European countries, where waves of refugees and migrants are arriving and citizens are looking to blame them for their hardship.

Albright is not a newcomer to the world of foreign policy and fascism. She has spent decades advocating for democracy and human rights at home and abroad. These experiences are present when she talks about the patterns that allow fascist ideas to develop and thrive.

“Democracy has to deliver. People want to vote and eat,” Albright said. “If economic inequality does create divisions, they are then exacerbated by a demagogic leader.”

Regarding America specifically, Albright has a lot to say. She emphasized her belief in the integrity of American institutions saying “We cannot let the press be demonized. We cannot allow the judicial branch to be denigrated.” She also reminded the audience that “the Constitution begins with ‘We the people.’”

While careful to avoid conclusions that Trump is a fascist, Albright shares her perspective on the current president. “Trump’s view of American is divisive and demoralizing,” she said. “He fails to encourage countries to respect and follow the example of the United States.”

The underlying theme in Albright’s writing is unity. She talks a lot about community, teamwork and coming together for the greater good. “It’s not going to happen if people don’t decide they want to work together,” Albright said.

The importance of unity doesn’t just refer to foreign nations. Albright also touched on unity among women during her conversation with Suzman. When asked by the audience “How she dealt with all the men?” Albright responded by saying her fellow women were part of the problem. She recalled being discouraged by her peers to pursue higher education after already having children, the situation which inspired her famous phrase, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” Her main point here was that women must empower one another, and create space for choice.

“Each of us has to have our own plan. Women can do everything but not all at the same time,” Albright said. “ You should be able do decide how you want to run your life.”

At times reminiscent of Robert Strayer’s “Ways of the World,”  “Fascism: A Warning” is more of a history lesson than anything else. We have to learn from history in order to progress as a country, and as a planet. When asked the most important lessons for high-schoolers Albright responded: “Students need to take courses in civics. History is not boring. It’s what should inform our lives.”

This book is what the world needs to hear. We must all embrace Albright’s mentality of ambition paired with action. One of my favorite things she said was “You know the phrase ‘See something, say something?’ Well I added “Do something!” Let us take a cue from Madam Secretary. It’s time to do something.

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The Doability Doctrine in the age of Donald Trump