Former secretary of state, national security advisor discuss approaches to Middle East

| Contributing Reporter

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley discussed and highlighted their two-pronged approach to conflicts in the Middle East yesterday.

Albright and Hadley, who are co-chairs for think tank Atlantic Council’s Middle East Strategy Task Force, detailed methods to change the political trajectory of the region in a report, which they cited as an exemplar of bipartisanship.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright turns toward former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley during a discussion on the Middle East in Graham Chapel. Pulitzer Center Executive Director Jon Sawyer moderated.Holly Ravazzolo | Student Life

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright turns toward former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley during
a discussion on the Middle East in Graham Chapel. Pulitzer Center Executive Director Jon Sawyer moderated.

The event, which was moderated by Pulitzer Center Executive Director Jon Sawyer, was initially promoted as an intimate discussion with Albright and Hadley over coffee in the Women’s Building Formal Lounge. However, enthusiasm for the speakers, expressed by both students and community members, persuaded event organizers to relocate the event to a space where capacity matched interest, prompting a change first to Emerson Auditorium in Knight Hall and ultimately to Graham Chapel.

Despite this strong interest, the event was met by a peaceful protest of about 15 students who were opposed to Washington University hosting the speakers.

The free town hall event included individual remarks from Albright and Hadley, who outlined their findings and recommendations in the Middle East Strategy Task Force report, as well as audience questions. Throughout both parts of the event, Albright and Hadley stressed the importance of listening to voices in the Middle East—from refugees to businesspeople to monarchs—in structuring their approach to the region.

“What we found in our discussions was a sense of confidence and determination despite all the challenges. There’s a genuine desire for outside engagement and a need for outside support but on very different terms than the ones that took place in the past,” Albright said.

Albright and Hadley’s first regional focus centers on ending human suffering and civil wars within the region. Albright called this first prong a “critical precondition for any progress being achieved on security measures across the region.”

“The second prong of our strategy is vitally important; it puts the burden on the nations of the regions with support from the outside to unlock the vast potential of its people. This is the only way to solve the region’s challenges over the long-term, but it requires governments to make investments in their citizens and to enable and empower them to make positive change,” Albright said.

“We believe that the best hope for the region is its people. Governments must ally with their people to build a common future,” Hadley agreed.

Washington University students were generally excited about the opportunity to hear from Hadley and Albright, who delivered Washington University’s 142nd Commencement address and holds an honorary doctor of humanities degree from the University.

“I’m in the Near Eastern and Islamic Studies department, so I figured it would be very pertinent to hear various perspectives on the Middle East as it pertains to U.S. foreign policy,” first-year master’s student Tyler Parker said.

“[Madeleine Albright] is kind of a big deal,” sophomore Lizzie Halper, who had previously met Albright through Albright’s grandson, said.

Halper, however, only heard about the event one day prior to it happening and felt it could have been better advertised.

Students protesting the event, holding signs including “HUMAN BEINGS NOT HUMAN CAPITAL” and “WashU LOVES WAR CRIMINALS,” declined to comment to Student Life, but plan to submit a statement.