Albright: Forming Coalition Is Easier than Maintaining It

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:19 PM EDT

( - While the Bush administration pronounces itself very pleased with the world's response to its campaign against terrorism, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Tuesday it will take a lot of hand-holding to keep such a global alliance together.

"The bigger the coalition, the more various the conditions and demands each of the countries puts on (the coalition)," she said in an interview on NBC's Today show.

While there is initial enthusiasm, Albright said, that spirit of global cooperation eventually gives way to competing demands by countries that have different needs and interests.

During the Kosovo war, for instance, Albright said she made daily phone calls to the foreign ministers of the countries that were involved. She predicted that Secretary of State Colin Powell has a lot of work ahead of him.

Asked about the involvement of specific countries in a U.S.-led coalition, Albright offered the following perspectives:

Saudi Arabia's actions are more important than what its government says in public. "I think that in my dealings with the Saudis, what I found is that they are good, cooperative allies. But you shouldn't just listen to what they say publicly." Albright said the Saudis and other countries are making private contributions to the coalition that may never make headlines.

Russia: "I think one of the concerns in having Russia as a partner in fighting terrorism is to make sure that they don't take that as a carte blanche to do whatever they want to in Chechnya."

Albright urged the Bush administration to use caution in going after Iraq. Let's "keep our eye on the ball," Albright warned. "We don't know yet what the connection with Iraq is," and although Saddam Hussein has done terrible things, she said, the United States needs to guard against "overreaching."

Given the opportunity to defend the Clinton administration's record, Albright said, "We did what we could based on the intelligence that we had." She mentioned the U.S. strikes on some camps in Afghanistan and on a factory in the Sudan as responses to the intelligence available at the time.

"If you remember, we also managed to foil what was supposed to be an attack during the Millennium," she said. She also said the Clinton administration "put into place a lot of mechanisms" on which the Bush administration may now build.

Albright said the issue confronting U.S. intelligence agencies nowadays isn't a lack of information, but too much information - the sheer volume, making it difficult to evaluate what's important and what's not.