Albright: ‘I Don’t Know’

At her lecture to the Atlantic Council last night, Madeleine Albright repeatedly uttered three words seldom heard in Washington:  “I don’t know.”

What struck me, though, was her humility on three of the most difficult issues facing the West right now: the ongoing chaos in Iran, the relationship with Russia, and the future role of NATO.  For all of those, she forthrightly admitted that she didn’t have the answers.

Albright is not a woman lacking in confidence.  One doesn’t get to where she has, let alone as a woman coming up when she did, by being a wallflower.   Certainly, too, her expertise on these topics is unquestioned.  The international relations school at the University of Denver is named after her father, she has her PhD in international relations from Columbia, and she has spent decades studying, writing about, and making public policy decisions on these issues.

Regardless, they are enormously complicated and there are simply too many variables to make definitive policy prescriptions, let alone predict the outcomes, from outside.  She’s being rather too modest to say she now knows only “what she reads in the newspapers” — she’s far too active in the foreign relations community for that to be true — but she’s right that none of us have all the facts.

More at the link on what we do and don’t know about these issues.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. G.A.Phillips says:

    “I don’t know.”

    A liberal tells the truth, THE END IS NEAR!!!!!!!!!