Albright and Holbrooke: two conflicting Voices of America

THE US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, sets off for Israel today on the first leg of a world tour that the US administration hopes will be crowned by a formal Israeli-Palestinian pact on the terms for complying with the year-old Wye River accord. From Israel, Ms Albright will travel by a roundabout route to Vietnam on a potential dream trip for any American diplomat - sealing reconciliation and continued US involvement in two strategically significant regions.

Ms Albright, though, will not be the only high-profile US diplomat on the international stage this week. She will share the limelight with Richard Holbrooke, the newly confirmed ambassador to the UN. He sped out of New York almost as soon as he was sworn into office to try to defuse the growing tensions in his old stomping grounds, Kosovo and Bosnia.

This prospect has inevitably revived talk in Washington about the rivalry between Ms Albright and Mr Holbrooke.Foreign policy voyeurs are sitting back to enjoy what they sense could be a spectacle. "It looks like it's going to be a fun 17 months," said Arnold Beichman of the Hoover Institution.

It has also brought criticism from friends and foes of the administration alike, who fear that the effectiveness of US foreign policy could be diluted if two strong individuals send different messages from far flung parts of the world at the same time. "Unfortunately," said Frank Gaffney of the right-leaning Center for Security Policy, "the most serious damage likely to arise from these duelling egos may not be to either of their careers, but to the nation's foreign policy interests."

The personal rivalry between Ms Albright and Mr Holbrooke stems from their fight for the post of Secretary of State when President Bill Clinton was building his second administration. Despite a lobbying campaign by Mr Holbrooke and his allies, Ms Albright prevailed, partly, it was thought, because Mr Clinton was anxious to boost the number and prominence of women in his cabinet, partly because of State Department misgivings about Mr Holbrooke's maverick style.

So long as the apparently amiable and relaxed Bill Richardson was ambassador to the UN, Ms Albright had no real competition for leadership of US diplomacy. Mr Holbrooke, however, is a different character, with a track record in the Balkans - in producing the Dayton accord on Bosnia, however tormented its subsequent history - that contrasts with Ms Albright's record of confrontation. Her ultimatum to the Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic, at Rambouillet is blamed by some for forcing Nato into precipitate armed intervention. Observers noted that Mr Holbrooke maintained an unaccustomed reticence during the Kosovo conflict.

What has also been noted is that although Ms Albright was quick to congratulate Mr Holbrooke on his confirmation by congress, she did nothing to ease the marathon 10-month process. "We're always on the same side," insisted Mr Holbrooke on his first day in his new job. "Everyone knows that, despite the games they want to play." And he peppered his first public statements in Kosovo with respectful references to Mr Clinton and Ms Albright. Meanwhile, the question in Washington was when, not whether, this bonhomie would break.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk