At least one morning a week, usually Wednesday, Secretary of
State Madeleine Albright meets Defense Secretary William Cohen and
National Security Adviser Samuel "Sandy" Berger at the White House
The private, informal agenda-setting session over croissants
is one example of how the Clinton foreign policy triumvirate -
nicknamed the "ABC" by staffers - has built a close rapport.
Their unity was put on display this week as the three top
officials rallied public support - during a televised (and
ultimately contentious) meeting in Ohio - for a possible military
strike against Iraq. Yesterday, Ms. Albright spoke to college
students in Tennessee and South Carolina.
It is a level of foreign-policy partnership that some experts
consider unprecedented. "Albright, Cohen, and Berger have achieved
a degree of cooperation and consensus that is unusual and unique,"
says Allan Goodman at Georgetown University in Washington.
In the increasingly complex and nuanced world of post-cold
war diplomacy - and particularly as a showdown with Iraq approaches
- it is vital that senior US officials speak with one voice to
avoid sending mixed signals to allies and foes alike, experts
"This team has the uncanny ability to realize that foreign
policy does not depend on where you sit, but on the needs of the
nation in a particular crisis," says Professor Goodman, executive
dean at Georgetown's School of Foreign Service and a former
colleague of Albright. Past team members, by contrast, "have been
the nation's chief rivals in making foreign policy."
Other experts are less glowing, however. They say the threat
of war against Iraq has led to a show of unity, overshadowing
discord among the three over other issues and day-to-day tactics.
"The potential for war has a way of concentrating the mind,"
notes Casimir Yost, head of Georgetown's Institute for the Study of
Still, most observers would concede that American foreign
policy today suffers far less from the vicious ideological
struggles and political turf battles that plagued it during much of
the cold war.
In the late 1960s and early '70s, for example, a bitter
rivalry existed in the Nixon administration when National Security
Adviser Henry Kissinger took charge of foreign policy at the
expense of Secretary of State William Rogers.
Tensions were also legendary during the Carter presidency
between Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, who was more accommodating
toward the Soviet Union, and the hawkish security adviser Zbigniew
In contrast, the post-cold war era has defused stark
ideological conflicts and related power struggles, while paving the
way for a greater consensus of world views. Yet it has also made
the job of plotting out America's diplomatic course far more
complex, experts say.
Unlike in past decades, responsibility for foreign
policymaking is now widely dispersed throughout the government
rather than concentrated in a few departments, Prof. …