Community & Government

Learning From Failed Decisions

Everyone makes bad decisions. Secretary Albright discusses what went wrong in Rwanda, and her regrets about the situation. Secretary Rice shares her mistakes on 9/11 and Iraq, and offers advice on how to grow from failure.

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Topics include: Case Study: Rwanda * Case Study: 9/11 and Iraq * Growing From Failure


[STRING MUSIC] - They often say, what happens today can affect what happens tomorrow. It cannot affect what happened yesterday. What I know today can affect what I do tomorrow. What I know today cannot affect what I did yesterday. And very often, there's a kind of retrospective without recognizing what was known at the time. We all make bad decisions. Sometimes, they're bad decisions because we didn't have the right information, and sometimes, you have to go ahead and make the decision anyway. [STRING MUSIC] [CROWD CLAMORING] REPORTER (VOICEOVER): Rwandan Hutu extremists targeted the minority ethnic Tutsis and other moderate Hutus, murdering between 800,000 to a million with clubs, machetes, and their bare hands. BILL CLINTON: The flow of refugees across Rwanda's borders has now created what could be the world's worst humanitarian crisis in a generation. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: I do think that when people think about Rwanda, it is one of the great disasters and disappointments. I can't tell you how often President Clinton, even to this day, asks, how did it happen that we didn't do anything about Rwanda? And it's on everybody's conscience, but I can tell you that it has to do with not enough information and also the surrounding events. I think it's very important to understand that decisions are not just made in a vacuum, and so the thing that had happened was at the end of the George HW Bush administration. During the transition, it was decided that the people that were starving in Somalia needed to be fed, and so that administration established a feeding operation. Then when we came into office, our government had wanted to turn it into a UN operation because fighting had begun among the warlords. And it was very difficult because we didn't want to give them enough troops, and yet we were asking them to do much more than just feed. And so we finally did get it to be a military operation. And I think people remember it was a disaster because it ended with the shooting down of a Black Hawk helicopter. Black Hawk Down, it came to be known. And Americans were killed, and then one American was dragged through the streets. And it affected, in many ways, how people felt about going into a country to theoretically do some good and ending up very badly. So at the same time, also, something that had been very much a discussion was what was going on in Bosnia, and when we took over, Yugoslavia was splitting apart. And we were considering what to do in Bosnia, and there were terrible things happening and what was growing ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. There had been a decision for Americans not to really participate very much that also affected. And the third thing, that was what was going on in Haiti, which was that there had been a coup that had ousted a democratically elected president. There were a lot of problems going on in Haiti, and we wanted to help them. We sent an aircraft carrier, the Harlan...

About the Instructor

Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice stood toe to toe with dictators, counseled presidents, and managed to find common ground on issues that still polarize us today. Sit down with two legendary secretaries of state as they reveal how to build bridges, hold boundaries, and apply history’s lessons to everyday challenges. The class presents an intimate portrait of the late Dr. Albright’s legacy for the next generation.

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Madeleine Albright & Condoleezza Rice

Former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice teach you to settle differences in everyday life like a diplomat.

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