COLUMBIA - Madeleine Albright, secretary of state during Bill Clinton's second term, discussed foreign policy challenges facing the next U.S. president at MU's Memorial Union on Thursday.
A crowd of more than 200 college students and Columbia residents attended the event.
Albright's MU visit was the second of three campaign stops she made that day in support of Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, the Democratic presidential nominee. She also spoke in Kansas City and St. Louis and said she planned to return to Missouri in the near future.
After the public forum, she spoke at length to reporters about the importance of Missouri voters - specifically young Missouri voters - in the November election.
"I think that the energy of students and the desire to participate and the historic aspect of this will make students the swing vote in a swing state," she said.
Although speaking on Obama's behalf, she spent the majority of the session discussing the complexities of American foreign policy.
"I think that the next presidency is going to be very hard," Albright said. "There are a lot of issues that have to be dealt with."
Albright said many of the issues, including the war in Iraq and efforts to combat terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan, were intertwined.
She likened foreign policy to a game of pool, describing foreign policy actions as cue balls that, when put into play, could cause any number of ricochets and unintended consequences.
"It is, to me, unpredictable," Albright said. "We have seen that kind of billiard-ball effect in Afghanistan."
She was highly critical of many Bush administration policies but reserved her harshest barb for the war in Iraq.
"I think that Iraq will go down in history as the greatest disaster in American foreign policy," she said to a round of applause from the largely Democratic crowd. "I think it is worse than Vietnam, and it's not in the number of Americans who died or in the number of Vietnamese versus Iraqis, but in terms of those unintended consequences."
She said Bush policies such as Guantanamo Bay had "harmed our moral authority" and called the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive self-defense, used to justify the war in Iraq, a "huge mistake."
"The biggest, I think, unintended consequence is, supposing other countries decided that they want to (initiate a war) just on the basis of what they thought was a threat to them," she said. "I think it opens up a huge Pandora's box."
Other issues she singled out included nuclear proliferation, environmental policy and dealing with the negative effects of globalization.
She also stressed the need to talk with hostile foreign leaders such as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Albright said she recently met with four other former secretaries of state, including Henry Kissinger and Colin Powell, for a foreign policy discussion on CNN, which will air at 8 p.m. Saturday. She said "all five agreed we should talk to Iran."
Caroline Pinkston, a law student at MU, spoke highly of the visit by Albright, the first female secretary of state.
"(It was) incredible," Pinkston said. "She is a remarkable individual - not only a woman but just an individual, in general.
"Just, wow: That's all you can say about that."