Today's Women in the World line up featured an extraordinary conversation between two of the world's most powerful female leaders—former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice, who joined a wide-ranging lunchtime conversation about international affairs moderated by CBS correspondent Lesley Stahl. Despite working under politically opposing administrations—Albright served under President Clinton; Rice under Bush—both women articulated a shared view that empowering women is essential to the success of emerging democracies in the Middle East. A few of the panel's most interesting moments:
1. Both women agreed that a no-fly zone over Libya is just one option.“In Libya, you have a place that is run by a nut and there is no other way to describe it,” Albright said. “I think there are any number of things that need to be done." Albright added that it’s a “difficult and tragic situation” in the region, but cautioned that an embargo could hurt the people engaged in the uprising, as well. Rice agreed—explaining that the no-fly zone could pose serious risks. “It’s an option," she said. "But again, I know those people sitting in those offices are looking at multiple calculations that we don’t know ... so I am really loathe to say, ‘Oh we should do a no-fly zone or not.'”
2. The recovery process in the Middle East will be long and turbulent.“I actually don’t think it will turn out badly for the United States,” Albright said. “There will be turbulent times, but we are much better off if they have a democratic form of government or more open form of government.” Albright got one of the biggest laughs of the panel when she acknowledged that people may come to power in the Middle East that may not be good for America. “Sometime the wrong people get elected, it happens in this country,” Albright said. “That’s what democracy is about.”
3. The women had harsh words for Saudi Arabia.Rice spoke candidly about women's lack of freedom in the country, though she applauded King Abdullah’s decision to open a technical—as opposed to religious—university in the country. “I believe women have to have political rights in Saudi Arabia,” Rice said. "...Obviously, I believe that Saudi Arabia is very far behind the power curve—along with a number of other countries in the Gulf—where women do not have the right to vote. They should.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will address the conference this evening, which ensures an extraordinary event: all three female secretaries of State addressed Women in the World 2011.