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Wendy Sherman

Excerpts from a Monitor breakfast on US security policy

Wendy Sherman is an expert on North Korea and a principal of The Albright Group, a consulting firm.

Ms. Sherman's career spans both the private and public sectors.

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From July 1997 through January of 2001, she was counselor to the State Department with the rank of ambassador. At the same time, she was special advisor to President Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and North Korea Policy advisor.

From 1993 to 1996, she served Secretary of State Warren Christopher as Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs.

Her private sector experience includes a tour as president and CEO of the Fannie Mae Foundation, as a partner in a political consulting firm, and as director of Emily's List, which raises money for pro-choice women Democratic candidates.

She attended Smith College, graduated from Boston University, and has a masters degree in social work from the University of Maryland.

On Bush administration foreign policy:

"I think the Bush administration has two principles that are fundamental to its national security policy. One is preemption and the other is military dominance. I think military dominance is a fact, it was a fact for the Clinton Administration. I think pre-emption has always been a tenet behind the scenes that we would always take action if necessary if we saw a threat to our security. But this is the first administration that has made it an overt tenet of its national security and foreign policy.

What I think is missing from the Bush administration is where diplomacy, where engagement, where integration fit into the picture. And I think when you lead with military dominance and preemption, yes, it gives people a sense of confidence, it gives people a sense of power. But it doesn't necessarily allow you to work well and play well with others and to really forge a consensus in the world about how to really ensure that America's security interests are protected.

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I agree with President Bush that we are in the midst of battles. ...[In] the battles against terrorism, one may win the battle, but I don't know yet whether we will in fact win the war."

On the administration's approach to proliferation of nuclear weapons:

"Right now the administration is approaching proliferation and nuclear weapons as if it is a local problem. It isn't a local problem. It is an international problem. And I think we need some forums and some conversations that aren't being held to figure out a way to deal with this in an international way...

The administration wants to use multilateralism to serve its purposes but not really have an international discussion about how to slow down and how to stop and how to eliminate weapons of mass destruction."

On US policy toward North Korea:

"Allowing North Korea to have nuclear weapons is unacceptable and there is no president of either party in the years that I can think of who has believed that North Korea having nuclear weapons was acceptable. No one.

If this administration either consciously or by drift - and right now I think we are in a drift-- we are drifting because there is this policy vacuum. We are drifting toward North Korea having five or six nuclear weapons within a matter of months.

Now I do believe that North Korea probably has one or two weapons. That in and of itself is a problem. But if you have one or two weapons you are not likely to use them, not likely to test them, and certainly are not likely to sell them because you do not want to give up your deterrence. If you have five or six nuclear weapons you can sell them, you can use them, you can test them, you can increase your deterrence.

And let's say North Korea should collapse, then who has control of those nuclear weapons? Then having that many nuclear weapons will absolutely encourage others in the region to become nuclear powers themselves. So in my view, it is incredibly unacceptable and incredibly dangerous to regional and world security and our own security for North Korea to get to that point."

On a US strategy that focuses on keeping North Korea from exporting nuclear weapons:

"Which is an absurd thought given that fissile material the size of a grapefruit, not highly radioactive, easily protected, could be transported in a suit case or a hat box across the Chinese border. So to think that one could interdict all of the fissile material and even nuclear weapons when we haven't caught all of their missiles and related technology, when we certainly haven't caught their drug trafficking, is just unfathomable to me that you could really get a great ability to do that."

On whether direct talks with North Korea will work:

"I do not think we know the answer to that. But I think that unless you test it out you never know the answer to it. And the alternatives are so horrible. All of the choices here are bad choices. They are all tough choices. But the alternatives to direct talks are so awful that to not try to test out their intentions in my view is crazy.

Why wouldn't you test it out, see if you can get a verifiable agreement, at the very least restrain the pace at which they are moving, get greater international support for what you are doing and there is no question in my mind you are not going to get support for more muscular action unless you try diplomacy first."

On the nature of North Korean society:

"This is an incredibly closed culture, incredibly closed....it puts Stalin to shame in terms of how closed off it is, how controlled it is. So I don't think collapse is going to happen any time soon and in the meantime they will have many nuclear weapons."