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60 of 67 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pragmatism
I found this to be an admirable book, although not quite a five-star one.

Albright's contention that religion is an unavoidable factor in world affairs is doubtlessly the correct stance for a realistic individual to take. She grasps the concept that we are in a world where the truths of even the very recent past are suddenly anachronistic. She also knows all...
Published on May 9, 2006 by Dai-keag-ity

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24 of 31 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A missed opportunity
I was deeply disappointed in this book, perhaps because I have been a long time admirer of Madeleine Albright, so I expected her analysis to be much more rigorous and intense. I've seen Madeleine on French tv, speaking in fluent French, which was quite impressive to me. I have also admired her tremendous accomplishments as our former UN ambassador, Secretary of State,...
Published on May 25, 2006 by Globe Trotter


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60 of 67 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pragmatism, May 9, 2006
By 
I found this to be an admirable book, although not quite a five-star one.

Albright's contention that religion is an unavoidable factor in world affairs is doubtlessly the correct stance for a realistic individual to take. She grasps the concept that we are in a world where the truths of even the very recent past are suddenly anachronistic. She also knows all too well that things are not going to change back anytime soon and might indeed grow very much worse unless all that can be done is done to maximize American efficiency in strategy-making.

In this book, Albright levels criticism where she sees it due (and she does not lay all of it at the doorstep of the George W. Bush administration) and suggests that instead of portraying global religious-based conflicts in terms of good v. evil, right v. wrong, American leadership might do a better job of seeking to comprehend the epistemological motivations of those outside of US hegemony. Albright, Secretary of State thru much of the 1990's suggests that policy-makers should do a better job of considering the underlying foundations of theological hostilities, uncover what actions might alleviate the stresses that presently exacerbate conflicts, and most of all discover what exists within the religions in question that might be used to improve the problems that face human society.

Albright also takes on---as President Jimmy Carter and others have in recent books---the undeniably powerful presence of the so-called religious right here in the United States. She challenges the notion that it is only the Republican Party which holds the authority to trumpet its spirituality, and also sticks her neck out in foreshadowing the harm an American-based theocracy might cause---and has caused---both to Americans and citizens of the greater world.

Albright is an intelligent woman who has a capacity to think on a globally-encompassing scale, which is an increasingly rare ability in this twenty-first century. She sets out to "escape party lines" and speak with the pragmatism of neutrality buoyed by conscience, and in so doing, she elevates herself beyond the limitations of those who are merely politicians, and becomes that variety of entity tragically rare today: a statesperson.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating look into the role of religion in world affairs, July 17, 2006
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Bookreporter (New York, New York) - See all my reviews
Madeleine Albright brings a wide-angle lens to her discussion of the place of religion in world affairs. Born into a Catholic family, she later became an Episcopalian, only to discover late in life that her family lineage was Jewish. Further, as Secretary of State she spent much time and energy dealing with highly flammable issues in the Muslim world.

This book is a kind of sequel and amplification to her 2003 memoir MADAME SECRETARY. Albright is very good at filling in the historical context of such matters as the Arab-Israeli conflict, the complex divisions between Shiite and Sunni Muslims, Turkey's slow but sure evolution toward democracy and the bewildering tribal politics that seems to stifle progressive impulses in Africa.

What she adds from her own perspective is the religious angle, and much of what she says amounts to obvious truths that no sensible person could disagree with: No nation should claim to be in sole and complete possession of God's will or the ultimate religious truth; diplomats should make themselves familiar with the language and religion of countries they are dealing with; diplomacy should never be a mere mask for religious proselytizing; the U.S. should remain strictly neutral toward the sectarian religious strife in Iraq.

She also ponders such questions as what exactly constitutes a "just" war (in her formulation, the Iraq war fails the test) and whether morality or simple self-interest is the better reason for resorting to force.

Beware, she tells us, of "faith-based strife." Her warnings about this echo to some extent what Eric Hoffer wrote over half a century ago in THE TRUE BELIEVER, his wise book about the danger of any and all brands of fanaticism.

It will be no surprise that Albright is harshly critical of George W. Bush. The decision to invade Iraq and its messy aftermath, she fears, may rank "among the worst foreign policy disasters in U.S. history." She faults Bush also for his triumphalist rhetoric and disregard of any advice that runs counter to his own ideas.

She is concerned that the Arab-Israeli peace process may be "truly dead" and that the escalating battles between Shiite and Sunni Muslims might actually result in a nuclear arms race between them. She makes a persuasive case for admitting Turkey to the European Union and sees a likelihood that Iran may become the dominant power in the Persian Gulf. Instead of facing off against Muslim nations, she says the U.S. should seek to understand them better and take advantage of the many things we have in common with them. She sees some hope in the Alexandria Declaration of 2002, which affirmed that peace cannot be achieved without "reconciliations between religions and cultures." She sums herself up as "an optimist who worries a lot."

This book was written with Bill Woodward, who also collaborated on MADAME SECRETARY. It comes across as earnest, thoughtful and well-intentioned. Inevitably there is a partisan slant to Albright's own views, but she draws on her own government service to back them up. She has been around, talked to all sorts of people whose views matter and thought deeply about what they told her.

As to how religion can help sort out all these dilemmas, she characteristically has no firm answer. As I read, I kept remembering what my good Catholic mother often said: "You know, organized religion has an awful lot to answer for."

--- Reviewed by Robert Finn (Robertfinn@aol.com)
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112 of 150 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Balance is the best policy, May 3, 2006
The former UN Ambassador and Secretary of State sees a place for personal faith among public officials. She believes personal faith has helped herself and many other people make very difficult decisions which impacted the world.

However, she doesn't use that personal faith as a public battering ram to attack 'others' and their perspectives. Having grown up under state oppression, she knows first-hand what totalitarian states where everybody must worship one way...etc really are like. Albright did not and still does not attempt to turn her own faith into a partisan and one-dimensional caricature for political benefit.

Her public faith is a civil belief in the state to advocate for the less fortunate. She understands democracy doesn't work when only talked about in the abstract. It has to be practiced.

Contrasting with the current administration, she sees the world as complex and multifaceted--there are no clear-cut good and evil sides in a religious conflict. Current American policy prolongs the bloodshed by not adopting a more nuanced analysis.
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24 of 31 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A missed opportunity, May 25, 2006
I was deeply disappointed in this book, perhaps because I have been a long time admirer of Madeleine Albright, so I expected her analysis to be much more rigorous and intense. I've seen Madeleine on French tv, speaking in fluent French, which was quite impressive to me. I have also admired her tremendous accomplishments as our former UN ambassador, Secretary of State, and Foreign Affairs scholar at Georgetown University. Unfortunately for us, despite all her experiences in diplomacy and policy making, she never fully makes clear what her normative position is on the role of religion in politics, policy, and diplomacy. On the one hand, she states, "If I were secretary of state today, I would not seek to mediate disputes on the basis of religious principles...." However, in the same paragraph, she goes on to emphasize the importance of "integrating religious principles into our efforts at diplomacy" and advocates for faith-based diplomacy. For this reader, the narrative seems to be an attempt to co-opt the religious right by sending the message that liberals are also sensitive to religion, while reassuring liberals that church and state should remain strongly separated. It seems clear that the author has tried to take a unifying stand, but has failed to reconcile these two opposing points of view throughout the pages of the book, making this particular effort a missed opportunity to influence public opinion on this weighty topic. Where this book really shines is in its review of political history as it relates to current events along with many insightful anecdotes from her time spent in public life in the Clinton and Carter administrations. It is very encouraging to read about humanitarian problems throughout the world from a feminist point of view, and is very successful at focusing the spotlight of national attention on the horrors of war committed in the name of religion.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Better exploration of the mighty than the almighty, May 18, 2010
By 
Kurt Conner (South Hadley, MA USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs (Paperback)
Secretary Albright's book is significantly better when she talks about the Mighty than when she tries to describe the role of the Almighty. Many of her chapters have insightful analyses of the current states of various countries around the world. I think Secretary Albright thinks she's adding valuable insight by pointing to religious angles for various conflicts, but when she drops that and stays in her comfort zone of listing major characters and events, she shows an impressive ability to synthesize vast amounts of information. This book is most valuable for that aspect, even if it is probably a bit dated today. Additionally, Secretary Albright has some direct and unapologetic critiques of President Bush's foreign policy decisions with which she disagrees, but she is impeccably fair and professional, and the book benefits from her maturity.

When it comes to the Almighty, though, Secretary Albright just seems out of her element. She writes briefly about a discovery, late in life, that her heritage is Jewish, and she shares a few details about growing up as a cultural Roman Catholic, but she never convincingly presents herself as a person of faith. Quite the opposite, actually: she seems to identify with and address this book to career diplomats who have believed that, since religion has no personal meaning for their daily lives, then they don't need to know anything about it when interacting with people from other cultures. Her point is a terrific one, as she recommends that professionals learn about the major religions of the areas where they will be working, including a suggestion that more Arabic-speakers need to apply for positions in African countries with significant Muslim populations. As a spiritual guide herself, though, Secretary Albright just lacks either the experience or the personal convictions to influence someone other than a functionally atheist career diplomat. I scribbled an excited note in the margin of her Afterword, when she notes that a minister who read an earlier edition of the book chided her for strongly suggesting that doubt is a virtue and certainty a vice. To her credit, Secretary Albright spells out the strongest points of the minister's position, even though her own response is a bit lackluster and clumsy.

This book may be helpful to students of international studies at secular universities. It may be useful to diplomats who have never considered taking someone else's religion seriously. It is surely required reading for fans of Madeleine Albright. But for everyone else, I just don't think it's worth much time, and I am thankful that I found my copy on the bargain rack.
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70 of 97 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally, some common sense!, May 7, 2006
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The Religious Right had co-opted the religioius movement, so to speak, hauling God over to their side, and claiming any action that the country would find "controversial" was ordained by the Almighty. Recently, this has been in dispute, with a plethora of books from a wide variety of sources, from Jim Wallis' masterpiece "God's Politics" to Phillip's "American Theocracy". Madeline Albright adds her voice to this resounding chorus in her new book "The Might and the Almighty".

Madeline Albright's new book, "The Might and the Almighty", takes a bow shot across the current Presidential adminstration, with grace and intelligence. Her background and experience lend themselves to her well-thought out and crafted opinions. It's an interesting viewpoint between the state of our country and the religious right, and the current out-of-control state of world affairs.

Albright holds back no opinions, and supports them with well-reasoned thinking. Will Republicans like this book? Not if they are part of the Religious Right. Others will; those who claim to love American and want nothing more than her continued success in this crazy, complicated world. We would do well to listen to Ms. Albright, and heed her lessons.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unique insight, but skimpy and conclusory analysis on some of the most provocative issues, April 20, 2010
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This review is from: The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs (Paperback)
Two subjects that commonly result in heated debates are religion and politics. In The Mighty and the Almighty, Madeleine Albright gives her take on the intersection of the two. No matter what your political disposition, it is enlightening to see a glimpse into the mind of the woman who served as the U.S. Secretary of State from 1997-2001. Because of this experience (among others), Albright is among a select group of people who can write on these two touchy subjects with unique, frontline insight. For that alone (not to mention the anecdotes), this book is a worthwhile read.

That being said, it's important to note that this book has its shortcomings. Those who are expecting a more academic analysis of the issue, buttressed by anecdotes (instead of replaced by them), are left wanting. Albright takes many things for granted that deserve more in-depth examination. For example, consistent with her Catholic upbringing, Albright all but assumes that there most definitely is a God, that most religions ultimately worship the same God, and that religions cause more good than harm. That may all well be true, but in examining conflicts that are all too often rooted in religion, a complete analysis would at least have to address - even if the proposition is ultimately dismissed - the *possibility* that religion is THE problem. Along these lines, it would have made for a much more thought-provoking read if the book had taken the kid gloves off and examined the religious aspects of the subject matter less deferentially (somewhat along the lines of what philosopher Daniel Dennett suggests in his book Breaking the Spell).

As another example of the book's lack of analysis, Albright essentially concludes in a few cursory sentences that it was right to establish the nation of Israel after World War II, essentially because of the harm the Jewish people had suffered. A more complete analysis might have more critically examined whether it was necessary to establish that nation in the Middle East, or why, if the Allied powers deemed it necessary to establish a Jewish state, they couldn't have (for example) bought large contiguous plots of land in the area rather than oust the people who already lived there.

Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinions, and if you aren't looking for anything more than Madeleine Albright's well-qualified opinion, you will not be disappointed with this book. If you're looking for more provocative critical analysis however, it's probably best to look somewhere else.

This Review Copyrighted 2009 by J. Smith
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28 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Voice of Experience Sheds a Sharp, Sensible Light on Religion's Role in Global Conflicts, May 6, 2006
Joining the already weighty bandwagon of critics against the Bush administration, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright takes umbrage at current foreign policy which ignores the role of religious faith in negotiating conflicts in the Middle East. Forever the pragmatist, she shows in her book how religion is inherent to most cross-border conflicts and how it is better to understand other faiths and try to find commonalities than to hope the differences go away. In fact, Albright strongly supports the idea of religious advisors close to the President since elements of religious history that are playing themselves out today affect the way countries behave and how the Muslims see the West. Without this perspective, she believes we continue to work in a vacuum of useless polemics.

Powerful words from Albright but ones she delivers in a sensible but iron-fisted tone. With traditional wartime strategies constantly revealed to be outdated, especially since 9/11, the author provides compelling evidence that religion affects drastically how the battle of ideas is carried forward in the new millennium. She is quick to point out that her former boss Clinton understood the ongoing change quite well when negotiating between the Palestinians and Israelis. Bush, on the other hand, receives her severest criticism as she sees him projecting his own righteousness in launching the Iraq war and oversimplifying the opposing forces as good versus evil. Albright succinctly shows how he, as an evangelical Christian, invokes God as a means to increase the number of military troops in Iraq when in fact he should temper his own personal beliefs in the public realm.

This is not a new way of thinking, but Albright is far more driven toward solutions unlike other administration critics. She pushes for a far more nuanced understanding of Islamism than exists now and especially how idiosyncratic those beliefs are from country to country with some like Turkey, for example, more amenable to our perspective than others. It is laudatory how she delves into the teachings of Islamism and the intertwining history of politics and religion in this country. These sections build the context for her valid arguments, and her experience in the global political arena lends the credence to make this book stand above others in its category. This is a strongly recommended read and along with two other books - Bruce Bartlett's scathing critique of current economic policies, "Impostor" and Kevin Phillips' fulsome analysis of the current administration, "American Theocracy" - a most illuminating triumvirate of current political vagrancies.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy to read book on a deep subject, May 2, 2007
By 
In this day and age of partisanship I found this book to be a refreshing change. I've read some of the reviews and I guess when you are talking religion and politics that you will step on peoples toes. They want you to agree with them and attack the other side. I felt this book walked the line pretty well giving both sides praise and criticism. She is a Democrat after all and may give her side a sleight edge.

The first section of the book speaks mainly to diplomacy and her views as to how it should be done using examples from history. How and why we did things right and why some of the things we did went wrong. It gave me more in site into areas like Vietnam, Bosnia and Kosovo.

The real value of the book begins in the second section with her depth of understanding of foreign policy and Islamic Nations in particular. Madeleine Albright starts out by describing the history and beliefs of the Islamic faith. For those of you who haven't read anything about Islam you may be surprised how close it is to Christianity. She also covers some aspects of what is written in the Quran as well as the difference between Shiites and Sunni beliefs. She also covers how the Kurds fit in all of this. While this is a very deep subject she keeps it interesting and understandable.

To give a better understanding of the Middle-East situation she then covers the area country by country and how the Muslim faith affects each in their decision making. She also mentions the effect of the Muslim faith in Europe and the United States. The book wouldn't be complete without covering Al Qaeda and terrorism and it does a very good job explaining the problem.

If you are looking for a book with all the answers or to agree with one side or the other this isn't the one but if you want an easy to read book to give you a better understanding of some of the problems this is an excellent book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Overview from the trenches, January 5, 2009
This review is from: The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs (Paperback)
Madeleine Albright has been a major player in American foreign policy and in policy debates. Like Brzezinski and Clinton, who drew her into the political realm, she is decidedly centrist. This overview of the role played by religion in world and regional politics is an easy read and offers a quick lesson in the religious differences among Islamic nations and sects. Her discussion and analysis of "just war" and the conflicting claims of conscience and pragmatism that underlie all diplomacy are thoughtful and balanced.

I was surprised at the gentleness of her criticism of the Bush administration. She takes him to task, but accords him far more good intent than has ever been apparent to me. Her suggestion that all future diplomats to Islamic nations ought to have a basic knowledge of the religion and religious history would seem laughably obvious, but for our recent experience with political hack appointees.

Coupled with wider reading, this book is quite useful. A few other books, both fiction and nonfiction, that will broaden a reader's understanding of Islamist government and American foreign policy in the region include Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books,A Thousand Splendid Suns, Crusade: Chronicles of an Unjust War (American Empire Project) and American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21stCentury.
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The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs
The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs by Madeleine Korbel Albright (Paperback - March 27, 2007)
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