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The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs Paperback – March 27, 2007

4.1 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Secretary of State under President Clinton and a devout Catholic (with recently discovered Jewish roots), Albright (Madam Secretary) is especially qualified to tackle the thorny subject of the role of faith in international relations. In a remarkably accessible, even breezy style, she looks at these issues in light of recent history both abroad and at home, from the religious fundamentalism that led to the ouster of the shah of Iran to the invasion of Iraq and American hope that a political culture can emerge there that integrates democracy and Islam. But Albright also looks critically at President Bush, an evangelical Christian who invokes God in the name of fighting "evil." In this ambitious, thoughtful, and wide-ranging treatment, Albright deftly balances the pragmatic need to confront religious-based unrest and the idealistic need to temper one's own personal beliefs in the public realm. While fully acknowledging the threat al- Qaeda poses, Albright rejects the notion that a "clash of civilizations" is in progress and wisely calls for care and nuance in how America approaches international confrontations that are tinged with religion. (May 2)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Albright brings considerable experience as a former diplomat, history professor, and child of Czech immigrants to an absorbing look at the intersection of world politics and world religion. With a sweeping view of U.S. historical involvement in the fight against communism and for human rights, as well as some of our more morally dubious pursuits, Albright critiques U.S. foreign policy and our notions of manifest destiny. From personal experiences, Albright notes the importance of religion in shaping world events, including the influence of Pope John Paul II on Poland and the world. As an admitted hybrid between realist and idealist, Albright suggests that politics and the values of faith can--and should--be joined in the interest of peace. But unfettered reliance on religious beliefs to guide politics is a formula for continued conflict. While President Bush portrays the U.S. anti-terrorism campaign as one aimed against evil, Albright notes that Osama bin Laden also "portrays a clash between the good defender and the evil aggressor, but with roles reversed." Albright details the historic conflicts between Christianity and Islam, between Israelis and Muslims, and conflicts among Muslims, all based on interpretations of religious texts. She believes the Christian Right has contributed to the complexity of foreign diplomacy with encroachment into areas that had formerly been personal matters--from contraception to sexual orientation--that are now matters of international interest. A thoughtful and absorbing look at religion and world politics for readers of all religious and political persuasions. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (March 27, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060892587
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060892586
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #381,980 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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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