On a Book Review: The Mighty and The Almighty

One afternoon while in Alabama, we went to the public library. I knew the book I wanted wasn’t available, so I browsed. When I saw this one, I knew this was for me – The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs by Madeleine Albright.

This book by the former US Secretary of State focuses on the success and failures of US foreign policy in the Middle East after the horrific events of 9-11 – but with a definite eye on religion. We know presidents intertwine politics, religion, and policy, but what about if they proclaim a special relationship with God that is derived from God? What are the religious forces acting on the political?

The Middle East is the home to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Three faiths descending from the same genealogical tree – three faiths claiming the importance of obedience – three faiths with a religious fundamentalism driving the narrative while not representing the majority in that faith.

Published by Harper-Collins in 2006, The Mighty and the Almighty divides its 352 pages into three sections (plus endnotes, bibliography, acknowledgements, and an index):

  • Part I (seven chapters) examines “America’s position in the world and the role played by religion and morality in shaping US foreign policy.”
  • Part II (ten chapters) focuses “On relationships between Islamic communities and the West” with dedicated chapters on Iraq, Al Qaeda, Saudi Arabia, Jihads, Israel & Palestine, and more.
  • Part III (two chapters) are “Personal thoughts about how US foreign policy and religion can intersect.”

Two particular chapters caught my attention because they can stand alone as important reading for anyone. Chapter 4 focuses on Madeleine Albright’s personal belief system. It’s very personal, edgy, and sprinkled with quotes from leading authorities supporting her point. There were times I even laughed. One doesn’t have to agree with her on every aspect, but this chapter helps readers understand her.

The second, Chapter 8, should be required reading for every non-Muslim because it provides a condensed view of Islam – a religion that most people know very little about, therefore hold many misconceptions that reside at the core of decisiveness.

The 2006 publishing date was during the George W Bush presidency, The Mighty and the Almighty offers readers a chance to look back at the early years of the post 9-11 world through the lens of what we know today. Throughout the text, Albright offers personal insights from a diplomatic perspective, as well as supportive quotes by prominent people.

There are times when she is critical of the Bush administration – so I’m confident this bothers certain partisan readers who also won’t notice the times when she praises President Bush. Christian conservatives won’t like this book because it does not reinforce their worldview and Middle East perspective.

While well-written, absorbing, and easy to read, The Mighty and the Almighty is insightful about the complexities of foreign policy. After all, foreign policy diplomats have a toolbox of available tools to use such as diplomacy, economic incentives or sanctions, law enforcement, military action or support, and using intelligence to gain more information about the situation.

Anyone looking for excruciating detail will be disappointed because Albright wrote this book for the general public – not experienced, well-informed diplomats. How much detail can a 14-15 page chapter about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict deliver? However, for most of us, there is enough information woven together that explains the situation’s complexity.

Perhaps her dedication says it all: “Dedicated to those in every nation and faith who defend liberty, build peace, dispel ignorance, fight poverty, and seek justice.”

To Madeleine Albright and her book – Thumbs up to The Mighty and the Almighty.

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49 thoughts on “On a Book Review: The Mighty and The Almighty

  1. just the title alone would make me not feel confident to understand this book.
    thanks for sharing the gist of it and letting us know its an understandable book for simple folks like me.
    👍😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • KRC,
      Welcome first-time commenter. I admit that the title is wordy and can be daunting. However, I will say the reading is easy but the subject is complicated. If you read it, let me know. 🙂 Hope you stop by again.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Your review has made me curious about this book. In this time, when we are being bombarded daily with intense and often angry politics, (something I personally am not usually into), it sounds like an interesting and possibly important read.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Omordah,
      Welcome first-time commenter to my little corner of the world. The fact that this post increased your curiosity makes me smile. Although we are in a time of angry politics, this book will anger opponents. Then again, want doesn’t. However, it is an interesting read over a complicated topic. If you read it, let me know your thoughts.

      Like

  3. Clearly, Albright is an intelligent person with a firm moral core, thoughtful, empathetic and experienced. She won her position as Secretary of State the old-fashioned way through competency and hard work. How remarkable is it then that the same political system also produced a Trump administration that is filled with the antitheses of an Albright? Old aphorism: “A single bad apple can spoil the barrel.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • SecurityDog,
      Welcome first-time commenter. Seems odds are that you know more about this topic than I, so if you read this book, let me know what you think. I’ve tried to stay away from ideology, but it also comes with the territory. Hope you drop by again.

      Like

  4. Thanks for this excellent review. I have read several of her books but missed this one and will put it on my list. Her latest book, “Fascism,” is very good also. She is a tough, intelligent lady who still has something to say.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jo,
      Well now, because you read others, this one will also engage you. Looking forward to your thoughts about “Fascism” because if all goes as planned, my next Tuesday evening post will be able that book!

      Like

  5. Very interesting review. Having lived in both the west and the middle east for an equal amount of time in my life, there are a lot of things about the middle east and their religion that the west is completely ignorant of, or chooses to make assumptions about. Combining this with the ways in which religion has shaped US foreign policy – of which most people are very critical – is insightful. It is stunning to me how a selected elite can have a massive influence on the masses, to even dictate their way of life. I am marking this book as ‘to-read’ – when I get the time, hah. I enjoyed your summary, and specially liked how you highlighted the two most important chapters.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Lenora,
      You perspective is unquestionably unique, so thanks for sharing. I agree that many of us in the west have many misconceptions about the Middle East, its people, the situation, Islam, and more. (Hence, why I emphasized the Islam chapter.) However, I will also counter that because I am confident that many in the Middle East have numerous misconceptions about the West – especially the United States.

      Liked by 2 people

      • You’re absolutely right, Frank, there are a lot of misconceptions in the Middle East about the United States – mostly borne of war to be honest! But I did do my fair share of explaining that the people are not like that. That’s why it’s important to meet people from different backgrounds and get on a personal level with them – It’s anonymity that breeds hatred a lot of the time.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. it’s funny, because I saw this too on my lib’s shelf and passed it by. Hmm. I’m not political by nature. Would rather read about John Qunicy Adams than the Trumpet and his hairy/merry cabinet. But she is an interesting woman that I wish would just stop acting like a man. That’s my fashionista talkin’ Frank. Can’t a woman be powerful and waxed at the same time? She’s very manly to me. Just stopped by for a visit.

    A thin girl’s 2 cents Sorryless claims is, though slowly, going up in value. So many it’s 3 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  7. PS As far as praising Pres. Bush…see, he’s not looking too bad these days with the Trumpet blaring from the Oval. I never believe anything he does, even if it looks like the right thing. He’s about as sincere as an Avon Lady.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Absolutely love Ms. Albright. Her teen years were spent in Denver and she often returns to the Mile High City. She was sitting across from me and a couple of friends a couple of years ago having dinner with a young woman, presumably a granddaughter. Always a class act.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Wow! I’m currently reading Albright’s “Fascism,” and I would say I’m enjoying it, but honestly, it is chilling. I wasn’t familiar with the title you’re highlighting here, but it falls well within my interests, and I’m going to put a hold on it from my library. Thank you for your review, Frank. I think I’ve read all the books you’ve previously highlighted, unless something slipped by me. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Debra,
      Always good to hear when my reviews gets someone interested in a book. Did you read Prague Winter? Thumbs up, but I haven’t read Madam Secretary. Because you mentioned Fascism, heads up – that review is scheduled for Tuesday evening. 🙂

      Like

  10. Thanks for a book to add to my list. I love when you keep exploring the nexus of science, nature, politics and religion–because you share your readings and musings, so I can reflect as well.

    Like

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