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.

Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 334

Cincinnati Zoo image

This is one of the first family pictures of Fiona with her parents (Harry and Bibi). For whatever reason, I see The Simpsons in this photo. Fiona continues to make great progress as well as integrating with her parents. For more photos and information, see these short updates from the Cincinnati Zoo.

Thanks for writers and readers involved with the Footprints Challenge. I appreciated the variety of the 14 stories (to date), which included 3 from newcomers (a pleasant surprise) – although my intent was not to expand my audience. A toast to the Canadian contingent that provided 5 stories. Special thanks to Dale who read and commented on all the stories.

If all goes as planned, a beach walk should return next week.

We recommend the movie Baby Driver. It was fun, fast-paced, and action-packed, and loaded with music accompanying the action.

The Middle East has been an unsettled mess for many years. Here are three articles worth readings: by Marc Ginsberg, by Aaron David Miller, and by the Washington Post.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (RJA-KY) says that (if the Senate bill fails) he will have to work with Democrats to strengthen the health care insurance market. I have two comments: Too damn bad, Mitch … and … No shit, Sherlock.

Yes, gerrymandering of district lines is a problem now, and has always been a problem. Democrats complaining about it forget they are also guilty; and Republicans forget they would also be complaining if the Democrats did the same thing.

I found this statement more than odd when I first heard it and it has stuck with me ever since. “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” (Donald Trump, July 27, 2016)

Got to love this one. President Trump recently described his performance as having done “more in five months than practically any president in history.”

To lead you into this week’s dose of satirical headlines, The Onion explains how to recover from embarrassing situations.

Weekly Headlines from The Onion (combos welcome)
Mariana Trench once again named worst place to raise a child
New iPhone app alerts users to imminent sidewalk collisions with other iPhone users
done more in five months than practically any president in history
Blindfolded taste test participants keep knocking over bottles of soda
Late-arriving guest encouraged to load up on food that has been sitting in sun for past 4 hours

Interesting Reads
European migration with Europe
Contrasting capitalism: Apple and Google
The underwater world of Antarctica
The road of 1000 stories
Big Ben: The bell
(Photos) Weird but amazing bridges

For your weekend entertainment, this is not my favorite mashup of dancing scenes from old movies, but it is a lot of fun – and Justin Timberlake’s Can’t Stop the Feeling fits. Enjoy! In the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.