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. 139

On Politics
Looking back at the Arab Spring, it’s interesting to notice a different US position in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Libya, and Bahrain. Is that because of national values or national interests?

I about choked to death last week when I watched John McCain explain how the most important factor for selecting a potential vice president is the VP’s ability to step into the position if necessary. At the time in 2008, both my wife and I were undecided voters leaning to McCain, and it did not take long for his decision to lose our votes.

Gov. Romney says he deserves credit for the recent success of US Automakers. Really? On well, he will flip on the issue if the companies start to falter.

President Obama’s statement about gay marriage caught me a bit off guard. I’m not sure it will get him votes, but he may lose votes from independents over 50. No, it wasn’t a diverse from the economy. So I figure his reason must be campaign money.

As many rush to fix on VP Biden’s statement about supporting gay marriage as a key reason President Obama made his statement, I say the administration planned the Biden’s statement to gauge the next step.

As if we don’t have enough of these types on Capitol Hill, Indiana Republicans voters nominate (through their primary process) a self-proclaimed, non-compromising obstructionist. Good news is, there still is a general election.

On Headlines from The Onion
Half Sleeve of Oreos Lost in Home Fire
Man Confidently Strides through Beaded Curtain without Parting
Paula Dean Sponsors .05K Walk for Diabetes Research
Loophole in Curse Lets Archeologist Off the Hook
Nation’s Moms Invent New Recreational Drug to Worry About
Lone Wolf Gets Rookie Partner

Interesting Reads
A short read about modern genetics
Emergency Rooms and the Health Care Gap
Water: A Wonder of the Universe
Unemployment Rates and Government Cuts
Vampires, Spirituality, and Danish Teens

On Potpourri
I claim not to write fiction. Any idea why I wrote the following last Saturday morning?

It was a normal Wednesday night on Trinniberg. On one side of town, Hanson went to the well one more time to give a rousing sermon about Alpha and the liaison. At the same time at El Padrino’s Café, Bodemeister, a local gemologist, finished discussing with Dullahan his perspective why daddy nose best – so it was time for him to finish this monthly short story for the Union Rags – “After eating a daddy longlegs, and being the optimizer that he is, the sabercat responded to Indy, his bartending friend, “Before I take charge Indy, I’ll take another.”

At this weekend’s services is our final handbell ring of the season. One of the two we play includes the “singing bell” technique, which involves moving a one-inch dowel rod about the rim of various big bells. (Explanation is similar to moving a finger along the rim of a wine glass to create a “singing glass”. Click here for the video of song with the technique.

My recent post about zinfandel received spam from Zinfandel Burger with a URL about custom sexual aids.

I have a classic cartoon post planned for tomorrow. Hint: It’s a Looney Tunes character.

To help with readers with the the email avalanche from WordPress, I disabled the following comments by email option.

Because we traveled to the microscopic world this week, let’s travel into the weekend with a smile of place to visit. Have a good weekend everyone. In the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.