Democrats & Liberals Archives

Book Review: The Mighty and the Almighty

Madeleine Albright, President Bill Clinton’s secretary of state, wrote this illuminating book about the place of religion and of democracy in both domestic and foreign affairs. She believes that we have not recognized the big role religion plays among our citizenry, and especially not in our negotiations with other countries. Studying how different people see the almighty is crucial to the development of a successful foreign policy.

Albright believes in these specific items about the separation of church and state:

  • No religious test for public office
  • No established state religion
  • No abridgement of right to religious liberty
However, she says, it does not mean we must remove God from all aspects of our civic life. Each of us can worship (or not worship) God in his or her own way. Our activities can be - and no doubt are - influenced by our religious beliefs. However, we must keep religion out of the public domain.

Nevertheless, religion is extremely important to many people and must be considered in any diplomatic activity. Too often in the past, according to Albright, we have stripped all issues of their religious aspects before deciding how to negotiate. She says this makes no sense:

"If diplomacy is the art of persuading others to act as we would wish, effective foreign policy requires that we comprehend why others act as they do."

Much of what foreign leaders do depends on how they and their constituents view their religion. In the Arab world, the religion is Islam. This means we must get to know Islam thoroughly. To help us along, Albright has a chapter about Islam. It's very good and shows the reader that Islam is not very different from Christianity, nor from Judaism. All these religions favor forgiveness and reconciliation.

Sure, there are belligerent statements about non-Muslims in the Koran. But, she points out, there are plenty such aggressive statements in the Bible. The general thrust of all these religious texts is "love they neighbor as thyself."

Spreading democracy is a worthwhile goal, Albright says, but we must be careful how we do it. Democracy can not be imposed. It must grow from within. In each country it will take a different shape. We can't invade a country like Iraq and make it a democracy. As you can see we made a mess out of it. There is no way we can achieve "victory." However, we must see that the country does not fall apart.

In other Arab countries, we should encourage democracy, even though we know that Islamists would probably win. Albright feels that when Islamists get invoved in the give-and-take of democratic activities, their viewpoints will soften and become more moderate. She says:

"The inclusion of Islamist parties will give them a stake in the democratic process, just as their exclusion would give them a stake in trying to destroy the process."

Albright believes we must negotiate with everyone. To negotiate successfully with leaders of Muslim countries, she likes to quote the approach of President Bill Clinton:

"If you're dealing with people who profess faith, they must believe there is a Creator; if they believe that, they should agree that God created everyone. This takes them from the specific to the universal. Once they acknowledge their common humanity, it becomes harder to kill each other; then compromise becomes easier because they've admitted that they are dealing with people like themselves, not some kind of Satan or subhuman species."

Another quotation from Bill Clinton on the subject of talking with people who are sure they found the true faith:

"It is OK to say you believe your religion is true, even truer than other faiths, but not that you are in possession in this life of a hundred percent of the truth.... We'd be a lot better off with an honest dialogue about our differences provided everyone 'fesses up about not knowing the absolute truth."

This is a great book. It presents in a very clear manner Madeleine Albright's view of how to talk to people whose faiths are different from yours, how to counteract jihadi propaganda, and how to spread democracy around the world in a way that leads to peace. You will benefit from reading it.

Posted by Paul Siegel at July 18, 2006 6:12 PM
Comment #168677

this may be nitpicking, but why do liberals refer to “president bill clinton” vs george bush.

It should be Former President Bill Clinton and President George Bush.

As far as the Albright thing, I havent read her book, but I like the quote Paul highlights. Nothing wrong with “knowing your enemy” as long as the end result isn’t to appease them.

Sure, there are belligerent statements about non-Muslims in the Koran. But, she points out, there are plenty such aggressive statements in the Bible. The general thrust of all these religious texts is “love they neighbor as thyself.”

Albright isnt being honest to the situation here - you dont see any christians advocating the extermination of non believers (crusades arguments need not bother - that was several hundred years ago, and if you compare that to muslims today, then you are saying that muslims havent advanced past middle age thinking…if that were the case then we might as well go back to believing the world is flat and leeches are an acceptable medical treatment).

That is all for now..

Posted by: b0mbay at July 18, 2006 7:27 PM
Comment #168678

Thanks for the great post Paul. I particularly like Ms. Albright’s statement that democracy can’t be imposed. The same thing must be said about religion. I am a Christian, let there be no doubt about it, but we have been given free will and a forced faith will not work.

Posted by: mark at July 18, 2006 7:28 PM
Comment #168679

“It’s very good and shows the reader that Islam is not very different from Christianity, nor from Judaism. All these religions favor forgiveness and reconciliation.”

Too bad she left out the part about them wanting to wipe Israel off the map. I don’t recall seeing Christians or Jews filming the throat slitting of innocent victims. I also don’t see Christians and Jews treating women like property, as they are in the Muslim world.

“Albright believes we must negotiate with everyone.”

I assume she includes terrorist organizations when she says everyone. In my mind that just encourages terrorists to act bad so they can shake us down.

No I haven’t read the book but based on Paul’s summary of her position I can conclude that I don’t want Ms Albright involved in US foreign policy.

Posted by: Carnak at July 18, 2006 7:34 PM
Comment #168696
Albright isnt being honest to the situation here - you dont see any christians advocating the extermination of non believers (crusades arguments need not bother - that was several hundred years ago…
ok, so orthodox christian Serbs organising the systematic rape of muslim Bosnian women, mass execution of the men and snipper attacks on the civilians of Sarajevo, as well as restarting their centuries-old conflict with catholic Croatians… that was what, a misunderstanding? Or it was ethnic and not religious, right? That would make it more comfortable for you I guess. It wouldn’t be a surprise if this comes as new news to you, this sort of thing does tend to get a good whitewash through the sort of media you’d be watching. Plus the criminals of these actions are almost all still hiding in amongst that section of Serbian society that STILL support them. Let’s not forget fringe white supremacists groups that like to have flags with swastikas inside a cross - but of course ‘they aren’t true christians’. Please, I think Albright’s basic point is you treat all people with the same standard, not one more lenient for your buddies and a one-strike and you’re out for those that don’t look like you.

Does Islam need to be more progressive? Yes, it does. Make an effort to look past the nutcases, and you’ll see that the conservatives are too strong for the liberals in that religion and that is one of the important changes that need to take place. The longer you force your double standards on them though, the harder it remains for change to take place. Surely you can recognise that others hold their faith as dear to them as you do your’s for yourself. Understanding that point, rather than sterotyping all muslims with one brush in the same way that jews used to be subjected to not so long ago, is the important thing to understand.

Posted by: loki at July 18, 2006 9:00 PM
Comment #168698

loki makes a good point. When fundimentalists are in power, and their is little or no room for compromise or dissent, freedom suffers and bad things happen.

Posted by: mark at July 18, 2006 9:11 PM
Comment #168715

>>Does Islam need to be more progressive? Yes, it does.


Yes. Now ask it this way…

Does Christianity need to be more progressive? Yes…

Does Judism need to be more progressive? Yes…

Does Budhism need to be more progressive? Not necessarily…

Do Athiests need to be more progressive? Nope…


Posted by: Marysdude at July 18, 2006 10:24 PM
Comment #168739

Stick with politics as medicine is not your strong suit, Leeches are in fact a very effective medical treatment and used very regularly this day and age.

Posted by: Michael at July 19, 2006 12:38 AM
Comment #168740

-bombay-We do still use Leeches in medicine, especially in plastic surgery, we also use Maggots for gangrene treatment.

Posted by: DAVID at July 19, 2006 12:41 AM
Comment #168742

—Michael—Sorry about the double post, yours wasn’t there when I started mine.

Posted by: DAVID at July 19, 2006 12:48 AM
Comment #168757

and nits can be very useful in picking to avoid talking about a serious subject.

The sad thing is that Madeline Albright and President Bill Clinton said the same things BEFORE the invasion of Iraq in an attempt to dissaude him. The Iraqis weren’t then and aren’t now a culture suitable for democracy. Cultures and Societies that ARE suitable for democracy, throw off the yoke of oppression, violently if neccessary and grab democracy any way they can get it. It doesn’t have to be shoved down their throats.

Posted by: Thom Houts at July 19, 2006 3:02 AM
Comment #168802

“It’s very good and shows the reader that Islam is not very different from Christianity, nor from Judaism. All these religions favor forgiveness and reconciliation.”

Islam is very different from Judaism and Christianity. They do preach forgiveness and reconciliation. Islam preaches intolerence, hate, violence and killing.
I recommend reading “The Sword of the Prophet” by Serge Trifkovic.

Posted by: traveller at July 19, 2006 11:15 AM
Comment #168805

Now traveller, that wasn’t very PC of you.
Don’t you know Christians, who don’t worship according to the lefts guidelines, are the REAL terrorists? Haven’t you heard of the “theocracy” they are trying to set up here in the US?

Albright and the left would do well to give the same understanding and respect, that they demand for muslims and islam, to the right wing Christians they so despise and fear.

Posted by: kctim at July 19, 2006 11:28 AM
Comment #168817

traveller and kctim-

You’re both missing the point. Islam doesn’t advocate the destruction of Israel, Islamic extremists do. Throughout history, when governments are linked with religion, the worst attrocities in history occur. That is because religion can be used by ambitious men to influence people to do things they wouldn’t normally do.

Posted by: David S at July 19, 2006 12:01 PM
Comment #168824

David S
Not missing any point here. Islam is a religion and it is currently being used by ambitious muslims to do harm.
“Non-violent” muslims are doing nothing to stop this and refuse to police their own.
Their evil and violent reputation is well deserved.

The time for respecting and understanding them is over. They laughed at us, continued to kill and rejoiced in the deaths done in the name of their religion and god.
Its time for THEM to understand and respect US for once.

Posted by: kctim at July 19, 2006 12:26 PM
Comment #168836

You know what kills me about this is that noone really knows where it says there should be seperation of church and state. That is NOT in the constitution. That is a court descion. Therefore it is not what founding fathers (whom where 98% christian) believed either.
Article I of the constitution states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…
It simply says the congress shall make no law of saying the US is a Christian nation or a Jewish nation. It also states we shall not tell someone they cannot believe what they want. It does not say there should be a division of church and state.

Posted by: Anthony at July 19, 2006 1:19 PM
Comment #168839

David S,

You are missing the point. When is the last time you spent any time with the Quran?

While the Quran is not specfic about Israel it is specific about what it thinks of Jews, Christians, pagans, polytheists, non-believers, etc. If they do not submit to Allah, they are deserving of death. Witness Daniel Pearl; murdered by Muslims who take the Quran to heart and killed for being a Jew, nothing more, nothing less. Don’t tell us he was murdered because he was an American, a journalist, a tourist. They didn’t care until he confessed he was a Jew. And then they took his head off.

Your logic is flawed and understanding is a little shallow.

Posted by: ILIndCon at July 19, 2006 1:26 PM
Comment #168841


What do you mean that all the religions you note need to be more “progressive”?

Posted by: ILIndCon at July 19, 2006 1:29 PM
Comment #168937

One thing to note in Middle Eastern affairs is that a fundamentalist portion of the Arab and Persian population see things from a “I’m completely right” or “I’m completely wrong” perspective. This makes it very difficult for them to find acceptable compromise on situations that arise wtih their neighbors.

Posted by: David at July 19, 2006 6:04 PM
Comment #168938


While this is not so much about Madeline Albright I believe it’s at least partially representativwe of her views and those of the President she served under. Throughout many American Presidential Administrations it’s basically been a “given” fact that the followers of radical Islam present a problem to the “West”. There is, I think, no argument about that.

The problem is how to deal with the situation. Prior to 9-11 American diplomacy seemed to focus on “defusing the bomb” that the Middle East really is and IMO wisely so. Then comes 9-11-2001, well what can I say? We found ourselves in need of greater security and we also needed to target the perps so we could reduce the liklihood of this ever happening again.

That’s all just history and common sense, but then enter the G. W. Bush Factor:

(1) Bin Laden’s of little importance.

(2) Saddam must be removed from power.

(3) Democracy in Iraq will bring us peace.

(4) Repeat and rinse.

(5) Rummy, Cheney, Rummy, Rummy, Condi, Condi, Cheney, Rummy, Rummy, Condi, Condi…………

Please, please, let’s get someone involved that still know’s what diplomacy is.


Posted by: KansasDem at July 19, 2006 6:07 PM
Comment #168964

As a Christian, I know we aren’t all raving loonies, but how do you think the Left Behind crowd looks to Muslims? How do all those people saying that the violence Israel is inflict is the will of God?

Real Islam has a long track record of tolerance. It’s only the recent anti-colonialist spasms that have really got Islam turned violent. We dislocated them like a bad shoulder from the world they were use too, and then left them to sort things out for themselves, with tyrants we supported and sometimes planted ourselves.

Are we, the modern day folks responsible for that? No. But we ought to be a bit less intent on making this a good against evil battle, because the evil can reside in us as easily as in them. If we don’t watch out, we’ll screw things up worse, and that sin WILL be on our heads.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at July 19, 2006 7:45 PM
Comment #169051

Good article, Paul. Albright was absolutely one of the best Sec States ever. I just picked up the book and look forward to reading it. I really enjoyed her last book, “Madam Secretary”, as well.

One of the best things she did was to set up the Community of Democracies as an all-democratic alternative to the UN. Too bad President Bush is ignoring it the same way he ignored warnings about bin Laden.

BTW, whatever happened to bin Laden? Judging by the number of messages he’s sent out recently you’d think he had his own cable channel. How come he’s not dead?

Posted by: American Pundit at July 20, 2006 2:01 AM
Comment #169057

—Anthony— The answer you seek is in the First Amendment.

Posted by: DAVID at July 20, 2006 2:38 AM
Comment #169443


Anthony is partialy right, partially wrong. You however, are wrong.
Anthony did post the exact text of the 1st amendment. the Seperation of Church & State is not found in the Constitution, it is a product of Court Decisions.

However, some of the Founding Fathers did advocate the Seperation, namely George W.

Washington that is.

Everyone: Libs and Conservatives, please make sure you do your research before you post. It makes you look like a dumba$$ when you don’t.

Posted by: flodigary at July 21, 2006 9:22 AM
Comment #169670

—-flodigary—-Thomas Jefferson sent the famous letter about a wall of separation of church an
state to a Baptist Church School— SORRY NOT
GEORGE WASHINGTON—to see the the whole facts check
—Stephen Daugherty/ posted 7/8/06 @8:12pm

Posted by: DAVID at July 22, 2006 2:43 AM
Comment #169675

—I won’t be an attack troll, but any one interested
in the Establishment Clause regarding separation of church an state of the first Amendment can find
about 14500 answers just by clicking Google.
That is if you really want to know, because
some nut might call you a @!#@ an like the above posts may spin a good one on you. Besides ,,it
sorta takes you back to good old days of
Government class!

Posted by: DAVID at July 22, 2006 4:37 AM
Comment #173572

I wonder about this statement by former President Clinton on Indian hindus killing Sikhs during his visit to India in 2000

“In his introduction to former U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright’s recent book, The Mighty and the Almighty, Mr. Clinton writes: “During my visit to India in 2000, some Hindu militants decided to vent their outrage by murdering 38 Sikhs in cold blood … If I hadn’t made the trip, the victims would probably still be alive.”…

with best

Posted by: yeezevee at August 5, 2006 10:53 PM
Comment #253951

Statement by President Clinton on Hindu militatnts killing 38 sikhs is absolutely not true. Check state department or other government records (both US and Indian). This incidence happened in Jammu & Kashmir state of India . It is Musilim militatnts that killed 38 sikhs. I request Professor Ablbright to retract this statement.

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