Does America, as George W. Bush has proclaimed, have a special mission, derived from God, to bring liberty and democracy to the world How much influence does the Christian right have over U.S. foreign policy And how should America deal with violent Islamist extremists
Madeleine Albright, the former secretary of state and bestselling author of Madam Secretary, offers a thoughtful and often surprising look at the role of religion in shaping America ' s approach to the world. Drawing upon her experiences while in office and her own deepest beliefs about morality, the United States, and the present state of world affairs, a woman noted for plain speaking offers her thoughts about the most controversial topics of our time.
In The Mighty and the Almighty, Madeleine Albright examines the profound impact of religion on America ' s view of itself, the effect on U.S. policy of the rise of the Christian right, the Bush administration ' s successes and failures in responding to 9/11, the challenges posed by the war in Iraq, and the importance of understanding Islam. She offers a balanced but, when necessary, devastating analysis of U.S. strategy and condemns those of all faiths who exploit religious fervor to create divisions or enhance their own power.
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March 31, 2007
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Excerpt from The Mighty and the Almighty by Madeleine Albright
The Mighty and the Almighty
I had watched previous inaugural addresses, but the first one I truly took in was John Kennedy's in 1961. My brother John, who was in junior high school, played the trumpet in the Denver police band and had been invited to Washington to march in the inaugural parade. It seems that everyone remembers the snow on the ground and how the glare of sunshine made it impossible for Robert Frost to read the poem he had composed for the occasion. The new president, hatless in the crystal-cold air, his breath visible, asked us to "ask not." It was the speech about "passing the torch" to another generation. I saw it on televisionýthat is how I experienced all the inaugural addresses until 1993. Then, and again four years later, I watched President Clinton deliver his speeches from the balcony of the U.S. Capitol. The words combined with the crowds and the view of the Washington Monument brought out the sense of history and pride in the United States that has done so much to shape my view of the world.
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The inaugural address provides an American president with a matchless opportunity to speak directly to 6 billion fellow human beings, including some 300 million fellow citizens. By defining his country's purpose, a commander in chief can make history and carve out a special place for himself (or perhaps, one day, herself) within it. On January 20, 2005, facing an audience assembled in the shadow of the Capitol, President George W. Bush addressed America and the world. From the first words, it was evident that both he and his speechwriters had aimed high. "It is the policy of the United States," he declared, "to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world." He continued, "History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction, set by liberty and the Author of Liberty." The president concluded that "America, in this young century, proclaims liberty throughout the world and to all the inhabitants thereof." He might have added that, in the Bible, God had assigned that same job, in the same words, to Moses.
The speech was vintage George W. Bush, one that his admirers would hail as inspirational and his detractors would dismiss as self-exalting. It was of a piece with the president's first term, during which he had responded to history's deadliest strike on U.S. soil, led America into two wars, roused passions among both liberals and conservatives, set America apart from longtime allies, aggravated relations with Arab and Muslim societies, and conveyed a sense of U.S. intentions that millions found exhilarating, many others ill-advised.
Within the United States, there are those who see the president as a radical presiding over a foreign policy that is, in the words of one commentator, "more than preemptive, it is theologically presumptuous; not only unilateral, but dangerously messianic; not just arrogant, but rather bordering on the idolatrous and blasphemous." The president's supporters suggest the contrary, that his leadership is ideally, even heroically, suited to the perils of this era and in keeping with the best traditions of America.