The cover of this volume depicts a lovely lady. She could be anyone's aunt or grandmother. But the picture does not imply a keen intellect. This implication is wrong. In this well written and incisive book, Albright's intellectual capability and logical thinking is clear. This woman has been through many political wars, has read, studied and understood American history, and she, with her co-writer, has created a genuine masterpiece which covers the intersection of religion and foreign policy in a remarkably engaging way. The reader will come away from this book with a new insight into Islam, Iraq, and the policies that have led our country into the Bush-Iraq fiasco. Albright calls for a new foreign policy built on America's religious values; she argues that religion, properly understood, engenders both tolerance and liberty.
Sounds dull, doesn't it? It is anything but. The writing is clear, instructive, logical and always interesting. One can LEARN from this book, as it ties together common concerns and values of politicians, including both parties. President Bush had hard decisions to make, Albright acknowledges, and some were made well. Others -- not so well, which is why Thomas Friedman, in a November 2006 column told us that the best possible outcome for us in Iraq now is just "tolerable."
Albright offers seven specific suggestions; these may not solve every problem but, she quips (page 275) "...[they] are at least cautions against making foolish mistakes." (1) Localize the problem area. Terrorism is NOT a single struggle; deal with each situation separately. (2) The fight is not Islam vs the West. Both are challenged by Al Qaeda; keep confrontation narrowly focused. (3) Avoid miscalculations, both in word and in deed. Strive to keep communications open. (4) Develop, with Arab leaders, a tight definition of what terrorism is -- and is not. Labeling some terrorists as "Freedom Fighters" is ludicrous. It is not self-defense to blow up a school! (5) Focus on the treatment of women, always supporting human rights. This does not mean a simplistic criticism of Islam. (6) The three great religions, Judaism, Islam and Christianity need to focus on what they share in common, with the purpose of understanding one another better. In this regard, Albright deplores the fact that church-state separation in the US is breaking down while at the same time creationism is (page 277) "... once more in vogue in many American communities." People who are convinced that they are in possession of one hundred percent of the "truth" are dangerous. The 9/11 hijackers were such people. Certainty, she asserts, is not an asset. Both the Bible and the Quran say otherwise. (7) Our leaders must speak about transcendent issues. identity, history and faith. Justice and compassion are key values, and point the way to peace in all three religious communities. She suggests using the term "Judeo-Christian-Islamic" as an adjective modifying such words as "tradition," and "values," and calls for a common pursuit of shared objectives such as as the elimination of poverty on a global scale. Religion is key to what motivates many people; to ignore it in foreign policy is dangerously naive.
I close with two quotes from the book: (page 290): "We live in a time when the worst are indeed full of passionate intensity. The question is whether the rest of us have the courage of our convictions and the wisdom to make the right choices...I am an optimist who worries a lot. . . . I cannot write a happy ending to this book. We remain in the midst of struggle. ... [But] every individual counts."
If you read AMERICAN THEOCRACY, you will want to read this book as a counterpoint. You will be glad you did.
John W. Burgeson, Mancos, Colorado