Democratic thinking

Articles on democracy in the independent online media

May 16, 2006

Madeleine Albright - The Battle of Ideas

Q: You say in this book people ask why cant we just keep religion out of foreign policy. And your answer is that we can't, and shouldn't. Why?

A: I would put myself in the generation of people who used to say, 'It's complicated enough. Let's not bring God and religion into it.' But if you look at what the various problems are, religion itself is playing a great part. Look at the Middle East. If Jerusalem was just a real estate issue we could have dealt with it some time ago. But because both sides believe God gave them that piece of land, God is in some way present at the negotiating table. Therefore it's very important to get religious leaders to help in breaking down the problem, giving suggestions and also perhaps serving as validators once some decision has been made.

Q: But doesn't bringing God to the table mean people become so much more certain and righteous about their beliefs it leaves very little room for debate?

A: The truth is it depends on how you view your religion. Many people do not find the absolute truth. Therefore they are willing to make compromises to come to a solution where fewer people die. The question is, how do you interpret your religion? There are those who derive great certainty from religion. But I think the majority of people agree with Apostle Paul in the Corinthians: I see through a glass darkly, meaning that it is difficult to have absolute truth in this life.

Q: Is this ability to compromise being lost currently? Do you have any problems with how religion and foreign policy are getting intertwined in the current administration?

A: I am having some trouble. I have a quote in my book where President Bush says "I think that God wanted me to be president." The way that some of the foreign policy issues are being framed in terms of a choice between good and evil make the situation even more complicated. What I found interesting was that President Bush after 9/11 brilliantly united the country. Even throughout the world people were for us. But when, on the basis of a judgment of what is good and evil, the choice was so expanded so that those who were with us had to agree with the war on Iraq, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and the expansion of American military power, then the number of those who could support us narrowed.

I think we certainly know what evil is, but I don't think many of us would agree on the certainty of what good is. That certainty that exists now makes it very difficult to listen to diverse opinions -- and also if Plan A hasn't worked, to go to Plan B.

Q: Shouldn't a more religious White House have an easier time dealing with a more religious Tehran?

A: You would think so. What is interesting is that President Carter, who is a man of great faith, once said he found it easier to deal with religions that were quite different, rather than dealing with interpretations of a religion by different groups within it. But I would think there would be more of an understanding. America is a very religious country. Which is why, to get to the practical part of it, we should be having face-to-face talks with Iran.

Madeleine Albright is former secretary of state under President Bill Clinton and author of "The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on God, America and World Affairs". She was interviewed by Sandip Roy, an editor for New America Media.


At 9:23 PM, Blogger July Canute said...

I am really tired of hearing about George Bush and God. Not for one minute do I think Madeleine Albright believes that George bush believes that God even exists.

Both George bush and Madeleine Albright talk about God so they don't have to talk about the real truth behind George Bush's policies. It wasn't God that got Clinton or Bush into Iraq. It was more likly the Devil and Albright knows that because she was part of it.

The world would be a lot better off if God were talking to POTUS and if they were listening.


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