There's nothing new about politicians writing books, but lately there seems to be a glut of memoirs and public-policy arguments prompted by the demands of 24-hour news channels and pop-chat spots like Fresh Air and The Daily Show. It's not enough for Madeleine Albright to jaw with Jon Stewart about the war in Iraq; Stewart needs to have something to hold up at the end of the interview, so he can say, "Well, it's a fascinating book," before throwing to commercial. Actually, Albright—the former Secretary Of State and United Nations ambassador—has already dropped by The Daily Show with her latest tome, The Mighty & The Almighty, though she didn't spend much time talking about what she wrote. That's probably because, like a lot of work in this genre, The Mighty & The Almighty is less a proper book than a string of historical tidbits, random opinions, and personal anecdotes, organized around a central theme.
At that, it's not a bad read. Albright examines the notion that the United States is a Christian nation by speculating on how a "Christian nation" might conduct itself in war and peace, and by examining the recent history of governments that have held to explicitly religious principles. She strives for a detached, respectful tone throughout, but it's telling that whenever she quotes George W. Bush, she preserves his gnarled syntax and self-contradiction. Ultimately, this is a single-issue book, designed to argue—in a sometimes frustratingly aloof way—that the current Iraq campaign was a major, avoidable mistake.
Albright makes some valuable points throughout, primarily when she writes about the Cold War, and how the Islamic Revolution caught everyone napping, because the debate over capitalism vs. communism left no room at the table for religion. And though she gets a little huffy about it, Albright has some pointed personal stories to tell about her interactions with certain paranoid right-wing Christians during her days at the UN. But The Mighty & The Almighty is ultimately too breezy and broad, skimming through history in order to support Albright's personal vision of a spiritualized America that doesn't sweat the dogmatic details. The book will mean more 20 years from now, as a document of what we worried about in 2006, and as a resource for history majors who need to pad out their bibliographies.