Should religion have a role in post-9/11 foreign policy? Former Secretary of State Albright says yes—up to a point.
What motivated you to write The Mighty and the Almighty at this moment?
After 9/11 I couldn't pick up a newspaper without thinking about how policy and religion and morality fit together. In the worst case, we're headed toward a religious divide between Islam and the West, and that's really what al-Qaeda wants. In the best case, we'll move toward a world in which there's a broader respect for values that are common to every religion. And so the challenge for policy makers is going to be a way to make religion a force for stability.
How did your Catholic faith affect your approach to foreign policy?
I do believe in God, and I have felt always that there is obviously a variety of reasons why we have been put on earth. But I can't say I have been brought up strictly. I was raised Catholic, married an Episcopalian and found out I was Jewish. If life had been different, I might have been raised as a Jew or stayed in Czechoslovakia or any number of different issues that made me realize one had to look for some common humanity.
You write that foreign policy used to be considered a rational field, governed by rules. Can the U.S. still play by the rules when faced by elements like al-Qaeda who don't?
First of all, the rules have to change to adapt to a totally different situation.... But I also think one has to be careful not to lose a moral compass and not adapt rules that the other side has, just to fight them, because you're losing what our society is all about. But the first rule I would change is the one that says don't talk to me about religion. We should try to train our diplomats in understanding the religions of other countries. And secondly, to actually use religious leaders to help build consensus.
You write that you are optimistic about prospects for peace between Israel and Palestine. Does Hamas's election victory change that?
I say in the book that I'm an optimist who worries a lot. The election of Hamas has set things back and made them very complicated, because the U.S. doesn't deal with Hamas, nor do the Europeans.... But I think that we can't afford to never resolve this issue. And maybe this is one of the places where a variety of religious leaders could help in a way that they have not been used before.