CNN is broadcasting an extraordinary three part series called God's Warriors, exploring Jewish, Muslim, and Christian fundamentalism this week. I've watched the first two parts of the series and it has been very impressive so far.
Related to the series, CNN has posted an interview with Madeleine Albright about the relationship between religion and politics. I found this quote from Albright notable:
As a practitioner of foreign policy, I certainly come from the generation of people who used to say, "X problem is complicated enough. Let's not bring God and religion into it." But through my being in office, and as I explored the subject much further in writing "The Mighty and the Almighty," I really thought that the opposite is true. In order to effectively conduct foreign policy today, you have to understand the role of God and religion. ... My sense is that we don't fully understand, because one, it's pretty complicated, and two, everyone in the U.S. believes in a separation of church and state, so you think, "Well, if we don't believe in the convergence of church and state, then perhaps we shouldn't worry about the role of religion." I think we do that now at our own peril. Religion is instrumental in shaping ideas and policies. It's an essential part of everyday life in a whole host of countries. And obviously it plays a role in how these countries behave, so we need to know what the religious influence is.
Albright's quote illustrates the key problem with the war on terror and the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan: the Bush administration did not--and still does not--understand the intricacies of Islam and how Islamic traditions relate to contemporary politics. That has led to the current debacle we are now in.