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What role should religion play in shaping and implementing U.S. foreign policy?
The dominant attitude over the last half century on the subject of religion and international relations was expressed well by Dean Acheson, Harry Truman's secretary of state: "Moral Talk was fine preaching for the Final Day of Judgment, but it was not a view I would entertain as a public servant." Was Acheson right?
How a nation "commits itself to freedom" has long been at the heart of debates about foreign aid, economic sanctions, and military intervention. Moral and faith traditions have much to say about what is required to achieve this end. And after September 11, no one can doubt the importance of religious beliefs in influencing relations among peoples and nations.
The contributors to this volume come at the issue from very different perspectives and offer exceptional and unexpected insights on a question now at the forefront of American foreign policy.
E.J. DIONNE JR., KAYLA M. DROGO SZ, AND JEAN BETHKE ELSHTAIN
Bringing religion into international relations scares people, especially after the attacks of September 11, 2001. It also seems a new departure, even if it is not. As J. Bryan Hehir notes in his pathbreaking essay in these pages, the dominant attitude over the last half century on the subject was expressed well by Dean Acheson, Harry Truman's secretary of state. "Moral Talk was fine preaching for the Final Day of Judgment," Acheson said, "but it was not a view I would entertain as a public servant."
A lot of public servants and foreign policy analysts feel that way. As Louise Richardson notes herein, "The arguments on the basis of moral obligation are entirely convincing when they are preached to the choir, but they fall on deaf ears when they are proposed to the policymakers."
James Lindsay agrees strongly with Hehir on the need to "think a lot more about the impact of religion on world politics." But Lindsay adds, rightly, "This is going to be hard to do. We are not used to thinking about the topic. We do not have much practice handling religion, and the consequences of getting it wrong could be enormous." Indeed.
The unease over introducing religion into foreign affairs is rooted in two fears. The first is that it can be a conversation stopper and retard rather than advance an honest discussion of morality. "In the contemporary world," writes Michael Walzer, perhaps the nation's premier student of just war, "I suggest that we need to worry about faith-for when it turns into dogma and certainty, as it frequently does, it tends to override morality." Walzer concludes: "A faith-based foreign policy is a bad idea."
Lindsay expresses sympathy for "the tendency of Americans to cast their foreign policy preferences in moral terms." But he adds, "That tendency ... can squelch debate. When people become certain of their moral rectitude, they can easily drift into sanctimony, so anybody who disagrees with them must, by definition, not be really interested in moral issues. That attitude tends to poison debate rather than advance it." Of course, one must note that realpolitik-if it hardens into dogma-similarly quashes debate and brooks no opposition.
Charles Krauthammer is even more direct in his rejection of religion's utility as a guide to "a moral foreign policy." He writes, "Religion as an abstraction will not tell, inform, or guide anyone about how to act collectively or individually."
The second fear is rooted in the bloody history of wars over religion in past centuries and in today's acts of terrorism that are often justified in religious terms. Hehir provides a useful and important history of the Westphalian synthesis, created by the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia. It recognized the emergence of the modern sovereign state in order to "move decisively beyond the century of religious warfare that had ravaged European politics." Under the Westphalian synthesis, political actors would stop using religious differences as reasons for interfering in the affairs of territories under the rule of others. "Sovereignty," Hehir writes, "meant a defined territory, an effective exercise of authority within the territory and-a decisive change-the refusal of the sovereign to recognize any superior authority, temporal or spiritual." A key moment in the birth of the idea of "separating church and state" was that treaty.
There is a great fear, especially among foreign policy realists, that the abandonment of the Westphalian synthesis will invite a return to the religious wars of old. Walzer, for his part, fears that "just war" theories might be displaced by a "faith-based" model. He writes, "There is an alternative tradition, a medieval rival of just war, which has not been wholly supplanted: the crusade, the holy war, the jihad. All these words describe a faith-based struggle against the forces of darkness and evil, which are generally understood in explicitly religious terms: infidels, idolaters, the antichrist. In the West, especially after 9/11, we are a little leery about holy wars."
So are religious principles a blessing or a curse in guiding our understanding of relations among states and nations? The most popular answer-"Well, it depends"-is not necessarily the most helpful, though it may be the most honest. It depends upon which religious principles, how they are applied, and what questions they purport to answer or problems they address. And Shibley Telhami is absolutely right when he suggests that the discussion of the relationship of religion to politics (domestic as well as international) is confusing because too little effort is made to differentiate "between the role of religious ideas and the role of religious organizations." It is clearly the case, as Telhami points out, that the African American church was essential in building the civil rights movement, just as the Roman Catholic Church in Poland was essential in organizing opposition to that country's Communist dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s. In each case, Christian ideas were mobilized on behalf of a just cause. But in each case, as well, the sheer organizational power of the churches-and the fact that the church was one of the few available institutions in which independent political action could be rooted-was at least as important.
Because the questions at stake on this subject are so vexing and so urgent, the editors of this series are especially grateful to the exceptional thinkers who accepted our invitation to join in this dialogue. This volume is the fourth in a series that is a joint project of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and the Brookings Institution. The series is based on a simple proposition, one that its editors see as obvious but that others might see as controversial: Religious voices and insights rooted in faith have a great deal to contribute to our public deliberations about politics and public policy. As our coeditor Jean Bethke Elshtain says, "American politics is indecipherable if it is severed from the interplay and panoply of America's religions." The same is increasingly true of world politics.
The series is also rooted in the idea that religious people-including people who share the same faith and live the same religious tradition- can disagree fundamentally on political questions not only because they see the facts differently, but also because they read and experience their traditions differently. The series emphatically rejects the idea that faith commitments render the messy facts about politics and policy irrelevant. On the contrary, we sought out people of faith who respect the facts and have genuine knowledge of the issues about which they speak.
The first volume of the series, Lifting Up the Poor: A Dialogue on Religion, Poverty, and Welfare Reform, brings together in dialogue Mary Jo Bane and Lawrence M. Mead, two of the nation's premier experts on poverty and welfare policy. Both care profoundly about the facts-and their faith. In Is the Market Moral? A Dialogue on Religion, Economics, and Justice, Rebecca M. Blank and William McGurn show how their reflections on economics, rooted in years of engagement with the subject, interact with their moral commitments rooted in faith. Bane and Mead, Blank and McGurn all perform a service in demonstrating that faith speaks to questions that are not easily pigeonholed as religious issues. And they provide a model in demonstrating the obligations of the person of faith in the public realm: They make arguments accessible and engaging to those who may not share their particular brands of faith, their specific approaches to theology. The third volume, One Electorate under God? takes on the broad question of the relationship between faith and American politics. Anchored in a discussion between former New York governor Mario Cuomo and Representative Mark Souder of Indiana-they reflect on the role of faith in their own political lives-the volume brings together a wide array of voices on a set of questions that relate to but also transcend the sharp debates of a particular election year.
The inspiration behind the series is captured in that earlier volume by Martha Minow, a professor at Harvard Law School. "Religiously inflected arguments and perspectives bring critical and prophetic insight and energy to politics and public affairs." There is, she says, "something woefully lacking in any view that excludes religion entirely from the public sphere." Yet one can believe this and still accept that "difficulties arise if government actions cross over from reflecting religious sources of vision and energy to preferring one kind of religion over others." And Lord knows (if one may invoke the Almighty in this context), that is especially true in foreign policy and in relations among states.
This volume began taking shape in February 2003, when we invited five of our authors to a meeting at which they were asked to discuss faith, morals, and foreign policy. (Shibley Telhami, who did not attend that session, was later invited to join the discussion, and we are very grateful he has.) We gave the participants a list of questions-some of them refer to these questions in the text-to open, though not limit, the discussion. Hehir and Walzer were asked to give lengthy reflections. The other authors were asked to respond to them, though we also asked them not to be shy about pushing the discussion in any direction they thought helpful. (Fortunately, this is not a shy group.) The timing of the original event in some ways sharpened the debate, since the meeting was held at the moment when the United States was preparing to go to war in Iraq. We later asked our authors to use their remarks as the basis for the essays here. They were put in final form early in 2004.
We are biased, perhaps, but we think we have brought together some of our country's most powerful voices on this topic. J. Bryan Hehir has devoted his life to combining the roles of a committed diocesan priest, a prominent scholar on international affairs, and one of the nation's leading moral voices on foreign policy. He came to wide attention for his work as a policy adviser at the U.S. Catholic Conference. A principal author of the bishops' famous pastoral letter on nuclear weapons, The Challenge of Peace, Hehir has remained active in politics and foreign policy and exerted enormous influence on the policy agenda that the American bishops pursued. "Being engaged with the world has been a major emphasis in my life. I wanted to go into politics," he says, "before I went into the ministry. I was sure I wanted to study diplomacy before I knew I wanted to study theology." Hehir is seen by many Catholics-and many non-Catholics as well-as a successor to the American Jesuit John Courtney Murray, the leading Catholic theologian and intellectual of his day. As noted in these pages, the late Reinhold Niebuhr's theological insights proved so valuable to those who did not share his faith that a group of intellectuals came to describe themselves informally as Atheists for Niebuhr. A comparable group no doubt exists where Bryan Hehir is concerned, even as his deep religious faith shines through all of his work.
Michael Walzer has grappled with these questions throughout an extraordinary life that has bridged the worlds of philosophical reflection and political commitment. One of his first major works, The Revolution of the Saints, explores the interaction of religious faith and revolutionary politics in the time of Oliver Cromwell. It still stands as a model for understanding the interplay between realms so often treated separately. Walzer's Just and Unjust Wars continues to stand as a definitive discussion of the subject. He has been at work on a multivolume collection on Jewish political philosophy. And his Exodus and Revolution is a powerful reminder of how tradition can be usefully studied and invoked, generation after generation, to illuminate contemporary dilemmas and to inspire right action. Since 1980 he has been a member of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, where he has written some of the best-known books on moral philosophy, social criticism, Jewish political theory, and politics. Perhaps most important, Walzer, like Hehir, is admired for his ability to marry sustained political commitment with a moral outlook that is not inhibited or limited by ideology and that is open to insights from other shores, intellectual as well as geographic.
With the Hehir and Walzer chapters the bedrock of this collection, our respondents did, indeed, do far more than respond. They offered creative alternative views of their own and helped highlight central themes of this volume: the role of realism in foreign policy, the relationship between realism and other views rooted in moral and religious traditions, and the ways in which globalization and nonstate actors (including terrorists) call into question old paradigms of foreign relations.
Louise Richardson, the senior administrative officer of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, has written widely on terrorism and ethnic conflict. She has a profound understanding of the darker side of politics. Her most recent research focuses on a study of decisionmaking inside terrorist organizations and patterns of terrorist violence.
Shibley Telhami, who has a long association with the Brookings Institution and is a professor at the University of Maryland, is a distinguished scholar of the Middle East. Many know he is a political scientist, but few know he also has a graduate degree in philosophy and religion from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, where he studied Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and their connection to politics. Shibley can reach to his own biography to understand ethnic and religious conflict-and the inspirations that faith can offer. A Christian Arab, he was born in Haifa, Israel. He identifies with being called both a Palestinian Arab and an Arab Israeli and has been active in encouraging a peaceful resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. His fair-mindedness and analytical independence is well reflected in his recent book, The Stakes: America and the Middle East.
James Lindsay, a vice president at the Council on Foreign Relations and before that a colleague of ours at Brookings, is a premier student of contemporary foreign policy and a powerful voice in contemporary debates. Having served as a consultant to the Hart-Rudmann Commission, he is, like Richardson, well versed in the politics of terrorism. With Ivo Daalder, he is the author of America Unbound, widely seen as the definitive first look at the Bush administration's foreign policy.
Excerpted from Liberty and Power by J. Bryan Hehir Michael Walzer Louise Richardson Shibley Telhami Charles Krauthammer James Lindsay Copyright © 2004 by Brookings Institution Press . Excerpted by permission.
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|The paradoxes of religion and foreign policy : an introduction||1|
|Religion, realism, and just intervention||11|
|Can there be a moral foreign policy?||34|
|Fighting against terrorism and for justice||53|
|Between faith and ethics||71|
|When unilateralism is right and just||95|
|"Morality is really hard"||100|