With Or Against The World?

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Overview

The events of 9/11, followed by the Bush administration's actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, have fueled a new debate about America's foreign and defense policies in the post-Cold War world. The debate has produced a torrent of books. This book argues that current policy making and reactions to terrorism cannot be understood properly without going back to the roots of America's civil-religious nationalism as well as to the Muslim roots of radical Islamism. After setting that stage in Chapters One and Two, the book goes on in the next three chapters to uncover the political and religious roots of the modern state, a western invention now dominant throughout the world. Chapters Six through Eight focus on the United States—at its founding, in the era of Woodrow Wilson and World War I, and today, post-9/11. The aim here, at the core of the book, is to show how a modest, constitutionally limited state became the carrier of a grandiose, civil-religious, nationalism (city on a hill; redeemer nation; American exceptionalism) that accounts for much of the ambivalence of America's approach to international relations to the present day. Chapter Nine focuses on contemporary questioning of just war doctrine, and Chapter Ten argues for a new priority of international institution building in America's approach to world affairs.
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Editorial Reviews

Notes Et Documents
What this reviewer fins particularly impressive ... is not only the conciseness and clarity of Skillen's presentation, but also his broad and general familiarity with the multiple aspects of the serious problems confronting today's world. ... This book is particularly valuable for Americans to help them to arrive at a critical understanding of their self-definition and to realize...that "America's sense of itself as a new Israel, God's chosen nation, a city on a hill, is a corruption of the biblical story."
— Bernard Doering, University of Notre Dame
The Christian Century
In this provocative, wide-ranging and well-reasoned book, James Skillen...analyzes the roots of the deep ambiguity in U.S. foreign policy.
— Duane K. Friesen
Religion and Politics Newsletter
James W. Skillen has written another thoughtful book about the role of religion in public life, in this case a book to guide Christian reflection on international affairs. Why is a book like this one necessary, and why is it needed right now? To say it is because of the mess in Iraq, or as Pew studies of global opinion have shown, the almost universal unpopularity of the U.S. in international affairs, does not fully grasp the need for a book like this one.
— Scott Thomas, University of Bath, Calvin College
Choice
Skillen's book provides a brief but balanced account of the intellectual landscapes in which we are fighting the war on terror. Recommended.
Notes Et Documents - Bernard Doering
What this reviewer fins particularly impressive ... is not only the conciseness and clarity of Skillen's presentation, but also his broad and general familiarity with the multiple aspects of the serious problems confronting today's world. ... This book is particularly valuable for Americans to help them to arrive at a critical understanding of their self-definition and to realize...that "America's sense of itself as a new Israel, God's chosen nation, a city on a hill, is a corruption of the biblical story."
The Christian Century - Duane K. Friesen
In this provocative, wide-ranging and well-reasoned book, James Skillen...analyzes the roots of the deep ambiguity in U.S. foreign policy.
Religion and Politics Newsletter - Scott Thomas
James W. Skillen has written another thoughtful book about the role of religion in public life, in this case a book to guide Christian reflection on international affairs. Why is a book like this one necessary, and why is it needed right now? To say it is because of the mess in Iraq, or as Pew studies of global opinion have shown, the almost universal unpopularity of the U.S. in international affairs, does not fully grasp the need for a book like this one.
Johan D. van der Vyver
American foreign policy is troubling to the outside world, and perhaps to many Americans as well. Defiance by American policy makers of inter-governmental institutions and international law when American interests seem to dictate such a course of action, a self-assumed messianic calling of the United States to rid the world of repressive regimes, neglecting peaceful means for bringing about political reform in maverick states and at times resorting to armed intervention to achieve that calling, and in general, American exceptionalism founded on a sense of uniqueness and self-righteousness, are clear markers of American hegemony but have also provoked severe criticism from among America's closest allies.

In America's Role Among Nations , Jim Skillen offers his readers penetrating insights into the positive and negative appendices of American foreign policy. The focus of his analysis is on the historical roots of that policy, tracing the American mind-set to its Greco-Roman origins and exploring the influence of the Reformation and Enlightenment on convictions held dearly by the Founding Fathers and carried forward into modern times. He tracks contemporary manifestations of the American credo from Wilson to Bush in a great variety of empirical settings.

This is a good book. It accommodates the views of an impressive array of leading scholars in the field. It reflects the author's unique insights into and understanding of history, political theory and contemporary policy positions and actions. It is written in a style that would appeal and make the book accessible to experts as well as to those not schooled in the intricacies of history and political science. It provides to the reader a clear understanding of often highly controversial policy positions entertained and acted upon by the powers that be in Washington D.C.

Lloyd Ambrosius
From an avowedly Christian perspective, James Skillen examines America's role in the 21st-century world. Critical of the religious Right and of George W. Bush's unilateral, militaristic pursuit of the Wilsonian mission to spread democracy worldwide, he advocates a new U.S. foreign policy. This new approach, he argues persuasively, would recognize the limits of America's power to remake the world in its own image. Rather than seeking U.S. hegemony in the name of freedom and democracy, the United States should use its influence to promote human rights and new forms of global governance in ways that recognize diversity among nations and their interdependence—a combination of 'realism' and 'idealism' very different from Bush's. This thoughtful book is a welcome addition to the current debate.
John Kelsay
James Skillen's book engages issues in contemporary U.S. foreign policy through the lens of just war tradition. As such, his engagement with discussions of the U.S. policy, intervention and state sovereignty, and responses to terrorism are set in a broad moral and historical framework. One need not agree with all of Skillen's arguments to appreciate his acuity; his book is a valuable contribution to current debates.
Steven Meyer
As with his past efforts, With or Against the World? is a testament to James Skillen's broad perspective, deep knowledge, extraordinary insight, and his uncanny ability to bring them all together in a highly readable, lucid discussion of the most critical issues facing the U.S. and the West today.
James Turner Johnson
What America's role among the nations should be, a central question of American identity since the colonial period, has taken on new urgency in the present context. Stepping off from the 9/11 attacks and the war on terrorism, Skillen brings historical, political, and theological analysis to bear on what American exceptionalism should mean today, arguing for understanding it as the effort to create an 'empire of freedom' in which the United States uses its economic, political, military, and ideological power to take the lead in reshaping the international system to foster a community of free, self-governing, and prosperous societies. Wide ranging and nuanced, this book offers a clear vision of how to build on what is best in the ideal and reality of America.
CHOICE
Skillen's book provides a brief but balanced account of the intellectual landscapes in which we are fighting the war on terror. Recommended.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780742535220
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group Inc
  • Publication date: 3/28/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 202
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.46 (d)

Meet the Author

James W. Skillen (Ph.D., Duke, Political Science) is president of the Center for Public Justice, an Annapolis, Maryland-based independent civic education and policy research organization that grounds its research, publications, training, and advocacy in a comprehensive Christian political perspective.
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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Did 9/11 change the world? 1
Ch. 2 Forgotten depths 11
Ch. 3 Earliest sources of the West's design on the world 23
Ch. 4 Western Christendom 37
Ch. 5 The rise of the modern state 53
Ch. 6 The American republic : witness to the end of history 67
Ch. 7 Wilsonianism : from witness to vanguard 79
Ch. 8 Another American century? 95
Ch. 9 Justifiable warfare and visions of peace 111
Ch. 10 What role among the nations? 127
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