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Mass media and the influence of religion on American foreign policy

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  1. Introduction
  2. The importance of making a number of qualifications
  3. Expansiveness of the topic of religion and foreign policy
  4. The nature of the term religion
  5. The failure of Bush's administration in the case of Iraq
  6. Attempts to make American foreign policy more ethical
  7. The direct influence of religion: Fox's argument
  8. Conclusion
  9. References

The proverbial ?man from mars? suddenly plunged onto the American continent would be amazed and confused at the spectacle before him. He would soon discover that in the world's most perceived secularized society it is not uncommon to justify national interests with religious undertones and the ?will of god?. Perhaps, this notion is better illustrated in the words of Abraham Lincoln when, nearing the end of the civil war, he stated: ?In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be and one must be wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time.? The significance of Lincoln's statement has not lost its purpose in the contemporary era. For one thing, it reinforces the fact that religious justifications of American government policy are by no means a recent phenomenon. It also articulates the worth placed upon religious influence in American politics. As literature on the topic has suggested, the American political system is continually shaped, in part, through religious influence. Having examined the role of a civil religion in the United States, I began to wonder whether religious influence is limited only to public policy issues, or whether such influence extends to the foreign policy apparatus of the world's largest superpower. Scanning the literature on the subject, I realized that there exists a series of competing claims concerning the issue of religious influence in American foreign policy. Accordingly, it is not the objective of this paper to produce a clear definitive statement outlining the role of religion in American foreign policy. Instead, this paper will produce an analysis of the various positions of the issue as part of a complex debate on the religious influence in American foreign policy since the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001.

[...] Fox notes that while critics may disagree with the bulk of Huntington's assumptions, they generally do not oppose his argument that identity is an important influence on international politics.[14] The second argument proposed by Fox for the direct influence religion has on American foreign policy cites religion as a source of legitimacy for both supporting and criticizing government behavior internationally. As the author notes, humanitarian interventions are often justified as the moral thing to do. Furthermore, the modern concept of just war has its origins in theological justification for war.[15] As the recent war in Iraq has revealed, there has been growing discussion over the role of normative power in international relations. [...]

[...] His first point follows a line of reasoning that would suggest that religious influence of foreign policy is overlooked because American children are socialized to believe in classical liberalism, which among other things advocates separation of church and state.[16] Yet, I would argue that American children are socialized in a much more enriched religious tradition than Fox is willing to accept. In this way, the classical liberalism that Fox refers to has strong roots in religious tradition. In attempting to reconcile these competing positions I would suggest that maybe the perceived role of religion in foreign policy is both understated and over exaggerated. [...]

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