Posts Tagged ‘Religion and Politics’

By Miriam Elman

Before September 11th and the military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan that followed as part of the ‘war on terrorism’, scholars of International Relations (IR) rarely focused on religion. The received wisdom in the field of conflict studies was that state behavior, and foreign policy decision making, was a rational choice based largely on the exigencies of the international context. This in turn was typically defined as the state’s capacity for war fighting and the costs and opportunities of using force to maximize state (and, just as often, regime) survival. To be sure, IR scholars did not discount the importance of the so-called three I’s: identity, ideology, and institutions. But foreign security policies based on cultural and ideational factors were considered ill-conceived. Rather than base war and peace decision making on the fickle demands of an idealistic public, the prudent statesman calculated state strategy only insofar as it advanced the national interest—or so the argument went. To quote Kenneth N. Waltz’s famous phrasing of the issue: those states and their foreign policy makers who failed to tailor decision making during international conflicts to the constraints and opportunities of the international environment would suffer ruin and ultimately ‘fall by the wayside’ of smarter states that knew better than to let religious or cultural sensibilities dictate state behavior.

The events of September 11th and their aftermath have had far sweeping ramifications for US foreign policy and world politics, but they have also fundamentally changed the way in which we now study foreign security policy and world politics. (more…)

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