Academic journal article Military Review

Force and Faith in the American Experience

Academic journal article Military Review

Force and Faith in the American Experience

Article excerpt

For the United States, two key questions persistently dominate and determine our public and private decisions. First, how do we create and maintain an effective marriage between religious values and Enlightenment ideals?1 Second, how do we preserve liberty, to include religious liberty? At first glance, it appears that the culture in the United States and the West more broadly separates religion and politics than the culture of nations in the Middle East that appear more prone to conflate religion and politics. In our estimation, such conventional narratives are shortsighted. More importantly, they are harmful for military leaders in an era in which religious overtones increasingly define strategic interactions.

This article provides a broad context for military leaders to understand the complicated relationship between religion and politics, both domestically and internationally We first discuss the contemporary scene and the evidence of a resurgence of religion as a force in domestic and international politics. With these contemporary relationships as the backdrop, we examine Americas own often fitful journey of balancing the City of Man and the City of God to provide a lens to examine the challenges presented in the new international order.2 The interaction of religious organizations and the military in the dispensation of humanitarian relief, in many ways a relatively new phenomenon, is one of the contemporary challenges that we argue demands a framework for incorporating religious considerations in foreign policy. We suggest that understanding the political history of religion as an integral shaper of Americas domestic and foreign policy will better equip military leaders with a set of principles to approach the challenges of religious extremism in strategic and campaign planning.

The Contemporary Scene: Religion and State since the and of the Cold War

The current struggle between the so-called Christian West and Muslim East can trace its roots to Moriah, a mountain range considered to be the land inhabited by Abraham, the father of the monotheistic tradition in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. At Moriah, God reputedly commanded Abraham to offer his son as a sacrifice. Abraham was willing to do so up until the point that God provided an animal for the sacrifice as a substitute for Isaac or Ishmael, depending on the religious tradition through which you read the story. Abrahams devotion to Gods commands is held as an example in each tradition of the blessings bestowed upon Abraham and his descendants because of his unflinching obedience to God.

While the Christian and Muslim worlds can point to Moriah as a common scriptural foundation for monotheism, the two religions markedly diverged in their approach to politics in the seventeenth century. The Treaty of Westphalia of 1648 ended thirty years of bloody religious wars in Europe by defining the principles of sovereignty and equality for the system of states in Europe.3 With the Westphalian recognition of state sovereignty over domestic affairs came the principle of nonintervention in the internal affairs of a sovereign state by other states. In contrast, as Christian Europe celebrated a peace that promised to separate religious authority from political, there was no concomitant "Westphalian moment" for Islam to separate Gods law from political institutions.4

Surveying the current geopolitical landscape, evidence suggests the sovereignty of the nation-state is is jeopardy as we are confronted with dramatic changes that have occurred in religion-state relations. The most significant challenge to the Westphalian order is the competition between norms of state sovereignty and claims of justification for intervention in sovereign states on behalf of reputed international norms of human rights and self-determination. For example, numerous interventions under the auspices of a United Nations mandate "in the politics of broken, war-torn, malnourished, and dictatorial" states signal a radical departure from the Westphalian construct that gave primacy to the state for ordering and regulating its own domestic affairs. …

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