Posts Tagged ‘foreign policy’

March 7th, 2014

“After the Shipwreck”: Interpreting religion in international relations

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Having been invited to reflect upon the themes of this forum, first raised during the European University Institute (EUI) workshop “Beyond Critique,” I hope the reader will not mind if I begin my essay with a story about shipwrecks.

In a now-famous talk, the Columbia University historian Carol Gluck suggestively argued that history finds itself, temporally and conceptually, “after the shipwreck.” The “shipwreck,” for Gluck, stands as a metaphor for the destruction of the major metanarratives (scientific objectivism, progress, modernity, chronological linearity, historical materialism, the nation) and paradigms (Marxism, Liberalism, Nationalism) that have underpinned much of modern historiography. The deconstruction of such metanarratives is inseparable from the scholarly turn to critical theory, post-structuralism, and post-colonial approaches to the study of history starting in the late 1980s.

July 16th, 2012

Egypt at the crossroads

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Mohamed Morsi was declared President of Egypt little more than two weeks ago. Challenger and former President Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister, Ahmed Shafik, sent President Morsi a telegram congratulating him on his victory: “I am pleased to present to you my sincere congratulations for your victory in the presidential election, wishing you success in the difficult task that has been trusted to you by the great people of Egypt.”

As thousands celebrated the victory of the Freedom and Justice Party—part of the 84-year-old Muslim Brotherhood organization—in Tahrir Square, just a few blocks away a much more somber mood prevailed.

“Let me enjoy another bottle of beer,” said an old man as he plunked some coins on the counter at a local grocery store. “Soon the Jama’a (Muslim Brotherhood) will ban it.” The store owner, Mr. Ahmad, nodded. “Allah yastur al balad, [May god protect the country]—it will be like Sudan or Pakistan.” Clearly, anxiety and divisions still persist in Egypt. The pharmacists at the nearby El-Ezaby Pharmacy also looked disillusioned. This profession in Egypt is overwhelmingly dominated by the Coptic Christian community, who represent about 10 percent of Egypt’s 85 million people, but 90 percent of whom voted for Shafik according to exit polls.

June 12th, 2012

Council on Foreign Relations fellowship

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The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) is currently accepting applications for the International Affairs Fellowship (IAF).

April 27th, 2012

Alawites, Alevis, and Assad

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n a recent article in The New RepublicSoner Cagaptay discusses how Syria’s sectarian divisions could exacerbate current divisions  in Turkey.

April 10th, 2012

Democracy, diplomacy, and religious freedom

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Over at Foreign Affairs, Andrew Preston has written an article exploring the paradox of religion in U.S. foreign policy.

August 2nd, 2011

A tale of two flotillas

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Given the close relationship, globally, between religious political action and religious charities, it should come as no surprise that there is a long tradition of cooperation between Islamist political parties and Islamic charitable organizations in Turkey. While this relationship has been the subject of considerable discussion in analyses of Turkish domestic politics, less noticed has been the savvy cooperation between the Turkish government and Turkish Islamic organizations in implementing the country’s increasingly assertive foreign policy under the ruling AKP, or Justice and Development Party. Two recent crises, the “Mavi Marmara” incident in 2010 and Turkey’s on-going aid mission to Libya, highlight the ways in which this cooperation has allowed Turkey to assert itself regionally and are suggestive of the sophistication of its efforts to become, in Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan’s words, “a regional power and a global player.”

July 11th, 2011

The geopolitical imperative?

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Ritualistic evocations of “America” . . . and the deep-seated sense that somehow the United States is sacrosanct space—war, by definition, taking place elsewhere—are ways of being toward the world that mask an overwhelming desire, sometimes ferocious, to avoid all sacrifices: professionalized (class-based) military, ridiculously low taxes (especially for high earners), lax popular engagement, minimal obligations, a dislike for central authority bordering on hatred. The “exception” was extended into the 1950s by means of the Cold War (which was in fact the intention), but the last time the sacrifice was generally accepted was indeed the last: Vietnam. From then on, the geopolitical imperative has looked different. Accepting the globalism of the U.S. in one form or another is one thing; sacrificing for it is an altogether different one. Sovereignty, the right to decide on the exception, has thus typically resided in the geopolitical imperative, and it has been experienced on the outside. Few foreigners make any mistake about the importance of U.S. geopolitics and the “right” that it seems to embody.

April 11th, 2011

America in the Egyptian revolution

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I have been in Egypt since February 6, 2011, where I have been witnessing events, talking to friends, activists and non-activists, and to the public in Cairo’s streets—and it is not an exaggeration to say that every corner in Egypt talks politics today. . . . From my observations of events and numerous discussions with others, Egypt’s relationship with the U.S appears, in some ways, to be absent from most of the heated discussions going on today. But upon closer examination, this relationship has been present in the revolution, not only during and after the peak of events—from January 25 to February 11—but also, I would suggest, in the very anti-imperialist underpinnings of the revolution, a revolution that the mainstream American media has miscast as one generated purely internally.

November 8th, 2010

A strong moral argument: A conversation with Andrew Bacevich

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Author of The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War, The Limits of Power: the End of American Exceptionalism, and, most recently, Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War, Andrew Bacevich is a celebrated veteran as well as a fierce and indefatigable critic of American militarism and imperial policies. A self-described “Catholic conservative” and an admirer of Reinhold Niebuhr and Martin Luther King, Jr., Bacevich is a social critic of note as much for his independence of thought as for his insistence on grounding his public remarks with a clear sense of moral principles and purpose.

October 26th, 2010

Prothero and Bacevich to discuss religion and foreign policy

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On Wednesday night, Oct 27, from 7 to 8pm, Boston University professors Stephen Prothero and Andrew Bacevich will discuss “the role played by religious ideas in U.S. public policy today, from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ debate.”

June 22nd, 2010

Letter from Istanbul

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I have come to Turkey at a time when discussions of a “shift in the axis” of Turkey’s foreign policy have reached their peak. The term “axis shift” was coined by some members of the mainstream Turkish media a couple of years ago to imply that Turkey was moving away from the secular West toward the Muslim Middle East. This term has been revived recently after the flotilla incident with IsraelTurkey’s “no” vote to UN Security Council’s sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program, and the 2nd Turkish-Arab Economic Forum.
June 2nd, 2010

Engagement for whose good?

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It is coincidental but telling that Emile Nakhleh’s post supporting U.S. “engagement” with Muslim communities appeared the same week as the disclosure of a new directive authorizing clandestine military operations in both friendly and unfriendly countries in the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Horn of Africa. The Joint Unconventional Warfare Task Force Execute Order, signed September 30, 2009, by General David Petraeus, aims primarily to disrupt terrorist groups and to “prepare the environment” for armed assaults. Of particular relevance to the Chicago Council Report, the Execute Order reportedly calls for using, not only special forces, but also “foreign businesspeople, academics, or others,” to “identify militants and provide ‘persistent situational awareness,’ while forging ties to local indigenous groups.”

Alongside this and numerous other recent U.S. policies, the Chicago Council Report looks increasingly futile and, in key places, wrong-headed—even if, doubtless, well-intentioned.

April 26th, 2010

U.S. Relations with the Muslim World: One Year After Cairo

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The Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy will hold it’s 11th annual conference this Wednesday, April 28, on “U.S. Relations with the Muslim World: One Year After Cairo.”

April 8th, 2010

Religious freedom and U.S. foreign policy

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Over the past few weeks, The Immanent Frame has been the site of a high-profile discussion on religious freedom. Earlier this week, Foreign Policy ran an article asking, “Why hasn’t Obama nominated a religious-freedom ambassador yet?”

April 2nd, 2010

A valuation of religious freedom

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Winnifred Sullivan and Elizabeth Hurd, in particular, seem to interpret the Chicago Council Report as an attempt to construct a narrow version of religious freedom as a jingoistic, American Protestant-secular hegemony grab, with undertones of neo-imperialism (or, “a particularly American style of imperialism,” as Sullivan puts it). In Hurd’s words, “Could it be the case that American exceptionalism and a particular notion of American religious freedom and American power are sacralized in this report…?” Thus, the Report’s counsel that the American national security community take religion seriously as an interpretive category and engage with religious leaders and communities as important actors is labelled the “securitization of religion.”

But attaching the “-ization” label to something, while possibly effective as a rhetorical device, is less persuasive as a substantive critique.

March 8th, 2010

Words for a faithful world

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What fascinates me most about these religious freedom conversations—within the U.S. and between America and the world—are the words we use. Some words, even with the very best of intentions, mean very different things to different audiences. Assuming we have been careful about our diction, what “we” say nevertheless is often not what “they” hear, and vice-versa. For example, I don’t like the term “secularism.” It rings of laïcité, which perhaps works for the French, but is certainly not germane to the American experience. Meanwhile, for my Muslim friends, “secularism” suggests a godless society—something inconceivable to them, and, for that matter, to me. … Here’s another term that is more complicated than it seems: “Cairo Speech.” I was in Pakistan recently, and a thoughtful person told me that he was tired of Cairo speeches. Between Condoleezza Rice’s speech there in 2005, which I had forgotten about, and Barack Obama’s speech in 2009, nothing had fundamentally changed.

February 23rd, 2010

“Religious freedom” and its critics

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During his landmark address to the world, delivered in Cairo last June, President Obama proposed to open a new era of engagement with “Muslim communities”—engagement, that is, not just with Muslim states or regimes, but also with other economically and politically influential social sectors, including religious groups, educational institutions, civic organizations, health care institutions, and youth affiliations. In the hopes of accelerating the process of rethinking America’s attitude toward the Muslim word, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs has issued a Task Force Report (TFR), entitled “Engaging Religious Communities Abroad: A New Imperative for U.S. Foreign Policy.” Our hope is to build on the president’s ideas and explain why they apply not only to Islamic communities, but to religious communities more generally.

June 23rd, 2009

Toward a universalist exceptionalism

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American exceptionalism has been dealt a body-blow. I want to suggest, however, that the variant of exceptionalism that was upset by the Bush era was only a vertical model, and that a horizontal image has not only survived, but is flourishing—perhaps, in fact, finding ultimate expression in the personage of Barack Obama as the official representation of the body politic. Traditionally, there have been two distinct, coexistent images of American exceptionalism—one vertical, and one horizontal. The vertical model envisions America as the pinnacle of a global hierarchy, the privileged “city upon a hill” over an otherwise flat or downward-sloping world. The horizontal model pictures America as being, instead, a consummation, the “melting pot” where the peoples of the world meet, intermingle, and are ennobled by virtue of constituting collective humanity within morally important national borders. In the first picture, America is separate from the world of nations, and in the second, America has subsumed the world of peoples. […]

June 22nd, 2009

Obama and the end of exceptionalism

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Presidents are compelled to use the language of exceptionalism in two important ways. If our presidents are to be believed, we are always doing something New and something Great. We have had, in the past eighty years, the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the New Frontier, the Great Society, the New Nixon, Morning in America, A Thousand Points of Light, a New Covenant, a Bridge to Tomorrow, and Compassionate Conservatism, and now we have a New Foundation. These slogans are made to do a lot of work, in that they suggest another word that became the brand of the Obama campaign last year: change.

November 17th, 2007

Secularism, hegemony, and fullness

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secular_age.jpgWhat are the stakes in wanting a fixed definition of religion, whether in terms of “a sense of fullness,” as Taylor suggests, or of “transcendence,” or of “something beyond what has yet been achieved, or will ever be achieved”? What is at stake here? Why are we so concerned to establish a category that encompasses a number of very different kinds of experience, experiences that for some religious people don’t belong together at all? […]