Several critical works on George W. Bush and his adminstration try to peer into the president’s soul and find out how his religion is affecting foreign policy. In his new book American Dynasty (Viking, $29.95), political analyst and strategist Kevin Phillips asserts that Bush’s evangelical faith is key to understanding his approach to world affairs.
Phillips even traces Bush’s religiosity as moving from a Wesleyan (Bush is a United Methodist) emphasis on `personal transformation’ to describing a Calvinist `divine plan’ laid out by a sovereign God for the country and himself.” This sense of providence would be increasingly invoked by Bush after 9/11 and during the war in Iraq, according to Phillips. Bush has infused a distinct form of religion into American foreign policy that is likely to remain a powerful force in statecraft for years to come, according to Boston University political scientists Andrew J. Bacevich and Elizabeth H. Prodromou.
In the foreign policy journal Orbis (winter), Bacevich and Prodromou note that even before Bush’s election, religion had been assuming a new role in U.S. statecraft, particularly with the movement of evangelicals pressing for international religious freedom. But it was not until after 9/11 that Bush brought his personal evangelical theology stressing the unfolding of God’s will in world events and the presence of good and evil to bear on foreign policy.
“There ensued a marriage of the president’s no-nonsense evangelicalism with the muscular, highly militarized utopianism of the neoconservative (and largely secular) Right. The union imparted a particular twist to U.S. grand strategy, creating an American variant of liberation theology,” write Bacevich and Prodromou.
Bush’s evangelical views on the providential mission of America to the world and clear delineation between good and evil “coincided neatly with the neocons secular worldview,” leading to a number of neoconservative appointments to the White House. In the National Security Strategy, the foreign policy manifesto of the Bush administration, this intersection of worldviews is clearly evident. The neoconservative views on democratic capitalism being the “single sustainable model of national success” and the obligation of extending the “benefits of freedom across the globe” were framed and heavily invested with Bush’s religious language and imagery of “ridding the world of evil” and restoring “human dignity.”
The writers conclude that the president’s “religiously informed alliance with the neoconservatives since 9/11 is likely to leave a formidable legacy…it will reinforce the ongoing tendency to instrumentalize religion. That is, politicians, capitalizing on Bush’s successful amalgamation of religion and statecraft, will be further emboldened, from time to time, to cite concepts such as America’s Providential mission or the persistence of evil in the world to arouse support for a particular initiative.”
(Orbis, 1528 Walnut St., Ste. 610, Philadelphia, PA 19102)