The Sacred and the Secular: Influence of Religion on George W. Bush’s Foreign Policy

Published date01 December 2015
Date01 December 2015
Subject MatterArticles
Department of International Relations, Jadavpur University, Kolkata, West Bengal, India.
Corresponding author:
Moutusi Paul Choudhury, Department of International Relations, Jadavpur University,
Kolkata 700032, West Bengal, India.
The Sacred and the
Secular: Influence of
Religion on George
W. Bush’s Foreign
Moutusi Paul Choudhury1
This article makes an attempt at unraveling the influence of religion on
former President George W. Bush’s foreign policy in the aftermath of
the spectacular event of September 11. Along with various trends of
globalization, the contemporary world also witnessed the resurgence
of religious forces, making its presence felt across not only the social
spectrum but also the political spectrum. This trend has been more
visible in US foreign policy, particularly under the presidency of Bush
Junior. After the attack, Bush’s frequent references to God resonated
well with awestruck Americans, who looked upon their leader for
solace and security. And the President’s personal faith went a long
way in constructing the mechanism through which he intended to
fight the scourge of terrorism—his policy of “War on Terrorism.”
Bush also used religion as a polish to gloss over his muscular expan-
sion of hegemonic power. Since religion played an important role in
the identification and construction of the enemy as “evil,” both for
Osama bin Laden and later for President Bush, Samuel P. Huntington’s
“clash of civilizations” thesis found frequent references in the course
of the analysis.
Jadavpur Journal of
International Relations
19(2) 159–183
2015 Jadavpur University
SAGE Publications
DOI: 10.1177/0973598416639413
160 Jadavpur Journal of International Relations 19(2)
US foreign policy, George W. Bush, religion, September 11, Huntington’s
“clash of civilizations” thesis
In the United States, religion is a powerful force and salient political
issue. Indeed, religious attitudes, many scholars believe, exert greater
influences on political choices in the United States than in other Western
democracies (Gupta and Samuel 2006, 106). The impact of religion on
the US politics is unique because it comes not through direct influence of
religious leaders and churches on public officials, but rather by means of
religious framing of issues by political elites and through embedded
networks of evangelicals in major institutions that enable religion to flex
its political muscles (Froese 2014). This is because the political awak-
ening of the conservative evangelicals and fundamentalist religious
movements has been underway since the 1980s and has produced political
structures that exert considerable influence on foreign policy-making
(Gupta and Samuel 2006, 106). Thus, almost every American president
was guided more or less by some basic religious tenets (Scott 2006–
2007). However, one president who championed his private values as a
guiding force in his decision-making process is former President George
W. Bush (Jr.). This article seeks to look into the extent to which religion
worked as a catalyst in shaping the Bush administration’s political
rhetoric after 9/11.
Religion and the US Foreign Policy
To quote Samuel P. Huntington, “In the modern world, religion is
central, perhaps the central force that motivates and mobilizes people”
(Huntington 1996, 27). Apart from Huntington, the former Secretary of
State, Madeleine Albright also acknowledged that “(t)he 1990s had
been a decade of globalization and spectacular technological gains; the
information revolution altered our lifestyle, transformed the workplace,
and fostered the development of a whole new vocabulary. There was
however, another force at work. Almost everywhere, religious move-
ments are thriving” (Albright 2006, 10). Such assertions seem to validate

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