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Chicago Council: Engaging Religious Communities Abroad

A New Imperative for U.S. Foreign Policy

Authors: R. Scott Appleby, Richard Cizik, and Thomas Wright
February 23, 2010

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The Chicago Council on Global Affairs' Task Force on Religion and the Making of U.S. Foreign Policy just released its report, which aims to advance the understanding of religion's role in world affairs.† The study finds that religion is playing an increasingly influential role in the public sphere and recommends that the United States move beyond traditional state-to-state relations to develop policies for engaging religious communities across nations.

There are times in foreign policy when the gap between what the United States can do and what it needs to do suddenly comes into focus. The advent of the nuclear age ushered in expertise on deterrence.† The attacks of September 11 led to a more rigorous and systematic understanding of terrorist networks and how they operate.† But there are also occasions where the capabilities gap is real, but lingers for some time, often at a great cost. The role of nationalism and decolonization was not widely understood in the United States until after the Vietnam War, despite considerable supporting evidence in the 1950s. Such is the case with religion today.

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