The Role of Religion in National Security Policy Since 9/11

  • February 01, 2011
  • Chaplain (COL) Jonathan E Shaw

The United States has struggled to find a framework to integrate religion into the post-September 11, 2001 (9/11) discussion of national security. Islam has been the central focus, with both the 9/11 terrorists and many of America’s partners in overseas contingency operations sharing an Islamic heritage. President George W. Bush’s paradigm of “Religion as Freedom” and President Barack H. Obama’s paradigm of “Religion as Unity” have been partially successful, but they have yet to provide a nuanced understanding of Islam and a comprehensive framework. Part I of this Carlisle Paper examines the enduring role of religion in human conflict through the eyes of Alvin Toffler, Francis Fukuyama, Samuel Huntington, and Robert Kaplan. Part II provides an analysis of Islam to determine its power within current alignments, and addresses jihad and the level of support for terrorism. Part III examines the role of religion within the Bush and Obama administrations, and proposes a third paradigm—“Religion as Ideology”—in an attempt to relate a strategic vision which comprehends the power of Islam to a policy which accounts for religion in terms of empowered behavior. Part IV addresses practical questions regarding the implementation of the paradigm of “Religion as Ideology” and the way ahead.