In First Things today, I have an essay on President Biden’s recent recognition of the Armenian Genocide of 1915–and why that recognition hasn’t translated into practical help for Armenians suffering ethnic cleansing today. Here’s an excerpt:
Recognition of the Armenian Genocide, suddenly, has become one of the few things on which Democrats and Republicans agree. It would be good if the new willingness to speak forthrightly about history translated into practical help for Armenians facing ethnic cleansing today. That, unfortunately, seems a different story. Shortly after his statement on the genocide, President Biden made another decision that indicates that, when it comes to present-day aggression against Armenia, the United States is prepared to look the other way. . . .
Turkey and Azerbaijan would like very much, in Erdoğan’s words last year, to “fulfill the mission of our grandfathers in the Caucasus”—to remove the obstacle that Christian Armenians place in the way of a unified, pan-Turkish mega-state stretching from Istanbul to Central Asia. American leverage could make Turkey and Azerbaijan think twice about pursuing this strategy. But America’s foreign policy establishment continues to see Armenia as a Russian proxy and therefore undeserving of much assistance. Indeed, neoconservatives have cheered Azerbaijan’s aggression against Armenia as a way to contain Russia and, secondarily, Iran.
This assessment of the situation is wrong and unfair. Surrounded by enemies who would like to make it disappear, Armenia has little choice but to make alliances where it can. Besides, the theory that helping Azerbaijan would weaken Russia has proven spectacularly wrong. As a result of the war, Russia now has military bases both in Armenia and Azerbaijan and wields more influence in the Caucasus than it did before. As for Iran, it voiced its support for Azerbaijan during the war and now hopes to receive Azeri contracts to help with the rebuilding.
The full essay is available here.
We’re a little late getting to this, but last year ISI Books released this interesting-looking book: A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century. The author is Paul Kengor, a political science professor at Grove City College. The book explores the relationship between the Catholic Pope and the American President, and, in particular, their joint efforts against Soviet Communism in the 1980s. At the time, few people, certainly few political scientists, could have thought their efforts, and those of other opponents of the Soviet regime, would be successful. Yet both lived to see the fall of the Soviet Union in their lifetimes. Here is the publisher’s description:
Even as historians credit Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II with hastening the end of the Cold War, they have failed to recognize the depth or significance of the bond that developed between the two leaders.
Acclaimed scholar and bestselling author Paul Kengor changes that. In this fascinating book, he reveals a singular bond—which included a spiritual connection between the Catholic pope and the Protestant president—that drove the two men to confront what they knew to be the great evil of the twentieth century: Soviet communism.
Reagan and John Paul II almost didn’t have the opportunity to forge this relationship: just six weeks apart in the spring of 1981, they took bullets from would-be assassins. But their strikingly similar near-death experiences brought them close together—to Moscow’s dismay.
A Pope and a President is the product of years of research. Based on Kengor’s tireless archival digging and his unique access to Reagan insiders, the book reveals:
- The inside story on the 1982 meeting where the president and the pope confided their conviction that God had spared their lives for the purpose of defeating communism
- Captivating new information on the attempt on John Paul II’s life, including apreviously unreported secret CIA investigation—was Moscow behind the plot?
- The many similarities and the spiritual bond between the pope and the president—and how Reagan privately spoke of the “DP”: the Divine Plan to take down communism
- New details about how the Protestant Reagan became intensely interested in the “secrets of Fátima,” which date to the reported apparitions of the Virgin Mary at Fátima, Portugal, starting on May 13, 1917—sixty-four years to the day before John Paul II was shot
- A startling insider account of how the USSR may have been set to invade the pope’s native Poland in March 1981—only to pull back when news broke that Reagan had been shot
Nancy Reagan called John Paul II her husband’s “closest friend”; Reagan himself told Polish visitors that the pope was his “best friend.” When you read this book, you will understand why. As kindred spirits, Ronald Reagan and John Paul II united in pursuit of a supreme objective—and in doing so they changed history.
On Monday, April 3, the Hudson Institute will host a conference entitled “U.S.-Egyptian Relations in the Age of ISIS.” Among the speakers will be Nina Shea (Center for Religious Freedom), Alberto Fernandez (Middle East Media Research Institute), and Samuel Tadros (Center for Religious Freedom). The conference will take place at the Institute’s Stern Policy Center in Washington, D.C. from 11:45 AM to 1:00 PM. The Institute’s description of the event follows; more information can be found here.
Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi’s visit to Washington in early April presents an opportunity to renew the American-Egyptian alliance. Over the past three and half years, a wide gulf in policy approaches has led to disagreements on a range of issues, from democracy and human rights, to Islamist extremism and the Libyan Civil War. Will the diplomatic visit mark a new chapter in U.S.-Egyptian relations?
President Sisi’s visit comes at a critical moment for his country. In the Sinai, the Islamic State’s local affiliate is inflicting daily casualties on security forces. Its genocidal campaign against Egyptian Copts has led to a mass flight of Copts from north Sinai. This followed the bombing of the St. Mark Cathedral compound in Cairo that left 29 people dead.
As the new Trump administration refines its strategy towards the Arabic world’s most populous country, Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom will host a discussion on the security, political, and religious freedom challenges facing Egypt. On April 3, Ambassador Alberto Fernandez, Vice President of the Middle East Media Research Institute, will join Hudson Senior Fellows Nina Shea and Samuel Tadros to assess the situation in Egypt and discuss effective U.S. policy options toward the country.
In April, Columbia University Press will release Holy Wars and Holy Alliance: The Return of Religion to the Global Political Stage by Manlio Graziano (Sorbonne University). The publisher’s description follows:
Religions are reemerging in the social, political, and economic spheres previously occupied and dominated by secular institutions and ideologies. In the wake of crises exposing the limits of secular modernity, religions have again become significant players in domestic and international politics. At the same time, the Catholic Church has sought a “holy alliance” among the world’s faiths to recentralize devout influence, an important, albeit little-noticed, evolution in international relations.
Holy Wars and Holy Alliance explores the nation-state’s current crisis in order to better understand the religious resurgence’s implications for geopolitics. Manlio Graziano looks at how the Catholic Church promotes dialogue and action linking world religions, and examines how it has used its material, financial, and institutional strength to gain power and increase its profile in present-day international politics. Challenging the idea that modernity is tied to progress and secularization, Graziano documents the “return” or the “revenge” of God in all facets of life. He shows that tolerance, pluralism, democracy, and science have not triumphed as once predicted. To fully grasp the destabilizing dynamics at work today, he argues, we must appreciate the nature of religious struggles and political holy wars now unfolding across the international stage.
This month, Cambridge University Press releases “Islamic Politics, Muslim States, and Counterterrorism Tensions,” by Peter Henne (University of Vermont). The publisher’s description follows:
The US Global War on Terror and earlier US counterterrorism efforts prompted a variety of responses from Muslim states despite widespread Islamic opposition. Some cooperated extensively, some balked at US policy priorities, and others vacillated between these extremes. This book explains how differing religion-state relationships, regimes’ political calculations and Islamic politics combined to produce patterns of tensions and cooperation between the United States and Muslim states over counterterrorism, using rigorous quantitative analysis and case studies of Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey. The book combines recent advances in the study of political institutions with work on religion and politics to advance a novel theory of religion and international relations that will be of value to anyone studying religion, terrorism, or Islamic politics. It also provides numerous insights into current events in the Middle East by extending its analysis to the Arab Spring and rise of the Islamic State.
This month, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers releases God on Our Side: Religion in International Affairs by Shireen T. Hunter (Georgetown University). The publisher’s description follows:
This timely book offers an accessible introduction to religion in international affairs. Shireen T. Hunter highlights the growing importance of religion in politics and analyzes its nature, role, and significance. She places the question of religion’s impact on global affairs in the broader context of state and nonstate actors, weighing the factors that most affect their actions. Through the lens of three compelling and distinctive case studies—Russia’s response to the Yugoslav crisis, Turkey’s reaction to the Bosnian war, and Europe’s policy toward Turkish membership in the EU—Hunter demonstrates that religion increasingly shapes international affairs in significant and diverse ways. Her book is essential reading for anyone needing a better understanding of why and, more important, how, religion influences the behavior of international actors and thus the character of world politics.
In October, the University of Chicago Press will release A Peaceful Conquest: Woodrow Wilson, Religion, and the New World Order by Cara Lea Burnidge (University of Northern Iowa). The publisher’s description follows:
A century after his presidency, Woodrow Wilson remains one of the most compelling and complicated figures ever to occupy the Oval Office. A political outsider, Wilson brought to the presidency a distinctive, strongly held worldview, built on powerful religious traditions that informed his idea of America and its place in the world.
With A Peaceful Conquest, Cara Lea Burnidge presents the most detailed analysis yet of how Wilson’s religious beliefs affected his vision of American foreign policy, with repercussions that lasted into the Cold War and beyond. Framing Wilson’s intellectual development in relationship to the national religious landscape, and paying greater attention to the role of religion than in previous scholarship, Burnidge shows how Wilson’s blend of Southern evangelicalism and social Christianity became a central part of how America saw itself in the world, influencing seemingly secular policy decisions in subtle, lasting ways. Ultimately, Burnidge makes a case for Wilson’s religiosity as one of the key drivers of the emergence of the public conception of America’s unique, indispensable role in international relations.
As the presidential election cycle once again raises questions of America’s place in the world, A Peaceful Conquest offers a fascinating excavation of its little-known roots.
This month, Routledge releases “Medieval Foundations of International Relations,” edited by William Bain (National University of Singapore). The publisher’s description follows:
The purpose of this volume is to explore the medieval inheritance of modern international relations. Recent years have seen a flourishing of work on the history of international political thought, but the bulk of this has focused on the early modern and modern periods, leaving continuities with the medieval world largely ignored. The medieval is often used as a synonym for the barbaric and obsolete, yet this picture does not match that found in relevant work in the history of political thought. The book thus offers a chance to correct this misconception of the evolution of Western international thought, highlighting that the history of international thought should be regarded as an important dimension of thinking about the international and one that should not be consigned to history departments.
Questions addressed include:
- what is the medieval influence on modern conception of rights, law, and community?
- how have medieval ideas shaped modern conceptions of self-determination, consent, and legitimacy?
- are there ‘medieval’ answers to ‘modern’ questions?
- is the modern world still working its way through the Middle Ages?
- to what extent is the ‘modern outlook’ genuinely secular?
- is there a ‘theology’ of international relations?
- what are the implications of continuity for predominant historical narrative of the emergence and expansion of international society?
Medieval and modern are certainly different; however, this collection of essays proceeds from the conviction that the modern world was not built on a new plot with new building materials. Instead, it was constructed out of the rubble, that is, the raw materials, of the Middle Ages.This will be of great interest to students and scholars of IR, IR theory and political theory.
In August, Routledge will release “Religion, State and the United Nations: Value Politics,” edited by Anne Stensvold (University of Oslo). The publisher’s description follows:
This volume approaches the UN as a laboratory of religio-political value politics. Over the last two decades religion has acquired increasing influence in international politics, and religious violence and terrorism has attracted much scholarly attention. But there is another parallel development which has gone largely unnoticed, namely the increasing political impact of peaceful religious actors.
With several religious actors in one place and interacting under the same conditions, the UN is as a multi-religious society writ small. The contributors to this book analyse the most influential religious actors at the UN (including The Roman Catholic Church; The Organisation of Islamic Countries; the Russian Orthodox Church). Mapping the peaceful political engagements of religious actors; who they are and how they collaborate with each other – whether on an ad hoc basis or by forming more permanent networks – throwing light at the modus operandi of religious actors at the UN; their strategies and motivations. The chapters are closely interrelated through the shared focus on the UN and common theoretical perspectives, and pursue two intertwined aspects of religious value politics, namely the whys and hows of cross-religious cooperation on the one hand, and the interaction between religious actors and states on the other.
Drawing together a broad range of experts on religious actors, this work will be of great interest to students and scholars of Religion and Politics, International Relations and the UN.
In December, Routledge released “Brunei – History, Islam, Society and Contemporary Issues,” edited by Ooi Keat Gin (Universiti Sains Malaysia). The publisher’s description follows:
Brunei, although a relatively small state, is disproportionately important on account of its rich resource base. In addition, in recent years the country has endeavoured to play a greater role in regional affairs, especially through ASEAN, holding the chair of the organisation in 2013, and also beyond the region, fostering diplomatic, political, economic and educational ties with many nations. This book presents much new research and new thinking on a wide range of issues concerning Brunei largely drawn from Bruneian academics. Subjects covered include Brunei’s rich history – the sultanate formerly had much more extensive territories and was a key player in regional affairs; the country’s economy, politics, society and ethnicities; and resource issues and international relations.