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J U LY - A U G U S T 2 0 1 2 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L
“winning” Kabul throughout the
1990s, while billions of taxpayer dollars
were allocated to the cause?) And our
policy’s negative impact on the region,
not to mention the struggle against Is-
lamic terrorism, is sobering.
Because the lessons Tomsen iden-
tifies stayed deliberately unlearned
through several administrations, one
wonders: Is change possible at this
point? “The hour is late,” he writes in
early 2011, but a U.S. policy based on
facilitating a fundamental change in
Pakistan’s policy, genuine Afghan cus-
tody of the war, and diplomatic re-
gional and global reinforcement
“could salvage some long-term success
in Afghanistan.”
Sadly, it is still not clear that any
real change is at hand.
Though meticulously documented,
The Wars of Afghanistan
is no aca-
demic work. It is an intimate, timely
look at the realities of making and im-
plementing foreign policy that should
be required reading for anyone who
has anything to do with Afghanistan,
and for every student of U.S. foreign
policy and international affairs.
Susan Brady Maitra is the
Senior Editor.
In Everyone’s
Religious Freedom:
Why Now? Defending
an Embattled Right
Timothy Samuel Shah and Matthew
J. Franck, Witherspoon Institute,
2012, $9.95, paperback, 86 pages.
M. G
Even a cursory survey of current
events indicates that religion is under-
going a global resurgence. In fact, as
co-authors Timothy Samuel Shah and
Matthew J. Franck put it in
Freedom: Why Now? Defending an
Embattled Right
: “What needs special
explanation is not the resurgence of
religion in the last 50 years or so, but
the paroxysm — often violent — of
secularism that swept across the world
beginning with the French Revolution
in 1789, and had decisively receded
only by 1989.”
So what does this trend signify for
foreign affairs professionals? One
basic implication, according to this re-
port of the Task Force on Interna-
tional Religious Freedom, convened
by Princeton’s Witherspoon Institute,
is the need to use diplomacy more ef-
fectively to defend and promote this
basic right.
The book first builds the case that
religious freedom is a fundamental
right, not some special pleading. It is
intrinsic to human dignity because it
plumbs to the person’s most basic
rights: to define himself or herself, to
relate to others and to live according
to the dictates of his conscience.
Thus, Foreign Service professionals
who hope to skip to the part detailing
what diplomats should “do” about re-
ligious freedom miss the point: basic
human rights and their promotion
stand and fall on their own, irrespec-
tive of utility.
That’s not to deny that diplomats
will also find a national interest in pro-
moting religious freedom. States that
respect religious freedom tend not to
incubate terrorism, while those that
repress it generally do.
In any case, the demand for reli-
gious freedom isn’t going away any-
time soon. As Shah and Franck
observe: “In virtually every part of the
world, religious actors increasingly
seek to enjoy the right to exist, organ-
ize and influence public opinion and
political decisions on the same basis as
non-religious actors.”
They continue: “The future of nu-
merous societies of strategic impor-
tance to the United States — in-
cluding China, India, Russia, Egypt,
Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Nigeria,
Afghanistan and Iran — will depend
in no small part on how they respond
to the insistent demands of their di-
verse religious communities for free-
dom and security.” If believers keep
pressing their demands for freedom,
America will have to take sides.
The task force focuses specific at-
tention on the Islamic world. For the
“moderate Islam” in which so many
Westerners put such faith to emerge,
there must be political space. And if a
regime favors just one sect of Islam, it
is unlikely to be a “moderate” one.
In such cases, the country’s society
will not develop the ability to peace-
fully test divergent religious opinions.
And absent those natural release
valves, extremism grows.
America’s national interest clearly
lies in defending religious freedom,
especially as the full impact of the
Arab Spring unfolds. Concretely, the
report advocates nine major steps to
The Wars of Afghanistan
is a timely look at the
realities of making
and implementing
foreign policy.