Review: Faith-Based Diplomacy–Trumping Realpolitik

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5.0 out of 5 stars Award-Winner, Mind-Altering Information, Useful, Scholarly,

April 29, 2004
Douglas Johnston
Let’s start with the award. I was so impressed with this book that it received one of the ten Golden Candle Awards for most constructive and innovative work in the Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) field. It represents the second book in a body of work that may eventually be worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize. The citation reads:To Dr. Douglas M. Johnston, president and founder of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy, for his path-finding efforts with regard to Preventive Diplomacy as well as Religion and Conflict Resolution. Among his many works, two stand out for defining a critical missing element in modern diplomacy: Religion, the Missing Dimension of Statecraft (Oxford University Press, 1994), and Faith-based Diplomacy: Trumping Realpolitik (Oxford University Press, 2003). He has restored the proper meaning of faith qua earnestness instead of faith qua zealotry, and this is a contribution of great importance.

With a foreword by no less than The Honorable Lee H. Hamilton, today a leader of the 9-11 Commission, the book drives a stake in the heart of secular “objective” negotiation and focuses on how faith (not zealotry, but earnest faith) can alter the spiral of violence in such places as Sudan, Kashmir, and the Middle East.

The editor and contributing author has assembled a multi-national and multi-religion cast of experts whose work in the aggregate completely supports the premise of the book: that the 21st Century will be about religion instead of ideology, and that what hopes we might have for reconciling “irreconcilable differences” lie in the balanced integration of religious dialog and conflict prevention, rather than in pre-emptive military action and unilateralist bullying.

I found two core concepts especially relevant to national security: the first is that we need an Office of Religious and Cultural Intelligence within the Central Intelligence Agency, and we need, as the authors suggest, to put religious attaches into every Embassy. The second, and this is a truly core concept, is “The price of freedom is cultural engagement–taking the time to learn how others view the world, to understand what is important to them, and to determine what can realistically be done to help them realize their legitimate aspirations.”

This is a brilliant, scholarly, practical, world-changing book. It joins Max Manwaring’s various books, but especially “The Search for Security,” Joe Nye’s earlier books on understanding the world and engaging the world with soft power, and George Soros as well as the several other books on my standard national security reading list. The conclusion of the book lists a number of means by which religion can impact on diplomacy and state-craft, and I for one have become a believer–this book completely altered my perspective on the role of religion as a peacemaker of substance and day-to-day practicality.

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