Fighting the Good Fight: The Religious Right and American Foreign Policy Since World War II
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This dissertation addresses the question of the foreign policy views of the leading spokespeople for the Religious Right in the United States since the end of World War II. The analysis begins with the early years of the Cold War, focusing on the religious overtones that quickly became part of America's efforts at confronting Soviet communism. The fight against "godless" communism led to an increased emphasis on the religious character of the United States. This emphasis on religion elevated the prestige of religious conservatives, granting them a voice in both domestic and foreign policy matters. The dissertation examines how during the 1970s many religious conservatives believed that the United States had entered a period of spiritual decline. This view had a direct impact on their foreign policy views because they connected their perception of this domestic moral decay with their fears concerning what they saw as America's international decline during this same period. The dissertation discusses the specific foreign policy views of religious conservatives on issues such as defense spending, nuclear buildup, détente, foreign aid, and the end of the Cold War. It also describes how those in the Religious Right worked to find common cause with other groups within the growing conservative coalition. An analysis of their specific views demonstrates that religious conservatives often used their views on foreign-policy issues as ways to build stronger ties with, and strengthen their position in, the conservative coalition. Finally, the dissertation shows that the religious beliefs, eschatological views, and political considerations of religious conservatives led those individuals to put great emphasis on the United States' relationship with, and support for the State of Israel throughout the Cold War. After the Cold War ended, members of the religious right continued to emphasize the importance of American-Israeli relations, partially in an effort to maintain some level of relevance and credibility on foreign policy issues, and partially because the new global war on terror realigned American international priorities in a way that once again made Israel a key ally against the "forces of evil" in the world.