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KU students lap up Mead's distillation on the Jewish Lobby, US foreign policy

KARACHI, Aug 31: The Christian and not the Jewish Lobby shapes the United States foreign policy, argued Walter Russell Mead, a senior fellow for US Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

Mead, the CFR's Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow, gave a lecture to students, writers and teachers of International Relations here on Thursday.

In a lighter vain, he clarified that he did not represent the US administration nor did his views reflect the viewpoint of Mr. Kissinger. He then dwelt at length on the role of religion in US foreign policy.

He stressed that the role of religion in society and politics should be seen in a worldwide context. Thirty years ago, religion was not playing such a dominant role in political affairs. The award-winning American author said that now this phenomenon is not specific to the US alone. European, Arab and Muslim countries, China, India and Africa have also witnessed a similar situation. Socio-political oppression, insecurity and a failure of secularisation have made people turn to religion which is now a dominant political force.

Urbanisation and globalisation have also contributed to making religion a political force. Mead gave the example that when a rural Christian or Muslim migrates to an urban area, the church or mosque and social network and support make them feel as if they are part of a community.

Mead, who is also Project Director for Religion and Foreign Policy for the Pew Forum, elaborated on the demographic composition of various faiths so that his audience could understand how religion influences ideas and political trends.

In the US, 90 percent of citizens believe in God and more than 85 percent are Christians. Around six million Jews make up two percent of the US population. The Muslim population in the US is not known because the government doesn't inquire about the religion of US citizens. According to an estimate, however, the number of Muslims might be between four to five million, he added.

Twenty-four percent of Christians are Roman Catholics and a majority of US citizens are Protestant, that makes up 52 percent of the Christian population. A majority of Protestants were mainstream 20 years ago but now their majority is Evangelical, he added. "Historically, Americans like Capitalism because they are religious," he remarked.

Mead also said that different societies have different cultural preferences and this also put many countries' political systems under tremendous pressure.

Taking advantage of biblical prognostications, American scholars were publishing since 1690 that Jews would finally return to the Holy Land and establish their own state. Whenever the establishment of Israel is discussed anywhere in the US, the evangelicals proudly say that the biblical prognostication came true. He did admit, however, that another group contests the Biblical prediction on the grounds that the Old Testament's verses were abrogated in the New Testament.

He clarified that he was an Anglican while adding that theologically many Christians also support Palestinians, saying they are children of God. "Diversity begins to creep in with the rise of evangelical political ideas," he also argued.

Mead had to answer many questions about the Israeli Lobby's role in US foreign policy. He said that 85 percent of Jews vote for Democrats while President Bush is a Republican. The New York Times and Washington Post are two main newspapers owned by Jews but they too hate Mr. Bush and consider him "insane". He said that Hollywood also opposes Bush.

Furthermore, the US Congress has a strong influence on the US State Department that has to face Congress too and Mr. Bush is not the only boss of them.

To a question, he also disagreed with the impression that hidden forces such as intelligence agencies and corporations had a leading role in US foreign policy. "Perhaps it is so, but I don't know," he said for his part.

"The US administration under George W Bush follows three courses simultaneously. It is Wilsonian, Nixonian and Jacksonian in its policies," he said to another query. For instance, the Bush administration is Wilsonian as far as the export of democracy is concerned. Woodrow Wilson was the 28th president of the US. Andrew Jackson was the seventh president and the Bush administration follows his policies on immigration. Richard Nixon was the 37th president and his administration is a source of inspiration for diplomacy and peace talks.

The Public Affairs section of the American Consulate of Karachi hosted the programme which was attended by a number of International Relations students from the University of Karachi. Dr Moonis Ahmer, Head of the IR Department at KU, welcomed Mead. Daily times
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