George W. Bush is a man of genuine religious conviction. Since September 11, 2001, his personal religiosity has had a marked effect on U.S. foreign policy. But observers draw different conclusions as to what the effect has been.
In the eyes of his supporters (who are not all religious believers), Bush has infused U.S. policy with a moral clarity and conviction that it lacked prior to 9/11. He has returned the United States to its true mission as agent of universal human freedom. To his critics (who are not necessarily nonbelievers), 9/11 caused Bush to see the world in simplistic, even Manichean terms. Critics charge the president with having made U.S. policy not moral, but moralistic. The result, they say, has been to heighten fears abroad that U.S. policy is rigid, arrogant, bellicose, and perhaps even messianic. Critics at home also charge that, in practice, such an approach to policy is unsustainable, and that in the long run it will only open the United States to allegations of cynicism and hypocrisy.