U.S. diplomacy must help convince all Iraqis, but especially majority Shiites, that a liberal democracy grounded in religious freedom is in their fundamental interests, not simply in economic and political terms, but religiously as well.
This is a critical issue for American national security--but despite its importance, religion remains for the State Department (in Douglas Johnston's phrase) "the missing dimension of statecraft." The permanent foreign-policy bureaucracy still views religion as a private matter, properly beyond the bounds of policy analysis and action. Most senior officers have imbibed the secularization thesis: Spiritual longings are throwbacks to man's infancy and will shrink as modernity replaces superstition with science and reason. Like the scholarly discipline of international relations itself, the schools of diplomacy that dominate at Foggy Bottom--liberal internationalism and classical realism--are securely grounded in secular premises.
In other words, our actions in furthering our interests abroad are subject to the Supreme Court's Lemon test for whether a government program is constitutional within the United States. This is doubtless why, according to the New York Times, the Pentagon recently hired contractors to pay Sunni religious scholars covertly for their advice. At least someone at the Pentagon understands the problem, even if they do not know how to solve it.
-Thomas Farr, The Diplomacy of Religious Freedom
Of course, covert money might be necessary in any case to avoid the appearance, though perhaps not the reality, of such clerics becoming American lapdogs.
Also apropos, Daniel Larison continues attacking the promulgators of Islamofascist Studies:
For secular people like these prominent neocons, it is horrifying to consider the possibility that some people have motivations that cannot be explained in secular language, because they, lacking in religious imagination of any kind, are at a loss to even begin to really understand what motivates a jihadi. Even when they acknowledge the supposed goal of Paradise or the religious nature of the duty these people believe themselves to be carrying out, it is always with a certain level of incomprehension, almost as if they cannot really accept that anyone not attached to some intelligible ideology firmly bounded in this world really exists. Their inability to understand the religious desire for transcendence in some of its most appalling forms stems, I suspect, in no small part from their own depressingly optimistic and immanentist ideology. Their inability to understand a drive for religious purity and intolerance of other religions as anything other than fascism stems in part from their own reflexive commitments to religious pluralism and a latent or not-so-latent hostility to dogmatic Christianity: everything not on the side of pluralism and "freedom" somehow all gets pushed into a big box called fascism.