By Michael Rubin, contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has put LGBT issues at the forefront of United States diplomacy. Embassies fly pride flags alongside the American flag. Diplomats lecture their foreign counterparts not only to ensure basic human rights, but also to advocate that they embrace a gender ideology the Democrats’ progressive base embraces (and for which there is no consensus in American society).
Shortly after taking office, President Joe Biden declared, « It shall be the policy of the United States to pursue an end to violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics, and to lead by the power of our example in the cause of advancing the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons around the world. »
Don’t move backward on free speech
He directed the State Department to prioritize the issue. Blinken was enthusiastic. Speaking on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly last September, he declared , « Standing up for LGBTQI+ people is a top priority for our administration. »
« Transgender people are often denied access to legal identity documents that reflect their names and gender markers, » he noted. While two dozen U.S. embassies lack ambassadors, the Biden team managed to appoint a special envoy to advance human rights for LGBT people.
Since Biden inaugurated his LGBT-first policy, I have visited the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, Rwanda, and Somaliland. Each country faces serious challenges involving security, Russian encroachment, corruption, education, the economy, terrorism, and/or external aggression.
While China builds hospitals, railroads, or highways; Turkish firms build housing developments or operate airports; and Russia sends mercenaries, American diplomats lecture about issues most Africans see as tone-deaf if not cultural imperialism. Rather than further American influence, it makes the United States a subject of ridicule.
Nor do the gay communities in these countries believe the U.S. approach is wise. Conservative African societies historically ignored homosexuality. African gays might bring long-term partners to family events with the explanation that they were simply roommates. It was, as Bill Clinton might say, a policy of « don’t ask, don’t tell. » By prioritizing the positions of the most extreme LGBT activists, the United States now sparks a backlash that worsens the situation, especially in countries such as Uganda.
It is not just gay people who suffer. Without any sense of irony or self-awareness, Blinken observed in February « the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation. »
« The United States stands with the more than 200 million survivors of female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C) around the world in a posture of ‘zero tolerance’ for the practice, » he said. He declared female genital mutilation to be « a form of gender-based violence and a human rights abuse that threatens the lives and futures of girls and young women in nearly 30 countries around the world, including the United States. »
In this, he is right, but the policy he oversees now explicitly declares genital mutilation to be a human right if conducted for the right progressive reasons.
U.S. foreign policy should be about national security and expanding American commercial opportunities. Human rights matter, but when diplomats become the engine to drive policies for which there is not even consensus in America, the backlash can be huge.
Biden and Blinken may want to be the team that exports progressive values to countries and continents they condescendingly treat as backward. Their legacy, however, increasingly appears to be the opposite: They have set back tolerance across the continent, undercut worthy efforts to protect women, and transformed the image of American diplomats in the countries they serve as effete clowns who live in an alternate universe.
When it comes to representing America abroad, it is time to go back to the basics and leave social activism to locals who understand their own countries.
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