In a White House memorandum titled “Memorandum on Advancing the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Persons Around the World,” and issued on February 4, the Biden Administration restated the earlier policy objective of the Obama Administration to, “ensure that United States diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons everywhere.”
In this effort, President Biden demanded the full and active cooperation of the following departments of the Executive branch:
“the Departments of State, the Treasury, Defense, Justice, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the United States International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Export-Import Bank of the United States, the Office of the United States Trade Representative, and such other agencies as the President may designate.”
In summary, these agencies are directed to do the following:
- Combat Criminalization of LGBTQI+ Status or Conduct Abroad.
- Protect Vulnerable LGBTQI+ Refugees and Asylum Seekers.
- Consider the impact of foreign aid programs funded by the Federal Government on human rights, including the rights of LGBTQI+ persons, in these funding decisions.
- Swift and Meaningful United States Responses to Human Rights Abuses of LGBTQI+ Persons in foreign countries.
- Build a coalition of Like-Minded Nations and engage international organizations in the fight against LGBTQI+ discrimination.
- Rescinding Inconsistent Policies and Reporting on Progress within 100 days to the White House.
On March 12, a more specific follow-up document titled “Memorandum For Senior Pentagon Leadership, Commanders Of The Combatant Commands, Defence Agency And DoD Feild Activity Directors” was sent out. It contained a specific set of tasks the Biden Administration expects them to carry out in furtherance of the February 4 memorandum. The senior commanders of the DoD are now expected to “combat” criminalization in foreign countries of LGBTQI+ persons and be public advocates for such rights in working with foreign countries. Furthermore, DoD is also expected to make funding decisions regarding allied countries consistent with the goal of furthering LGBTQI+ rights.
In taking office, President Biden said he wished to re-establish American credibility in foreign countries. These new DoD directives are unlikely to do anything but make the U.S. appear hypocritical, bullying, and unserious when it comes to our multilateral security agreements with other countries and allies.
First, the U.S. is in no position to preach to other countries about LGBTQI+ Rights as if we are leading the world in these efforts. According to a comprehensive study by the WORLD Policy Analysis Center and UCLA, just five countries, Britain, Bolivia, Ecuador, Fiji, and Malta give full constitutional rights to people regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation.
The United States is not on that list.
Shall the U.K. limit its own military cooperation with the U.S. in NATO and our “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing policies because they are on that list and we are not? Will countries, like Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines, that are facing the rapid expansion of China have to do our bidding and change their laws in order to receive weapons from us or expect us to come to their aid?
These policies represent the U.S. imposing cultural imperialism on other countries after decades of expressing multiculturalism and saying we respected cultural diversity in foreign lands. Right now the Department of Defense is heavily engaged on the African continent as al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, al-Shabab, the Islamic State, and others seek territory and influence. At the same time, the countries of Africa are not at all friendly to LGBTQI+ rights. If we condition our aid in fighting terrorism in Africa to them rewriting their laws to decriminalize LGBTQI+ persons, they would have every right to question not only our sincerity in wanting to help them resist these terrorist groups. And given that the DoD is often charged with overseeing direct military assistance to foreign countries, such assistance could be seen as extortion. So, such countries may instead decide that their interests lie in seeking aid from China or Russia.
The proper venue for any effort like this is through the State Department with diplomats engaging with the foreign governments. While overseas the DoD is an instrument of foreign policy, it is generally understood by other nations that the U.S. military is an instrument of force, not diplomatic persuasion. Having the military-speak for our government (and our People) should be the last resort after all efforts at diplomacy have failed. Having U.S. generals and admirals lecture foreign leaders on how they should manage their internal affairs will hurt the credibility of the State Department and the DoD at the same time.
Finally, those worried about the military becoming “politized” should be very concerned with the Biden Administration using it to take point on an issue of such controversy in foreign cultures. These countries often do not treat women and religious minorities (like Christians) with the kind of full equality that President Biden is demanding the U.S. military work towards achieving for LGBTQI+ persons. Most of the world is not a free place for LGBTQI+ persons, but they are not alone in being persecuted. Countries like Malaysia, the Maldives, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Uzbekistan, Burma/Myanmar, Singapore, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Brunei, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Laos, and India top the list of the worst offenders when it comes to religious persecution. Most of these countries would also top the list of countries where women do not enjoy full rights. To them, you could add virtually every country that takes its civil law from the Koran. If Saudi Arabia said it would give full rights to LGBTQI+ persons tomorrow to assure itself of U.S. military assistance and weapons, would the Biden administration then just ignore Christians and women who don’t enjoy those full rights?