The Effects of U.S. Woke Diplomacy
(Dr. Christopher Manion and Stefano Gennari, May 31, 2023)
Transcript available below
About the speakers
Christopher Manion works with the Population Research Institute in Virginia, where he focuses on family issues at home and abroad. He earned a Ph.D. in government from Notre Dame, and has lived and taught in several countries.
For many years he was the staff director of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere. In his frequent travels in the region over many years, he has seen the impact of US policy not only on political life, but on the culture.
Stefano Gennarini is the Vice President for Legal Studies at the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam). He represents C-Fam at UN headquarters in New York and researches and writes on international law and policy for C-Fam, advising UN delegations and liaising with pro-family organizations around the world. He oversees the Edmund Burke Fellowship. His reports and commentary have appeared on Breitbart, the Congressional Research Quarterly, The Federalist, First Things, the National Catholic Register, and the Stream.
He has been interviewed by the New York Times, NPR, Relevant Radio, the Washington Post and other news outlets. Stefano earned a Juris Doctor from Notre Dame Law School in Indiana in 2011 and was a Blackstone Legal Fellow in 2009. Before attending law school, Stefano trained to be a priest at the Redemptoris House of Formation in London and attended Heythrop College, University of London where he obtained a Bachelor in Theology. While in the United Kingdom, he also gained experience in editing and translations with the Catholic Truth Society (CTS).
Prior to earning a J.D. from Notre Dame Law School, Stefano lived and worked in the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, Nigeria, the West Indies, and Israel. He is fluent in Italian and Spanish. Stefano lives in New Jersey with his wife Elizabeth Marie, and their seven children. He stopped tweeting to spend more time with them.
Robert R. Reilly:
Hello and welcome to the Westminster Institute. I am Robert Reilly, its director. Today we are delighted to host a program with two Notre Dame alumni on the subject of the effects of U.S. woke diplomacy on the audiences that the United States is trying to reach through those means.
Dr. Christopher Manion
Our first guest is Dr. Christopher Manion, who works with the Population Research Institute in Virginia, where he focuses on family issues at home and abroad. He earned a Ph.D. in government from Notre Dame University, and has taught in the Departments of Politics, Religion, and International Relations at Boston University, the Catholic University of America, and Christendom College. For many years Dr. Manion was the staff director of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere. He in that capacity had frequent travels in the region and saw the impact of U.S. policy, not only on political life but on the culture.
Dr. Manion has also been a weekly columnist and contributing editor at The Wanderer newspaper. He also was a contributing editor for Saturday Review and High Fidelity magazines, and his op-eds and book reviews have appeared widely in The Wall Street Journal, National Review, The Journal of Economic Development, and the National Catholic Register, for example. He is on the boards of the American Foreign Policy Council, of which he is the co-founder, and the Population Research Institute. He was a founding Trustee of Universidad Francisco Marroquin in Guatemala. In addition, he is the author of several books. Dr. Manion speaks German, Spanish, and Italian.
Our second guest, Stefano Gennarini, is the Vice President for Legal Studies at the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam). He represents this organization at the UN headquarters in New York and researches and writes on international law and policy, advising UN delegations and liaising with pro-family organizations around the world. His reports and commentary have appeared at Breitbart, the Congressional Research Quarterly, The Federalist, First Things, the National Catholic Register, and the Stream. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, NPR, Relevant Radio, The Washington Post, and other news outlets.
Stefano earned his law degree at Notre Dame Law School in 2011. [At] the University of London, he obtained a Bachelor in Theology. Prior to earning his degree from Notre Dame Law School, he lived and worked in the United States, United Kingdom, Italy, Nigeria, the West Indies, and Israel. He is fluent in Italian and Spanish.
Gentlemen, welcome to the program and our discussion of the effects of America’s woke diplomacy.
The Presidential Memorandum
Let us say that this program has been engendered by a couple of extraordinary documents, both of which I have before me. One is from the president, a memorandum for heads of executive departments and agencies from President Biden. It is called the Memorandum on Advancing the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Persons Around the World. It directs any agency having to do with foreign policy to use its resources for those ends, and to report back to the president in a year on how those activities have been implemented.
And indeed, here I have before me the Interagency Report on the Implementation of the Presidential Memorandum on Advancing the Human Rights of LGBTQI+ Persons Around the World. This is a very long document. I am just going to try to give our audience a little idea of the scope of the efforts involved here by naming the agencies which are active in meeting the demands of the memorandum from President Biden, and who are reporting back to him on the use of their resources for those ends.
Now, the Department of State is obvious, [but the list also includes:] Treasury, Defense, Justice, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the United States International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), the Millennium Challenge Corporation, Export-Import Bank of the United States, and the Office of the United States Trade Representative. Alright, that gives some, you know, idea of how comprehensive an effort has been undertaken to comply to President Biden’s memorandum.
Gentlemen, let us open the discussion on your impression of what is taking place, how it is being implemented by these agencies, and of course the vital question of what impact this is having on the countries at which it is aimed.
Well, it is my distinct pleasure and honor to be speaking with you, Bob, and you, Chris. I am really just a lowly lawyer activist compared to you, who are both incredibly erudite and accomplished scholars. But I would just begin by noting how despite this remarkable list of areas where our diplomats and Foreign Service are instructed to work to promote LGBT rights, they really are not big on listing accomplishments, so there is a lot of activity going on, but the results really are not there. And this was borne out actually last year during a hearing that took place with the Special LGBT Envoy in the Biden administration, Jessica Stern, who was not able really to list any accomplishments of the Biden administration’s LGBT diplomacy throughout the world.
Robert R. Reilly:
Stefano, if I could just interrupt, thank you for that very interesting remark, I only want to add that the State Department has added another such special envoy, a Special Envoy for Racial Equity and Justice.
Yes, well, I mean, that is part of the whole woke ideological mindset in a sense that, you know, all these grievances that have to be addressed are intersectional, if you see so. All the different groups that are oppressed by societies and governments around the world in that way are able to come out all together.
But it was a very interesting hearing because one of the major issues that the envoy was supposed to be working on was to help diplomats who identify as homosexual or transgender obtain visas for themselves and for their families in the countries in which they are working, U.S. diplomats that is. But when she was asked on a couple of occasions during that hearing if there had been any instance of, you know, U.S. diplomats who identified as LGBT [being] denied visas for themselves or their families, she was not able to cite a single case, so we have an entire, you know, diplomatic apparatus working on issues without there even being real grievances to be addressed.
And I think that is something to be borne in mind because that is how a lot of countries view this, this kind of cultural colonialism, if you like. They really do not see any effect from it, except the political pressure that they are receiving from U.S. diplomats and officials, because they do not really see any way for the most part to really implement such an agenda within their countries even simply because of the political realities within the countries.
Dr. Christopher Manion:
Well, if I can pick up where Stefano left off with the political pressure, this first missive from the Biden administration was issued on February 4th, 2021. That is two weeks after the inauguration. Now, we cannot assume that folks were busy in the White House basement for two weeks, putting this together. It had been there a long time.
And to understand the political background, Joe Biden has always been in the business of paying off his core supporters. I have worked with him for years, right behind him on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff, and he is very aware of to whom he owes what. And here we have $36 billion to the corrupt unions, whose pension plans were going broke. That was under the umbrella of assistance because of the COVID lockdowns. A trillion to millions of former students who did not know enough basic math to realize what they were signing up for at 18 years of age, perfect Biden supporter group.
And now, [there is] another core group, as Biden describes them, “Brave lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex plus activists.” Now, Biden calls these people a “reflection of our most dearly held values” in the document, and he equates them with fundamental human rights. Unfortunately, I have to disagree, although I do not blame him. I do not blame him.
But with this diktat, the word went out to 22 million federal, state, and local government employees, as well as millions more NGOs and other organizations that enjoy federal taxpayer funding or are liable to the application of the Biden administration’s understanding of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as interpreted by the Biden definitions.
Here we have to point out, with regard to those NGOs, we are talking about 40 or 50 million people. They are secular by law, those NGOs. Even Catholic charities, Catholic relief services, have to keep everything religious out of their operation by law. Taxpayers cannot pay for religious exercises, after all, and since so much of this began $35 trillion dollars of national debt (more or less) ago with LBJ’s Great Society, those NGOs have been well trained and fully tamed.
They do not complain. They just cash their checks. And if you do not like it as an employee, hey, you can go work for the private sector. As we have learned this past couple of weeks, if employees do not like it and complain to their superiors about not only waste, fraud, and abuse but crime, they are thrown out, thrown to the dogs.
Now, this is illegal in my view, these two diktats, the one of February 4th, 2021, and then the follow-up from all of the agencies, which you point out is copious in words but not in meaning. The Equality Act was proposed in three sessions of the U.S. Congress. It has never passed, so what Biden is doing with these diktats is strictly operating on the momentum of mandates that were being obeyed because of, in my view, the lockdown mentality and the inclination of goodwill American people to comply with what is for the good of the people.
From the political point of view, that is where the pressure is coming from, and those folks down the line understand that if they do not follow in harmony with these diktats, they are going to run into trouble. Their superiors will blame them for any bumps in the funding road, and then we move on to sitting out by the side of the road, looking for an alternate place to work.
The second issue I have in mind is the history. I have been going to Latin America for 60 years. And as you point out, 50 years ago I was a founding trustee of Marroquin, which is now one of the most impactful and illustrious universities south of our own border. I have talked to leaders down there over the years, and the impact of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and its programs are really powerful.
Now, as I look at the 2022 report, we find that the USAID is taking innovative and bold steps to leverage diplomatic engagement in foreign assistance to promote the human rights of the LGB acronym through elevating concerns about criminalization and so on. When you talk to these people over the course of the past 50 years and more, you hear that, well, you know, in order to get clean water or agricultural assistance to help us feed the people, we have to sign on to all of those cultural programs, including population control, artificial birth control, and abortion when it comes to American democratic administrations.
And we are talking about a hundred countries in the world where these are rejected by cultures that consider them to be dehumanizing, deviant, and that means when you are assisting local advocates, in this case the LGB acronym crew, when you are helping them, you are finding opponents of the government and funding them because the government is, in a hundred countries, no way [supportive of this agenda]. The laws are firm and on the books.
So I found that in speaking even with religious leaders (in Latin America, especially, where I spent a lot of time), they would ask me why does the United States fund these programs in spite of the fact that the culture here rejects them?
Well, the answer is that the NGOs in the United States with the name Catholic support them and they support full funding of them, and so the Latin American Bishops have no voice when it comes to American foreign policy as articulated through the U.S. Catholic Bishops conference. So there you have both the immediate political pressure and the historic path of assistance where populations and governments are trained and tamed in order to continue receiving the money.
Robert R. Reilly:
Thank you so much for that, Chris. I wanted to get just a couple quick examples. As you pointed out, this has been going on for some time, though when the White House changes to a new administration, these executive orders can be rescinded and new ones put in their place, just as happened when President Biden came in. But President Obama was engaged in a great deal of the same kind of promotion.
I want to make one remark as a preliminary one. I worked for many years in U.S. public diplomacy. I was also a diplomat. I worked for 12 years at the Voice of America. I am very cognizant of how the United States was representing itself to the world, and so the world could understand what it was we were doing and also how we thought of ourselves.
And to do that, it was an incumbent upon us to represent the founding principles of the United States that animate this constitutional republic, and it is only within that context that people should understand the arguments and conflicts, political conflicts, that take place. For instance, over these varying issues that President Biden is trying to promote overseas through this executive order to all these agencies. That has not been agreed to politically within the United States. There is a huge amount of debate about these issues, and they are not accepted by a majority of the American people, yet it is taking front and center in U.S. public diplomacy. I find that extraordinary.
It is kind of Shanghaiing U.S. public diplomacy for a woke diplomacy to which the American people have not agreed. I want to give a couple quick examples to illustrate exactly what Dr. Manion was saying. Barack Obama, when he was President in 2015, went to visit Kenya, and President Uhuru Kenyatta was asked to respond to the criticism about gay rights and so forth in Kenya. And he responded that Kenya and the United States – I am quoting him – “share so many values, our common love for democracy, entrepreneurship, value for families. But there are some things that we must admit we do not share. It is very difficult for us to be able to impose on people that which they themselves do not accept.”
You know, nonetheless, the embassy hosts the pride flag, and also some of them host Black Lives Matter flags, which must be a curious kind of thing for people in countries in which more than 99 percent of the population is colored.
I have another document I would like to briefly quote from. This is a letter to President Trump, dealing with, as you know, Chris, since you have so much experience in government and what happens when it changes at the top, and all those things in the government bureaucracy that do not change because they are entrenched, and the few political appointees have neither the time nor the power to transform them.
Thus, this letter was sent with signatures to President Trump from 289 Christian ministers and church leaders, 289 from Caribbean nations. Here is what they said, and they reflect in here the creation by President Barack Obama of a new State Department position of which you have spoken, Stefano, the Special Envoy for Human Rights of LGBT persons.
Now I am quoting from the letter from these ministers: “The problem should be self evident. We have our rights by virtue of being human beings and not by anything else – not our ethnicity, not our religion, not our race, not our tribe and certainly not our sexual orientation. The promotion of gay rights must come at the expense of human rights, because the two are immiscible. One is founded on the ‘laws of nature and of nature’s God’ and the other on moral relativism, which eviscerates the very idea of natural rights. If you have one, you cannot have the other. As it turns out, the Obama administration, among others, has shown this to be so, as so-called ‘gay rights’ are pre-empting human rights, such as freedom of religion, freedom of expression and freedom of conscience.
“Your government agencies [are] using executive orders to foist transgender confusion through the bathroom issue on your public schools by threatening the loss of federal funds. Comply, or be defunded. Please understand that the same kind of coercion is being used against our countries to force us to fall in line with the entire same-sex agenda.”
So here we are dealing with the effect of this woke diplomacy upon the populations at which this is aimed. Perhaps, Stefano, you could talk because you have frequent contact with representatives of those countries about this kind of thing.
Yes, certainly, I mean, I think a lot of the delegates I speak to from countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia look upon these efforts and they do not really take them very seriously, frankly, because they know the realities in their own countries and they know what is politically feasible and not. And a lot of the agenda that is being promoted internationally right now by the State Department and USAID simply is not palatable politically in most traditional countries, if we can call them that
That raises also the question of are we really not just wasting a lot of money and effort to promote a political agenda with regards to homosexual/transgender issues that is not really going to yield many results? I mean, there certainly are instances where U.S. diplomacy will yield results on this, but at what cost and are they worth it? I think it is worth thinking about it.
And you said something in the [letter from the Christian ministers] about the preeminence of LGBT issues above human rights, and that is effectively what has happened in the State Department since the time of the Obama administration. And it really did not change all that much even during the Trump administration except that there was maybe, you know, they just hit the pause button on the more extreme stuff.
What really happened in 2010 when Hillary Clinton declared that LGBT issues would become a priority for the State Department, and that was later enshrined in an executive order by Obama, I think in the subsequent year or shortly thereafter, is that it created a human rights priority for the entire State Department.
Now, that is very interesting because human rights have never been an actual priority in the State’s Department. As you well know, or will know, human rights have always been a bargaining chip and something to be used according to sort of a very realist doctrine of we are going to push what we can wherever they will accept it, so you know, the State Department, U.S. diplomats, are not going to promote, you know, homosexual marriage in countries where they know it will not be accepted under normal, traditional foreign policy praxis.
But what we are seeing now, on the other hand, is the Biden administration promoting homosexual marriage in places where it will not be accepted, and they are doing this even in the universal periodic review in Geneva, a Human Rights Council mechanism to review the human rights record of every country on a rolling basis where every country has an opportunity to comment on the human rights record of the country under review.
And you know, they just concluded a session, and the Biden administration is systematically adding the promotion of homosexual marriage as a human rights issue in the Human Rights Council. But this goes beyond just UN mechanisms. If LGBT issues really are a priority, then every U.S. diplomatic engagement has to elevate LGBT issues, and this is what we are seeing.
The effect of it is that the perception abroad is that the only human rights, or the most important human rights, are rights related to sexual autonomy, and expression, and behavior. That is not just because they are, in fact, a priority, but it is also a fact that other human rights have never been declared a priority of the State Department in the same way. In U.S. State Department tradition, you know, human rights are just simply one of the tools amongst many that U.S. diplomats use to advance U.S. interests. In the case of LGBT rights, that is no longer the case. They are not one of many tools that U.S. diplomats use to implement U.S. foreign policy, as other human rights have been for a very long time, they are a priority in and of themselves.
So I mean, just to explain this a little bit more. You know, the tradition of U.S. advancing human rights internationally is a long tradition. We can go back all the way to the founding of the United Nations, the Atlantic Charter before that, but the United States has always been on board in promoting human rights internationally, in particular, civil and political rights, right, so the idea is we want to promote democracy, self-government, and values that are consistent with the U.S. Constitution. That has always been the case.
During the Cold War, there was a clash between the U.S. tradition of civil rights and the communist tradition advanced by Russia and China of economic and social rights. For the United States, the priority was always civil and economic rights, but even then, the United States was always realistic, so the United States was never going to go to Saudi Arabia, which is our strong, traditional ally, and push democratic values. Why? Because they are not a democracy, and they would not accept democratic values. But they would promote other issues that might be compatible with the U.S. tradition.
In this case now, the United States, by making LGBT issues a priority for the State Department, they are elevated as always being a priority. When Hillary Clinton said all LGBT rights are now going to be a priority for us, and the Obama issued that executive order back in 2010, you know, a lot of people just shrugged their shoulders or rolled their eyes and said oh yeah, here we go, you know, this is just their pet political project.
But nobody really tried to analyze and look in depth at what the effects were for State Department praxis going forward, and we are starting to see that now. We are starting to realize more and more what that is, and how detrimental it is, and now it goes beyond just diplomacy. It goes into our foreign assistance and all engagements of the U.S. government across all federal agencies with international bodies and other governments.
And the LGBT agenda is not only a standalone priority, it is also integrated into all other areas and policies, as you were noting before, so if you go and look at the grants that are being issued by the U.S. Agency for International Development on a myriad of issues, whether it is energy, whether it is women’s issues, whether it is economic issues, infrastructure, education, every single grant that the U.S. government makes now includes gender/LGBT components. It has just been an inescapable reality simply because this is now a priority for the U.S. government.
So I think we are only really beginning to appreciate the fundamental transformation of foreign policy priorities, doctrines, and praxis that have come because of America’s LGBT foreign policy. There is the effect with regards to human rights, but there is also the effect with regards to foreign assistance.
You know, U.S. foreign assistance has traditionally been established to create goodwill towards the American people. That is the priority. We are not, you know, out in the world to resolve all the world’s problems. That was never the intention, even though, you know, at the United Nations we undersigned declarations that we are going to end poverty everywhere and eliminate hunger, which are wonderful aspirational goals.
But you know, Americans have never engaged in foreign assistance with the idea that we could achieve a global utopia. We have always been quite pragmatic, and the idea has always been let us try and gain goodwill towards the United States, especially in places where that goodwill will help us down the road.
But now, because LGBT issues are a priority and we are now promoting them everywhere, the goal of U.S. foreign assistance is no longer creating goodwill towards the United States, because promoting LGBT rights in most traditional countries is not going to create any goodwill towards us. That is a fact. What we are doing is promoting something deeply unpopular in many, many countries.
Now the priority is entirely different. It is social engineering, cultural engineering. That is a form of colonialism, and that is not just, you could say, objectionable because it is anti-democratic and it undermines the U.S. tradition of respecting other countries’ sovereignty, the Monroe Doctrine, if you like, but it is also deeply problematic because it is very wasteful.
How do you measure social engineering goals? How do you measure, you know, social acceptance of LGBT issues in a population? You are going to have to expend an incredible amount of time and treasure in order to try and change public opinion in countries where it is completely on the opposite spectrum of things.
Robert R. Reilly:
Just to confirm what you were telling us, Stefano, I knew an individual who was one of the senior most people in AID, the Agency for International Development, for Asia. He himself had lived for years in Central Asia. He knew the territory very well, and his conclusion of the effect of this kind of promotion in those countries was that we had lost the goodwill, that the soft power of the United States was squandered, and that we had become an object of derision and almost a joke. That is how he evaluated the effect of woke diplomacy as undermining the purposes of the United States in the world.
I also want to make a brief comment that the agencies I mentioned in the presidential memo that are active on this are not really the only ones that are engaged in this kind of promotion.
Oh, before I mention this one small item, I can tell you – I went back as the Director of the Voice of America at the very end of the Trump administration. I had been the director back in 2001-2002, a very exciting time after 9/11 when the agency was really pulling together to fulfill its purpose, basically at a time of war. What I saw in my brief time there back at the end of the Trump administration was exactly what you, Stefano, and what you, Chris Manion, have mentioned.
The agency had transformed itself into an all on LGBT megaphone. They had a special desk in the newsroom that did nothing but that, and that is the way they were representing the United States, which to me was inimical to the mission, the stated mission of the Voice of America. But nonetheless, that took over.
And obviously, with the Biden administration that very same thing is going on.
This is a minor item, but it is illustrative of this turn. This involves the Biden administration giving a grant through the National Endowment for Humanities (NIH). [The NIH] in January announced a $350,000 grant to create a Spanish language version of Homosaurus. Homosaurus is, I suppose, a gay dinosaur.
The Spanish language version features the dinosaur standing under the rainbow logo, defines hundreds of terms relating to bisexuality, transgender, and intersex concepts, including – I hesitate to mention these words – I do not think I should mention them because they are obscene. They are repugnant, so I am not going to mention them, but this is what our National Endowments for Humanities is doing with $350,000 for this Spanish language dictionary, which I am sure, as Dr. Manion knows, will find its way into Latin America, where it will contribute to the damage that is being done from our woke diplomacy.
Dr. Christopher Manion:
On that note, 30 years ago the Maplethorpe grant, the famous National Endowment for the Arts grant, [was given] to the homosexual photographer. When the issue came up in the Senate, Senator [Jesse] Helms started showing at his desk certain products of this grant, and the Senate actually voted against funding it, at which time the Democrats looked at one another. They said wait a minute, what? They all went to the cloak room and said what have we done?
Well, now we know, 30 years later, what they have done. They did a 180 degree turn in no time, but with regard to Stefano’s very acute point of are they working, well, a speaker whose arguments are not selling will pound the table or speak loudly. Well, if a program comes along that is not working, it must mean we are not funding it enough because they absolutely insist that this is what is good for the folks across the ocean, for instance, Black Lives Matter.
Not in Africa, not to AID, where they are aborting as many black children as they can, and the Africans are rising up against it. Indeed, in Uganda and Ghana, they are telling the folks from the State Department, in one case Kamala Harris, we do not want your money. And the presidents recognize that their people in those two countries, they know where they are. In virtually every African country, homosexuality is a crime, a homosexual act, so we are beating our heads against a diplomatic wall.
But mind you, this is an ideological movement. The ideologue does not expect everybody to go along at all, or agree, he wants them to obey. And what is happening now in the diplomatic corps, as well as every other aspect of government? We are hiring. We are hiring, but guess who they want to hire? And who are they firing? Well, they cannot really fire anybody, but they can sideline you forever, and you will never get promoted, and you will be given a closet as an office. And you will be told just to wait out your time. If at that point, because you might have principle or you might actually have some ambition to actually do something for your country, you go through the proper channels.
At the NSA twenty years ago, John Drake went through the proper channels, and he was hounded. And by the way, he exposed Dick Cheney’s illegal surveillance of American civilians without cause, but that did not matter even though that lay the foundation for what we are seeing happen today in the Obama, and especially the Biden, administrations.
So the other thing about why they are focusing on this so much as the truly American values is because they have given up on all the other ones. The notion of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) overturns equality. They are not compatible. And also, inclusion has been interpreted in the equivalent statements from the Biden administration on DEI, that are worth discussing someday, by the way, that includes abortion. Inclusion includes abortion, so that is not equity at all with the child in the womb.
And the freedom of association. What happened to girls’ swim teams? They are not allowed to associate with each other unless they let some guy, who is a third-rate swimmer, jump in and force them all into second and third place. Freedom of speech? Not anymore. Hate speech laws are gathering momentum. And what is left? The LGB acronym. And believe me that ten years ago, we never would have believed what that would come to include.
By the way, the February 4th, 2021 announcement from the Biden administration invoked that of Obama ten years before on gays and lesbians. It expanded it, and what is going to be imposed on us in 2031? Who knows?
That is really interesting. You mentioned that our State Department has given up on promoting authentic human rights, or self-government, democracy, you know, what you were doing at Voice of America, you know, many years ago. What was the foreign policy with regards to human rights for the United States for many, many years has been sort of jettisoned in favor of this unfettered sexual autonomy priority.
But it is very interesting that you say that our government has sort of given up on this because if you think about it, it sort of reflects the way our ruling class has given up on democracy, also, through the advance of the administrative state, through the undermining of Congress, through executive fiat.
And I use that expression ruling class deliberately.
I was mentioning to Bob – recently, there was an observance of the passing of Angelo Codevilla, who was a colleague of Bob’s for many years.
Dr. Christopher Manion:
…and yours. He had a wonderful intuition about the corruption of our ruling class, and I see that. I think that is reflected in the lack of resistance there has been to this LGBT agenda within the State Department, in particular. You know, I think everybody has just been content to just keep collecting their checks while this stuff has advanced, and not enough people became whistleblowers, not enough people have opposed it.
I mean, there have been exceptions, excellent exceptions. I know, for example, of Emilie Kao, who went to Heritage and is now with ADF. You know, she was working at the State Department and left because of how shocking, you know, the overreach on this issue was there during her time. At the same time, there have not been enough. There have not been enough. I know for sure there are good people in the State Department, or people who know better, and they have stayed silent and have watched this agenda encroach on everything.
But it also speaks to the power of the woke mob or the woke ruling class. Our politicians for the most part do not feel competent or do not have the moral courage to oppose this openly. They just do not have the tools to do it, which is why I was very encouraged to see this month earlier this month a paper from the Heritage Foundation on the issue of wastage, wasting money on PEPFAR programs. This is one of the areas where really there has not been a lot of awareness, but the PEPFAR program has also been one of the sources of funding for the LGBT movement internationally for years, for decades.
Robert R. Reilly:
Well, what is the PEPFAR program?
The PEPFAR program is the U.S. emergency program for HIV and AIDS. It is single largest global health program in the history of humankind, where we spend over five billion dollars annually for the last almost 20 years now on providing HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention in poor countries. But the thrust of the program over the last 10 years has been to provide antiretroviral drugs in poor countries that cannot afford them. And increasingly, there is awareness that the program is unsustainable and unrealistic because we are essentially trying to sustain the very kind of behavior that is contributing to the virus’s spread.
Because it is such a huge program, five billion dollars, a lot of that money is also going to organizations that are also promoting the LGBT agenda, including money for creating transgender clinics in poor countries where there is not really all that much demand for them. But that is how U.S. taxpayer dollars are being spent and have been for a very long time without a lot of people being aware. PEPFAR has become one of those vehicles that is being used for this sort of cultural colonialism or social engineering, and it is on an issue that is very sensitive, on which nobody feels to speak.
I do want to say, though, that I mean, it is important for our conservatives, social conservatives in particular, who are involved in foreign policy, to be able to articulate a vision of human rights and foreign assistance that cannot be characterized as homophobic or negative because that is the big danger. Of course, when anybody, you know, dares to speak on this issue, they are labeled homophobic and canceled, and they can never speak again.
I do think that, you know, there is scope for U.S. diplomacy to promote an authentic vision of human rights internationally, and that includes, you know, protecting individuals who identify as homosexual or transgender to be protected from human rights violations, but that involves reading international human rights law in a responsible way based on the text of the treaties that the United States has ratified. And it does not involve creating new human rights out of whole cloth and reinterpreting existing obligations to include things that were never contemplated when those documents were negotiated and ratified. And I think that is really the challenge.
One of the biggest disappointments, you know, even during the Trump administration was the campaign, for example, to decriminalize homosexuality that was one of the initiatives that came out of the Trump administration. On one hand, it seemed to attempt to dial back some of the more extreme elements of the LGBT agenda, including the transgender promotion, where the Trump administration was quite effective in reigning back a lot of that.
But on the other hand, you know, there really was not a lot of legal analysis or serious human rights analysis in that campaign. It was simply more of a social engineering goal, rather than a legal, human rights endeavor. There certainly is scope for the U.S. government to campaign diplomatically, as well as through human rights mechanisms, for example, on those countries that apply the death penalty, for example, to homosexual acts.
It will certainly be possible to go campaign and say such a penalty is cruel and inhuman and violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [and] the Convention Against Torture, which the United States ratified, so I think there is certainly scope to have a conversation about protecting all the rights and dignity of all, including individuals who identify as homosexual or transgender.
But it is essential to do that from a proper reading of international human rights law without attempting to impose a social agenda under the guise of human rights. And I think conservatives are not well positioned to do that because conservatives have not been engaged in the human rights debate enough, in international human rights debates enough. And that is a weakness that conservatives and social conservatives have, which is that of not being involved in international debates. And largely that is because the law and economics school of legal interpretation has dominated the conservative movement.
And when it comes especially to foreign policy, a lot of conservatives say, well, international law is not law at all. And there is no enforcement mechanism, so we really do not have to worry about what we do internationally. In the end, it is all about a matter of might and whoever can impose their foreign policies on other countries.
I think what we are seeing more and more is how influential, actually, international mechanisms have become, international norms have become. Just consider the gender issue. You know, in 1995 when the UN conference on women adopted the Beijing platform for action with all these goals related to gender, everybody looked at gender and thought, oh, okay, you know, gender is just interchangeable with sex.
And the few voices alarmed by the use of the term gender back in 1995 were dismissed as alarmists, you know, who exaggerated. ‘And there is not any slippery slope,’ a lot of people said back then. Well, now here in our own country we have states which are taking away custody from parents who will not allow their children to transition.
And that is an outgrowth, that is a direct result of the international policies with regards to gender, because even where those policies were not able to advance domestically within countries, there has been in place an entire mechanism system of organizations, institutions, internationally that have kept this agenda alive, opportunistically waiting to bring it within countries, within states, even within municipalities. And that has all been sustained by the gender policy stream internationally, which the United States government has contributed billions of dollars to.
Dr. Christopher Manion:
That is a point I would like to pick up on, if I may. Look at the NGOs in Afghanistan, teaching Afghan Muslim women to contracept. They got their money and went home. When Biden pulled out, he left $80 billion in dollars and weapons, but the NGOs did not lose a cent. They brought home all the money they funded. All of this is funded, and that is why I am so proud of the Bishops of Uganda.
Back in March, Biden NSC spokesman John Kirby said that LGB acronym rights are a core part of our foreign policy, and threatened to impose economic sanctions on Uganda if that predominantly Christian country enacts an anti-acronym identity law that was passed by parliament. The Washington Post picked right up and said oh, the global backlash to Uganda’s new acronym law approved by the East African nation’s parliament Tuesday is resounding, the world is objecting. And Reuters: ‘more than 30 African countries, including Uganda, already banned same-sex relations.’ Well, duh, and yet here is Kirby. And then, the Catholic Bishops of Uganda announced that they will reserve judgment.
Oh, and by the way, the Ugandan President in April refused to sign the law and sent it back. He said I agree with the bill, but my original problem is the psychologically disordered person. Well, the folks in our State Department are not going to like to hear that because calling it a disorder is offensive.
But then the Bishops of Ghana told their president when Kamala Harris was visiting, promising, if I recall, $180 million in aid, do not take the money, do not take the money, unanimously, and it was brilliant.
And it occurred to me how that might be translated into the United States’ Catholic NGO operations, which get over a billion a year from the federal taxpayer, if only they would say we are not going to take the money. It would have two impacts. Number one, their operations would have to be reduced in size or change direction. But secondly, the federal government would be left with all those NGOs on the border who are bringing in the illegals that the coyotes bring to the border.
Where are we going to get the help to bring all these people in if you Bishops are on strike?
And they can do that. They could do that. They do not have to pass a law. They can just get some strength of will, to pound the table, if you will, and say we are on strike until you stop pushing these issues over here, like the Bishops of Ghana have said, and so I salute them and I think that the folks in Africa know which way our policies are going, and they are telling us to go take a hike.
Robert R. Reilly:
Chris, you mentioned earlier that the U.S. Congress failed several times to pass the equality law, and you also mentioned the question of the constitutionality of this executive order and these actions by these agencies reporting back to the president on their compliance with the executive order to promote and protect the whole rainbow ideology. Well, what about that? The Supreme Court just ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency had overstepped its authority.
Stefano, you mentioned earlier the administrative state, which has gained such power in the United States that the EPA has now gotten its hand slapped good and hard for overstepping its constitutional authority, according to the laws which established it. I want to know, when you mentioned the possible unconstitutionality of the executive order and of this wholesale transformation of U.S. public diplomacy to serve its ends, are there some grounds to bring in action, questioning the constitutionality of this? Because as both of you have mentioned, it is involving a lot of money and that money is appropriated by the U.S. Congress.
Dr. Christopher Manion:
Well, it is more than money. It is power, and if you want to protest it at a federal court, there are about 110 federal courts in the country. And when you are managing a death of a thousand cuts, in the Chinese fashion, I mean every bureaucracy, every office, every bureaucrat is sent to test the waters, push further, further out. The Department of Agriculture tells schools in Missouri that you have to boys into the girl’s room, or you cannot get lunch money, agriculture.
Go down the list of everybody. What, nuns? The Sisters of the Poor have to have contraception insurance? They went to court, and I am here to tell you [that] to go to a federal court, to the court of appeals, costs half a million dollars, minimum. Now, every one of those infractions is going to be – okay, we have got all the money we need. We are going to go to court and take this to [appeal]. You have got a hundred courts and you have got a thousand infractions, and the dockets are longer and longer. And many of the cases will be dismissed out of hand for lack of standing. By the way, I did not go to law school except for Charlie Rice’s Constitutional Law course at Notre Dame.
…a very good one.
Dr. Christopher Manion:
…my favorite guy.
So if you look at the broad picture, they are going to keep this up until they are stopped. And Vladimir Lenin said you thrust the sword, and if it hits steel, withdraw. You know, 1905, one step forward, two steps back. That has often been reversed inaccurately. No, if you run into a problem, you go back and figure out what did we do wrong, and then you go back and try it again. And by 1917, it worked. These attempts are universal because they know that we can be overwhelmed.
And you [look at] school boards [and you see the same phenomenon. In] Richmond, Virginia, right here in my back door, there is a parish that the FBI was observing one Sunday with two blindados, the drug dealers call them, two blacked out windows with SUVs and aerials on the top, and cameras, and all the rest for this little church. Actually, it is a traditional church that only had maybe 50 or 100 people there, and they were being spied upon as a result of the FBI’s new policy to spy on traditional Catholics.
Now, the FBI apologized and said oh, that is not in the policy. They did not say they were stopping. They did not say that it went national. Because they were not stopped. They were not sued. And when they are sued, ah, let us find out who are we suing. We are suing the Justice Department. Fat chance.
So they know that they have got the initiative and the national civic virtue of the American people assumes that everybody is going to go by the same law and obey as tradition and law requires. Not these guys, and that is why that is the one aspect of the left that Americans have not been taught about, because if they knew about it, the left would not get away with it.
Yeah, sometimes I like to say the left thinks in generations. You know, they do not think in terms of political cycles. Conservatives think only in terms of the next political cycles, whereas the left thinks in terms of generations and bureaucracy and processes, and that is what we are seeing unfold with the gender ideology in our own State Department, as well as at the United Nations, where we see it every day.
And so the question is, well, how much of it is constitutional?
I do think that the President should have a quite a lot of discretion over foreign policy except where something is mandated by Congress. He really has kind of a lot of discretion. I do not see really any self-evident challenge. I think a lot of this should be challenged from the point of view of wasting money, and that is something Congress should do proactively by existing and new mechanisms that can be used to, I think, eliminate social engineering goals, for example.
All of our programs internationally should have concrete goals and targets that can be measured and can be attained. A lot of the goals and targets that we now have are completely fake and they are social engineering goals that are never going to be attainable. And we are just going to be throwing money at them for decades and wasting all this money.
But I do think from the point of view we do want to keep a lot of discretion for the president to implement policies and programs internationally, also because if we ever get a president who has the technical capacity and the moral courage to do so, we do want to be able to restore a proper understanding of international affairs and positive foreign policy, including with regards to human rights.
You mentioned earlier an executive order could just with a stroke of the pen [overturn previous executive orders]. A future president who was not opposed to traditional morality could do away with all these bad executive orders and policies, and that is something we want him to be able to do. And I think it would be, in fact, incumbent on any future conservative president to adopt a an executive order that would essentially replace all the executive orders and memorandums having to do with gender ideology in any of its forms, and replace them with authentic human rights, with instructing the State Department and USAID to implement all programs and engage all diplomatic affairs with a proper understanding of human rights based on the actual obligations of the United States government under ratified human rights instruments, understood and interpreted in light of the U.S. Constitution.
I think we have a beginning of that with the report of the U.S. Commission on an Unalienable Rights under the Trump administration. That report may prove to be really foundational for a recovery of a good engagement on human rights from the U.S. government. Let us hope that proves to be the case.
Dr. Christopher Manion:
Well, I pray that it does. I am just thinking about Lenin again, who said in some years nothing happens (when you talk about timing and the way Republicans or conservatives think). He said in some years nothing happens. In some weeks, years happen. And I am looking back at 1962, for instance, with the Kennedy-Khrushchev Accords, where in that crisis at the end of October 1962, the expectation of 45 Democrat losses in the House was shaved down to about four or five. And actually, they won two more seats in the Senate.
And 25 years later after the State Department had fought us year after year from exposing what that secret agreement, like Yalta, that had the power of a treaty, the courts have decided, the compact, the executive compact. Twenty-five years later in testimony on the Intermediate Nuclear Force (INF) treaty in 1989, an admiral was asked by one of the Senators. This was after eight years of Reagan:
“Well, Admiral, we know about trust but verify. Was the removal of the missiles from Cuba ever verified? Did the Soviets ever take them out? Was that verified?” “No, Senator.” That belongs in history books, but it is not there. Well, by then the wall had fallen and Reagan was successful in defeating the Communists without firing a shot, but between 1963 and ’65, what passed? LBJ’s entire Great Society program and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which is probably the most powerful piece of legislation we have in terms of impact besides the Constitution itself.
And what has been happening in the last two years is a mirror image. They did as much as they could as quickly as they could because to reverse it will take more than two years, and they know that, and that is the way they work. They do think long term, but they act short term. For two years they pushed the sword, and it did not hit steel, it hit mush. And as Lenin says, when that happens, push it all the way in.
Robert R. Reilly:
Well, gentlemen, I am afraid we are out of time, and I would like to thank Dr. Christopher Manion, with the Population Research Institute, and Stefano Gennarini, who is Vice President for Legal Studies at the Center for Family and Human Rights, for joining me today to discuss: The Effects of U.S. Woke Diplomacy. I would like to invite our audience to go to the Westminster Institute website to see our other offerings, recent lectures on the Russia Ukraine war, on China, Japan, Taiwan, even a program on the causes of inflation. I hope you will find our other programming interesting, and I thank you for joining us today for this discussion. I am Robert Reilly. Thank you.