March 6, 2002

A gay foreign policy? Gimme a break!

In our victimological culture, where every official minority group under the sun lays claim to special rights and privileges, the impact of political correctness on foreign policy is substantial, and increasing. During the Kosovo war, for example, the fact that the Serbs are Christians, and the Albanians mostly Muslims weighed heavily against the former. The Serbs were likened to "Nazis," Milosevic was deemed the incarnation of Hitler, and the Big Lie that Belgrade had launched the contemporary equivalent of the Holocaust was broadcast – falsely, as it turned out – far and wide. The Afghan war is an even better example of political correctness run amok, with ostensible conservatives hailing the great American victory for supposedly "liberating" Afghan women from the veil. There was also the gay angle, with gay warhawks like Andrew Sullivan citing the Taliban's harsh proscription against male homosexuality as a reason to support the conquest of Afghanistan:

"For of all wars, this is surely one in which gay America can take a proud and central part. The men who have launched a war on this country see the freedom that gay people have here as one of the central reasons for their hatred."


There is irony in this fatuous self-centeredness, as well as a grain of truth. No, Osama isn't pissed because he wasn't asked to be Grand Marshall of Kabul's Gay Pride Day March & Celebration – it's just that the rebellion that brought the Taliban to power was sparked by a fight between two Northern Alliance thugs over the charms of a comely Afghan youth. The mujahedeen, having overthrown the Soviet-backed Commie regime, looted and raped their way from one end of the country to the other, and boys as well as women were not safe. During their reign a beardless boy ventured outside at severe risk to his virtue. This was Mullah Omar's ticket to power: when parents complained to him, he and his followers declared a holy war against the perpetrators and eventually managed to seize power over much of the country. So, yes, a distaste for sodomy is "central" to Taliban history and ideology, but not in quite the way Sullivan means it.


For in reality most men in Afghan society engage in homosexual acts as a matter of course: the sheer unavailability (indeed, invisibility) of women makes that the only alternative to complete celibacy, unless you consider sheep and cored apples more viable options. The Taliban admitted that homosexuality posed a "dilemma" in their own ranks. Now that they have been driven from power, the Pashtun taste for young male flesh is being more openly pursued. So in reality virtually every Afghan male is considerably more "liberated" than the average – i.e. stubbornly heterosexual – American male, who is almost neurotically frightened of even the hint that he might be "that way."


But comparative cultural analysis is way beyond the province of the war propagandist, and Sullivan takes advantage of the opportunity afforded by 9/11 to make the case for a gay jihad against the mullahs at home as well as abroad:

"These monsters believe that gay men and women deserve to be tortured and executed in hideous fashion. They murder and muzzle women; they despise and murder Jews; they demonize gays. We have rightly seen how Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson have destroyed themselves by their hatred in this moment – and we can take solace that America has repudiated their poison."

Falwell and Robertson did nothing of the kind – both are operating as usual, after having merely expressed the traditional Protestant view that man is continually being punished for his sins. But that is irrelevant, really, to the astonishing depth of hatred evidenced in Sullivan's frothy-mouthed rhetoric and the ugly gloating at the alleged destruction of these two religious leaders. Sullivan no doubt considers this just punishment for the sin of homophobia, and the same with the Taliban:

"But let us also remember that the men who committed this atrocity make Falwell and Robertson look mild in comparison. They are the Religious Ultra-Right, and they have already murdered us. Given the chance, they would wipe gay people from the face of the earth."

Including quite a few in their own ranks, but never mind that: consistency or logic is not something that war propagandists find useful. What they do find useful is hate, fear, and – of course – hyperbole. And surely it is hyperbolic, to say the least, that the Taliban and Al Qaeda aim to "wipe gay people from the face of the earth." Do they really care about the entire earth, or just their little corner of it?

Ah, but in Sullivan's world, no one is to be left alone in their little corner, not as long as World's Only Superpower and its pundits-in-waiting walk the earth. Everyone, everywhere must approve of homosexuality: at the very least, if they don't they ought to keep their mouths shut about it – or else face the wrath of our Oh So Special Forces.


All testosteroned up and itching for a fight, Big Butch Andy sternly lectures his fellow queers – including me, I guess – about the dangers of being, well, a pansy when it comes to supporting the war:

"To respond to that threat by cautioning peace or surrender or equivocation is to appease men who would destroy every last vestige of gay America if they could. Gay Americans should not merely support this war as a matter of patriotism and pride; they should support it because the enemy sees us as one of their first targets for destruction."


This is identity politics brought to its logical and totally absurd conclusion: we have to stop them in Afghanistan before they march down San Francisco's Castro street, or land on the beaches in Provincetown. Although the chances of Islamic law being enacted in Baghdad-by-the-Bay are absolutely nil, this is what passes for serious political commentary in the gay community – where hysteria is a permanent state of mind.


Oh, those nasty Muslims "despise our freedom" to f*ck each other senseless and buy a lot of stuff, "they have contempt for our culture" – almost as much as we do – and (horrors!) "they loathe our diversity." Of course, being against "diversity" is a virtual sentence of death these days, and nothing more need be said. Naturally, the much-vaunted virtue of "tolerance" doesn't extend to the supposedly intolerant: i.e. anyone religious, traditionalist, or just plain cantankerous. So racial and sexual "diversity" is glorious, but not when it comes to the ideological realm.


The ultimate fusion of gay identity politics and international relations comes in the form of a priceless essay by gay Republican Paul Varnell, with the serio-comic title of "Toward a Gay Foreign Policy." How much farther can the politicization of homosexuality be taken: will we next see a foreign policy White Paper issued by the Leather Daddies of San Francisco? Indeed, there is something distinctly S&Mish about Varnell's foreign policy recommendations, with the US playing the "S" role and the rest of the world left licking our boots.


Right up there with spreading "democracy" and ostensibly free markets, the goal of US foreign policy must be the sexual and emotional fulfillment of the world's peoples. According to Varnell:

"There are vast portions of the world where gays and lesbians must live closeted, unrealized, unfulfilled lives blighted by the pressures of rigid social conformity, primitive religious intolerance, fear, prosecution, and even death. In eastern and central Europe, gays face hostility from authoritarian governments heavily influenced by medieval Catholicism or reinvigorated revanchist Russian and Greek Orthodox religions."


The same goes for the Muslims, the Hindus, and any other religion that forbids same-sex relations (virtually all of them but Unitarianism). Religion, in all its forms, is the special target of the new gay Crusaders, and they make no bones about the alleged necessity of stamping all of them out:

"If multiculturalism means that different cultures have different values and there is no way to prefer one set of values over another, then multiculturalism is a sham and the final enemy of gays and lesbians."


The stunning authoritarianism of this statement is, perhaps, unparalleled in its dizzy, breathtaking arrogance. All must be absorbed into the pagan monoculture of the West. What?! You have no Gay Pride Day in Baluchistan? Why, then, you are one of those "nations sunk in ignorance, superstition, barbarism, and moral darkness, and we should say so loudly and repeatedly." That is, the US government should say so loudly and repeatedly. Ah, says Varnell, "but what can we do about it?" – and this is where it starts to get really ugly….


Varnell ask us to "try a thought experiment" and see what good works the US government could do internationally "if it really wants to help gays and lesbians in backward nations." Aside from routine protests to governments that jail gay people, Varnell envisions a "sexual minorities desk" at the State Department to record such outrages as "acts of censorship and anti-gay statements by government officials." Do you hear that, Jesse Helms?


Of course, many would snigger that setting up a "sexual minorities desk" at the State Department would be redundant, but Varnell, like all ideologues, is deaf to the unintended humor of what he is saying, to wit:

"That desk could make the information public rapidly on a website so target nations would see that they are being monitored. Taking a page from Atlas Shrugged, the website could list gays and lesbians who flee foreign countries and list the skills and education they take with them so the countries could see what their bigotry is costing them."

Let this be a lesson to the Mauritanians: either open up a Pottery Barn, or else face the consequences!


Varnell wants to cut foreign aid (a good idea) but only to those countries that "persecute gays." He writes:

"We could say to them: 'You have no natural right to our taxpayers' money. If you want their money you must earn it by good behavior. Stop repressing your citizens. Repeal your sodomy laws. Halt your censorship of gay publications and websites. Educate your citizens.'"

Hold it right there, dude: if they have no right to US taxpayers' money, then how come we're giving it to them at all? Or do they somehow acquire this right by deciding to coddle the right minority groups? The narrow narcissism of such a view – that it's okay to violate natural rights, so long as it's done in a "good cause," like gay rights – would be comical if it weren't offered up with such dead seriousness.


As outrageous as the preceding may be, this is my favorite plank in the gay foreign policy platform: Varnell wants us to make like the Dutch and send "small grants to gay groups in third-world countries." After all,

"One hundred grants of $10,000 to $100,000 would cost little but help fledgling gay groups and send a clear message to anti-gay governments."

It would also send a clear message to the American people: Your rulers have gone nuts! But I digress. Varnell continues:

"The most powerful weapons the U.S. has are its ideals of liberty and individuality, free speech, free markets and democracy. In the past we promoted those ideals through a network of U.S. radio stations around the world. We should revive and expand that project. The Voice of America and Radio Liberty could include substantial programming about U.S. gays, the legitimacy of gay freedom, music by gay artists and reading by gay authors. Since its beginning, the VOA has done exactly one program on gays."


The people of the world are being deprived by not hearing the homoerotic love songs of One for the Boys and the Sapphic discography of Phranc. Free love is just as important as free speech and free markets, and, besides, why shouldn't gays get in on the "foreign aid" gravy train? We need to revamp the Voice of America, get rid of our old cold war mentality, and take up the fight against those poor benighted and "backward" nations where The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name has yet to be transformed into The Love That Never Shuts Up.


Oh, wait, I spoke too soon, this is my very favorite of Varnell's proposals:

"The U.S. could send openly gay ambassadors to anti-gay governments. Forget gay-friendly Luxembourg. Think Saudi Arabia, Namibia, Romania, Cuba, Pakistan. That would force officials to deal with someone gay who represents the world's most powerful nation."

There appears, at this point in the text, an "Editors note" in brackets, as if to remind us that the utter bizarreness of contemporary reality has long since outstripped even the wildest imagination:

"[Editor's note: In the fall of 2001, President George W. Bush named openly gay Foreign service officer Michael Guest as U.S. ambassador to Romania.]"


Varnell wants gay ambassadors to attend public events with their partners, and indeed Ambassador Guest caused quite a stir in Romania when he brought his live-in partner to the Marines Ball. But who cares what those "backward" Romanians think? It is the prerogative of an imperial power to wantonly insult the locals and override their quaint customs – conspicuously, where possible – if only to underscore the privileges of unilateralism, both military and moral.


Varnell also wants gay ambassadors to "visit gay clubs where they exist" and "don't worry about sodomy laws: A nation's embassy is by law its own sovereign territory." So if there aren't any gay dives in some "backward" country, then why not open one up in the American embassy? Imagine the fabulous pool parties you could have!


It just gets better – or worse – as Varnell gets deeper into his "thought experiment," and if you thought the preceding was hard to take, getta loada this:

"So long as the U.S. has an ambassador to the Vatican, that person should be gay. It is high time those men in cassocks at the Vatican secretariat met a gay men who is not repressed, closeted or a hypocrite. It might be a new concept for them."

If religion is the Enemy, then the Catholic Church, in the official gay demonology, is the equivalent of Satan. The crack about "men in cassocks" is pretty much par for the course: here self-loathing and crude anti-Catholic bigotry combine effortlessly in a veritable hymn to hate.


Varnell assures us, finally, that "This is hardly an exhaustive list of the possibilities," but, really, what has he left out? This, we are told, is "the beginnings of an activist agenda for the next two decades," and yet one can only wonder where and how it will end. Varnell's silly "thought experiment" may beg not to be taken seriously, but the truth is that what he suggests is not very far from reality. Already, as Varnell's editor pointed out, at least one of his more outrageous proposals is already in effect, and it's only a matter of time – given the straight-line progression of political correctness as a dominant force in our society – before the whole "gay foreign policy" platform is enacted.


As a practicing homosexual, Varnell's nonsensical blithering is particularly irritating to me: for here it is possible to see just how and why some otherwise reasonable person might become a raging homophobe. Aside from that, however, is the issue of the assumption underlying Varnell's decidedly queer worldview: the idea that the US, as the world's One and Only Superpower, has a moral obligation to impose its cultural and political norms, by force, on a grateful world. This kind of hubris corrupts everything – yes, even our sexuality – and makes us endless enemies. It is a reflection, as in a distorted funhouse mirror, of the premise behind American foreign policy in the post-9/11 era.

Varnell's proposals may seem extreme, to some, but they aren't really all that far away from the general principles enunciated by our government in its "war on terrorism": with a purportedly conservative US President – and his First Lady – celebrating the alleged "liberation" of women in Afghanistan in the wake of the US conquest, can the celebration of Afghan gay liberation be far behind?


Indeed, Sullivan, one of Varnell's fellow gay Republicans, has pointed to the oppression of gays in Saudi Arabia – where homosexual acts are routinely punished by execution – as a reason to turn on and perhaps even overthrow our old allies in Riyadh. Only a few years ago, such a suggestion would have been laughed at: today, it is taken seriously. Identity politics in America – whether sexual, ethnic, or whatever – has always led to unfortunate distortions of US foreign policy. This is because international policy is merely a reflection of domestic political pressures, since politicians must depend on the votes and financial support of pressure groups to get in power and stay there. With the sexualization of identity politics, exemplified by the feminist and gay movements, this means that there is tremendous pressure on the United States to assume a stance of unrelenting hostility to traditional culture on a world scale.


Like the Soviets, who thought they would conquer the world and, eventually, abolish such "backward" institutions as the patriarchal family, the US seems on the brink of launching a crusade to "revolutionize the world," as David Brooks put it the other day on the PBS News Hour. With Brooks bibbling on about the advance of "democracy," and how we're going to "liberate" the oppressed peoples of Iraq and the Middle East by installing puppet regimes, I was reminded of the "revolutionary" proclamations" of the old Comintern – which, today, is just a memory moldering in the dust-bin of history.

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against US Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard.