May 6, 2023 - 9:02 pm
The old cultural imperialism was supposedly greedy corporatism such as Disneyland, McDonald’s and Starbucks sprouting up worldwide to supplant local competitors. But these businesses spread because they appealed to free-will consumer demand abroad. They were not imposed top down.
The U.S. presence in Afghanistan collapsed in August 2021 amid the greatest American military humiliation in modern history. A billion-dollar new embassy was abandoned. Hundreds of millions of dollars in new infrastructure at the huge Bagram Airbase was dumped.
We still do not know how many billions of dollars of sophisticated new weapons were left to the Taliban and now are making their way through global terrorists’ marts. Yet, in our skedaddle, the LGBTQ flag still flew high from our new Kabul embassy. A George Floyd mural was prominent on city streets.
And gender studies programs — to the tune of $787 million in American subsidies — were showcased at Kabul University, in one of the most conservative Islamic countries in the world.
Rainbow flags and Black Lives Matter banners have hung from our embassy in South Korea. Such partisan cultural activism is a diplomatic first. The woke left has now weaponized the country’s diplomatic missions abroad to advance highly partisan and controversial agendas that can offend their hosts, and do not represent the majority of American voters at home.
American foreign policy toward other nations seems now to hinge on their positions on transgender people, LGBTQ promotion, abortion, climate change and an array of woke issues — from using multiple pronouns on passports to showcasing transgender ambassadors.
The Biden administration in January 2022 stopped the EastMed pipeline. That joint effort of our allies Cyprus, Greece and Israel sought to bring much needed clean-burning Mediterranean natural gas to southern Europe. Apparently, our diplomats felt it violated our own New Green Deal orthodoxies. So we imperialists interfered to destroy a vital project of our closest allies.
The White House manifesto called the National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality offers a blueprint for how to massage nations abroad to accept our values that are increasingly at odds with much of the world’s.
Do Americans really believe that embracing drag-queen shows at military bases, abortion to the moment of birth, transgender men competing in women’s sports and the promised effort to ban the internal combustion engine are effective ways to ensure good relations with the United States?
No wonder the Biden administration’s new cultural imperialism is proving disastrous for a variety of reasons.
One, these imperialistic and chauvinistic agendas are pushed abroad at the very time the respect for the U.S. military is at an all-time low. It was humiliated in Afghanistan. It is now unable to recruit sufficient qualified soldiers. Its stocks of critical weapons are depleted.
The Pentagon leadership of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley, with Joe Biden, do not radiate competence. But they do exude woke pieties.
While we offend Middle East oil exporters and central Europeans, China allies with Russia and Iran. India and Turkey triangulate away from the United States. Sanctimonious hectoring while appearing weak is a bad combination.
Two, these warped standards are incoherent. Is an abortion-on-demand, totalitarian China therefore an ally? How could we damn supposedly non-woke Saudi Arabia as we begged it to pump more of its non-green oil before the 2022 midterms?
Some of our most loyal allies are in Eastern Europe — Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Romania. These countries have experienced traumatic histories on the front lines against Islamic Ottoman expansionism, czarist and Soviet aggression and German Nazi bullying and invasion.
They are democratic and pro-American. Yet they are now targeted by our woke imperialists because they remain steadfast as the most religious and traditional of our European allies. Yet these nations would be more likely to dispatch credible forces for NATO’s defense than many of our left-wing, woke and militarily less capable Western European nations.
Three, most of the 7.9 billion people in the world are not woke. They are aspiring to obtain a modicum of the luxury and affluence taken for granted in America.
The rest of the planet worries whether it will have enough food, energy, security and shelter to live one more day. For most, the incessant, woke virtue-signaling from affluent Americans comes across as the whiny bullying of pampered, self-righteous — and increasingly neurotic — imperialists.
Four, traditionally the party that controls the State Department does not politically weaponize its embassies with wedge issues that have not won majority support among Americans. Such abject politicalization rattles and alienates foreign nations. They do not want to be drawn into the American left’s internal propaganda efforts that they know are bitterly controversial inside the United States.
How odd that those on the left who in the past decried “American imperialism” are now proving the greatest imperialists of all.
Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and a classicist and historian at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org.