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Heroes of Progressivism: Entry #3

USAID Administrator Samantha Power: A 21st Century Orwellian Imperialist.

Samantha Power obfuscates the obvious. As the head of the United States Agency of International Development (USAID), she portrays interventionist USAID endeavors as deferential, delicate, and friendly. It is apparent in USAID’s global advancement of progressive Western beliefs about sexuality and LGBTQI+ lifestyles.

Witness some of her words from the Atlantic Council’s “Pride Edition” talk on June 28. They exhibit the art of doublespeak. Power emphasized the importance of USAID assistance in deterring anti-LGBTQI+ legislation in foreign countries while not “putting the United States at the center of a national drama.” Later she added: “we [USAID] also, of course, respect sovereignty, and territorial integrity, and so forth.” Interfering in a country’s legislative affairs is an act of transgression, a violation of a boundary. The violator does not get to determine or qualify the degree of the intrusion. Also, the mere act of intrusion into the domestic affairs and processes of a country demonstrates a disrespect for sovereignty.

The problematic messaging is acceptable and commonplace among progressives. It serves two purposes: 1) To demonstrate to skeptics that USAID’s work is largely innocuous, beneficial, and constructive; and 2) Further convince themselves of the righteousness of their actions. For progressives, definitions can be ignored, made conditional, or selectively applied. Policy can be driven by seemingly non-sensical phrases. Why? Because sanctimonious progressives are true believers. They believe they know what is best for others, especially those of the developing world.

Despite Power’s best, Orwellian efforts, USAID is complicit in cultural imperialism. No matter how she describes USAID’s actions or frames them, cultural imperialism is cultural imperialism. Cultural manifestations of imperialism are no less intrusive than other manifestations of imperialism. Instead of carrying satisfaction in leading by example, progressives are trying to direct foreign civilizations on how to improve on their “shortcomings.”

USAID is guilty of foisting unwelcome progressive Western beliefs about sexuality on the developing world. The agency is attempting to transform the basic foundations and structures of their societies — the idea of marriage, family, and other time-honored social traditions and practices. The intent and the methods for assimilating LGBTQI+ lifestyles into traditional and religious environments are not just unwelcome, the methods and rhetoric they employ demean the very states and societies they are seek to “develop.”

The progressive Biden administration believes that development extends beyond improving economic and healthcare realities to include the transformation of societal norms. Driving this structural transformation is the administration’s adherence to an American and provincial doctrine of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). And manifestation of the DEI doctrine is the promotion of LGBTQI+ lifestyles in traditional societies. The administration aspires for all other societies to resemble the United States in these matters—same-sex marriage, surrogacy for male couples, usage of gender-neutral pronouns, and dysphoria management at the point of a scalpel.

Under Power’s direction, LGBTQI+ considerations are becoming a facet of all USAID work. More specifically, she has expanded the budget and tripled staff responsible for addressing international LGBTQI+ issues. In March 2023, her leadership facilitated the creation of the Rainbow Fund, intended to cultivate LGBTQI+ activists and leaders in foreign societies. Generating equitable, political, and public representation of LGBTQI+ individuals in the developing world is the goal of these activists from the regressing one. The fund is complemented by the advancement of LGBTQI+ issues in classrooms across the world. The agency published a 30-page document entitled: “Integrating LGBTQI+ Considerations into Education Programming” in August. The document provides guidance to teachers for instilling in students LGBTQI+ norms, which will, in theory, eventually permeate throughout those students’ societies.

To advance, sell, and support their methods and objectives, Power and the agency employ a remarkable messaging campaign. It resembles something from George Orwell’s 1984. Besides minimizing intrusion and respecting sovereignty to fraudulently promote their agenda, other phrases used include: “humble dialogue,” “‘lean in’ while upholding ‘do no harm,’” and “safely assume risk.”

For the unindoctrinated, the messaging is demeaning. What USAID’s progressive activists claim to see and believe to be doing, is not what is occurring. Their actions and objectives are not easygoing and minimal. They are aggressive and profound. Who exactly is USAID fooling besides itself by trying to cloak the true intentions, methods, and transformations it seeks in non-Western societies? Is USAID convinced that the leaders and peoples of the non-Western world will ignore or be more welcoming and understanding of their endeavors if their actions, thinking, and language are couched with humility, expressed as minimal intrusion, or exhibiting respect?

To demonstrate USAID’s demeaning nature, let’s examine Samantha Power’s use of the phrase “humble dialogue” from her Atlantic Council discussion. She proclaims that this is one facet of how the agency engages LGBTQI+ issues overseas. Who exactly is part of this dialogue is unclear. Is it restricted to people who identify as LGBTQI+ or does it include other segments of the society and the state? If the dialogue is limited to a specific segment of the society that may only constitute 2 percent of the population in certain countries, the use of the phrase “humble dialogue” reeks of exclusion. It amounts to a Trojan horse.

Furthermore, “humble” infers modesty. Dialogue implies a two-way discussion leading to a mutual agreement or compromise. However, there is nothing modest about imposing one’s values on a foreign society. Additionally, USAID does not seek compromise; compromise is only a means to an end. As noted by Power herself, the “humble dialogue” is guided by a “north star,” the likeness of a progressive American society daydreamed as the global society writ large.

Will their humility and dialogue endure if a society is content with the decriminalization of homosexual acts but not with supporting surrogacy for male couples? What if a foreign nation rejects using gender-neutral pronouns?

Another example of this rhetoric is “safely assume risk.” How does one “safely assume risk?” Risk by its very nature creates uncertainties and potential negative repercussions. There is nothing safe about it. Is USAID engaged in dangerous societal altering acts or not? It would be naïve to believe that transforming the basic structure and centuries’ old norms of a culture is a minimal endeavor and will receive little pushback.

A third example of the nonsensical nomenclature that pervades USAID’s literature and discussions is “‘lean in’ while upholding ‘do no harm.’” It is a clever way for the 21st imperialist to avoid transcending boundaries: leaning in rather than stepping in or over something. But how does telling a society to redefine its idea of marriage entail anything but the transgression of a boundary? “Leaning in” infers pressuring.

The overseas promotion and exportation of woke endeavors by means of ambiguity is found elsewhere in the Biden administration. Another progressive disciple is fellow Biden-appointee Desiree Cormier-Smith. She is the Special Representative for Racial Equity and Justice at the State Department. Cormier-Smith speaks to countries and communities throughout the world about confronting and dissolving systems of racism and ethnic discrimination. Her work is another manifestation of the mission to spread the Biden administration’s conception of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

Observe the doublespeak of her tweet from November 13. “America’s strength lies in the power of our example, we’re far from perfect. Addressing the realities of systemic racism at home is foundational to our work abroad.”

It is a puzzling statement. One would think you would want to get your own house in order before telling others how to order their house. But for 21st Century Orwellian Imperialists that is not the case. They can bend, contort, or ignore realities and the unwritten rules. They know what is best for others. The post should be interpreted as: “Listen to what I say, do as I say but don’t necessarily observe everything that occurs in my country.” The proof is in the words, not the product.

Apparently, there is power in imperfection. And this imperfection validates the Biden administration’s ability to lecture others. How condescending. How imperialistic.

Samantha Power’s efforts to universalize progressive Western beliefs about sexuality are considerable. As the head administrator of USAID, she employs ambiguous messaging to accelerate, empower, and facilitate the process of assimilating traditional societies into the Biden administration’s worldview. The belief that the manipulation of language can mitigate or obscure a profound structural and societal change in developing societies is the epitome of an imperialist mentality making Power a hero of progressivism.

About the Author
Eric Bordenkircher is a Research Fellow at UCLA's Center for Middle East Development (CMED). He is a former Visiting Assistant Professor at Claremont McKenna College and Pepperdine University. His writing has appeared in Newsweek, National Review, The American Mind, The American Spectator, The National Interest, Middle East Policy, The San Diego Union Tribune, The American Conservative, The Jerusalem Post, The Washington Examiner, Review of Middle East Studies, Middle East Quarterly, 1945, and the Fikra Forum. The views represented in this blog are his own and do not necessarily represent the position of UCLA or the Center for Middle East Development.