June 21, 2002
Debating Owen and Josh

I've read Owen and Josh's defenses of the alliance between American Christians and the Organization of Islamic Conferences (OIC) on matters of abortion and gay rights. Owen points out that the OIC is made up of over 50 countries, mostly "moderate" Islamic nations, and has been a strategic ally in the War on Terror. Josh notes that agreement on some points between Christian conservatives and Islamist nations does not imply agreement on all points, and that we're worked and voted with mortal enemies in the UN any number of times in the past when a matter of our national interest coincides with theirs.

The OIC is surely comprised of nations which are mostly at least non-hostile towards us. I suppose this argument would ring less hollow to me were it not for the quote about how Sudan helped prevent abortion rights language from entering a UN statement, or the bit about how US officials conferred with Iranian officials. In other words, if the Christian conservatives were merely dealing with a large organization that happens to include a few bad apples, it would be more believable if they avoided dealing directly with those bad apples.

Then there's the question of which values the two groups actually share. I suppose it was the Moroccan official's use of the term "family values", an expression that can cover quite a bit of territory, that got my antennae humming. The thing about strategic alliances is that you often find yourself going along with things you wouldn't normally in support of an ally, possibly in return for something that ally wouldn't normally do. Will the US officials turn a blind eye to, say, honor killings in order to maintain this alliance? I'm sure any number of OIC nations would file such a thing under "family values".

As for national interest, it's a bitter pill for me to swallow, but when we have a Republican in the White House, opposition to abortion and gay rights are going to be classified as being in the national interest. (And may I pause for a moment here to say once more: Thanks, Ralph!) Fine. I still question the priorities of an administration that would put this agenda ahead of such things as freedom, democracy, and open markets. I still say that working with even a small number of hostile nations in opposition to things that our real allies support undermines our relationship with those allies in the War on Terror. I still say that what we're doing here is objectively wrong.

Finally, apart from the Bush Administration, I question the values and priorities of the Christian activists themselves. As the Bull Moose noted, Sudan practices slavery against its Christian population. In many OIC nations, from hostiles like Iran to "moderates" like Saudi Arabia, Christians are not allowed to openly practice their faith. Freedom of worship is a foreign concept. There was a time when American Chritian organizations concerned themselves with issues like that. I suppose it's more important nowadays to ensure that slowing the spread of AIDS does not include making condoms available. Let's not hear anything more about "moral authority" from this crowd, shall we?

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 21, 2002 to Around the world