"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." - George Orwell

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Anti-Americanism in Europe 

The Wandering Mind has a very interesting piece on the causes of European anti-Americanism.

The author tells of a trip to Europe that he took some years ago.
After dinner (and a few bottles of wine) his European guest asked him if he knew who so many Europeans were anti-American. Somewhat taken aback, our author objected. But his associate continued:

Europeans, he said, dislike Americans because, in a short period of human history, went on to surpass Europe in being the center of global influence. What was even worse, was that America was built by European 'garbage' as he put it. I started to object, but he immediately interrupted

He went on to explain that a century ago, Europe was only too happy to rid itself of the 'wretched refuse' and 'teeming masses'. The European elite and intellectuals thought that once rid of the annoying and newly demanding peasant class, Europe would once again regain it's rightful place as the center of the moral and political world, and thus preserve the imperialist relationships they had established, if not formally, then by necessity. Through benevolent noblesse oblige, Europe would assume control the economic and political fate of the 'lesser' nations. Without masses of lower classes, now demanding equitable political participation, Europe's destiny would be assured.

I was intrigued. he went on to explain further.

Europe, he said, never got over the fact that, unleashed, those 'wretched refuse' and 'huddled masses'-- their very own-- went on to build success not only for themselves, but for their adopted country as well. He said that these unwanted masses of people understood what the elite and intellectuals of Europe never understood for themselves-- that given the opportunity, they were perfectly able to fend for themselves and succeed and thus become contributors.

Makes sense to me.

Of course, there seem to be as many explanations for European anti-Americanism as there are people who write about it. First, however, we need to define our terms:

Anti-Americanism is not merely criticism of particular policies or of a particular US president. It has become a sort of radical view that the USA is both wrong in principle and wrong in practice. It has become a generic, overt attack on America and on American standards, values and approaches, everywhere and in everything.

Bob Kagan wrote about the "Power Gap" between the US and Europe in a Policy Review article a few years ago.

American military strength has produced a propensity to use that strength. Europe’s military weakness has produced a perfectly understandable aversion to the exercise of military power. Indeed, it has produced a powerful European interest in inhabiting a world where strength doesn’t matter, where international law and international institutions predominate, where unilateral action by powerful nations is forbidden, where all nations regardless of their strength have equal rights and are equally protected by commonly agreed-upon international rules of behavior.

He does not berate them for this attitude, but seeks to understand it. Their position is almost one of "if we can't lead then noone else can either."

Their tactics, like their goal, are the tactics of the weak. They hope to constrain American power without wielding power themselves.

We in the US have long attempted the Europeans to spend more on their militaries. They never did throughout the Cold War, and aren't going to start now.

The Wandering Mind promises more on this topic. I'm going to follow his thread. Stay tuned.
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