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the US and Europe


Karlin on the "US v. Old Europe" undercurrent that seems to be growing in the US Administration and media. Quote:

I am really saddened by the pathetically childish comments some Americans are making about "The French" and "The Germans" (as if the tens of millions of people in these two extremely diverse nations are somehow two undifferentiated lumps). I gave some examples of the kinds of things that I have been hearing to a dear German friend who came to stay with me for the weekend (including the accusation that the French have made no contribution to civilisation except wine and perfume and pastries. Good grief, the FRENCH -- no contribution?! This, as I read the biography of American patriot John Adams and his no-nonsense wife Abigail, two solid New Englanders who were struck and entranced by the intellectual life of France back in the late 18th century -- the talk, the theatre, the literature, the philosophers, the food, the granting of an intellectual life to women).
Full entry here.

And, I would add, that's not even going into the whole issue of the rethoric claiming that the US went into WW2 to "save" Europe, when in large part the US was also interested in protecting its own strategic interests from the Axis menace, and even so did not enter the conflict until it was attacked by Japan, two full years after the war had started, when most of Europe had been conquered and Russia was already under attack, and millions of innocents had been slaughtered? And even if the US had in fact gone into WW2 to "save Europe" why would that mean that because of that countries should blindly do what the US says?

On the other hand, much of the anti-American rethoric in Europe is also overly simplistic and often misplaced.

The Economist this week puts it well I think in the article (aptly titled "Enough, Children."):

THE spoof Google search doing the rounds in Washington, DC, runs: “Your search—French military victories—did not match any documents. No pages were found. Did you mean French military defeats?” An affable Frenchman might merely find it odd that Napoleon is unknown in America, despite selling a chunk of it to Jefferson, but other barbs will hurt. “What do you call a Frenchman advancing on Baghdad?”“A salesman.” On American talk shows, it is open season on continental Europeans, especially those “cheese-eating surrender monkeys”.

Politicians seem to have caught the tabloid spirit. “I am particularly disgusted”, thunders a California congressman, “by the blind intransigence and utter ingratitude of France, Germany and Belgium. The failure of these states to honour their commitments is beneath contempt.” Richard Perle, a Republican hawk, now says that France should no longer be considered an ally. The speaker of the House mutters about boycotting Beaujolais.

[...]

[...] American anti-Europeanism [is] different in scope from its opposite across the pond. It is more marginal, indifferent and shallow. But that does not make it irrelevant. At a time when many Americans and Europeans disagree about basic strategic assumptions, the current vitriol is disturbing. Opinion polls show a sharp drop in American fellow-feeling to Europeans in general and the French in particular. That can be put down to the quarrel over Iraq. But the polls also show a more gradual decline in Americans' perception of their “vital interest” in Europe, and this trend may prove harder to reverse.

The most dangerous part of America's anti-Europeanism, just like its mirror-image in Europe, is its willingness to ignore specific facts for the sake of a good stereotype. “The current stereotype of Europeans”, writes Robert Kagan in his new book, “Of Paradise and Power”, “is easily summarised. Europeans are wimps.” Which is all very well—except that half the members of the European Union and almost all the applicant members support a tougher line on Iraq than France and Germany do. European peacekeepers hold the Balkans together and form much of the Afghan peacekeeping force. Those cowardly French, like the rest of NATO, invoked Article Five, offering military help to America after September 11th.

Another problem with the anti-European rethoric in the US (compared to anti-American rethoric in Europe) is that it seems to be happening at much higher levels and more consistenly. There are other points in the article, some with which I don't totally agree (for example, it mentions that the Americans could claim that "they started it", but I think that Bush's treatment of the UN Security Council would inevitably create that response). In any case I think the title of the article says it all.

Categories: geopolitics
Posted by diego on March 5 2003 at 7:49 PM

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