USA Oui! Bush Non! | The Nation


USA Oui! Bush Non!

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Meanwhile, beyond the Afghanistan war, I could find no support anywhere in Europe for the Bush Administration's policy priorities: none whatsoever for US withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol, the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty or for attempts to weaken the Chemical and Biological Weapons (CBW) conventions, for opposing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the International Criminal Court (ICC), and not much at all for forcible "regime change" in Iraq. And there was a general disgust with the Bush Administration's formulation--initially explicated in Bush's 2002 State of the Union speech--of an "Axis of Evil" against which all civilized nations must ally themselves. In England, the Guardian termed the speech "Hate of the Union." As Jörg Lau, a Die Zeit correspondent in Berlin who is quite sympathetic to the United States, ruefully notes, the speech was "unanimously unpopular" in Europe. "I mean it was just so stupid, they are always talking about good and evil, in quasi-religious terms, and it gives us a strange sense of relief. Bush is always showing himself to be utterly stupid.... And we just sit back and wait for him to do it. It's unhealthy."

Eric Alterman would like to thank the Investigative Fund of
the Nation Institute and the German Marshall Fund (US) for their
financial support of his research in Europe.

CORRECTION: Alessandro Portelli is
the correct name of the professor of American literature at the
University of Rome. Jürgen Habermas is, of course, a philosopher of
the Frankfurt School (as Alterman originally wrote), who is also
affiliated with Frankfurt University.

About the Author

Eric Alterman
Eric Alterman
Eric Alterman is a Distinguished Professor of English, Brooklyn College, City University of New York, and Professor of...

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Even such famously pro-American voices as Chris Patten, the much-admired conservative former governor of Hong Kong--now EU Commissioner for External Relations--have taken to complaining about the Bush Administration's launch into "unilateralist overdrive," with its "absolutist" approach to world affairs. These views, moreover, are mirrored almost perfectly by those of Frankfurt University philosopher Jürgen Habermas, the titanic figure of the European democratic (and pro-American) left, who warns, "Many Americans do not yet realize the extent and the character of the growing rejection of, if not resentment against, the policy of the present American Administration throughout Europe, including in Great Britain. The emotional gap may well become deeper than it has ever been since the end of World War II."

Based on all of the above and far more, a number of American observers have concluded that these European attitudes--which they define as anti-Americanism--are potential grounds for divorce. Indeed, this view is becoming conventional wisdom in the center-right nexus that dominates US mainstream debate. New York Times bigfoot pundit Thomas Friedman laments what he terms "the new anti-Americanism, a blend of jealousy and resentment of America's overwhelming economic and military power." Karl Zinsmeister, editor of the American Enterprise Institute's monthly magazine, attended a meeting of European movers and shakers in Warsaw in April 2002 and discovered only "animus, jealousy, and willful spite" toward the United States. The conservative economist Irwin Stelzer warns that many European nations "are ceasing, or may have already ceased, to be our friends." Today, "much of the psychological drive for Euro-nationalism is provided by anti-Americanism," notes former National Review editor John O'Sullivan. Participating in an AEI-sponsored symposium, the Canadian pundit Mark Steyn added, "I find it easier to be optimistic about the futures of Iraq and Pakistan than, say, Holland or Denmark."

An imminent Euro-American divorce is also envisioned in a 11,500-word essay titled "Power and Weakness" by the neoconservative foreign policy writer Robert Kagan, which has taken on a kind of talismanic quality in Europe of late. The essay, which appeared in the Hoover Institution's publication, Policy Review, has been translated and reprinted and e-mailed all across the Continent, creating something of a rude awakening for many Europeans. "It is time to stop pretending that Europeans and Americans share a common view of the world, or even that they occupy the same world," Kagan writes. "On the all-important question of power--the efficacy of power, the morality of power, the desirability of power--American and European perspectives are diverging.... That is why on major strategic and international questions today, Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus: They agree on little and understand one another less and less.... When it comes to setting national priorities, determining threats, defining challenges, and fashioning and implementing foreign and defense policies, the United States and Europe have parted ways."

To the degree that Kagan is correct--and many members of the European cultural and intellectual elite fear he might be, particularly regarding the perception of Europe within the once-Atlanticist US foreign-policy establishment--this is big news. Much of the history of the twentieth century can be told through the rubric of the US-European relationship. Two world wars, the cold war, most of what is considered high culture in the United States and much of our popular culture, including our best cinema and works of literature, are unthinkable without Europe's example and influence. Until recently, so too has peace on the Continent been unthinkable without US leadership. Even today, according to Javier Solana, US-European trade remains the largest trade and investment relationship in the world, totaling roughly $500 billion, with an estimated 6 million jobs in the United States and Europe depending on its continued efficacy. If a divorce is genuinely in the offing, then a tectonic shift in the shape of the world will almost certainly be the result.

But is Kagan really right? Yes, if you take the unilateralist/ militarist ambitions of the Bush neoconservatives and the red/green post-New Leftist worldview of the Schröder government as your templates. But there's a great deal more to the state of transatlantic relations than the hostility of George W. Bush and his supporters toward Gerhard Schröder.

Make no mistake, anti-Americanism is a serious concern in many nations on numerous continents. But none of these are in Europe. A recent survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project found anti-US feelings on the rise in nineteen of twenty-seven nations it investigated. Virtually all the hostility, however, is found in Middle Eastern and Central Asian nations.

Of course, while Europe is making impressive, albeit uncertain, strides toward unification on many levels, the very word "Europe" remains a kind of convenient fiction. But even if you allow for nearly the entire spectrum of views, from the nonfascist right to the noncommunist left, you find virtually no support for the tone or the substance of the current Administration's policies. Neither, however, will you find much of anything that might fairly be labeled anti-Americanism.

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