The Roots Of Anti-Americanism
Any trip to Europe confirms what surveys have been finding: The aversion to America is becoming greater, louder, more determined. It is unifying Western Europeans more than any other political emotion — with the exception of a common hostility toward Israel. Indeed, the virulence in Western Europe’s antipathy to Israel cannot be understood without the presence of anti-Americanism and hostility to the United States. Those two closely related resentments are now considered proper etiquette. They are present in polite company and acceptable in the discourse of the political classes. They constitute common fare not only among Western Europe’s cultural and media elites, but also throughout society itself, from London to Athens and from Stockholm to Rome, even if European politicians visiting Washington or European professors at international conferences about anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism are adamant about denying or sugarcoating that reality.
Markovits leaves no doubt his dislike of the Bush Administration, but says the problem is deeper than mere anti-Bush sentiment:
There can be no doubt that many disastrous and irresponsible policies by members of the Bush administration, as well as their haughty demeanor and arrogant tone, have contributed massively to this unprecedented vocal animosity on the part of Europeans toward Americans and America. Indeed, they bear responsibility for having created a situation in which anti-Americanism has mutated into a sort of global antinomy, a mutually shared language of opposition to and resistance against the real and perceived ills of modernity that are now inextricably identified with America. I have been traveling back and forth with considerable frequency between the United States and Europe since 1960, and I cannot recall a time like the present, when such a vehement aversion to everything American has been articulated in Europe. No Western European country is exempt from this phenomenon — not a single social class, no age group or profession, nor either gender. But the aversion reaches much deeper and wider than the frequently evoked “anti-Bushism.” I perceive this virulent, Europewide, and global “anti-Bushism” as the glaring tip of a massive anti-American iceberg.
Anti-Americanism has been promoted to the status of Western Europe’s lingua franca. Even at the height of the Vietnam War, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and during the dispute over NATO’s Dual Track decision (to station Pershing and cruise missiles primarily in Germany, but in other Western European countries as well, while negotiating with the Soviet Union over arms reduction), things were different. Each event met with a European public that was divided concerning its position toward America: In addition to those who reacted with opposition and protest, there were strong forces that expressed appreciation and understanding. In France, arguably Europe’s leader over the past 15 years in most matters related to antipathy toward America, the prospect of stationing U.S. medium-range missiles, especially if they were on German soil, even met with the massive approval of the left in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
But as of October 2001, weeks after 9/11 and just before the U.S. war against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, a massive Europewide resentment of America commenced that reached well beyond American policies, American politics, and the American government, proliferating in virtually all segments of Western European publics. From grandmothers who vote for the archconservative Bavarian Christian Social Union to 30-year-old socialist Pasok activists in Greece, from Finnish Social Democrats to French Gaullists, from globalization opponents to business managers — all are joining in the ever louder chorus of anti-Americanism.
And on it goes…surely the chicness of America-hatred is not a good thing…but what is America to do?
Here’s what I think we MUSTN’T do: we can’t change our policies just to please European sentiment if we believe they are right. To give two prominent examples: support of Israel is not to be seen as a bargaining chip, nor should we pull out of Iraq if we believe the consequences would be more dire than staying.
We are in a precarious state right now: the memory of 9/11 has faded, and the world looks at the Global War on Terror as an exercise in propaganda foisted upon the innocent by conniving neocons. It’s tempting to give in to such easy memory loss, and withdraw into a shell.
There’s one huge reason why history will never forgive us if we lose our will: a nuclear 9/11. It’s very real…and it’s a subject I’m not hearing any debate on from the prospective presidential candidates of either side. As time goes by, any serious candidate in 2008 must lay out a program to lessen the chances of this catastrophic, but not at all far-fetched, possible future…