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Anti-Americanism in Europe: Symptoms and Roots
by Threehegemons
09 October 2002 15:30 UTC
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Anti-Americanism in Europe:
The Bush Response Only Aggravates the Problem  
by William Pfaff  
PARIS -- A good deal of printer's ink has been spent debating anti-Americanism 
during the last year, both in and out of the United States. The latest instance 
followed Germany's parliamentary election at the end of September, when 
Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's party coalition won a narrow victory, credited by 
analysts to his stand against German participation in any American attack on 

The German chancellor's lèse-majesté provoked outrage in the Bush 
administration and warnings in American neoconservative circles that it will be 
50 years before Germany will have recovered the trust of the United States, and 
thereby once again become an important state. 

In fact, from the European side of the Atlantic, it seemed that Schröder's 
stand added to Germany's international authority. Germany previously having 
tended to be seen as a satellite of Washington's rather than a nation with 
convictions of its own. 

Since a majority in German public opinion already opposed an attack on Iraq, 
and Schröder merely profited from supporting the majority, it is a surprise 
that the Germans have not been given the same propaganda treatment the French 
got a few months ago, attacked in U.S. neoconservative circles as an 
anti-Semitic society because of popular French pro-Palestinian sympathies. 
Official Washington has perhaps realized that the United States needs U.S. 
bases in Germany, but Germany does not. They are essential to the U.S. global 
strategic position. 

The subject of anti-Americanism can, however, be intelligently discussed, an 
example being a recent exchange between a French writer with a long record of 
sympathy for the United States, Jean-François Revel, and a younger colleague 
with family connections to the United States and a British education, Emmanuel 

Todd maintains that the United States today actually is displaying weakness. He 
says, "I have always had a positive vision of the United States" and "taken for 
granted that it was a reasonable power" but now "I have the sense of a 
disquieting semi-bellicosity, an agitation, a feverishness." 

He puts this down to an unarticulated sense of vulnerability in the United 
States, caused by its budget dependence on European and Japanese investment and 
its lingering strategic anxiety about Russia and China. 

He argues that current American emphasis on military and diplomatic action 
against weak rogue states is a kind of unacknowledged compensation for this 

Thus embargoes are imposed on countries incapable of defending themselves, and 
tribal armies and "disarmed civil populations" are subjected to high-tech 
bombardment. He presumably has Serbia in mind. 

Revel answers that blaming America has always been a reflex of European 
intellectuals. He says that American politicians are given to hyperbole that 
should not be taken too seriously, and that Europeans have only themselves to 
blame for today's American predominance, since Europe's own failures in the 
20th century made a gift of global power to the United States. 

He also says that the French themselves would be obsessed with terrorism if 
suicide planes had simultaneously attacked the Opéra, the Arc de Triomphe, and 
other prominent Paris sites - although he himself mentions the series of 
attacks on crowded Paris stores and train and metro stations in 1995, which 
were met without panic. 

It strikes me that the two are actually discussing two separate kinds of 
anti-Americanism. The old kind, which Revel stoutly opposed, was influential 
some thirty years ago, when news of the Gulag was only belatedly being admitted 
by a French intelligentsia traditionally disposed to uncritical support for the 

Then, every American Cold War measure was attacked as if it were an unprovoked 
provocation to the Soviet Union. 

The new kind of anti-Americanism is the one Todd talks about, and is a reaction 
to the post-Sept. 11 policies of the Bush administration, which he takes as 
revealing deep-seated anxieties in American society which have economic and 
demographic structural causes - a fragile economy, and loss of the old sense of 
national identity. 

He also argues that Washington's preoccupation with the rogue states and China 
- actually a weak state - and its concern that they might become allies with 
Russia, avoids looking at the real strategic threat, which is that a nuclear 
Russia would ally itself with the two most important real power centers outside 
the United States, which are Europe and Japan. 

This analysis is not one that seems to concern Washington, which makes much of 
the symptoms of anti-Americanism in Europe while actually making the problem 
worse. Chancellor Schröder did not whip up anti-Americanism in Germany. It was 
there already. That is what should worry Washington. 

Copyright © 2002 the International Herald Tribune


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