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Anti-Europeanism in America
January 29, 2003 6:57 PM   Subscribe

Decoding Anti-Europeanism In America: Although European anti-Americanism focuses on one country, with one government and one foreign policy (the U.S.), growing American (i.e. U.S.) anti-Europeanism seems to conflate dozens of separate and disparate countries, governments and foreign policies into one abstract entity, "Europe", which doesn't really exist as such. Or exists just as much as "America", North and South, Central and Carribean does. So what the hell is up? What terrible confusion of categories is clogging up Western political communications? [More inside.]
posted by MiguelCardoso (77 comments total)

 
Perhaps Donald Rumsfeld is absolutely right and Americans nowadays seem to ignorantly think Europe is just France, Germany, Spain and Scandinavia writ large. I.e., the vocal anti-American minority. Or just France...

Jean-François Revel's recent tirade against the anti-American obsession seems right on target. His debate with Emmanuel Todd is a real eye-opener [Both links in French.]

What gives? Who knows? Timothy Garton-Ash, in the main-linked forthcoming NYRB article, argues it's getting worse. No good can come, et caetera...
posted by MiguelCardoso at 7:03 PM on January 29, 2003


As a bit of counterpoint, this piece - "America oui, Bush non!" - argues that European anti-American sentiment isn't, really.

(Also, welcome back, Miguel.)
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:05 PM on January 29, 2003


"The worst abuse is reserved for the French..."

...as it should be, the smarmy bastards.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:12 PM on January 29, 2003


The standard American perception of European policy is whatever the Franco-German semi-bloc's position is, a perception I'm sure neither France nor Germany wishes to dispute, and this is currently (and vocally) contrary to Washington. The fact that so many European nations don't share this position doesn't seem to get a great deal of attention. Britain, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Hungary, Poland, Denmark and the Czech Republic have positioned themselves behind Washington on the issue of Iraq, but how many Americans know this?

As Garton-Ash points out, we don't include the U.K. in our anti-Europeanism, and if we were more aware of the extent of the fracture in European policy on the Iraqi issue, and concentrated less on France and Germany alone, I think we'd be much more measured in our criticism. But the coverage still seems to portray a split between the U.S. and Europe, Russia and China, without a great deal of coverage of the split within Europe, and American opinions follow suit.

Also, Miguel, I'm not sure I'd agree entirely that "Europe" is a non-existent entity. Certainly not as centralized as the U.S., but the mere existence of the EU, and it's ongoing attempts to have a single Constitution, a single foreign policy, a single agricultural policy, etc., provides quite a target for criticism, and not altogether unfairly.
posted by apostasy at 7:30 PM on January 29, 2003


Richard Perle, now chairman of the Defense Policy Board, says Europe has lost its "moral compass" and France its "moral fiber."

"Moral fibre? Why, you pasty-face son'bitch. I invented moral fibre!"
Pappy O'Daniel, Governor, the great state of Mississippi
posted by MzB at 7:33 PM on January 29, 2003


The fact that so many European nations don't share this position doesn't seem to get a great deal of attention. Britain, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Hungary, Poland, Denmark and the Czech Republic have positioned themselves behind Washington on the issue of Iraq, but how many Americans know this?

Why do you think this is, apostasy? Rumsfeld's very clumsy distinction between what he saw as "old" Europe (France and Germany) and "new" Europe (ex-Soviet bloc countries) seems to disregard the unqualified support important (i.e. NATO, Atlantic) countries of Western Europe like Portugal, Spain, UK and Italy have offered from the start. Far "older" countries than France or Germany, by the way. ;)

The problem is that the current U.S. administration (I might be wrong) see Europe in terms of France, Germany and UK - the old World War II players - whereas the balance of power has since become far more multipolar and complex.

As far as "Europe" is concerned, I really think it has to include Russia and a lot in between - that's why it's so nebulous. To be anti-European you'd have to be anti about 40 different states.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 7:54 PM on January 29, 2003


I thought the point behind the EU was to bring the countries of Europe together under one economic and, to some extent, political entity. Am I missing something?

European anti-American sentiment isn't, really.

Do you mean to say that Europeans dislike the dicisions of the Bush administration as much as most Americans?
Shocking.
It was a good read, thanks stavros.
posted by Gif at 7:58 PM on January 29, 2003


It's obviously the ridiculous american education system that breeds hate and distrust.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:58 PM on January 29, 2003


Miguel: If you'd stepped outside your little SoHo coffeehouse when you came to the States you might have noticed that although the US population has one government, the variety of cultures and perspectives here is at least as great as the EU's.
posted by shoos at 8:11 PM on January 29, 2003


I saw this article earlier, and found it very interesting. If you haven't yet read Kagan's Power & Weakness, which Ash refers to, you should. It's been very influential and is a very interesting read.
posted by gkostolny at 8:17 PM on January 29, 2003


Shoos - point taken, thanks. I reread my post and it does tend to conflate the U.S. in the very same way I criticize Americans for conflating Europe. Sorry... I believe you're right, from all I've read - although SoHo coffeehouses tend to be quite pro-European. ;)

I should have realized this is all about the present administration (the Clinton one, for instance, was wildly, even healthily (!) pro-European) and the mainstream U.S. media.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:19 PM on January 29, 2003


Here is another aspect of the anti-Europeanism: Bible prophecies and the revived roman empire.
posted by MzB at 8:20 PM on January 29, 2003


Miguel: A fine question. You'd think that so many nations declaring their support for our position would be of great use to the Administration's case, yet the closest they come to referencing it is an undefined "coaltion of the willing", which most people seem to read as "American, Australia, the U.K., and a collection of tiny Arab states". Bush ought to be waving the letter above around at every opportunity.

You may be right. The Administration may simply have difficulty seeing Europe beyond Chirac, Schroeder and Blair. Or perhaps we just have a deep desire to marginalize the EU as a whole, making allies outside of the Anglosphere useful but not worth concentrating on. I certainly hope that isn't the case.

Maybe the Administration's PR machine is just incompetent.

A lot of the problem is determining when a European trend becomes widespread enough to describe it as "European". Europe in general is known for leaning more towards social democracy than outright capitalism. Do Ireland and Estonia keep this trend from being European, or are they simply outliers? Certainly you'd be hard-pressed to have anything to apply to everything from Andorra to Yugoslavia, but I don't think it's a fool's errand to describe some trends as "European". It's just important not to allow this to blind you to real differences within the continent. Like, say, policy towards Iraq.

Do you mean to say that Europeans dislike the dicisions of the Bush administration as much as most Americans?

Come again?
posted by apostasy at 8:20 PM on January 29, 2003


Hey, what a great reply, apostasy - bringing in even better questions! :)

It does seem as if this administration is obsessed with France and Germany. Perhaps they think that there are 3 "big players" in the EU and that they've only got the support of one (the U.K.). Is this the cause of their blindness? Is this what makes them sound so defensive?

My country, Portugal, has been 100% behind the U.S. from day one - so it sounds ridiculous (as it does to Italians, Spaniards, Czechs, Brits, Poles, Danes, Hungarians, etc) to hear Bush and Powell go on about "going it alone".

This is a Western issue. France and Germany are merely middle Europe; condemned to be irrelevant even in the short run. Let them play their own two-handed game, I say.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:33 PM on January 29, 2003


Aforementioned letter.
posted by apostasy at 8:33 PM on January 29, 2003


As for Anti-French jokes, they're as old as the US is. It's a mutual joviality, a comedic "special relationship" in the same manner as our policy "special relationship" with Britain. Mark Twain made fun of the frogs. They helped in our Revolution. We helped in theirs. Both nations fought together in two wars (though of course, us Americans like to point out that we "saved" the French on both occasions).

There exists no true anti-European sentiment. There are no acts of hate against people of European descents. We didn't bring the Italians and the Germans into Japanese-style concentration camps in WW2.

Sure, we disagree with their policy. We wish their people would sometimes see the good in American and not just the bad, specifically the French in this instance. But anti-Europeanism? I dunno about that.

As for the "European" culture, I think I can explain that. Every white person (and even many non-whites) have a significant "Euro-Mutt" heritage. The only Italian, Irish and Germans are old; nearly every white person is a mishmash of European cultures. Even many non-whites, such as my Indonesian-Dutch-others friend or my Irish-Chinese-others friend, have a varied ethnic breakup.

Most informed people know there's a difference in European opinion. But here Stateside, the only real cultural dividing line is "European", and even that is fast fading.
posted by Kevs at 8:35 PM on January 29, 2003


Apart from the political and military support for the U.S. initiative on Iraq, I think the most important paragraphs from the letter sent by the eight European leaders (and which the Bush administration's defensiveness and entirely imaginary isolation doesn't mirror) are these:

[Thursday, January 30, 2003 12:01 a.m. EST]

(Editor's note: This article is written by Jose María Aznar, Jose-Manuel Durão Barroso, Silvio Berlusconi, Tony Blair, Vaclav Havel, Peter Medgyessy, Leszek Miller and Anders Fogh Rasmussen: the prime ministers of Spain, Portugal, Italy, the U.K., Hungary, Poland and Denmark. Mr. Havel is the Czech president
.)


"The real bond between the U.S. and Europe is the values we share: democracy, individual freedom, human rights and the rule of law. These values crossed the Atlantic with those who sailed from Europe to help create the United States of America. Today they are under greater threat than ever.

The attacks of Sept. 11 showed just how far terrorists--the enemies of our common values--are prepared to go to destroy them. Those outrages were an attack on all of us. In standing firm in defense of these principles, the governments and people of the U.S. and Europe have amply demonstrated the strength of their convictions. Today more than ever, the trans-Atlantic bond is a guarantee of our freedom.

We in Europe have a relationship with the U.S. which has stood the test of time. Thanks in large part to American bravery, generosity and farsightedness, Europe was set free from the two forms of tyranny that devastated our continent in the 20th century: Nazism and communism. Thanks, too, to the continued cooperation between Europe and the U.S. we have managed to guarantee peace and freedom on our continent. The trans-Atlantic relationship must not become a casualty of the current Iraqi regime's persistent attempts to threaten world security."
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:50 PM on January 29, 2003


France and Germany aren't Europe!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:52 PM on January 29, 2003


"The real bond between the U.S. and Europe is the values we share: democracy, individual freedom, human rights and the rule of law....Today they are under greater threat than ever."

I'd agree with that, if the last sentence were amended to say "Today they are under greater threat than ever, from the current American administration."

I'm sorry, but those paragraphs you quoted, Miguel, are a monster pantload of happy-words. Pure feel-good meaningless mouthmusic.

I wonder if they're planning to give a reach-around to go with them, out of courtesy?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:10 PM on January 29, 2003


"I'll bet Aznar's the kinda guy that would fuck a person in the ass and not even have the goddamn common courtesy to give him a reach-around." --Gunnery Sgt. Hartman

Getting slightly more conspiratorial, I suppose we shouldn't put it beyond Bush et al that they've intentionally downplayed these alliances to maximize the effect the release of this letter would have on international opinion.

Miguel: I think the problem is simply this. The EU is dominant in Europe. France and Germany are dominant in the EU. Hence they are the relevant parties in Europe. While collectively these eight nations will no doubt have a substantial impact in the coming weeks, no single one of them is as relevant as one of the big two, and they end up marginalized, at least until they can collectively get something published in the Wall Street Journal.

And, of course, that pesky "Permanent Member of the Security Council" thing...

Kevs is right, though, that anti-Europeanism overstates the case (as does anti-Americanism). Americans are no more anti-European than Californian's are anti-Mississippi, or vice versa. Disagreeing with, annoyed by, but certainly not anti.
posted by apostasy at 9:41 PM on January 29, 2003


So how long before there's the great American-European war?
France does have WMD, you know.
posted by spazzm at 10:12 PM on January 29, 2003


"France does have WMD, you know."

Women Minus Deodorant?

Ha! I kid the French, because they're French.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:25 PM on January 29, 2003


Really, the way Americans think about Europe, you'd think they all used the same currency or something!
posted by HTuttle at 10:33 PM on January 29, 2003


After reading these and other links as well as seeing some of these fuckers on teevee, I'm not getting it...I saw Rummy say that Germany and France are the old Europe and that they are out of sync with the new Europe. For many years Germany and France have been slipping into irrelevance regarding their impact on world affairs and they know it; if France didn't have a few nukes and that security council seat their opinion would hold as much power as that of Outer Mongolia. They and Germany are scared shitless of their own immigrant populations and find it easier to bark at us while they sell forbidden items to outlaw states. Their reasons for badmouthing the US have less to do with justice and idealism than they do with creating division while they concentrate their power thru the EU. Miguel, the Slavic-Orthodox civilization which includes Russia isn't "european", via your post last July re: Huntington's Clash of Civilizations.
posted by Mack Twain at 11:00 PM on January 29, 2003


Ha! I kid the French, because they're French.

Exactly. And if there are three things I can't stand, they're
--Hatred;
--Bigotry; and
--The French.

Migs: hey, waittaminit. Sylvio Berlusconi respects the rule of law?
posted by Vidiot at 12:11 AM on January 30, 2003


Ahh, Berlusconi, Europe's Nixon.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 12:41 AM on January 30, 2003


The U.S. Needs to Open Up to the World by Brian Eno

America as a gated community won't work, because not even the world's sole superpower can build walls high enough to shield itself from the intertwined realities of the 21st century. There's a better form of security: reconnect with the rest of the world, don't shut it out; stop making enemies and start making friends. Perhaps it's asking a lot to expect America to act differently from all the other empires in history, but wasn't that the original idea?
posted by y2karl at 12:41 AM on January 30, 2003


As a US passport-holder, and someone who's spent a bit of time in France, I just don't understand why people here in the US insist on making fun of the French. The whole stinky, non-shaving, cheese-eating bit is no more accurate than portraying most people from the States as gun-toting hicks. To be perfectly frank, it pisses me off. Most French people, just as most Americans, are perfectly decent, clean, and friendly.

Why can't we look at all the things we have in common, rather than criticizing or harassing one another? It's completely immature and non-constructive, even in jest.
posted by gkostolny at 12:48 AM on January 30, 2003


Recent pundits and would be future historians have pointed out that the EU may well be the most important event of the late 20th century -- comparable to the original confederacy that became the U.S.

But outside of the context of solidly aligned supporters of the current administration and right-wing pundits, I really don't hear much derision leveled towards a generalized "European". And inside that context, I think it means about the same thing that "liberal" or even "San Francisco Liberal" means here: a straw man cum quasi threat du jour.

(I'm going to be laughing about that last sentence as I sleep tonight, yes, but the point remains).
posted by namespan at 12:51 AM on January 30, 2003


I think part of the reason for the US-EU polarisation is that Europeans have become more aware of their identity as europeans. Sure, the french and the german does appear different at first, but not if they compare themselves to the japanese or even americans, they discover that they have a lot in common. This sort of large-scale identity is only made possible by long-distance comparision, which requires long-distance communication.

So the new european dislike for the US is, ironically, made possible by that US invention, the internet.

Yes, I know I'm stretching it here, but I'm european so just ignore me.
posted by spazzm at 1:13 AM on January 30, 2003


gkostolny -- all in fun, as Kevs pointed out above. Some of my best friends are French! I even dated a French woman for a while last year. (True, she was psychotic and it ended badly, but I don't think that had to do with her national origin. I think.)

and on preview: that's a good point, spazzm. The newly promulgated pan-European identity does compare more easily with an American one. (but wasn't the 'Net invented in Switzerland?)
posted by Vidiot at 1:17 AM on January 30, 2003


Vidiot:
I believe the internet (as in TCP/IP protocol) was invented by DARPA in USA, but the web (as in HTTP protocol and webpages) was invented by some guy at CERN, which is a european research institute. CERN is, as you point out, located in Switzerland.

I apologize for being ambigous in my previous post.
posted by spazzm at 1:36 AM on January 30, 2003


France and Germany aren't Europe!

They are the squeakiest wheels, though.

I'm pro-any-part-of-Europe-that-MiguelCardoso-is-in.
posted by hama7 at 1:38 AM on January 30, 2003


I have to agree that French bashing is as lame as vibrating overlord references. Frisians, on the other hand...
posted by y2karl at 1:38 AM on January 30, 2003


CERN.
And "some guy" is really Tim Berners-Lee.
posted by spazzm at 1:39 AM on January 30, 2003


Love this quote: They spend their euros on wine, holidays, and bloated welfare states instead of on defense.
posted by brettski at 1:43 AM on January 30, 2003


I think Eno nails it here:

How is it that a country that prides itself on its economic success could have so many very poor people? How is it that a country so insistent on the rule of law should seek to exempt itself from international agreements? And how is it that the world's beacon of democracy can have elections dominated by wealthy special interest groups? For me, the question has become: "How can a country that has produced so much cultural and economic wealth act so dumb?"

The Empire's New Clothes...
posted by y2karl at 1:48 AM on January 30, 2003


D'oh! I knew that about IP vs. Web. Oops.
posted by Vidiot at 2:03 AM on January 30, 2003


Frisians, on the other hand...

The hunting season is declared open.
posted by sebas at 2:23 AM on January 30, 2003


I was talking to my friend Peter Moore the other day. He's a travel writer. His books sell well here in Australia, he's big (well, biggish) in England, and he's unpublished in the US.
There's no interest in publishing his books in the US, because, on the whole, travel writing doesn't sell in the US. I think it is easy to argue that North Americans aren't much interested in the rest of the world.
I have another friend, Max Barry, whose first book Syrup has done very well in the US, and his second book, Jennifer Government, is being made into a film by George Clooney's production company.
Syrup was set in Los Angeles, although Max had never been to the US. It really isn't hard for an Australian to write fiction set in the US: I've done it myself.
Jennifer Government is set in Australia. But it's set in a future Australia, owned by the US. Max is in the US right now, on a book tour. That's he's an Australian seems to confuse everyone there.
Mel Gibson's voice was dubbed in the original US release of Mad Max. His Australian accent was considered offputting. We've learned here in Australia that if you're going to make a movie it has to have some Americans in it or Americans won't watch it.
I think a lot of global anti-US sentiment really does has roots in feelings off being ignored, neglected, and in some ways exploited, just like in a bad relationship.
That's what I reckon.
posted by chrisgregory at 2:43 AM on January 30, 2003


y2k: Haven't we been over this already? I like Eno's article. I agree with elements of it, and I like its tone of curiousity rather than condescension. But that isn't one of his better paragraphs.

While I'm in favor of any call for the American public to do more travelling, we shouldn't neglect the fact that it's much easier for Europeans to galavant off to another nation than it is for we Yankees. Trips to Europe are still plenty expensive, and the only opportunities for land travel are Canada and Mexcio. The latter is often too exotic and intimidating, and the former perhaps not enough so. For many of us, foreign travel isn't that easy. And, comparing S. California to the Deep South, often unnecessary.

That doesn't address Atlantic tensions directly. But much of the reason Americans aren't as internationalist as Europeans would like us to be is the simple fact that we've got these oceans on both sides of us. Foreign travel is difficult and international relationships simply aren't a necessity as they are across the pond.

I think it is easy to argue that North Americans aren't much interested in the rest of the world.

True. Because, quite simply (and quite often), we don't need to be.
posted by apostasy at 3:37 AM on January 30, 2003


Let me just point out that the European left has more in common with the American left then with the European Right and vice versa. It's the American conservatives that have moved so far to the right that they have alienated a lot of rational conservatives in Europe (but draw the admiration of the semi-fascist Berlusconi government in Italy).
And let's not overplay slight differences in European and US elites' tactics anyway. The "left-wing" social-democrats in Europe were and are at the forefront of the dismantling of the welfare state, the privitization of public goods and the neoliberal backlash that has created anew a growing underclass and an insecure populace in Europe.
Mack Twain: France and Germany are among the most developed nations in the world, witha per capita income and an industrial base that vastly exceeds that of "Outer Mongolia" creating by their existence huge numbers of jobs even in the US. As for "selling forbidden items to outlaw states" they are by no means alone.
posted by talos at 3:59 AM on January 30, 2003


My first car was a Renault Dauphine. I hate the French because of it.
posted by Postroad at 4:03 AM on January 30, 2003


Quoting apostasy:
While I'm in favor of any call for the American public to do more travelling, we shouldn't neglect the fact that it's much easier for Europeans to galavant off to another nation than it is for we Yankees.

Do you actually know where Australia is? We're out in the middle of bloody nowhere! Do you know how much stuff an American dollar buys in Australia? A bloody big bloody pile of stuff! Conversely, do you know how expensive it is for an Australian to get to the US, or even worse, to England?

I tried to be as polite as I could be in my previous post, but apostasy, YOU are the reason we all hate American's guts. Who is the freaking WE you're addressing?

It's like that old joke: why would I go overseas? It's full of foreigners.

If you're that worried about being inconvenienced, you'll be happy to know that there are freaking McDonalds restaurants everywhere! Goddamn...stupid...Americans...

Aaarrrrgh! [has brain embolism and dies]
posted by chrisgregory at 5:30 AM on January 30, 2003


Miguel: If you'd stepped outside your little SoHo coffeehouse when you came to the States you might have noticed that although the US population has one government, the variety of cultures and perspectives here is at least as great as the EU's.

No. Europe has cultures that are thousands of years old (don't give me that 'newer than America' crap in relation to Germany or France, the states may be new but the cultures certainly aren't). It contains thousands of often-obscure languages, has many exceptionally diverse literary, musical and artistic traditions, contains countries that have fought, combined and separated thousands if not millions of times under many different names, has undergone religious revolution, has devised many competing forms of government (both democracy and communism and everything inbetween came from here) and has undergone hundreds of changes in social structure from cave-dwelling to city dwelling.

The modern Europe contains countries that have just emerged from occupation, counties that are still struggling with the industrial revolution, countries that are still undergoing civil war, countries that are in economic collapse and countries that are still under the sway of the catholic church as well countries that are among the richest in the world, the most secular in the world, are at the forefront of scientific and technological discovery and have some of the most sophisticated and humane forms of government on the planet.

No, I don't think the US is quite as diverse as that.
posted by Summer at 5:31 AM on January 30, 2003


gee, apostasy I never read either the article or post you linked before--dang me for not Googling for a comment you're calling double post on. Boy, you'd know about condescension, it's true...
posted by y2karl at 6:21 AM on January 30, 2003


"The modern Europe contains countries that have just emerged from occupation"

See: Any state in the South.

"count(r)ies that are still struggling with the industrial revolution"

Wyoming.

"countries that are still undergoing civil war"

The South.

"countries that are in economic collapse"

California.

"countries that are still under the sway of the catholic church"

Massachusetts.

"countries that are among the richest in the world"

Connecticut.

"the most secular in the world"

California.

"at the forefront of scientific and technological discovery"

Any state not located in the South.

"and have some of the most sophisticated and humane forms of government on the planet."

Ow, touche'. I guess this whole "representative democracy" thing is just backwards as hell, huh?

And I kid the South, because they're French.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:45 AM on January 30, 2003


into one abstract entity, "Europe", which doesn't really exist as such. Or exists just as much as "America", North and South, Central and Carribean does.

Bzzt, wrong. The European Union has a lot of power, and decisions made in the courts of Europe can affect my life here in the state of the UK.

The EU is almost a country in its own right, with a charter, anthem, President, and judicial branches which can impose laws spanning the twelve states.

The EU is not the next NAFTA. It's the next USA.
posted by wackybrit at 6:54 AM on January 30, 2003


Personally, I think a lot of the problems stem from the faulty logic of the "Either you're with us or against us"-rhetoric. And, IMHO, this isn't a question of culture or how ancient one nation or another is (though, by any European standard, Denmark is definitely one of the older ones). This is basic international relations - diplomacy - realpolitik. And one important lesson, I've learned from Metafilter, is, that the statements offered by the PUSA is not necessarily expressing any general sentiment shared by the populace of the United States of America. The same distinction has to be made when regarding statements made by European state leaders: They are not necessarily an expression of how the ordinary Europeans think.

When push comes to shove, Europe is ready to support America, as the reactions to 911 showed, and as the recent letter worded by European state leaders (amongst them the Danish), but that doesn't mean, Europe can't be critical of the foreign policy of the United States.

The fact that most of Europe does not agree wholeheartedly with the policies of the United States does not make Europeans anti-American. Most Europeans does not support a war in Iraq if it isn't a multilateral effort (that is, supported by the UN Security Counsil). That does not mean they don't support a war in Iraq - most do, in fact, if it's multilateral!

There is several reasons for this. Europeans have traditionally been very ardent supporters of the notion of International Law. Europe has to rely on International Law as the vehicle of its mongering since Europe - as of yet - does not have the military resources to do as it pleases without it.

OTOH America has little us for this, as they are in a position where they can do darn well anything they please without fearing for their national security. America, however, isn't interested in actually breaking any International Laws, as they are handy to legitimize your own actions with - as is witnessed in the case of Iraq and it's failure to respect the UN resolutions.

Thus, both parties are in a position where they don't want to discredit the UN by the US going on their own. It's a poker game where each part is trying to call the other's bluff.
posted by cx at 7:12 AM on January 30, 2003


Thus, both parties are in a position where they don't want to discredit the UN by the US going on their own.
Sadly, I want nothing more than to discredit the UN, but I do not want to go so far as to have a war to do it.
posted by thirteen at 9:14 AM on January 30, 2003


> The standard American perception of European policy is
> whatever the Franco-German semi-bloc's position is

Phooey on them. I want to know what Leichtenstein, Andorra and the Grand Duchy of Fenwick think.
posted by jfuller at 9:25 AM on January 30, 2003


I think it is easy to argue that North Americans aren't much interested in the rest of the world.
chrisgregory, you might think it's easy, but you'd be wrong. Even assuming that it's true about the States, North America is more than the States. Here in Canada, believe me, we're well aware of the world at large (when you're in a country as vanilla as Canada, you tend to find other countries interesting). On the east coast, we're well connected with European events. On the west coast, they're tuned into the Pacific Rim. Mexico is probably quite similar, with an emphasis on the rest of the Latin world.

Suggesting America = North America is akin to lumping Australia and New Zealand together. Sure, there are similarities of experience but it's hardly homogenous.

If you think it's shameful that Australia is ignored by the US, you need to visit Canada. We're sleeping with that elephant here, and Bush doesn't even know *our* Prime Minister's name.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 9:32 AM on January 30, 2003


Summer: I don't see how the "age" of a given population (whatever that means anyways) has anything to do with its cultural or social complexity.
posted by shoos at 10:20 AM on January 30, 2003


It it easy to understand the US preoccupation with the big three in Europe if you understand that US foreign policy is built upon economic policy. If you go into the board room of any major corporation in the US you will see charts dividing up the planet into four sales regions: North America (US and its economic colony, Canada), Europe (UK, Germany, France), Japan, and ROW (Rest Of World, e.g. Korea, Brazil, Israel, Australia). The rest of Europe is of little economic interest. It is important to distinguish between cultural influence and economic influence because the latter is all that counts in US foreign policy.
posted by JackFlash at 10:40 AM on January 30, 2003


Dear GhostintheMachine,
By using the phrase North America, I meant the bit between Mexico and Canada. I suppose you're right, that Canada is also part of 'North America' (you can tell I didn't go to school in the US of A because I know that much). It can sometimes be tricky to refer to a country that sees itself as dominating an entire continent when it actually doesn't. If I make a reference to Americans, I can see how you might be insulted (because you are also an American, although an often ignored and frequently parodied flavour of American).
You really are making this difficult. The United States of America, including the island of Hawaii and the disconnected state Alaska is a bit of a mouthfull. Which is not your fault. I chose to use the phrase North America to describe them, not you.
But to be honest, I think you're being anal. I wasn't ignoring you guys: my partner is Canadian. She won't even watch the Simpsons, because it reminds her of the United States of blah blah. I think she's missing out.
Let's agree to refer to that particular country from now on as, I don't know, Rachael.
Happy?
posted by chrisgregory at 11:02 AM on January 30, 2003


Shoos - Really? So you don't think that the fact a nation has lived through many versions of itself, all building on and informing one another, contributes to cultural diversity or social complexity? OK.
posted by Summer at 11:02 AM on January 30, 2003


Do you actually know where Australia is? We're out in the middle of bloody nowhere!

Somewhere in the Midwest, I think...

Calm down. The subject was relations across the Atlantic, hence I focused my comments on those nations. Yes, Australia has greater foreign travel difficulties, as does much of Oceania. But that wasn't germane.

Who is the freaking WE you're addressing?

Myself and all others who live in the U.S. You seriously think I would've assumed all readers were American in a thread started by a Lisbonian (Lisboner?)?

YOU are the reason we all hate American's guts.

Certainly have never been blamed for the attitudes of a nation, but am touched by the honor. In fact, ignorant Americans who care nothing for the world are why you hate our guts. I have no interest in being lumped into that group.

JackFlash: It is important to distinguish between cultural influence and economic influence because the latter is all that counts in US foreign policy.

There is truth in this. Add "military" to "economic" and it's even more so. We've (the American we) heard increasing numbers of arguments from the neo-con side that Europe isn't, ultimately, that important to us as an ally, as the EU is not unified enough to be a serious economic challenge, and European military capability is limited. Cultural influence, political institutions, a common heritage of ideals, are sadly brushed aside as windowdressing.
posted by apostasy at 11:36 AM on January 30, 2003


The fact of X being anti-Y does not of itself require Y to feel insulted - it can sometimes be a tremendous compliment. I for one am always immensely reassured whenever I encounter an anti-European American - it is manifest evidence that we are on the right track, and confirmation that our principles and standards are visible and felt.

I would hope that any self confident American would feel equally positive about anti-Americanism. I hope it is also equally evident that to be anti-X does not imply one is necessarily anti-the-citizens-of-X.

Of course, there are some matters on which it is important to agree, but for the rest - Vive la difference!
posted by RichLyon at 11:39 AM on January 30, 2003


y2karl: Fair enough. It was late and I was being snotty. Apologies.
posted by apostasy at 11:49 AM on January 30, 2003


Apostasy wrote: In fact, ignorant Americans who care nothing for the world are why you hate our guts. I have no interest in being lumped into that group.

Me: I'm sure you don't. But when I wrote:
I think it is easy to argue that North Americans aren't much interested in the rest of the world.

You replied: True. Because, quite simply (and quite often), we don't need to be.

Me: You can't see the connection, can you? Let me help. There's a cliche that exists, which has almost become a parody, of the ugly American. Then there's you.

And I'll be buggered if I can tell the difference.
posted by chrisgregory at 12:03 PM on January 30, 2003


True. Because, quite simply (and quite often), we don't need to be.

This is a simple comment about the simple reality of the situation. Americans, much more than Europeans, often don't need to be involved in the outer world. We are separated and protected by oceans, and our neighbors haven't been belligerent in a good long time. Contrast that to Europe, to which cross-border relationships probably look like an excellent alternative to all-consuming war. This difference goes a long way towards explaining the difference in attitudes, and is certainly more useful than impotent moralizing about the ugly Americans.

There's a similar divide in bilingualism. Europeans live in close proximity to several well-populated languages, and learning them is not only easier, but more useful. You find similar behavior here near the Mexican border with regards to Spanish, but outside of that, Americans don't have a compelling need to be bilingual, and so they aren't.

Now, do I believe this isolation is a positive thing? Not at all. I wish we were more engaged with the outer world, more internationalist in our character, and the optimist in me hopes that events of the past year will stir us into paying more attention to a complex world whose goings-on affect us, oceans or no. The optimist also thinks the Cubs and the Red Sox will meet in the World Series this year, and is not to be trusted.

While it's certainly good sport to rail against ignorant Americans (I do a fair share of it myself), it also accomplishes little outside of looking cosmopolitan. Rather than call them evil, we should endeavor to understand them, ask ourselves "why do they ignore us?", wouldn't you agree?
posted by apostasy at 12:25 PM on January 30, 2003


Summer: I don't think that's necessarily true. I know little about anthropology, but it seems a dubious assumption. Couldn't one just as easily argue the reverse by saying that the longer a certain group has "existed" the more organized, and hence the more uniform, it becomes? I'm not talking Culture (capital C), I'm talking complexity and diversity.

The US comprises primarily immigrants from all over the planet which came here just within the past 400 years. Many of these were of cultures that hardly laid eyes on one another in any time in history. It's a big frigging mess, but a good one. Europeans from all over the place, Mexicans, Central and South Americans, South Asians, Southeast Asians, East Asians, Africans from all over the continent, Jason Priestly, etc, among others.
posted by shoos at 1:01 PM on January 30, 2003


Me (impersonating an ignorant American): Oink fart spit. Yee harr! Beavis and Butthead were so cool! Huh huh.

Apostasy: While it's certainly good sport to rail against ignorant Americans (I do a fair share of it myself), it also accomplishes little outside of looking cosmopolitan.

Me: It accomplishes what? You're saying what? Making you look ignorant makes me cosmopolitan? Well friddle my griddles. Yesterday I couldn't spell the aforementioned word, now I are one. This is, as you say, 'a simple comment about the simple reality of the situation.'

To be honest, I have no idea whatsoever about what you're trying to say. And I also have a sneaking suspicion that if I asked you to point out Canada on a map you wouldn't have a clue where it was.

But as you say: 'Americans, much more than Europeans, often don't need to be involved in the outer world. We are separated and protected by oceans, and our neighbors haven't been belligerent in a good long time.'

Consider me a hostile nation. Or consider the rest of the whole world as a hostile nation. It's not so far from the truth. Does that make the rest of the world worth learning about?

What a maroon, as Bugs Bunny always said. I remember the phrase, from my Know Thine Enemy classes. Why else would I have an interest in any country that didn't present an immediate military threat?
posted by chrisgregory at 1:02 PM on January 30, 2003


Thanks for the French links, Miquel

I think certain issues, especially psychological ones, can’t be ignored in trying to understand the French and Germans, and Europeans in general. Some random thoughts, which I wish I had time to flesh-out more, and perhaps re-write:

First, as I've said before, I give the Germans a pass on the moral question of going to war; and that will continue for at least another generation or two. I might be more disturbed if the Germans were gung ho about invading Iraq, as would, perhaps many Europeans…

Second, is it really possible for the French to not feel humilated each time American military might is required? The French fancy themselves as the most important, or one of the most important forces in the world, and yet they are almost totally dependent on the United States when it comes to projecting force beyond their immediate borders. If, as is mentioned in one of those pieces, it was “le'11 Septembre”, and several thousand Parisians were killed by Al Qaeda (and that seems to have been planned), would the French have been able to bring Afghanistan under control? Not likely. So I think the French have a very strong unconscious tendency to deny and minimize dangers that underline their lack of military strength: at least in the short run, denial is easier than humiliation and humbling one’s self (I don’t know what it’s like not to be a citizen of the most powerful nation in the history of the world; but I do know what it’s like to be a Mets fan in a town with the Yankees. Perhaps this is what it feels like to be a European?)

Third, the need for America to clean up a disaster also underlines the failure of the EU, of which the French have always been the most enthusiastic, which was supposed to solve all of Europe's problems, and make America less vital. Well, guess what: the Common Market became the EC, which became the EU, and you have shinny new coins, and the Soviets are gone, but you still need America…

Fourth, I find it shocking how cynical Europeans, or at least the French are. I can't tell you how many people I met who were convinced that President Clinton murdered people, and that every EVERY politician--here and there--is completely corrupt. So I think a lot of Europeans don't trust the United States, for the same reason they don’t trust their own politicians—only that America is more powerful, so it’s corruption is more dangerous to side with. Sure, some American politicians are corrupt, most act with mixed motives, but most are not mostly corrupt, and certainly not on the issue of world security, and a far-off war.

Fifth, when was the last time the French has a good experience with war? Not recently, if ever. They haven’t liberated any country that I know of ..(this is obviously true of Germany as well). Vietnam not withstanding, Americans can imagine a just war improving things

Sixth, the French are not entirely unhappy with the status quo in Iraq,
They make a lot of money there. And even if they were to be co-partners with the UK and US in liberating Iraq, the liberation would leave them in a much less privileged position.

Seventh, I suspect, it will turn out that France (and Germany) had their paws on much of Iraq’s WMD capability.

Finally, I suspect the French, and Europeans in general, have lower expectations of non-Europeans. They are more likely to accept that Iraqis will live in a dictatorship indefinitely. Most Americans reject this: most Americans believe that, deep down, most Iraqis would prefer, yearn, and deserve to live in Paramus-like conditions.
posted by ParisParamus at 1:20 PM on January 30, 2003


Sweet Christ...

chrisgregory, I will spell this out very simply. Americans are ignorant because our location allows us to be. Europeans are less ignorant because their location forces them to pay attention to each other. That is all.

Now, do I believe this isolation is a positive thing? Not at all.

And I also have a sneaking suspicion that if I asked you to point out Canada on a map you wouldn't have a clue where it was.


Have you actually been reading what I write? Are you being intentionally obtuse? I'm trying to describe why I believe Americans are less engaged with the world than Europeans and you treat me like I'm Bubba incarnate. Chill the fuck out.
posted by apostasy at 1:59 PM on January 30, 2003


Oh: two more:

Ninth, I firmly believe that large swaths of the French, and especially German population are, pacifists, and would not go to war under any circumstances. In the case of Germany, again, they get a pass; in the case of France, no such excuse.

Tenth, France and Germany will eventually (within the next two weeks) endorse going to war. But in the mean time, Chirac and Shroder will have appeared to have had principles, balls, whatever. The turn will like come a few days after Colin Powell’s UN presentation—even though nothing will have materially changed as a result of that presentation.
posted by ParisParamus at 2:02 PM on January 30, 2003


Someone said on MSNBC this evening that, to paraphrase, "taking the French along with you to war is about as useful as taking an accordion deer hunting." Spot on.
posted by ParisParamus at 8:33 PM on January 30, 2003


The French fancy themselves as the most important, or one of the most important forces in the world, and yet they are almost totally dependent on the United States when it comes to projecting force beyond their immediate borders.

This being written as the French government has 2,500 troops deployed in the Ivory Coast, with more perhaps to follow. I don't know if French people are under any illusions that France is one of the leading military powers in the world, but perhaps they believe that it is one of the leading beacons of Enlightenment ideals in the world. And in the meantime, it is perfectly possible for the French military to accomplish things overseas without any U.S. assistance whatsoever.
posted by skoosh at 12:32 AM on January 31, 2003


chrisgregory :- Peter Moore's books are absolutely tremendous. I'm very much looking forward to his next one.

Yes, it's true, Australians and Kiwis are among the best travelled people on Earth (up there with Brits and Germans), which is amazing considering their geographic isolation (even greater than the geographic isolation of the US). However, young Aussies and Kiwis are allowed to work for a couple of years in the UK, which allows them to finance travels in Europe (and indeed many have British passports); and while the Aussie dollar may not go a long way in Britain or the US, it does go a long way in Asia. I think there may also a bit of a 'walkabout' thing going on too....
posted by plep at 1:07 AM on January 31, 2003


Something else to bear in mind - Americans don't get many holidays. I believe about 10-15 days is typical; in the UK 20-25 days is the average, and it's often higher in continental western Europe and Australia. Travel and general mind-broadening is something to do in your time off, which Americans generally don't have much of ...
posted by plep at 1:10 AM on January 31, 2003


With all due respect to Australians and New Zealanders, I think the travel thing comes from living in quite isolated countries with very small populations and quite homogenous cultures. It must be very tempting to get out and see something of the world.

Finally, I suspect the French, and Europeans in general, have lower expectations of non-Europeans. They are more likely to accept that Iraqis will live in a dictatorship indefinitely. Most Americans reject this: most Americans believe that, deep down, most Iraqis would prefer, yearn, and deserve to live in Paramus-like conditions.

Oh come on Paris. This is nonsense. As if Americans cared about or were even thinking of Iraq before the current war mongering. As if either Americans or Europeans, outside of a few concerned individuals, have ever cared about the suffering of those outside of the gated West. We have to be told to care by people like Bob Geldof.
posted by Summer at 2:49 AM on January 31, 2003


Boomtown Rats were wonderful!

Summer, what you say may be true, but I still feel that Americans are much more optimistic about progress and change and improvement than the French. Perhaps Americans go too far; a little into the realm of naivité, but that's another question. It's part of the immigrant experience; its part of the socially mobile experience; it really does happen here; certainly more than in France.
posted by ParisParamus at 4:36 AM on January 31, 2003


chrisgregory: Pot, meet kettle. You two have a lot in common.

You're berating Americans for their limited knowledge of world affairs, yet call me anal for pointing out that "North America" is a continent, while "America" (as in the USA) is a country. Hypocrite.

Sure, " The United States of America, including the island of Hawaii and the disconnected state Alaska" is hard to say quickly. Mostly because it's completely unnecessary. When I say Australia, do I have to specify "Australia, including the big honking desert in the middle, Queensland, New South Wales, and that island thingy, Tasmania, floating way out there on its own but still part of the country". Now who's being anal? If you say "America" or "USA", that includes all 50 states, even the non-contiguous ones. Canadians are North Americans, but we'd never refer to ourselves as Americans. Your partner should be able to tell you that.

And she's really missing out on the Simpsons thing, too. Tell her it's subversively anti-American... see if that helps. "Where else but America... or possibly Canada..."
posted by GhostintheMachine at 4:43 AM on January 31, 2003


Paris, what you say is just assertion. Have Americans really thought as far ahead as to what will happen to the Iraqi people after the war? Are they sympathetic to them? I've encountered on Mefi the argument that the Iraqi people should have got rid of Saddam themselves and there's something lacking in them that they didn't manage to do that. Do you think that's a common opinion? Can Americans (or Europeans) even picture Iraqis at all?

How long do you think the allies will have to occupy Iraq for to guarantee a stable, free country? Will they be willing to do that? How many hostile groups are willing to take advantage of a power vacuum and turn the country into another dictatorship? If, as you say (how do you know?), the French are more pessimistic about the eventual outcome of the Iraq war, maybe there's good reason.
posted by Summer at 6:06 AM on January 31, 2003


I've encountered on Mefi the argument that the Iraqi people should have got rid of Saddam themselves and there's something lacking in them that they didn't manage to do that.

Could you point us to one of those comments?
posted by shoos at 10:21 AM on January 31, 2003


shoos, no. Think about how many Iraq threads there are. I can't remember who made the comment. You're going to just have to trust me.
posted by Summer at 2:42 AM on February 3, 2003


Paris, what you say is just assertion. Have Americans really thought as far ahead as to what will happen to the Iraqi people after the war? I would say a fair number have, but I'm not sure how important that is since, it's hard to imagine things getting worse post-Saddam. Moreover, in all likelyhood they will get decidedly better. The Iraqi people are educated, and they have the second largest oil reserves in the world. This is a bet worth placing on humanitarian grounds (which is clearly not our primary motivation).

Can Americans (or Europeans) even picture Iraqis at all? To the extent they have to, yes. No one wants to live under a brutal dictatorship. Isn't everything else just secondary? The major difference is that Europeans have a much hard time imagining liberating anyone, particularly since they had to be liberated: from the Germans, and from the Soviets. Why do you suppose that the two nations closest to the psychology of WWII, France and Germany, have the strongest opinions on this issue?

How long do you think the allies will have to occupy Iraq for to guarantee a stable, free country? Perhaps a few years, perhaps longer, but I think it would be more cost-effective and "death-effective" than allowing a brutal dictator with unlimited funds to continue in power.

How many hostile groups are willing to take advantage of a power vacuum and turn the country into another dictatorship? Assuming that's a worse-case scenario, things would still be better than they are now. Once the US occupies the place, Iraq will be defanged; decades of Soviet, French and German (and other nations') contributions to WMD programs will be gone. Other tools of repression will also be removed (aircraft, etc.). Nor do I think anarchy would necessarily be worse than the status quo.


If, as you say (how do you know?), the French are more pessimistic about the eventual outcome of the Iraq war, maybe there's good reason. Of course the French would not term it pessimism, but having lived in both countries, I would prefer the United States' take on reality to France's
(see my previous comments).

Look. No one is dealing in certainties; no one ever can. But the probabilities clearly favor ridding the world of Saddam Hussein.

posted by Summer at 9:06 AM EST on January 31


posted by ParisParamus at 9:08 AM on February 3, 2003


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