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Why Europe hates us, and why we don't need to care.
May 13, 2001 4:05 PM   Subscribe

Why Europe hates us, and why we don't need to care. Given the large amounts of US v Europe discussion here of late (see the death penalty and Eurovision threads as examples), I thought this opinion piece would be of interest.
posted by aaron (79 comments total)

 
Pretty interesting - seemed a bit defensive to me but hey, it makes a good jumping off point. As evidenced by the responses on the site itself. A particular beauty is:

They're Just Like Criminals
J. Reynolds - Houston

From time to time in interviews with convicts, and in books such as "The Godfather," mention is made to the effect that criminals generally think all the honest-worker, 8-to-5 folks who play by the rules are chumps. "I couldn't do that," they say, and "I'm just too good for that sort of thing."

Those of us who comprise society's legitimate, honorable sector never give such implicit criticism a second thought, it's so obviously the product of little minds and lazy spirits. Accordingly, most of the criticism leveled at the U.S. by other governments--socialists, communists and dictators--fits into the same category and merits exactly the same degree of regard.


That's right, apparently the US is the only democracy in the world. I think it's probably this kind of opinion that really pisses Europeans off - and the assumption that all Americans hold similar views.
posted by MUD at 4:37 PM on May 13, 2001


any article that begins 'an affable rancher named Ronald Reagan' is suspect...to follow it up by calling Bush another affable rancher is criminal. As if these guys were ropin steer until they were summoned by their country...
posted by brucec at 5:05 PM on May 13, 2001


My friends in the money game all laugh at the paper they all read: The Wall St. Journal. They love it for the business stuff and then say that no one in his right mind, even intelligent conservatives, places much credence in the crazed editorials that are also a part of the paper.
It iwll not be long before Bush will soon be viewed by them as too wimpish for their tastes.
If you are number one, you try to get the others to share your vision rather than antagonize and rebuff them.
After all, what if we brought back all our troops and told them to find jobs? Then what would our illegals do for a living?
posted by Postroad at 5:10 PM on May 13, 2001


So, is the hope that Dubya will turn out to be a senile doddering puppet controlled by his handlers, too? 'Cuz that's what I got from this article.
posted by briank at 5:51 PM on May 13, 2001


Is that your hope, briank?
posted by techgnollogic at 7:36 PM on May 13, 2001


The U.S. is the most moral, decent, and RIGHT nation in history; it is not merely an "accident" that we are also the most advanced, the most free, the most secure, etc. It is exactly BECAUSE of our shared ideals, beliefs, and political philosophy that we now occupy this unique position in the world.
posted by davidmsc at 7:51 PM on May 13, 2001


Anonymous. Quel surprise.

At least in refenrence to the UK, it's both factually inaccurate (it was Blair, like it or not, that forced Clinton's hand in the Balkans) and badly grounded in political history (you mean a Labour government is more right-wing than the Labour opposition to Thatcher in the 80s? I'd never have guessed).

Actually, whoever knocked this one out doesn't need to sign it. He or she is obviously one of those superannuated pols (either that or a teenager fed Reaganprop) who lusts for the frankly detestable 1980s, and regards anyone educated in the late 60s as a lost political generation. Reagan only forced Pershing into Europe because of Thatcher's adoring support, in an era before Gorbachev.

And as for the "emerging missile threat" to Europe... well, it's funny that the Indy's manifesto for change suggested yesterday, "The chances of a Russian strike on London these days are about as remote as a Siberian silo".

davidmsc: I'm sure they were saying that about the Roman Empire, too.
posted by holgate at 7:54 PM on May 13, 2001


Oh, sorry, I missed the conclusion that Reagan was your "most successful foreign-policy president". Am I missing something, or do all Republican commentators have a collective (and selective) memory loss for US history between 1933 and 1945?
posted by holgate at 8:07 PM on May 13, 2001


As if all Americans shared any ideals, beliefs, or political philosophies or anything, for that matter, besides citizenship... those of us who have it.

What a cute idea, dave.
posted by techgnollogic at 8:12 PM on May 13, 2001


What is so great about 33 to 45? The President got the US stuck in a war, prior to that what were his foreign-policy accomplishments? Surely it is more opinion that fact either way.
posted by thirteen at 8:16 PM on May 13, 2001


So, holgate, you regard war on a scale never seen before or since as the sign of a sucessful foreign policy? That is the defining feature of that period.

If looking for a counter example, I might have turned to the following period, with the stunning success of the Marshall plan. But then I've always been funny about seeing peace as more desirable than war.
posted by NortonDC at 8:18 PM on May 13, 2001


Oh, sorry, I missed the conclusion that Reagan was your "most successful foreign-policy president". Am I missing something, or do all Republican commentators have a collective (and selective) memory loss for US history between 1933 and 1945?

No. We just like Churchill a lot more than FDR, so we give him most of the credit.

HTH.
posted by drothgery at 8:20 PM on May 13, 2001


well, the WSJ editorial board is slightly to the right of militias, so what's the big deal? no liberal media conspiracy there, that's for sure
posted by matteo at 8:26 PM on May 13, 2001


I think the idea is that Reagan's foreign policy was very successful because he managed to win the Cold War without it turning into a Hot War. That really is quite an accomplishment. (Perhaps you have to have lived during most of the Cold War to realize just how improbable that seemed coming into 1980.)

But I have to say that both Monroe and Jefferson were more successful -- it's just that it was so far back that it's easy to miss. Presumably everyone has heard of the "Monroe Doctrine", which is still US Government policy and which has served us in good stead for 200 years. It's doubtful that any diplomatic effort by Reagan will last anything like that long.

Reagan probably ranks in the top ten, but he certainly isn't #1.

Actually, my vote for the president with the best foreign policy would be Lincoln. The Confederacy never expected to win the Civil War; their goal was to stir up enough trouble to get the Europeans to step in and impose a settlement which resulted in the Confederacy being recognized as a separate nation. And that was a reasonable possibility.

Lincoln prevented that. His use of his military power (especially the US Navy) and diplomacy was extremely adroit. In particular, the big danger was the Royal Navy, the only force on earth capable of breaking the Union blockade of southern ports. The Confederacy hoped that the UK would do this so as to open the flow of southern cotton again, whose lack was idling mills in the UK. Lincoln correctly recognized that northern wheat was more important to the UK than southern cotton (better to be unemployed but with a full stomach, you know) -- and also that he could make the cost of breaking the blockade steep even for the RN (since it would have to fight the USN every time it moved a convoy into a southern port). But it was the biggest danger he faced in the Civil War.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 8:56 PM on May 13, 2001


The article may view two presidents with rose-colored glasses, but the article is otherwise right on.

Unless you've lived in Western Europe, you can't really appreciate how economically F'd-up the rest of the world is; how corrupt and/or bureaucratic and/or undemocratic and/or just plain passive (Western Europe is presumedly the best of the rest, with the possible exception of Canada).

davidmsc is correct, actually.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:07 PM on May 13, 2001


Forward thinking progressives (especially for the USSR) like Gorbachev, obviously had nothing at all to do with the end of the Cold War. Selective favoritism. . .that's why Europe, indeed much of the world looks down on the US.
posted by crasspastor at 10:01 PM on May 13, 2001


The U.S. is the most moral, decent, and RIGHT nation in history; it is not merely an "accident" that we are also the most advanced, the most free, the most secure, etc. It is exactly BECAUSE of our shared ideals, beliefs, and political philosophy that we now occupy this unique position in the world.

David... that's total bullshit. Was Rome the most moral and decent country of its time? England? Nazi Germany? The USSR? That's nationalist tripe.

If anything, a country finds itself on top through manipulation, not righteous acts. This country wouldn't be on top if it were for WWII. The only reason we were able to outpace everyone else is because we were virtually untouched by the war, while much of Europe and Asia were devastated. Besides, during that time the US had so many pro Nazi supporters in office... it's ludicrous anyone can argue the US was justified standing on the sidelines for most of the war.

AH fuck it...you get the point. I'm just going to hope David's post was a joke. It gave me a few laughs at least.
posted by Aikido at 10:31 PM on May 13, 2001


Postroad: Where are you located, anyway? Your opinions and politics seem very European to me, yet I was under the impression you actually live in the US. Right?

Another opinion piece along the same lines is this article by Morton Kondracke from the May 10th Roll Call entitled "Europe's Disdain For Bush Echoes Error on Reagan."
posted by aaron at 10:31 PM on May 13, 2001



Forward thinking progressives (especially for the USSR) like Gorbachev, obviously had nothing at all to do with the end of the Cold War.

Very true. Saying Reagan, who, besides actively stockpiling an an enormous peace-time arsenal, won the “Cold War” by doing nothing, is like saying I won the Cold War since I didn’t do anything either.

The U.S. is the most moral, decent, and RIGHT nation in history

Of all the left field commentary on the site in the last few days, the one quoted above is the most vulgar. I’m really surprised anyone living in a country that doesn’t force-feed its citizens state or corporate propoganda via the Ludovico treatment can be as singular in their beliefs.

The above statement isn’t realistic, in that it doesn’t take into account the history of US actions at home and abroad, and is nationalist, in that it believes the US has done everything it can to be “moral” and “decent”.

Compared to say, Canada, the US is not moral. It funds and funded human rights abuses in Isreal, occupied Palestine, East Timor, Laos, Nicauraga and Columbia. It self-survingly acted against the genocide in World War II after being attacked by the Axis. After remaining an active witness became a morally indefensible position, the government declared war. Only forty years ago the government accepted and instituted legalized discrimination using the Orwellian phrase “seperate but equal.” (All the examples the state has created would be totally outnumbered by examples culled from capitalism.)

The quote demonstrates why nationalism is not only scary but also a force for stagnation. In nationalists, the only ideals worth striving for are those that perpetuate the status quo. If the country has achieved greatness, or in this case is “right”, then progress is irrelevant; In a nationalist’s mind there is no such thing. There are no examples worth emulating, no alternatives worthy of study.

By saying the US “is most advanced, the most free, the most secure, etc.” then ideas that stand to change them are struck down out-of-hand, regardless of beneficence.

What’s more, no nationalist would believe anything I have just posted. There’s no reason to take my position — US has a horrendous human rights record, is ridden with economic strife and actively forces citizens to capitulate
in support of unpopular ideals — seriously because I’m criticising a near-perfect abstraction.

“ethnic and nationalist identity rests, after all, upon nothing more than ‘subjective belief.’ ... considerable effort would be expended in shoring up that belief and in protecting it against threats of pervasive doubt and disaffection...”
Belief, Ethnicity, and Nationalism
posted by capt.crackpipe at 10:34 PM on May 13, 2001


Anonymous. Quel surprise.

It's a newspaper editorial. What do you expect?
posted by aaron at 11:07 PM on May 13, 2001



Good heavens...the anti-US forces are vocal today! Please note that I did not say that the U.S. is/was perfect. There are many things that could have-should have been done differently in U.S. history, but the fact remains - the U.S. has done more to advance, assist, and promote human life, progress, and freedom than any other. Sure there's room for improvement - but you know the saying about perfection being a path, rather than a destination, and the other cliche about two steps forward, one step back. And, contrary to the claim by techgnonollogic, there are ideals & values shared by most Americans (freedom of speech, free enterprise, etc).

aikido: David... that's total bullshit. Was Rome the most moral and decent country of its time? England? Nazi Germany? The USSR? That's nationalist tripe. What the hell are you talking about? There is nothing nationalistic about it; I am merely pointing out the direct link between the success of America and the ideals that she is founded on. We have not succeeded because of military expansion & warfare (Rome) or due to the hypnotic allure of a single evil leader (Nazi Germany) or the blatant murder of millions who oppose the government (USSR). The U.S. is a nation of laws, of ideals, of values.

In terms of war - yes, we are extremely fortunate in terms of geography; we are protected by two vast oceans and have friendly neighbors above & below. That does nothing to invalidate our success as a nation both in peace and in war.
posted by davidmsc at 11:11 PM on May 13, 2001


Capt.: I think your WWII facts are badly flawed.

Aikido: I was taught in school, in the late 80's, that reason we could not compete economically was because our infrastructure was inferior to all the fresh modern stuff Europe and Japan had after having to rebuild from scratch. Who am I to believe?

I can justify the US staying out of wars all day long if anyone would like me to. I don't know why every one thinks they can pick and choose the wars other people should go and fight and die for. As an American, I would be no more willing to die for England in WWII, than I was willing to go to Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm. Once war was declared on us, that was a different situation, but why someone would rush us into either of the horrible world wars I do not know. Even if we did know about the genocide, which we did not until the closing days of the war.
posted by thirteen at 11:18 PM on May 13, 2001


Mikhail Gorbachev has always been something of a hero to me. Not because I'm a communist. . .I'm not. But because of his undying courage to make change for people, not only in his homeland but throughout the planet. Reagan did nothing but maintain the status quo, in fact aggrandizing it so that that status quo made him "brilliant" and "visionary" to some. As if such a do-nothing-for-the-people, anti-intellectual, war tycoon deserves to have a library and an airport and a major federal building named after him.

Gorbachev won the Nobel Peace Prize after all. Imagine Reagan uttering this link's beautiful premise (written by Gorbachev)? Who's the hero to the world? And who's the hero to America? As an American, I'm exercising my right to free speech thank you very much.
posted by crasspastor at 11:36 PM on May 13, 2001




Whoops. . .better off checking here
posted by crasspastor at 11:54 PM on May 13, 2001


> We have not succeeded because of military expansion
> & warfare

Tell that to the Apache, Blackfeet, Cherokee, Choctaw, Comanche, Cree, Creek, Crow, ... tell that to the long, long list of peoples who were, in modern terms, subjected to genocide and ethnic cleansing by American soldiers.

It's easy to become rich and powerful -- being moral and decent would have been a hindrance -- when you steal millions of square miles of land and treat the people who live there like an inconvenient infestation.
posted by pracowity at 12:11 AM on May 14, 2001


Crasspastor: You are saying we entered WWII because our inaction became morally indefensible? You are saying the American government knew about the death camps before they came rolling up in tanks? I don't think either of those points, match up with historical truth. We entered the war because we were attacked, and because war was declared on us. The American people did not want to go and die for things they did not consider any of their business. It think it is fucking disgraceful the American president was trying his best to cajole and seduce the country into buying a parcel of death.

I also think those 2 points cover the whole of what Capt'C posted on the subject, so I am not sure what you are defending. I am also not sure when you think we should have joined in WWII, I think our timing was pretty good, but then again I have no desire to fight wars. Since it seems to be a consensus that WWII made us a superpower, capable of throwing our weight around and affecting other countries (a thing you are presumable not in favor of) I am not sure why you would be so eager to take us down that path.
posted by thirteen at 12:17 AM on May 14, 2001


Question: Anyone know where the phrase "howling wilderness" came from?

Answer: General Jake Smith, when he told his troops to kill "everything over 10" in an area of Samar Island, during the Filipino American War. Thousands of men, women and children were massacred during that incident alone.

davidmsc, really, you might want to read up on the ugly bits of your country's war history before you start calling it the most moral or advanced anything.
posted by lia at 1:15 AM on May 14, 2001


the anti-US forces are vocal today!

I’m not even remotely surprised you’d label me “anti-American” (whatever that means), seeing as how I don’t share your incredibly radical view of the country. And shock, you did exactly what I said you’d do, write off the criticism because it doesn’t fit into your world-view.

Thirteen,

In my first comment I say the US declared war after being attacked, then that it was morally indefensible for them to remain an active witness to atrocities in Europe. Those two statements are not opposed to one another, at least, I don’t think so.

Or, I suppose you can believe the Holocaust was successfully hidden until ‘45. I don’t believe that for a minute.

Besides, I’m not necessarily advocating taking up arms at all, war is hell. I’m just saying the US was conspicously absent for a comparatively long time.

Lia and pracowity are making this point much better than I did anyway, in that calling America “moral” is just an egregious misunderstanding of history. I seriously doubt such a thing — a moral government — ever existed. Like davidmsc said, it’s not a reachable destination.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 1:53 AM on May 14, 2001


"The U.S. is the most moral, decent, and RIGHT nation in history; it is not merely an "accident" that we are also the most advanced, the most free, the most secure, etc. It is exactly BECAUSE of our shared ideals, beliefs, and political philosophy that we now occupy this unique position in the world."

That's probably the funniest thing I've ever read on Metafilter. Thanks. I laughed 'til I cried. Or was it the other way around?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:32 AM on May 14, 2001


Amazing. I will re-iterate for the last time: I never claimed that the USA was perfect. Mistakes have been made. Despite that, we remain the most moral & greatest nation on earth. I think some of you had better brush on up on YOUR history, too, and look at how governments treated their people prior to the founding of America, and the remarkable progress made in America since 1776. Yes, we were a wake-up call to many. Seems to me that democracy and free enterprise have swept major portions of the planet since we embarked on the experiment.

And re: Native Americans - no easy answer there, it should have been handled much differently. It is now the year 2001. What do you propose at this stage?

And back to the original topic - Europe sneering at US - so what? As long as we remain civil, even friendly, we'll make it.
posted by davidmsc at 2:51 AM on May 14, 2001


no, new zealand is the most moral and decent. or maybe the netherlands.

this is all piffle. ALL nations are intrinsicly flawed, historically, and in the present time. a debate over which is better (which this seems to have decended into) is futile.

the only value this discussion seems to have, is to show the depths of arrogance and self righteousness that some people are willing to lower themselves to.
posted by titboy at 3:33 AM on May 14, 2001


Interesting prognostication by Nostradamus which I read in a newspaper around election time, it was something like:

"At the end of the 20th century the most powerful nation in the world will be lead by a village idiot".
posted by rogem at 3:36 AM on May 14, 2001


Actually, that's a hoax.
posted by darukaru at 3:48 AM on May 14, 2001


I was thinking back about growing up in the 1980s, and how Europe was mentally a much smaller place: with Germany divided, the "Europe of the mind" ended at the Iron Curtain. Now, it extends to Moscow and St Petersburg, with a greater sense of common purpose and basic confidence, fuelled by the expansion of the EU's membership and powers. Empires rise and fall.

Steven: how about this left-field argument -- that the Pope won the Cold War? After all, 1980 was the year of Solidarity, and throughout the period of martial law, the Pope subtly agitated for reform in eastern Europe: a kind of liberation theology that had little to do with Reaganomics or the politics of Pershing.

Oh, and drothgery, you're welcome to Churchill. He won the war, but it took Attlee to win the peace; FDR managed to do both.
posted by holgate at 3:52 AM on May 14, 2001


> Native Americans - no easy answer there, it should have
> been handled much differently.

That's a rather mild way to put it.

> It is now the year 2001. What do you propose at this
> stage?

I propose that Americans stop claiming supreme righteousness. Your line about the US being "the most moral, decent, and RIGHT nation in history" is the sort of malarkey that makes people of other nations say, "Oh, it's those bloody Merkins again, equating rich and strong with good."

But what do I propose in the specific case of Native Americans? There's no way to go back to what was, but how about, for one thing, reversing some of the land theft? As a recent New York Times article points out, there are counties in Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota that are drastically losing population, so much so that they are reverting to frontier.

Move the remaining white folk out of there and make the lands the property of all Native Americans. Don't say it's impossible. People are running away from those lands as fast as they can. The remaining residents can be paid well to go somewhere nice, just as you now pay people to go away when you want to build a highway through their houses. Or you could let the land go to the Native Americans when the current residents die. Then let today's Native Americans jointly operate these lands as semi-autonomous territories. Let them decide how to sort out the remaining problems and let them reap the profits.
posted by pracowity at 3:52 AM on May 14, 2001


Seems to me that democracy and free enterprise have swept major portions of the planet since we embarked on the experiment.

Fortunately, civil wars ostensibly based upon the right to keep slaves haven't swept major portions of the planet.

In short, the USA wasn't a particular model of emulation through the 19th century; it took Henry Ford and Thomas Edison to do that. And both owed less to the moral basis of their native land than to the legacy of the Industrial Revolution and the peculiarities of US patent law.
posted by holgate at 3:57 AM on May 14, 2001


Bush is not as compatible as Clinton for Europe. We don't hate America all of a sudden, we are just concerned that it will isolate more and we won't know what's going on, and we will have less influence.

Regardless of the state of political relations, it is a Ryder Cup year, so the trans-Atlantic divot-slinging will get serious come September 28.
posted by bloated_guts at 4:08 AM on May 14, 2001


Again, thousands of men, women and children were massacred by the U.S. military in the name of expansion, davidmsc. No "sorry we killed so many unarmed civilians for no real reason," no "whoops we made a mistake there," no "we committed genocide so we could take your country over and make more money from your natural resources."

How does that tie in with your assertion that the U.S. is "the most moral, decent, and RIGHT nation in history?" (and please don't sidestep the question; it popped up in the first place because of your grandiose statement, so the least you could do is try and answer it with some thought)
posted by lia at 4:46 AM on May 14, 2001


It's a newspaper editorial. What do you expect?

From the tone, I assumed it was op-ed, so I expected to see an attribution. At least, I'm used to seeing a slightly more, um, sober tone from the leader column. (There's a well-honed distinction between the "leaders" and "comment" of most papers, both in their manner of composition and their presentation; if you're going to offer an opinionated rant, then it's only proper to provide a byline.) Then again, as other posts have pointed out, the WSJ doesn't really have the editorial sobriety of, say, the FT or the Economist, neither of which you could argue are mouthpieces for the left.
posted by holgate at 4:58 AM on May 14, 2001


Too bad so many of you have to go back in time, back to 1945, 1865, or even further, to oppose a fairly narrow proposition about stupid, arrogant leaders in Europe who have no standing to be critcizing the United States in 2001. But, by all means, keep it up Europeans (and self-hating Americans)! Keep sleeping with dictators, electing corrupt politicians. Keep your water more polluted than ours, uniting to create weak currencies and prosperities which look a lot like American recessions. A Gap and Starbucks on every rue and strada!
posted by ParisParamus at 4:59 AM on May 14, 2001


Holgate, the Reagan administration ultimately realized that the Cold War was a war of logistics, just as all major wars for the last 150 years have been, and that this was something at which the US excelled.

Reagan began the largest peace-time military buildup in the history of the US. He fought for the money and got it, and as a result he handed the USSR a dilemma: match our spending levels and destroy your economy, or fail to match them and lose even the appearance of having a competitive military.

The USSR tried to match it, did indeed ultimately destroy its economy doing so, and then melted down. Of all the things I've seen in my life, the dissolution of the USSR was the one I never thought would happen.

There were limited examples of this kind of thing, too. The USSR moved medium range nuclear missiles into Eastern Europe. The US and Western European nations asked for them to be removed, and the USSR's response was "Why should we?" So the Reagan administration fought in congress for the money to create a comparable system, and then fought in Europe for basing rights. Once they were in place, they went back to the USSR and said, "OK, now there's a good reason: why don't we both withdraw them?" The USSR agreed, and they were taken out again.

I openly admit that I hated it all at the time, because I didn't understand what they were really doing. It was only in 1989 that I realized what they had in mind the whole time: spend the bastards into the ground.

Popes have been preaching against the Cold War as long as it went on, and that had no effect. Solidarity was interesting and cool -- but that kind of thing had happened before: Hungary in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968. If the USSR had been strong it would have crushed Poland in 1980 the same way.

Solidarity didn't bring down the USSR.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 5:05 AM on May 14, 2001


From the Roll Call piece (which is, thankfully, bylined):

France, Austria and Sweden agreed to take places on the commission alongside despotic regimes such as the Sudan, Vietnam, China, Libya, Algeria and Cuba.

Again suggesting an inability to come to terms with the electoral process. "Well, we may have won a fair election, but we should really put our good human rights records and diplomatic skills to one side and cede our place to the US, so that they can take their long-held place alongside despotic regimes such as..."

"Agreed to take"? Weasel words.
posted by holgate at 5:05 AM on May 14, 2001


What a great thread. Ignorant Americans vs. Insecure Europeans.

Ever hear that joke about the European Definition of Hell (Italians running the Gov't, British running the restaurants, etc)?

Well this has to be the MeFi equivalent: Americans talking about the Rest of the World and Europeans talking about America
posted by FPN at 5:09 AM on May 14, 2001


How does that tie in with your assertion that the U.S. is "the most moral, decent, and RIGHT nation in history?" (and please don't sidestep the question; it popped up in the first place because of your grandiose statement, so the least you could do is try and answer it with some thought)

Answer #1: because every other nation which has had the ability has done it too, and done it worse. Europeans: look what great shape Africa is in! Nice civilizing mission, France!
posted by ParisParamus at 5:34 AM on May 14, 2001


Let's share the colonial credit: England, Germany, Italy and Portugal also had a hand in making Africa (and Southeast Asia and India/Pakistan for that matter) the healthy, wealthy and politically stable spots they are today. The envy theory is starting to make a lot of sense to me.
posted by darren at 5:57 AM on May 14, 2001


"At the end of the 20th century the most powerful nation in the world will be lead by a village idiot".

Actually, that's a hoax.


A truer hoax there never was.
posted by crunchland at 6:25 AM on May 14, 2001


To paraphrase Churchill: The US is the worst country in the world, except for all the others.
posted by whuppy at 6:28 AM on May 14, 2001


I wish MeFi had a moderation system so I could raise Steven Den Beste's post above the noise level. The Cold War wasn't a game of chess, it was a game of poker. Reagan's genius was to keep upping the ante.
posted by whuppy at 6:31 AM on May 14, 2001


Show of hands, please: Who wishes the Soviet Union were still around?
posted by whuppy at 6:32 AM on May 14, 2001


whuppy: THANK YOU. I was trying to recall the expression about it being the worst, except for all the others. And your point about the demise of the USSR - touche. Good to have some support (you too, ParisParamus!). One point of clarification - I love Europe in many ways, particularly the history & culture. Please do not take my pro-American remarks to mean any denigration of Europ (speaking broadly). While I understand that many Europeans may be "envious"of America, there are many more who wouldn't change their situation for anything. Good on ya.
posted by davidmsc at 6:54 AM on May 14, 2001


To paraphrase Churchill: The US is the worst country in the world, except for all the others.


Darn, and I thought I had come up with something somewhat original when I told my european friends "the US is at once the worst country in the world and the best country in the world." Now I will have to attribute the idea to Mr. Churchill.
posted by trox at 6:56 AM on May 14, 2001


trox, I'm not entirely sure of this, but I don't think Churchill said anything of the kind about the U.S. I think that perhaps he said democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others. If that's the case, "paraphrase" has been misused here. It's just Churchill's syntax with some word replacements. To paraphrase is to reword a text, usually to make it clearer or shorter.

So you haven't appropriated anything from Mr. Churchill. OTOH, it's pretty difficult to come up with an idea that no one else has had, at least in this context.
posted by anapestic at 7:12 AM on May 14, 2001


anapestic: To quote Churchill directly: "This is the sort of pedantry up with which I will not put!"
posted by whuppy at 7:46 AM on May 14, 2001


Nah, whuppy. If I were being pedantic, I'd point out that Churchill was paraphrasing someone else when he made his statement about democracy and that Churchill's statement used a different phrasing entirely.

The quote about pedantry was, I believe, in response to someone telling him that he shouldn't end a sentence with a preposition. He and I are in complete agreement on that score.
posted by anapestic at 8:01 AM on May 14, 2001


Countries do not have morals. They are useful fictions, but a country can not be moral anymore than a toaster can.
Capt.: I will give you that the US knew about the death camps, if you can agree that FDR knew about the coming attack on Pearl Harbor, and let all those men die so there would be support to bring the US into the war. Neither argument is credible, and neither seems to have any legitimate proof. If you have a link that does not sound like insanity, bring it on.

I still don't understand the immorality and witnessing part of your argument. Once we were in the war, we were in the war. What did we not do? Why was it the responsibility of the US to enforce morality on Europe in the 40's? If we had the authority to do it then, why shouldn't we do it now? I think the idea of even trying to form an idea of the countries morality is an abuse, that is not a function of government.

The US was very absent from the early part of the war, I cannot see how that is a bad thing. I hope we never go to war again, given the attitude the rest of the world seems to have toward us, I cannot imagine why any of my countrymen should die for them, and I have no desire for us to be aggressive and start wars.
posted by thirteen at 8:06 AM on May 14, 2001


America has been just as evil as any other country.

How many millions of Native Americans were slaughtered had their land stolen from them, then subjugated?

What about slavery of African-Americans & legally supported racism through until the 60s?

Encouragement of dictatorships, U.S policy always favoured nasty right-wing govs. versus legitimatly elected centre-left govs. (hence keeping S.American regimes in place, even putting them in power, also being friendly with the S.African gov during Aparthied).

And bombings of smaller countries that break international law (there are laws and process that if you suspect a country of being involved in chemical-bacterical related terrorism you can have UN teams on the ground within 24 hours), ergo America isn't strictly a country of laws, etc.

Face it, the U.S is just as bad as any of the other nations that have dominated the world at certain points in history.
posted by Rips at 8:10 AM on May 14, 2001


A more positive way to look at it that the US has been just as GOOD as any other nation that has dominated the world at certain points in history.

Stop with the negative waves, Moriority!
posted by crunchland at 8:44 AM on May 14, 2001


A Gap and Starbucks on every rue and strada!
Sounds like a curse to me...

I find it discouraging when people mistake their governments for their countries and talk as if defending the actions of the former is a defense of the latter.
From the little I've traveled around the world I can tell you that dislike of American government policies is a global and not just a European attitude. I have also found that when Americans are aware of their governments actions and oppose them they tend to be more active then their European counterparts... Oh and I'll take Nader and Chomsky over German Greens and Derrida any time.
Having said that... The US is safer than Greece? and more free than Holland????
posted by talos at 8:50 AM on May 14, 2001


Thirteen, the US was not "absent" from the early part of the war. The US Navy mixed it up with U-boats in 1940, and USS Rueben James was sunk by a U-boat before Pearl Harbor.

The US Navy escorted ship convoys across the western half of the Atlantic all through 1940 and 1941, and at mid-ocean were met by the RN who took over.

Lend-Lease (described by Churchill as "one of the least sordid acts in history"), which was essentially unlimited aid to the UK and other countries who ultimately became allies, was passed in March, 1941.

One of the little known facts is that a major contributing factor to the victory in the Battle of Britain was US aviation fuel. In France, the RAF had been using 86 octane (I believe) fuel, but between the fall of France and the beginning of the Battle of Britain, the US started shipping 100 octane fuel to the UK. This had the effect of making the British fighters much faster, giving them better climb rates and in general improving performance.

The US participated just as much as Roosevelt could possibly manage under the constitution without a declaration of war -- and a bit more.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 9:10 AM on May 14, 2001


Roosevelt was not exactly a lover of the constitution. Thanks for the info Steven, I really have to find more time to read. I was aware that we were sending supplies, and my language could have been clearer. I meant to imply that we were not a military presence of any importance in the early days of the war, no troops, no aggressive action.
posted by thirteen at 9:25 AM on May 14, 2001


on Dave vs. the remaining cast of MF:

I think you're arguing different points: The United States as world-wide brutal police, and the United States as fairly radical in it's concept of how people should live (free). There are always going to be points to make about how we could be MORE free, about how the US went about acquiring land in it's early years...etc...



But the Churchill quote is pretty poignant. I don't know of any other country in the world that millions of people steal, sneak, spend, hide, and die to get into. That's GOT to mean SOMETHING. Perhaps it means people in other countries are terribly mistaken about this country in thinking that it's somewhere they would want to live. Somehow I doubt it. There sure as hell aren't millions of people trying to get OUT of the US.
posted by glenwood at 10:01 AM on May 14, 2001


But the Churchill quote is pretty poignant. I don't know of any other country in the world that millions of people steal, sneak, spend, hide, and die to get into.

1. There is no Churchill quote, unless you're talking about the one about pedantry. Attributing whuppy's statement to Churchill would be like me saying, "Ask not what MF can do for you, ask what you can do for MF" and claiming that JFK was pro-MF.

2. Plenty of people steal, sneak, spend, hide, and die to get into western European nations. It's generally a matter of geography.
posted by anapestic at 10:13 AM on May 14, 2001


Countries do not have morals. They are useful fictions, but a country can not be moral anymore than a toaster can.

Good call: I'm reminded of Swift's comment that he loved people as individuals, but detested mankind in general.
posted by holgate at 12:04 PM on May 14, 2001


My favorite Churchill quote, “Tomorrow, I’ll be sober, but you’ll still be ugly.” Running a close second is the rum, sodomy and the lash bit.

Countries do not have morals. I said: I seriously doubt such a thing — a moral government — ever existed.

We agree. We agree davidmsc is inherently wrong when calling America “moral.” The very idea someone can believe that disgusts me.

you can agree that FDR knew about the coming attack on Pearl Harbor

Since I wouldn’t ever say such a thing, I’d agree to that too.

What did we not do?

Here’s what I meant by conspicously absent: human rights abuses started against the Jews in ‘33. America shows up in Europe in ‘44. This is not very radical what I’m saying here, that the American government waited as long as it possibly could to end the atrocities in Europe. I don’t suppose you remember that scene near the end of Saving Private Ryan, when the American loaded down with ammunition stands idly by while the Jew is gutted by a Nazi. That’s Spielberg commenting on this very issue.

Was it strategic? Probably. Moral? Decent? Definitly not.

Why was it the responsibility of the US to enforce morality on Europe in the 40's?

It shouldn’t be the US Government’s role to place American/Western/capitalist/corporate morality/virtues on any country in the world period (including it’s own, I must say), but in the name of freedom (meaning the US’s freedom) it does just that all the time. Some examples in the Post-WWII era: Isreal, occupied Palestine, East Timor, Laos, Nicaragua, Columbia, Yugoslavia, Iraq and Vietnam. American Nationalists forget about these actions when defending their country, or rationalize them into a moral abstract. For example, “We were right to fight in Vietnam, since communism is bad.” Each clause of that statement is misguided.

On the other hand, I do believe there are certain moral truths (murder is wrong, etc) and that having the power to enforce them, while not doing so makes one complicit when they do happen. The massacres in East Timor is a good example of American power structure with the ability to stop mass murder and simply ignoring it until international presure became too great. Human rights abuses continue there to this day.

The US was very absent from the early part of the war, I cannot see how that is a bad thing. I hope we never go to war again

Warring is never a palatable option, I’m not advocating the US should’ve taken up arms earlier. That’s the second time you’ve implied that of me, and the second time I’ve demurred. However, remaining silent (as the US does often) in the face evil is just cowardice. Or maybe, politics.

“There are ample opportunities to help create a more humane and decent world, if we choose to act upon them.”
— Chomsky
posted by capt.crackpipe at 1:18 PM on May 14, 2001


A Gap and Starbucks on every rue and strada!
Sounds like a curse to me.../i>
It may very well be a curse, but it's the curse of Europeans who have created comfy, but creatively dead societies who can do no better than absorb American ideas.

From the little I've traveled around the world I can tell you that dislike of American government policies is a global and not just a European attitude.

This may very well be, but it's only in Europe (yes, and Australia and NZ) that people have legitimate standing to complain about supposed American imperialism. None of this "democracies are not for everybody" crap, please.
posted by ParisParamus at 1:36 PM on May 14, 2001



posted by ParisParamus at 1:39 PM on May 14, 2001


I think it's important to shrink things to the 'me, here and now' to put things into perspective sometimes.

If you are happy living free from harm on a tiny tropical island, then you're in the best place on Earth.

While I know it's not the 'best country in the world', I am quite happy here in the UK right now. The Government rarely hassles me, my taxes are low, so I think this is probably the best country for me right now. It's all personally subjective. (According to the UN, Canada is the best place)

Of course, that could all change!
posted by wackybrit at 1:59 PM on May 14, 2001


Capt'n: That opening morality line was not directed at you, but to the general theme running through the thread. Also, I do not meant to imply you are lusting for war, as I know that is something you do not want in general. I do think there are conflicting ideas in your post though. I would disagree with you about the morality issue, and say our responsibility is where we should be concerned. What is the criteria for putting this country through a war? I don't think an ambiguous notion of morality is sufficient to send men to their deaths. It seems you are able to support this particular war because it does not conflict with your value system, and that you are criticizing the country for not defending your beliefs earlier. I think the government has a responsibility to keep us out of war. You are saying we should have done something in 33, even though we were on the other side of the world, and perhaps not the most respected country in the world at the time. I think it would be like saying Greenland really dropped the ball on that whole Kosovo thing. Where the hell were they when all the trouble was going on?

I do believe there are certain moral truths (murder is wrong, etc) and that having the power to enforce them, while not doing so makes one complicit when they do happen.
Here is where we fall down. Who decides these moral truths. I believe murder is wrong too, isn't war imposing a death penalty on lots of people who not responsible. How can we justify saying to someone from Iowa, that they need to go die to prevent someone else's murder? What if he does not feel that is a perticularly good reason to die? What if we decide as a country that with moral certainty that abortion is wrong. Should we start bombing all of Europe, and blockade France? We are not responsible for the actions of others, and could and should are different things. Since we are a divided country, isn't it a dangerous idea to use our military as a stick? You might not be so happy the next time your ideological opposites decide Kuwait or Israel need our help.

Our position in the early days of WWII was not cowardice, it was proper. Cowardice was Neville Chamberlin sacrificing others, and turning yellow. We simply did not have a stake, to jump into that would have been wild.

I am not sure what to make of you FDR/Pearl response, but I will take it as agreement and shut up about it. I feel positively un-Heinlein right now, and wish I could take a shower.
posted by thirteen at 3:15 PM on May 14, 2001


Actually, ParisParamus is right on the money with this remark:

It may very well be a curse, but it's the curse of Europeans who have created comfy, but creatively dead societies who can do no better than absorb American ideas.

This is so true. In Europe, there are some clear patterns. The UK is turning into the 51st state of the US as it soaks up American culture like a sponge. This might be because of the common language, or perhaps because much of British culture is so dismal that 'Americanism' is savoured.

However, look at France. There, Americanisation hasn't really occured. Sure, there's some McDonald's, and Friends is on TV from time to time, but American culture isn't largely understood or appreciated there.

The French have a rich modern-day culture (compared to the UK - by any means) which means they don't need to look outside their own country very much. Kinda like America. Americans generally don't vacation outside of their own country very much. Neither do the French. However, the majority of Brits vacation overseas every year.

ParisParamus is on the money. Where there's a vacuum of culture, Americanisation will occur, simply because America pumps so much of it out. Just like France in mediaeval times.
posted by wackybrit at 4:55 PM on May 14, 2001


I've only been overseas once, when I attended the World Science Fiction Convention in The Hague. We spent three weeks in the Netherlands, and I was amazed just how drenched the Dutch are with American culture. Movies, records, magazines, cable TV, it was everywhere. In Amsterdam, we never met anyone who wasn't fluent in English. Even out in the sticks we never had any trouble getting around.

But the weirdest experience of all was in a tiny town named Dokkum. I am a student of military history, and the tourist book described it as a "walled city" so I wanted to go there. (As it turned out, I was imagining 14th century, with curtain walls and crenelations, and it was actually a 16th century star fortress. That was cool, too, but not what I expected.) The night we spent there, they closed off the center of town and had a street party, with different local musical groups in different places, and food and wine and beer. One musical group was a string quartet, one a gypsy band -- and one was one of the finest Dixieland bands I've ever heard. But the irony was stark: I had traveled to Friesland to listen to a live performance of music originating in New Orleans.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:38 PM on May 14, 2001


. . . which probably developed out of a mixture of African traditions and European marching band music. History is just one big cluster-bleep sometimes.
posted by rodii at 7:48 PM on May 14, 2001



I think it would be like saying Greenland really dropped the ball on that whole Kosovo thing. Where the hell were they when all the trouble was going on?

Not necessarily — Greenland has never been a player on the world stage, while America held dire strategic importance, partially because the government refused to take much of any substantial action against either the Axis or Allies.

What if we decide as a country that with moral certainty that abortion is wrong.

Ah but, see, that is a hypothetical possibilty, while I’m fairly certain Americans generally do not support mass murder. (Either forcing their citizens into it via the military, or under pogroms.)

Who decides these moral truths.

Democracy! woot! Dialogue like the one we’re having, which doesn’t happen enough. This shit is important. No one should consider themselves an active member of a democracy without thoroughly considering important issues.

I am not sure what to make of you FDR/Pearl response

How about this:
I never said, “FDR knew about the coming attack on Pearl Harbor.”

I feel positively un-Heinlein right now

?
posted by capt.crackpipe at 10:27 PM on May 14, 2001


> I don't know of any other country in the world that
> millions of people steal, sneak, spend, hide, and die
> to get into.

People also steal, sneak, spend, hide, and die to get into banks. People steal, sneak, spend, hide, and die to sell drugs. It's the money people want from the US. Dollars. Nothing noble and wonderful.

Give, for example, a Greek the same job with the same relative salary in Greece and the Greek will probably want to stay in Greece.

People love their homelands like they love themselves and their families; they are blinded to the possibility that others people, other families, and other homes are just as great or just as lame.
posted by pracowity at 11:01 PM on May 14, 2001


I have been under the impression the US was an agricultural isolationist country around that time, and that our resources were more important than out opinions. Being desired as cannon fodder is not much of a compliment. I also see we disagree on the basic nature of people. I am all for democracy, but I think it will lead us to a very different place that you think it will. I think people will vote their own interest every time. I am also not sure if an American vote on morality gives us any mandate to impose it on the world, even during a war. I think that is a dangerous reason to go to war. I would really love it if we had to vote on going to war, I don't think we would have them anymore. Do you really think it is inconceivable this country could pass a popular vote declaring abortion to be immoral?I never said, ?DR knew ab...
I got you now. I am the one walking around saying it, I just can't prove it. I was comparing it to your saying we knew about the genocide. I have never seen anything credible suggesting that is true.


I admire Robert Heinlein, I don't think he would think much of my opinion. He grooved a different flavor of libertarianism. I think we talked this one out pretty good. I am rambling, time for bed.
posted by thirteen at 11:15 PM on May 14, 2001



ParisParamus said:

Answer #1: because every other nation which has had the ability has done it too, and done it worse. Europeans: look what great shape Africa is in! Nice civilizing mission, France!

One last thing as I'm rejoining this late, as I usually do.

Europeans took all that it could afford to out of Africa. America did the same with it's seemingly "previous" inhabitants. Yet we decided to stay here. Wanna taste of that "failed" Africa without the "traditional bush-people"? Go to your local casino-less Indian reservation.
posted by crasspastor at 3:06 AM on May 15, 2001


The French have a rich modern-day culture.

I'm not sure how true this is (or whether it can be proven or disproven). The French have been extremely good at holding onto their culture; losing it only slowly, but as for generating new stuff, not sure. And it's the new stuff (whatever that really means) which prevents "foreign" culture from replacing old culture.

There's also the alternative argument: that American "culture" is the absence of culture, which is why it works so well...
posted by ParisParamus at 4:08 AM on May 15, 2001


I'm surprised no-one has mentioned Hollywood and the influence of American pop-culture (it's pop-culture which, to me has spread widely) on people's view of America.
Films and television play a large part in shaping peoples opinions on a place, we in Europe receive a lot of Hollywood's version of America, far less of the real America.
Hollywood's version is the version most of the world sees, in the absence of any other representation this is how life in America is viewed - it's no wonder people are queueing up to get in.
posted by Markb at 6:22 AM on May 15, 2001


Damn, I was real punchy during that last post.
posted by thirteen at 4:06 PM on May 15, 2001


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