AMERICA VS. EUROPE….A few days

AMERICA VS. EUROPE….A few days ago I wrote a throwaway post about Europhobia, and David Adesnik at OxBlog suggested that I should explain myself. “Throwaway posts are often the most revealing aspect of a blog,” he said in an email.

I’ve been meaning to do this anyway, but today I discovered there’s not much point: Timothy Garton Ash has written a terrific essay on the subject in the New York Review of Books and you should just go read that instead. It’s long, but well worth your time.

So instead I’m just going to throw out some miscellaneous thoughts about American and European attitudes toward each other. Here they are:

  • European countries frequently disagree with American policies ? Iraq is currently Exhibit A ? but that’s not the same thing as being anti-American. It’s important to keep that distinction in mind. That was what I meant when I asked, “Are Europeans even allowed to disagree with U.S. policy anymore?”

  • At the same time, it would be foolish to pretend there is no anti-Americanism in Europe. There certainly is, especially among the lefty intelligentsia, but that doesn’t mean that it’s especially deep or widespread among everyone. Keep some perspective here.

  • There’s a big political dimension to this whole thing too. Europeans on the whole tend to be more liberal than Americans, so it’s natural that liberal Europeans would dislike a lot of American culture. But at the same time, it’s also natural that conservative Americans dislike a lot of European culture, and they do. Jonah Goldberg, for example, has practically built a career out of the word “euro-weenie.” There is at least as much Euro-bashing in the United States as there is anti-Americanism in Europe.

  • Don’t treat Europe as a monolith. Not all European countries are opposed to our Iraq policies, and the ones that are have different reasons. Germany, for example, has had a strong pacifist culture since the end of World War II, and this is probably what’s driving their opposition.

  • France, on the other hand, really does a strong anti-American strain, and it is one of their most unattractive features. But even here it’s worth keeping in mind that their attitude is not completely irrational. Charles de Gaulle was snubbed by Roosevelt during WWII despite the fact that he was practically the only prominent Frenchman to be both staunchly anti-Nazi and anti-communist, and he held this against America to his dying day. In 1956 the French were infuriated when Eisenhower humiliated them in the UN and forced them to withdraw their forces from the Suez Canal. And in 1996 France’s nomination for the post of UN Secretary General was denied a second term after Britain and America ganged up to nominate their “own African,” Kofi Annan. They haven’t forgotten these things, and legitimately feel that France ? and Europe ? have their own unique interests and have as much right to an independent foreign policy as the United States.

  • Americans do have a legitimate criticism of Europe’s unwillingness to spend money on their military. This was made all too clear in the 1990s, when Europeans were utterly unable to deal with a civil war in their own backyard until America finally agreed to become involved in the 1999 NATO bombing of Kosovo. Since then, Europe has talked vaguely about upgrading their military capabilities but there’s been virtually no real action.

  • Americans tend to feel that Europe doesn’t feel enough gratitude for our efforts to defend them against the Soviet Union during the Cold War. But there’s another side to this story: many Europeans feel that they were the ones on the front lines and America was there solely because of our hatred of communism. Americans showed their true colors and began breezily dismissing European concerns once the Soviet Union fell and Europe was no longer important to them.

  • The United States ? and especially George W. Bush ? has treated Europe rudely over and over. Look: Clinton didn’t ratify Kyoto either, but Bush just brushed it off, saying “Kyoto is dead” and refusing to discuss it further. Europeans bent over backward to address American concerns over the International Criminal Court, but in the end America sent them packing anyway. And when George Bush decided to pull out of the ABM treaty, he didn’t even bother consulting European leaders. Whether our policies are right or not, it is any wonder that Europeans feel slighted by this behavior?

Why does all this matter? After all, it’s not like we’re going to go to war with Europe.

It matters because rogue nations and terrorists are genuine problems, and we can’t fight them alone, even if we are history’s first hyperpower. We need Europe ? and they need us ? in order to win this battle, and instead of magnifying our differences, both sides should be doing their best to smooth them over. We should agree to disagree when we have to, but work together over the long haul. This is as true for Europeans as it is for Americans.

Europe and America largely share a core set of values: democracy, capitalism, religious tolerance, and a dedication to civil liberties. So, hard as it is, conservatives and warhawks should suck it up and stop the name calling. We need all the help we can get in the war against terror, and Europe is our best ally in this fight.

It may feel good to rant and call each other clever names ? “Old Europe,” “Axis of Weasels,” “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” ? but in the end the laughs are hollow and the transatlantic bickering does nothing except help the terrorists. Anyone who is serious about this ongoing battle should knock it off.

POSTSCRIPT: My original post was a comment on a post from Lincoln Plawg. His response is here.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation