Political Animal


TIME MAGAZINE TAKES A LOOK AT ANTI-AMERICANISM….Avedon Carol has a message for Time magazine: “Bush is not America, and Europeans know this.” I’ve spent the past decade working with Europeans of various stripes, so Avedon’s complaint really hit home with me.

My experience has been pretty simple: most Europeans are not anti-American. I can’t vouch for what they say when I’m not around, of course, but in person political disagreements are pretty good natured. If anything, Europeans tend to be hypersensitive about cultural differences ? what with all those countries packed into a smallish continent and all ? and they mostly accept American culture as simply different from theirs. They may disagree with American policy frequently, but they don’t hate America.

But it’s a whole different story with George Bush. They just don’t get it. “Did people actually vote for him?” they ask, as if some horrible psychosis must have temporarily taken hold of the American population when they went to the polls in 2000. Most Europeans I’ve talked to find him simply incomprehensible: scary, intolerant, short fused, and ill educated. A hick, not a president of the United States.

And so we get to Time magazine, which last week ran a cover story about anti-Americanism in its European edition. And sure enough, here’s what it says:

Scratch a European complaint about the U.S. and it almost always reveals the person of George W. Bush ? the “toxic Texan,” as one American diplomat ruefully puts it. The President’s domestic record embodies things many Europeans find strange, if not repellent, about the U.S.: pro-gun, pro-death penalty, pro-Christian, antiabortion, strongly patriotic….Particularly offensive to Europeans are Bush’s swagger, tough talk and invocations of God and right and wrong, part of his born-again tradition that is attuned to the U.S. mood after Sept. 11. “We don’t see the common guy from Chicago,” says G?rald Duchaussoy, a 28-year-old office worker in Paris. “We see Bush. And politicians here don’t speak with his language.”

And this:

A former cabinet minister in the British Conservative Party, which is officially even more pro-American than Bush’s First Friend Tony Blair, recently leaned over at lunch and described Bush as “terrifying,” “ignorant,” “a prisoner of the religious right who believes God tells him what to do,” and “like a child running around with a grenade with the pin pulled out.”

Conclusions? None, really, except to take “anti-Americanism” with a grain of salt. It’s been around ? as has anti-Europeanism on this side of the Atlantic ? for a long time, and in any case its current incarnation is often more anti-Bushism than anti-Americanism anyway. It will likely subside in time, just as it has in the past.

PRE-EMPTIVE WAR….Chris Bertram sums up

PRE-EMPTIVE WAR….Chris Bertram sums up the intelligent anti-war viewpoint pretty well today. It’s worth reading, especially if you’re pro-war.

I am nominally on the opposite side from Chris, but I agree with him that most pro-war partisans are unwilling to face up to the essential weakness of their arguments. Pre-emptive war is a horrible doctrine, and once let loose it will not obediently crawl back into its hole simply because we are done with it for the moment. The bar should be set very high for an act of pre-emptive war, and in the case of Iraq ? if we are there at all ? we are only barely there. The argument balances on a knife edge.

Allowing WMDs to fall into the hands of a man who has started two unprovoked wars against his neighbors in the past two decades ? and who is also a brutal, sadistic dictator ? is clearly something the rest of the world has a right to be concerned about. But the way the world goes about disarming him matters.

If the United States does it alone, the message we send is that any single nation state has the right to attack another if it feels sufficiently threatened. This is a dangerous precedent to set since, after all, we are not the only nation state in the world.

Contrariwise, if we invade Iraq under UN auspices, we send a different message: pre-emptive war is justified in the extreme, but no single nation state is justified in doing it on its own. You have to persuade a group of neutral third parties first.

This is a principle worth keeping. Not because the United States should be held hostage to the United Nations, but because everyone should be. This is a case where it is in America’s best interest to keep Pandora’s Box firmly and solidly shut.

POSTSCRIPT: I should add that Chris also echoes my concerns about what we are going to do in Iraq after the fighting is over. As he says, our track record here is not exemplary, and it makes a big difference. If we are fighting to bring some level of democracy and tolerance to Iraq, well and good. However, if we simply install a friendlier dictator who will keep the oil flowing, then we will have lost whatever moral authority we ever had in the first place. George Bush’s relative silence on this question is not a good sign.


FIRST THEY CAME FOR THE CIGARETTES….I don’t often agree with National Review, but yesterday The Corner reported that “Not content with their onslaught on tobacco and alcohol, the totalitarians of ?public health? are now eyeing your chocolate bar.”

More scary hype from the loony bin right? Let’s find out! According to The Independent, British health experts are concerned about the growing crop of extra-large candy bars:

They believe that consumers are more likely to buy the Mars Big One, which is a third larger than a standard bar but only 15p more expensive. Similarly, the KitKat Chunky costs 40p and weighs 55g, and is only 5p more than the smaller, traditional KitKat bar.

No shit. I mean, that is the whole point isn’t it?

Ah, well, I suppose it was bound to happen, and as a good liberal I should just suck it up and take it. It’s only a matter of time before California goes the way of Britain.

In fact, maybe Gray Davis should read about this. A $1.10 tax fee on chocolate bars would probably go a long way toward solving our little deficit problem.