Red America, Blue Europe

I met my friend John O’Sullivan yesterday, together with another colleague, Geoffrey Smith, an editorial writer and columnist of The (London) Times in the 1980s. We had not met for almost a decade but had barely started talking before we agreed about a feeling that the three of us share: anti-Americanism in Europe is far more widespread and deeper than ever before. Is the war in Iraq to blame for this? I am not so sure. At the root of the conflict, I think, is the cultural war for the soul of the West. By the “West” I mean America and Europe. I have never seen America and Europe as two opposing entities. To me America is more European than Europe, while Europe needs to find its American roots in order to become fully European again. I have even toyed with the idea of establishing a “Society for American Values in Europe” (SAVE) in order to save the European soul and the European values.

Since the last elections it has become common practice to call the two sides of the American political spectrum “red” (for conservatism) and “blue” (for liberalism). An electoral map of the US shows the blue states (the Western and Northeastern fringes) and the red states (the heartland). The latest issue of The American Enterprise, the quarterly magazine of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), depicts a (smiling) red coloured America versus an (angry looking) blue coloured Western Europe. The blue and the red have become the opposing colours in what is a cultural war for the heart and soul of Euro-American culture. Both groups claim to represent its true values.

The ideological struggle that has intensified within America between red and blue, has also caused European anti-Americanism to intensify. In an interview (with John O'Sullivan) in the AEI magazine Ana Palacio, the former conservative Spanish foreign minister, says that “Today’s Socialist government in Spain plays publicly on anti-Americanism to win votes.” We have seen the same phenomenon in Germany and in other countries. It would be wrong, however, to think that the Socialists are playing on nationalist feelings against a foreign country, as the term  “anti-Americanism” might lead one to think. What they oppose and hate is the ethical conservatism and economic liberalism that they identify with the term “Americanism.” The term “Europeanism” is used to refer to ethical liberalism and welfare statism.

The quarrel is predominantly over ethics and economics, and to a far lesser extent about foreign policy, which is why I do not think that the war in Iraq has much to do with the growth of “anti-American” feelings today. Those feelings have been around for a long time. An upsurge of anti-Americanism just after 9/11 was toned down by the need to sympathise with the victims of that horrendous act. But on the part of many European politicians the condolences then were not entirely heartfelt. The war in Iraq is seen to justify the anti-American position, but that position targets all American conservatives, including even the fiercest opponents of the war.

The surge in anti-American feelings is caused by the realisation of the “blue” Europeans that the Westeuropean welfare states are on the brink of collapse. Secularisation, however, also plays an important role. In the Westeuropean welfare states the charities that used to be organised and run by the churches have been replaced by state programmes. When the state, taking care of its subordinates from cradle to grave, became the ultimate insurer against all kinds of misfortune and unhappiness, people no longer needed God. The state became their god. However, that god is dying. Woe to the people who have a dying god, for there is no hope for them. They compensate this lack of hope with feelings of hatred and envy for their “red” cousins who have avoided making the fatal “blue” mistakes.

What about American

What about American anti-Europeanism? I have come accross that phenomenon thousands of times now, to the point that I am tired of the whole non-debate.

Personally, I have been a supporter and admirer of the US ever since I started to think for myself. Over recent years, however, my disappointment and disillusionment has reached depressing levels.

I have a feeling that an Old America has died and that the emerging New America is a different type of animal.

Sorry, but I can't be bothered any longer with this "debate" about anti-Americanism. It seems to always degenerate into some shouting match, whether from self-righteous arrogant European lefties or from self-righteous arrogant American "conservatives".

It's a great shame, really. I've become a cultural orphan, tucking in with Russel Kirk or Thomas Mann in order to escape this world, and - through their eyes - relive the times when civility was the norm.

Red America, Blue Europe

I pretty much agree with you. I think that the war in Iraq, foreign policy and ethics have little to do with the anti- Americanism in Blue Europe. Blue Europe (Europe should probably be divided into two groups - Old Europe and New Europe - but those terms seemed to offend Old Europe - so I will refer to Blue Europe (Old Europe) and Purple Europe (New Europe - mainly Britain and eastern Europe - a little more capitalistic, more willling to fight for freedom) since color coding as was done in the recent Battle of Trafalgar re-enactment with the Red Navy and the Blue Navy seems to be more acceptable to Old Europe). It’s the economics - the money, and a touch of arrogant pride. France was doing business with Saddam, getting UN oil for dollars from Saddam and had big oil deals worked out if the sanctions went away. The war in Iraq ended that. No foreign policy or ethics there. Genetically modified crops would help feed poor countries but would hurt Blue Europe’s high cost, inefficient farms. No foreign policy or ethics there. Sell weapons to China? No problem. No foreign policy or ethics there. Again, Blue Europe hopes that someone else will bear the brunt of the war that involves those weapons. No foreign policy or ethics there.

With the opportunity to succeed comes the risk to fail, but without the opportunity to succeed, failure inevitably comes anyway. Blue Europe is afraid of failure, afraid of competition, afraid of capitalism, afraid of freedom (true freedom - not the politically correct version that is bring Islam to Europe). Blue Europeans hope they can avoid all of the things they fear by pretending that the state can protect them, overpay them for working inefficiently for 35 hours a week, give them big pensions when fewer and fewer are working to fund them, will use trade barriers to block competition from cheaper and better imports, pay them to remain unemployed, provide them with free medical care and keep their elderly parents from dying from the heat of summer while they vacation at the beach. But times have changed. The US is no longer willing to foot their defense bill. Blue Europe’s enemy has changed from the somewhat distant Soviet Union to the Islamic militants that they have welcomed into their countries under the mistaken belief that if Blue Europe embraced multi-culturalism, the Islamic militants would attack American and leave Blue Europe alone.

The Blue Europeans are actually like the Islamic militants in that both refuse to accept their own shortcomings, their own weaknesses, their own intolerance for their failures. Better to blame America. America did it. America is causing all their problems. American ruined their perfect world. Without America, everything would be beautiful and happy. The Blue Europeans would live in peace and prosperity like they did in 1917 and in 1943. The Islamic militants would live in peace and prosperity like in Al-Andalus during the Caliphate. It’s not their fault. It’s America’s.