The inaugural issue of the new American quarterly The American Interest (Autumn 2005) includes an interview with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. In the course of the conversation AI editor Adam Garfinkle asks Rice a question on anti-Americanism:
During the Cold War we were all familiar with varieties of anti-Americanism, mostly on the Left. A lot of people now claim that not only is there more anti-Americanism, but that its sources are more diverse. Do you think that’s so and if you do, where does this new anti-Americanism come from? Is it just a reaction to American conduct after the 9/11 attacks or is it because we’re No. 1 and there’s a natural envy? What do you think accounts for it?
It is a very pertinent question and it goes to the roots of one of the major problems confronting Europe but also America today, with not only political but also economic consequences. Is there more anti-Americanism today than before? Are its sources more diverse? Where does the new anti-Americanism come from? Is it a reaction to America’s reaction to 9/11? Or is it envy? What does the leading American foreign policy maker think? These were the things Garfinkle asked, but, unfortunately, Rice did not answer. What she said was as evasive as it was trivial:
I think people have to be more rigorous about what they mean by anti-Americanism. Clearly this is still the most popular place in the world to come if you want to be educated, or if you want to immigrate. The United States is still a pretty popular place. American culture, both good and bad, is very much sought after abroad. And I still think that the values of the United States are the most universal of all values.
Now, I do think that we’ve gone through a period of time in which the United States has had to do very difficult things, as the most powerful state in the international system, to shape the environment so that things began to change. And I would give a couple of examples where those decisions were wildly unpopular at the time but now have become almost common wisdom. For example, the decision that we weren’t going to deal with Yasir Arafat because he was a failed, bankrupt leader and there was going to be no peace in the Middle East until the Palestinians had new leadership. Now it’s almost common wisdom. But when the President said that in June of 2002, it was considered an outrageous statement.
Garfinkle and Rice then go on about the Middle East and a range of other issues but the topic of anti-Americanism is not raised anymore. Frankly, to me as a European, Rice’s answer is disappointing. She just says that America is still “the most popular place in the world” for those seeking an education. (Nobody will deny that. The conspirators of 9/11 came to America to take flying lessons.) She adds that immigrants still flock to the US. (That is true for Europe, too. But these immigrants are not necessarily pro-American, or pro-European for that matter: it is doubtful whether most of them come to the West because they share Western values.) If America is still a “pretty popular place,” it would be interesting to know if its culture and values are less popular today than they used to be. If so, that would be a clear indication of growing anti-Americanism. Rice seems to imply that anti-Americanism is diminishing, because she refers to the “very difficult,” “wildly unpopular,” seemingly “outrageous” decisions that America had to take a few years ago (as in 2002), but that are considered “almost common wisdom” nowadays.
My impression is that anti-Americanism is more widespread in Western Europe now than it has ever been before. If so, there must be a reason for it. I have argued that I do not think it has to do with the Iraq war, because the Western Europeans heap as much scorn on the American conservatives who oppose the war as on the so-called neo-conservatives. They are not even aware of what Joshua Muravchik pointed out in an article about “Iraq and the Conservatives” in the October issue of [the neo-conservative magazine] Commentary, namely that “the most interesting arguments are not between Left and Right. The Left long ago lost any coherent voice on national security […] The most interesting arguments are within the Right, most of which supports the war but some of which contains its most trenchant and acerbic critics.” Europe’s anti-Americans reject not only America’s foreign policy, but also its economic and cultural values. The growing anti-Americanism, at least in Europe, predates the 2003 American intervention in Iraq.
Well, then, is it simply, as Garfinkle asked Secretary of State Rice, “because [America is] No. 1 and there’s a natural envy?” Anti-Americanism as the equally irrational, deeply psychological envy that Freud said women feel towards men: a kind of Transatlantic “penis envy” that Europeans, who are said to come from Venus, feel for Americans, who are said to come from Mars? And could this, perhaps, be the subconscious reason why Rice evades the question?
Envy of those who are richer, or rather the egalitarian impulse to cut everyone down to the same level, is the driving force behind the Westeuropean welfare model. Since America is not only stronger than Europe, but also richer, this might go some way to explaining Europe’s attitude towards America. It does not explain, however, why anti-Americanism is growing, unless America is growing rapidly richer than Western Europe or the egalitarian impulses in Europe are rapidly increasing. A better psychological explanation for the growth of anti-Americanism might be anger rather than envy.
In the latest issue of The National Interest (Fall 2005) – not to be confused with The American Interest mentioned above – John Hulsman and William Schirano write that “the European Union is dead.” For fifty years the European elite has been harbouring the dream of an ever closer union, described by the two authors as “a willful ignorance of the Continent’s amazing diversity assumed in an effort to force an artificial one-size-fits-all approach.”
“There is little doubt, following the twin ‘no’ votes in France and the Netherlands, that the European Union, long proudly proclaimed as the future model of international relations, is dead,” say Hulsman and Schirano. “So, to understand what is happening here, we must think unconventionally about the end of the dream of ever closer union – about death and the process of coming to terms with it. In 1969, in her seminal work On Death and Dying, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross eloquently detailed the five stages of dying – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally, acceptance.”
Hulsman and Schirano argue that the European elites, after the initial stage of denial that their attempt to create the “postmodern, post-Westphalian, post-nation-state” has proved impossible, are now in the second stage described by Kübler-Ross: the state of “anger, rage, envy and resentment” – a state which “usually begins innocently, with a thought such as ‘why me, why not him or her?’” The authors do not draw the parallel between this psychological state and Transatlantic relations, but apply the analysis to the relations between the European elite and the European people, where angry politicians such as the former head of the rotating EU presidency, Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg, told voters that “the countries that have said ‘no’ [to the European Constitution] will have to ask themselves the question again.” Jacques Chirac, too, they write, “behaved exactly as Kübler-Ross would have predicted.” The leaders are angry with the people because “the cozy corporatist economics in the face of globalization or political elitism instead of broad-based support for Europe, can no longer be sustained.”
I believe the psychological model is more appropriately applied not just to the European federalist project but to the general plight of Europe as a whole, namely the fact that it is a dying continent in the most literal sense, as its demographic rates indicate. This issue (among others) is explicitly raised by Conrad Black in an article entitled “Europe’s Dream Disturbed,” in the same issue of The National Interest. Black sees the European Union not only as an attempt “to be emancipated from the straitjacket of national identity” but also as an attempt to “[impose] Euro-Socialism” and “casting off the soft hegemony of the United States.”
That Europe is dying can be seen in its “collapsed birthrate” – “it is ultimately unnatural for people not to reproduce themselves,” says Black – but also in “stagnant economic growth in France and Germany, double-digit unemployment, impending pension crises, and demographic levels sustained by relatively unassimilable immigration from Islamic countries.” One can easily see that, as this situation worsens, anti-American feelings are likely to grow because the “Why me, why not him” feelings will be directed towards the US. Indeed, in the perception of many egalitarian Europeans it is a gross injustice that the economy of the “social” European model is collapsing while that of the capitalist American model keeps growing.
And yet, there is also a foreign policy reason for why anti-Americanism has grown even deeper than it was twenty years ago at the height of the Transatlantic debate over the deployment of American cruise missiles in Western Europe. At that time the Left in Western Europe succeeded in convincing part of West European public opinion that the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, were basically of the same, evil, nature. This was the theory of moral equivalence, where some regarded the US as an “occupying” force in Western Europe on a par with the Soviet Union’s occupation of Eastern Europe. While the East Europeans had to liberate themselves from the warmongering Soviets, the West Europeans were told that they had to “liberate” themselves from the warmongering Americans. This explains why in the early and mid 1980s hundreds of thousands took to the streets in anti-American “peace demonstrations” in various West European capitals. These were the largest mass demonstrations that Europe had ever seen.
Interestingly, the moral equivalence idea was shared by others. This is where the Muslim radicals and the West European Left meet. According to Osama bin Laden the Muslim victory over the Soviets in Afghanistan, in which he took part, convinced him of the possibility of conquering the other infidel power, America. Having played their role in bringing down the Soviet Union, the fighters of Islamic Jihad turned their attention to the US. For them the attacks of 9/11 were a logical follow-up of the attacks on the Red Army in Afghanistan in the 1980s. The US had armed the Jihadists in the 1980s only to discover a decade later that it had been supporting its new mortal enemy.
In Western Europe, however, the idea of moral equivalence was reinforced after the collapse of communism in 1989. Contrary to the so-called “denazification” which took place in Germany after 1945, with prosecutions of Nazi criminals and collaborators and moral condemnations of civil servants who had remained silent, there was no “decommification” after 1989. On the contrary, many of the fellow travellers of the old regime simply turned their coats, rising to high positions in post-communist society. The Russian President Putin, a former high-ranking KGB official, is one example that immediately springs to mind. Imagine a former Gestapo officer of high rank becoming Chancellor of Germany in the 1950s!
In Germany, the pivot and cornerstone of Europe, the former Communists were allowed to refound their own party after German reunification in 1990, as if the former Nazis had been allowed the same in 1945. Others (such as Wolfgang Thierse and Rolf Schwanitz) who had been university professors in economics or law in East Germany – a position that was only open to collaborators of the regime – joined the SPD and became high-ranking Social-Democrat politicians in the new Germany. This reinforced the message that, indeed, there was no real moral difference between the collaborators of the old communist puppet regimes installed by the Soviet occupiers in Central and Eastern Europe and the Western politicians who had backed the Atlantic Alliance. It reinforced the message of the “peace” movement of the 1980s that the Soviet occupation was basically on a par with the American domination of Western Europe. Now that the Soviet domination has ended, West European public opinion wants America out as well. It is a sentiment they share with the Jihadists. It is a pity that Condoleezza Rice does not seem to realise how dangerous this growing anti-Americanism in Europe is.