Better to be respected than liked

It’s a good day at American Thinker. In one of my preceding posts, I quoted at length from Kyle-Anne Shiver’s article about Mike Huckabee. Now, I’m about to quote from Soeren Kern’s article about the reflexive anti-Americanism that characterizes Europe.

Kern’s starting point is Bill Clinton’s announcement that, if Hillary wins, he and George H.W. Bush will go on a whirlwind, worldwide tour convincing everyone that George Bush has been relegated to the dustbin of history and that America is willing to make nice again. (If this is really true insofar as Clinton is speaking for George H.W. Bush’s involvement, I really don’t think I can say enough bad things about George H.W. Bush, a man who would go around attacking his own son. I doubt it’s true, though.)

Kern starts off by pointing out what should be obvious to Bill Clinton, who claims to be a learned and intelligent man: Anti-Americanism predates George Bush, although there’s certainly been a resurgence during his administration.  Kern goes through Spain, Germany and France for examples of anti-American sentiment that existed decades or even centuries before Bush’s presidency.

The more important point that Kern makes, though, is that Europe’s anti-Americanism is, as one might expect, as much a product of envy as anything else. And, really, you can’t blame the Europeans, because it’s extremely human to want to take down a peg, or to dislike, someone or something that has the power and wealth you really think should belong to you:

As political realists like Thucydides (c 460-395 BC) might have predicted, anti-Americanism is also a visceral reaction against the current distribution of global power. America commands a level of economic, military and cultural influence that leaves many around the world envious, resentful and even angry and afraid. Indeed, most purveyors of anti-Americanism will continue to bash America until the United States is balanced or replaced (by those same anti-Americans, of course) as the dominant actor on the global stage.

In Europe, for example, where self-referential elites are pathologically obsessed with their perceived need to “counter-balance” the United States, anti-Americanism is now the dominant ideology of public life. In fact, it is no coincidence that the spectacular rise in anti-Americanism in Europe has come at precisely the same time that the European Union, which often struggles to speak with one voice, has been trying to make its political weight felt both at home and abroad.

In their quest to transform Europe into a superpower capable of challenging the United States, European elites are using anti-Americanism to forge a new pan-European identity. This artificial post-modern European “citizenship”, which demands allegiance to a faceless bureaucratic superstate based in Brussels instead of to the traditional nation-state, is being set up in opposition to the United States. To be “European” means (nothing more and nothing less than) to not be an American.

Because European anti-Americanism has much more to do with European identity politics than with genuine opposition to American foreign policy, European elites do not really want the United States to change. Without the intellectual crutch of anti-Americanism, the new “Europe” would lose its raison d’être.

That’s the reality behind anti-Americanism, and one that has nothing to do with George Bush. He’s just the latest rhetorical device in the European’s never-ending sense that they can elevate themselves, not by improving themselves, but by knocking America. Behind this psychological reality, though, lurks a real danger:

Anti-Americanism is (at least for the foreseeable future) a zero-sum game because the main purveyors of anti-Americanism are in denial about the dangers facing the world today. They believe the United States is the problem and that their vision for a post-modern socialist multicultural utopia is the answer. Never mind that most Europeans do not have enough faith in their own model to want to pass it on to the next generation.

This is the dilemma America faces: If it wants to be popular abroad, it will have to pay in terms of reduced security. And if it determines to protect the American way of life from global threats, then it will have to pay in terms of reduced popularity abroad.

But if America loses out against the existential threats posed by global terrorism and fundamentalist Islam, then the issue of America’s international image will be moot.

Better, therefore, if the next president focuses on keeping America strong and secure, rather than on pleasing those who will never like the United States, even if its foreign policy changes.

Better, also, for the next president to focus on wielding American power wisely, because doing so will earn the United States (grudging) respect, which in the game of unstable relationships that characterizes modern statecraft, is far more important than love.

11 Responses

  1. The Democrat/Liberal/Lefties certainly do remind me of teenagers, constantly picking at their faces, chewing on their hair, and worrying about who’s popular, who’s not.

  2. Greetings:

    In a similar vein, I attribute European anti-Americanism to a state of prolonged “adolescence” from being protected by American treasure and military might throughout the post-WW2 era. I think about how teenagers rail against their parents actions and restrictions, all the while knowing, deep down, that they cannot provide for themselves.

    On a somewhat lighter note, there was a program on PBS (Public Broadcasting System) a while back about why Europeans don’t like America. One interviewee attributed it to the Europeans knowing that America won’t hurt them.

  3. It’s easier to get angry at someone you know can’t hit back.

  4. Denis,

    You’re right. Problem is they can hurt us in the most craven manner. Check out the Matthias Kuentzel article on Iran that’s linked at Pajamas Media. Sleazebag Schroeder’s influence is still being felt, and Merkel has to be careful not to lose her business supporters.

  5. Book, this is a simple problem, you know. Afghanistan has about 1-2 million soldiers for our use. Iraq has potentially 3 million soldiers for our forces.

    These are our true allies and they will be loyal to us if we are loyal to them. Why should we care about Europe except destroying their nuclear technologies? They can’t even field a battalion of expeditionary forces outside their country without our help.

  6. http://medienkritik.typepad.com/blog/2007/12/a-rare-positive.html

    Mediencritik always has the goods on European, specifically German, anti-Americanism, Book.

  7. This article doesn’t seem to get to the issue and hides behind politics and history.

    Many governments in Europe seek to make close ties with the United States; it is in fact (some of the) people who are anti-American.

    If Brussels are planning some “plot to take away world dominance from America” then the European people certainly do not know about it!

    It has absolutely nothing to do with being “scared” of the U.S. or thinking they are the worst thing in the world! That is absolutely ridiculous. Of course they are not the worst thing in the world.

    Europeans dislike Americans because of their igorance towards the rest of the world; their arrogance as people (not as a nation) and therefore ridicule their poor decision making.

    Are we jealous of the U.S.’s power? Most probably. But the main point is the way the U.S. culture is declining and the effect it is having on the world.

    Europeans feel that their way of life makes them happier (i.e. family orientated lifestyle, good nutritious food; active lifestyle and passion for education) than the American goals (i.e. wealth, power, dominance, convenience food, seeing education as “credentials” with no real important on its own).

    Bush personifies this stupidity and ignorance and anti-Americanism has increased tenfold since his time in office – although many people forget this.

    Many Europeans love the facets of American culture and try to emulate it! However, we are shocked to discover how little Americans (especially the youth) know about themselves or the rest of the world, and this frustrates Europeans who believe that ignorance drains the rest of the world from it’s culture and knowledge.

    Rant over🙂

  8. The corrosion of American culture is due to the infection of Marxist, Socialist, and Aristocratic belief systems originally produced on the European continent. Such beliefs now incubate in America, notably Hollywood, producing a Hollywood version of America that most of the world sees and abhors. But they are only see a mirror reflection of European culture, the culture that produced aristocracy, socialism, communism, etc.

    America’s strongest traditions did not come from Europe, it came from Europe’s overlords, the Roman Empire and the Greeks as well. The Senate, the Republic, the all volunteer army, all such things came from Greco-Roman traditions. Not European Celtic traditions of feudalism and tribal warfare.

    It is apparent that the only parts of American culture the Europeans like, is the culture not infected by European ideas. The part of the culture influenced by the Enlightenment, by Greek philosophers like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, is what Europeans seem to like.

    Europeans dislike Americans because of their igorance towards the rest of the world; their arrogance as people (not as a nation) and therefore ridicule their poor decision making.

    Why Europeans would dislike a people because they don’t want to know about Europe, is pretty irrational. Do I dislike the crowd in New York because they are ignorant about me and don’t want to get to know me when I get up in their face and try to buddy buddy them? No.

    Also, Americans are arrogant because Americans make the right decisions historically. Compared to Europeans, who are conceited and make the wrong decisions historically. You get a couple of Winston Churchills, true, but then you boot him out of Parliament when he is no longer of use.

    For example, Europe has been at war for centuries. It never solved a single thing, except that peasants can feel pain and aristocrats don’t care. With every war America conducted, Americans and strangers alike became stronger, surer, more prosperous, and more secure. That is the difference and the cause for why America is arrogant. We have every reason to be.

  9. Every war America loses, the opposite happens, of course.

  10. Wow. You make me even more proud to be an American. I absolutely love and agree with this post. I deal with Anti-Americanism on a daily basis. Anti-Americanism in it’s pure nature is hypocritical to an extreme. I’ve devoted my recent blog postings to this topic because of how incredibly frustrating it is.

  11. Oh, and it’s not just Europe. Canadian Anti-Americanism is just as bad – if not worse!

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