- The Washington Times - Monday, August 13, 2001

The shallowness of American journalism has never been more visible than in the campaign, spearheaded as usual by the New York Times, that Europe is becoming quite agitated with the latest American iniquity "unilateral diplomacy." Terrible things are being said about the Bush administration, publicly in Europe's High Culture media and privately in whispers in the European Union. The Times and other newspapers have discovered what they think is a brand-new phenomenon in Europe, anti-Americanism as a result of President Bush's supposed isolationism.

Utterly forgotten by the media is that Europe's anti-Americanism, both on the right and the left, has a long history. For more than two centuries, America has been blessed with two kinds of foreign observers: those who came to jeer, like Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens, George Bernard Shaw and the mother of Anthony Trollope, those who saw in America only muddy-booted mountebanks and half-civilized brutes. The other set of visitors from abroad (or writers like Goethe and Tocqueville) came and saw in America a golden future. Goethe in fact began one of his poems with the line: "Amerika, du hast es besser," or "America, you have it better."

President Bush is today's target of Europe's latest burst of anti-Americanism because he has discarded the global warming treaty, pledged to annul a treaty limiting ballistic missile defenses and rejected an accord on illegal sales of small arms and protocols dealing with germ warfare. The London Independent has published a page one photo of Mr. Bush under the caption, "Polluter of the World." He is even being attacked, witlessly, for threatening to withdraw from a U.N. conference on racism when even U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Mary Robinson, U.N. high commissioner for human rights, have themselves warned against Afro-Arab pressure on the conference organizers to turn it into an orgy of Israeli- and Europe-bashing.

Many Europeans, says the Times, are unhappy at what they call America's "finger-in-the-eye confrontation in place of diplomacy." According to Thomas L. Friedman, the Times columnist, the United States is "referred to as a 'rogue state' in Europe now as often as Iraq."

Old stuff. A decade ago, Alain de Benoist was interviewed by an Italian weekly magazine, "Liberal." The "down-with-America" interview with Mr. de Benoist, who heads the Nouvelle Droite ("New Right") in France, was headlined, "All Together Against the United States" (or in Italian, "Tutti insieme contro gli Stati Uniti"). A few years ago the London Economist in a splenetic outburst wrote that Canada was suffering a hideous affliction: "The … relentless bombardment by America's TV and radio stations channeled into almost every Canadian home."

Now when a rightist like Mr. de Benoist proclaims a culture war against the United States, it's just the same as the old anti-American battle-cry of the French left as bellowed by onetime minister of culture and public enlightenment, the enrage Jack Lang. Before Mr. Lang there was Jean-Paul Sartre who denounced what he called America's coca-colonization of the world and who demonized the United States as "the enemy of mankind." But when the Economist begins to publish anti-American nonsense and when editors of ordinarily friendly European publications go bananas "relentless bombardment" indeed you begin to realize how deep-rooted this anti-Americanism is. One might think on-off controls had been removed from Canadian radio/TV sets by the United States and to attempt to install one declared a felony.

Americans have little to be ashamed of. Our record as a polity is cleaner than that of Europe, which has tried every political nostrum: absolutism, anarcho-syndicalism, anti-Semitism, civil war, class war, clericalism, communism, ethnic cleansing, fascism, falangism, feudalism, iron guardism, militarism, monarchy, Nazism, socialism, united frontism, as alternatives to democracy. Bismarck once said that fools learn from their mistakes, wise men learn from other people's mistakes.

There is a long tradition of anti-Americanism among European intellectuals. Dan Diner, a German-Israeli historian, recently published "America in the Eyes of the Germans: An Essay on anti-Americanism." European consciousness, so goes his thesis, uses America as a symbol of the dark side of modernism. I'm sure there are EU executives and possibly some in Canada who would, if they dared, like to jam American radio and TV and prevent these programs from crossing borders. At one time Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko tried to get the United Nations to condemn foreign broadcasts to the Soviet Union as a form of aggression. Would the Economist perhaps look sympathetically on the Gromyko resolution in the face of "… the relentless bombardment by America's TV and radio stations channeled into almost every Canadian home"?

I so mistrust Europe's view of the United States that I would be deeply suspicious of a president of whom the EU would approve. I well remember the words of Hugh Gaitskell, onetime leader of the Labour Party, who once said he was always suspicious about Cabinet members when his civil servants spoke well of him. That means, said Mr. Gaitskell, that he is not acting independently but doing the bidding of his civil servants. Similarly, when European diplomats talk well of an American president well, fill in the rest.

For European critics of the United States like the London Independent, Theo Sommer, Heather Grabbe, and so on, I would offer the Harvard Commencement words of Alan Paton, the South African novelist addressed to the American people:

"Your tribulations are known to the whole world. Some of us in the outside world derive satisfaction from them It is foolish of us to gloat when you appear to fail to solve them, for are we any better, any worse than you? Therefore you must regard yourselves as the testing ground of the world, and of the human race. If you fail, it will not be America that fails, but all of us."

And one last reminder: Were it not for the father of President Bush, Iraq's Saddam Hussein would now control the Middle East oil flow to Europe's petrol pumps.

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