- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 27, 2002

VENICE, Italy. —Forget about woolly pleasantries and anodyne expressions of good will. In recent months, trans-Atlantic relations between the United States and Europe have become one of the most hotly debated subjects in international circles, to the point of being positively sexy. Unfortunately, this is not mere entertainment, an attempt to prove who has the most colorful vocabulary of invectives. Historical and economic relationships, political and military alliances are at stake. There are material consequences as well, as the anti-American, anti-globalist movement takes to the streets in the capitals of Europe and the United States to destroy property and wreak havoc.
Writes editor Karl Zinsmeister in the most recent issue of The American Enterprise after attending a conference on American culture in Warsaw, Poland, much of what he heard "would have made me laugh out loud, except that the vehemence and envy and certitude with which it was pronounced gave the proceedings an extremely ugly texture. Plus, these were European movers and shakers, not a bunch of pastry chefs. So it wasn't ignorance I was hearing. It was animus, jealousy and spite."
Indeed mutual animosity, at least among intellectuals and the political classes, has reached such levels that serious efforts are now being made to walk all of us back from the brink. At the Prague NATO summit last week, President Bush agreed to shake German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's hand, though he did not go so far as to grant the German the one-on-one meeting accorded other European leaders. After the anti-Americanism evident in the recent German election campaign, who can blame Mr. Bush for his reluctance?
Meanwhile, an unusually civilized discussion of the subject took place in Venice, Nov. 21-23, under the auspices of the Fondazione Liberal, headed by Italian member of parliament Fernando Adornato. Possibly because the groups represented here were on the conservative/libertarian side of the political spectrum, there was much less U.S.-bashing than is customary.
Encouragingly, there are still Europeans who are pro-American and not afraid to declare their colors as such. "There are not two Wests," affirmed Mr. Adornato, a sentiment echoed by many participants. "There is only one Western culture to which the United States and Europe both belong." Participants included ministers from the conservative governments of Italy and Spain, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Disarmament John Bolton, members of Britain's Conservative Party and representatives from Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, France and Germany.
"The Prague summit promoted a trans-Atlantic union, a restatement of the values of freedom and democracy," said Frederico Trillo, Spanish minister of defense. ""European democracy is related to American," noted Antonio Tajani, vice president of the European People's Party, the conservative bloc in the European Parliament.
Even though European conservatives are sometimes known to sniff at American mass culture, they are indeed far less likely to engage in gratuitous America-bashing than their counterparts on the left. In this, they mirror American conservatives, a fact that may have been missed so far in the American-European squabble. Anti-Americanism is mostly a phenomenon of the left, whether on this or the opposite side of the Atlantic Ocean. European criticism often sounds like the editorial pages of the New York Times.
In the Weekly Standard's Nov. 25 issue, Christopher Caldwell describes the meeting of the European Social Forum in Florence in early November. His intent is to dissect and analyze the amorphous anti-Americanism of the anti-globalist movement the "no-globals" as the Italians have eloquently and economically dubbed this group. "What these groups have in common," Mr. Caldwell writes, "is opposition to either market capitalism or the United States, which serves more and more as a metonym for anything the group opposes."
Mr. Caldwell nobly takes a stab at analyzing this phenomenon. "The problem, for the anti-globalists is not that America is 'arrogant' because it is privileged, but that it is privileged because it is dishonest. This logic has the potential to make the movement considerably more violent." The new left, in other words, is developing a political program which is not all that different from that of the Vietnam generation.
In the October issue of Commentary magazine, noted historian Victor David Hanson bids "Farewell to Europe?" "The current state of trans-Atlantic tension, far from being a temporary artifact of power relations, is the more natural condition between us," writes Mr. Hanson. It is " … a strain based on our different cultures and histories and therefore unlikely to be dissipated by bigger defense budgets there or more sensitive diplomats here."
Well, this may not necessarily be the case. You have to accept a certain political agenda for those differences to become irreconcilable. A lot of us think this need not become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and now is the time to speak out.


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