T Nation

European/American Viewpoints

I think it’s interesting that we’re so similar, and yet dissimilar enough that we don’t always understand each other’s perspectives.

Anyway, I thought it might be interesting to start a thread in which Europeans could talk about their perceptions of Americans, and vice versa – hopefully without degenerating into name-calling and whatnot.

I want to start off with this article, written by a favorite author of mine who is a former Brit who is a naturalized U.S. citizen.

I don’t agree necessarily with all of it, but it’s a good jumping-off point:


[ADDENDUM: I want to note the second article is by a different author, though he is also a British expatriate journalist – former head of the UPI, in fact]


View of Europeans.

I think the broad generalization for me, as an American, is that the Europeans have a safety net. The USA.

No matter how bad they let things go. No matterhow far they let their defense slip, they know that the US will always be there to bail them out. To kick the Germans out, to keep the Russians out, to save them economically. The US always steps up.

The US on the other hand cannot depend on our European allies, except for the British.

I think for many years we tolerated this. They viewed us as a child in the grown up world of world diplomacy. They now realize we are the parent and the time has come to shape up. The Europeans cannot really execute any sort of broad global action without our consent and it infuriates them. Thank God we are benevolent.

I don’t mean to demean the Europeans any more then they deserve. They have chosen the socialist path many are on. They have chosen to antagonize rather then cooperate. So be it.

I think many in the US now feel we do not owe the Europeans anything. Perhaps they should be left to their own devices. I think in the past it mattered to us what the Europeans thought. I don’t think it does anymore.


sorry for taking so long to read your articles. I think they represent a good example of the differences in political thought. The first one as an honest and wellwritten attempt to map out the differences - with the exeption of the last point on the media; I think he is plainly wrong on that one. The second one a good example of a well thought-through argument in defense of the current US administration’s policies and it hoped-for outcomes.


And as addition, I just read this in the Economist. Funny, I thought:




[quote]hedo wrote:
View of Europeans.

I think the broad generalization for me, as an American, is that the Europeans have a safety net. The USA.

No matter how bad they let things go. No matterhow far they let their defense slip, they know that the US will always be there to bail them out. To kick the Germans out, to keep the Russians out, to save them economically. The US always steps up.

The US on the other hand cannot depend on our European allies, except for the British.

I think for many years we tolerated this. They viewed us as a child in the grown up world of world diplomacy. They now realize we are the parent and the time has come to shape up. The Europeans cannot really execute any sort of broad global action without our consent and it infuriates them. Thank God we are benevolent.[/quote]

Which Europeans are you talking about? The main argument I heard lately, and read in BB’s posts, was that a majority in Europe was supporting for example the coalition of the willing. The EU has 25 member states (many of whom disagree on a lot of issues, especially regarding current US policies), the continent counts 45 countries; It is not easy to find a common European view on many issues, as we are not (yet) a nation state.

I don’t really get where you get that socialist stuff from - “real” socialism has been more or less defeated in most of Europe as an antiquated form of gouvernment. I have read about this quite a few times in the threads here, and it puzzles me every time - might be that there has been no real socialist experience in the US, but what even the most left leaning gouvernments in Europe do, is perhaps social democracy, but not socialism.

I would not be so sure about that. Check out who your big trading partners are. I don’t know (and really care) about owing, but it normally is sign of a healthy ego (referring to the “ego” thread in the “get a life” section), to listen what your neighbours say. I think that refers to nations as well.



Glad a European responded. Good to hear the perspective.


[quote]hedo wrote:

Glad a European responded. Good to hear the perspective.[/quote]

Anytime. Was eager to take part in this one, as I think it’s a idea great of the BB to start a thread on that. And then my mind went blank - as hard it is to find an “European” viewpoint on many issues, as hard it must be to come up with a representative “US American” viewpoint, coming from a country with a highly plural political spectrum.

One observation though - as much as the US’s current policies are being criticised here (in the UK and Germany), the US as a country and a people are still highly popular. There was a similar result about a year back coming from a survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit that this was even true for many Arabic countries. Fazit - the US is (rightly) being regarded a country of opportunity and freedom; but some of us are worried about policy decisions (which lead to Guantanamo Bay and Iraq in general) that we see as … hm … “unamerican” - at least in the sense that they change our perception of the image we have the US.


[quote]makkun wrote:
And as addition, I just read this in the Economist. Funny, I thought:



Makkun –

Interesting article – I do think the authors have captured the divided perspective of the left and right in America w/r/t Europe. Personally, I think the demographic trends are the single biggest force driving things over there right now.

I also think you’re right about trying to put together a “European” perspective on things. When people over here get upset about “Europe”, they’re generally getting upset at either the EU bureaucracy or France (with Belgium and Germany sometimes tossed in the mix as well).

Also, just as people have observed concerning Americans and America as compared with Bush and our current government, I think the same is true in France and the European countries – though given that the crackpot conspiracy authors are best sellers over there in France, I could be making too much of a differentiation (then again, Michael Moore is a best-selling author over here…).

I do want to note one thing the Economist article kind of passed over, and that’s Reid’s claim that the U.S. was forced to comply with European regs in his example on the corporate tax bill. Where to begin… First, it was a WTO ruling that the U.S. was trying to comply with. Second, the enforcement mechanism for the ruling was basically that the EU could impose retaliatory tariffs on US goods if the US persisted in violating the WTO ruling – hardly being “forced,” really, to say the other side can engage in protectionist measures if we don’t stop with our protectionist measures… Third, the specifics of the tax bill weren’t set out by the WTO ruling – the ruling merely said the U.S. had to stop giving protectionist subsidies via its tax code, or face EU tariffs.

We could go on and on about trade – I think the author definitely overstates his case there, because there is a world of difference between trade laws and regulatory or criminal laws. As far as it goes, with trade it seems companies will choose the path of least resistance – but the EU will definitely need to heed putting too large a burden on companies from entering its market.

Getting back to the meat of the question though, do Europeans really think the U.S. is just a country full of loud, fat cowboys? I know we don’t see the whole of Europe as skinny, smelly, chainsmoking effetes. =-)

Here are two posts from one of my favorite blogs that examine the EU and US in a global perspective – mostly the EU from a US perspective though:



A comparison of the US and the EU from UCLA corporate law prof Stephen Bainbridge:


The US and the EU

In the NYT, Timothy Garton Ash argues that Americans systematically underestimate the power of the European Union, but welcomes signs of change:

[Begin NYT excerpt] President Bush is preparing to take the European Union more seriously as a union - not just a collection of diverse states from which Washington can pick and choose its allies. This is a welcome development, since only by working together can the United States and the European Union hope to surmount the challenges that face these twin heirs to the Enlightenment in today’s dangerous world. [End NYT excerpt]

I wonder, however, whether Ash doesn’t overstate the EU’s strength relative to the US.

[Begin NYT excerpt] Robert Kagan describes the difference between America and Europe as the difference between power and weakness - American power, that is, and European weakness. This description is sustainable only if power is measured in terms of military strength. In the way that some American conservatives talk about the European Union, I hear an echo of Stalin's famous question about the Vatican's power: how many divisions does the pope have? But the pope defeated Stalin in the end. This attitude overlooks the dimensions of European power that are not to be found on the battlefield.

In economic power, the European Union is the equal of the United States: the combined gross domestic product of the union's 25 member states is some $11 trillion at current exchange rates, about the same as the G.D.P. of the United States. American business has long recognized the importance of the European market, and it is also beginning to understand the influence of its regulators. Three years ago the union blocked the merger of two American companies, General Electric and Honeywell - after American regulators had already approved the deal. [End NYT excerpt]

Here’s what he’s not telling you: While the EU’s GDP is roughly equal to that of the US, the EU’s population (in 2003) was 456 million to the US’ mere 292 million ( http://epp.eurostat.cec.eu.int/cache/ITY_PUBLIC/3-31082004-BP/EN/3-31082004-BP-EN.PDF ). GDP per head thus is much higher in the US than in the EU. (See page 9 of EU versus US, http://www.timbro.com/euvsusa/pdf/EU_vs_USA_English.pdf ). According to the authors of EU versus US, this disparity results from a “slow, gradual process over a long succession of years, during which the American economy has all the time been growing somewhat faster year by year than the European economies.” (11) [BTW, the study includes a good discussion of why GDP is the appropriate measure rather than indices that try to track the nonpecuniary benefits of living in Europe.] Finally, Ash doesn’t tell you that the US population is growing a lot faster than that of the EU. According to the Economist ($):

[Begin Economist excerpt] merica's fertility rate is rising. Europe's is falling. America's immigration outstrips Europe's and its immigrant population is reproducing faster than native-born Americans. America's population will soon be getting younger. Europe's is ageing.

Unless things change substantially, these trends will accelerate over coming decades, driving the two sides of the Atlantic farther apart. By 2040, and possibly earlier, America will overtake Europe in population and will come to look remarkably (and, in many ways, worryingly) different from the Old World. [End Economist excerpt]

So what, you say? As the US’ population catches up with that of the EU, probably sometime between 2030 and 2040, our economy will become even more important (and that of the EU less so), or so opines the Economist:

[Begin Economist excerpt] With 400m-550m rich consumers, the American market would surely be even more important to foreign companies than it is today. And if so, American business practices?however they emerge from the current malaise?could become yet more dominant. …

Higher fertility rates and immigration produce not only a larger population but a society that is younger, more mixed ethnically and, on balance, more dynamic. ...

If Europeans are unwilling to spend what is needed to be full military partners of America now, when 65-year-olds amount to 30% of the working-age population, they will be even less likely to do more in 2050, when the proportion of old people will have doubled. In short, the long-term logic of demography seems likely to entrench America's power and to widen existing transatlantic rifts. [End Economist excerpt]

Back then to Ash’s analysis. He opines:

[Begin NYT excerpt] The European Union is also strong in a less tangible kind of power - what is known as "soft power." The European way of life, its culture and societies, are enormously appealing to many of its neighbors. Meanwhile, the policies of the Bush administration have prompted a wave of hostility toward America around the world, while its security measures have made it more difficult for foreigners to study or work in the United States. So Europe may currently have a comparative advantage in the exercise of soft power, if only temporarily. [End NYT excerpt]

Right. Sure. And whose movies do they watch? (At a recent Dubai film festival, “big American movies such as “The Grudge,” “Polar Express” and “Ocean’s Twelve,” proved the biggest draws.”) Whose music do they listen to? Whose culture does the world follow? Here’s the invaluable Daniel Henninger’s latest column for OpinionJournal.com:


[Begin Henninger excerpt] We see where a curator at France's Pompidou Center says his museum is opening a branch in Hong Kong, because "U.S. culture is too strong" there, and "we need to have a presence in Asia to counterbalance the American influence." With the Pompidou Center?

"American influence" is the great white whale of the 21st century, and Jacques Chirac is the Ahab chasing her with a three-masted schooner. Along for the ride is a crew that includes Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, Vladimir Putin, North Korea's Kim Jong-Il, Kofi Annan, the Saudi royal family, Robert Mugabe, the state committee of Communist China and various others who have ordained themselves leaders for life. At night, seated around the rum keg, they talk about how they have to stop American political power, the Marines or Hollywood. [End Henninger excerpt]

Back to Ash:

[Begin NYT excerpt] Yet the most distinctive feature of European power is a fourth dimension - one that the United States wholly lacks. It is the power of induction. Put very simply: the European Union is getting bigger, and the United States is not. Haiti cannot hope to follow Hawaii into the American union, and even an American territory like Puerto Rico faces resistance in becoming the 51st state. But Ukraine can hope to follow Poland into the European Union. [End NYT excerpt]

This is sleight of hand. Yes, the EU’s landmass is getting bigger. As far as population and economic growth goes, however, we’ve seen that the US has long-term advantages.

Why does it matter? Am I solely engaged in a jingoistic exercise? No, because I want to join issue with Ash’s last point:

[Begin NYT excerpt] The history of the European Union can be told as a story of the expansion of freedom: from the original six postwar democracies in western Europe; to 12 member states, including three former dictatorships in southern Europe; to 25, including many of the former Communist states of central and eastern Europe; and now on to the Balkans, Turkey and, one day, Ukraine.  [End NYT excerpt]

As an outsider observer, however, it seems to me that EU expansion has not expanded the freedoms of Europeans. We routinely see references to problems such as the EU’s “democracy deficit,” ( http://www.iht.com/articles/49383.html ) the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe ( http://www.boston.com/news/world/europe/articles/2003/12/21/in_france_anti_semitism_burns_anew/ ), and even infringements on basic rights ( http://www.americanoutlook.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=article_detail&id=1124 ).

If Ash were right, and the EU really were equal in power to the US, I would argue that that would be cause for great concern. I’m not convinced that the EU is a force for good within its own borders, let alone in the wider world, where appeasement and coddling of dictators seems to be the order of the day. The good news therefore is that the EU is not equal to the US in power. The even better news is that the trendlines are in our favor; not theirs.

[quote]BostonBarrister wrote:
A comparison of the US and the EU from UCLA corporate law prof Stephen Bainbridge:

If Ash were right, and the EU really were equal in power to the US, I would argue that that would be cause for great concern. I’m not convinced that the EU is a force for good within its own borders, let alone in the wider world, where appeasement and coddling of dictators seems to be the order of the day. The good news therefore is that the EU is not equal to the US in power. The even better news is that the trendlines are in our favor; not theirs.[/quote]

Hm, took me some time to read all those articles. I think they show some valid observations and concerns from US-side. Sure, the EU is not a club of philantrophers who only want what is best for humanity - regularly decisions are being made that are a shabby compromise failing to fulfil what was originally intended, because national interests get into the way. About every EU gouvernment is guilty of that crime.

But on the average the advantages outweigh the disadvantages - as shown when it comes to environmental and health standards; yes, I think it is acceptable and a sign of long-term planning to control the markets to a certain extent when it comes to consumer and environmental safety - even if it costs some growth. It makes life in Europe safer and increases quality of life - in the EU. When it comes to supranational treaties that guarantee human and personal rights, I would defend that even more so. That might be a self-centered view, but let’s be honest, self-interest is a central feature of capitalist societies - and there is nothing to be ashamed about. :wink:

I give the authors that part of this safety cushion is indeed built upon too strong a reliance on the US’s military strength - hence I am a strong supporter of building up EU task forces and taking on more responsibility, a growing trend that has been discussed in other threads aswell. To hold it against the EU that it moved into this position is a bit hypocritical - for decades the message from Washington has been that countries like Germany should invest into international organisations, supporting mostly US-driven (and in most cases absolutely justified) policies than rather trying to implement their own will. Now that this paradigm starts to shift and EU member states seek a more unified stance (sometimes against US interests), this is being held against them. In essence: If the US asks for stronger partners, it has to be willing to accept that these partners might not be as compliant as they used to be.

I am surprised about the stance that the EU should not be an equal/competitor to the US - last time I checked, competition was a main feature of healthy markets. Yes, there will always be unnecessary (and simply wrong) protectionism - but that goes for both sides of the Atlantic.


PS: In one of the first articles you posted, the authors spoke about the pride US-Americans take in their institutions - I must admit that I feel similar pride for mine. Some German ones, some British ones, hey even some of the EU’s. :slight_smile:

Makkun –

On your last point, I want to post the text of that article, so people know what you’re referencing – plus I think it’s the most useful platform for a discussion:

Mutual Incomprehension

Interviewing Dick Cheney on Meet the Press this Sunday, Tim Russert kept coming back to the question a lot of us, on both sides of the war issue, are asking: How on earth did the United States come to be so isolated? We have the support of a handful of governments, to be sure, but even they are acting in the teeth of strong opposition from their people. There is broad popular support for a war against Iraq in just two countries: the U.S.A. and Israel. How did things get to such a pass?

There are two popular answers: (1) America just doesn?t understand how the rest of the world feels. (2) The rest of the world just doesn?t understand how America feels. Different people tend to respond with either one or the other of these. Cheney, for example, favored (2).

I?m going to go with both. It takes two to tango, and a gulf of disagreement this wide tells us that there is profound misunderstanding in both directions. There are things about us that the rest of the world doesn?t understand, and there are things about them that we don?t understand. Please note that mutual incomprehension does not imply moral equivalence. The fact that you and I can?t see each other?s point of view does not rule out the possibility that one of us is right and the other wrong. The rightness or wrongness depends on external facts, which have been very thoroughly debated on this site and elsewhere. Here I am just going to look at the misunderstandings between America and the rest of the world.

How do we misunderstand each other? Let me number the ways.


They don?t understand ? How a-n-g-r-y we are. It was our proud buildings that were brought down on 9/11. It was our office workers, airplane passengers, firemen and cops who got killed. Those attacks were the worst foreign assaults on American soil since the founding of the Republic. We are mad as hell, and we have every right to be. It didn?t help a bit that we heard stories from all over the world of people rejoicing in our loss and grief, standing up and cheering, dancing in the streets, writing smug editorial pieces in the London Review of Books to the effect that we had it coming. Those things just spread our anger wider, from the monsters who attacked us to the fools who try to give them moral credibility.

We don?t understand ? How much they resent our wealth and power. Fourteen years after the end of the Cold War, the sheer scale of our supremacy in the world has not really sunk in to our consciousness yet.

* Our military is better funded, better equipped and more awesome by an order of magnitude than any other.  Even before 9/11, we accounted for over 36 percent of the world?s military expenditure.  The next in rank, Russia, had less than 6 percent. 

* Our economy makes everyone else?s look puny ? we currently have 43 percent of the world?s economic production.  Twenty years ago we fretted about rising competitors like Japan, a united Europe, Asian tigers, China.  Now Japan is a busted flush, Europe is choking on red tape, the tigers are trending Japan-wards, and China is facing a major systemic crisis.  We stand supreme.

* Our culture is omnipresent:  peasant lads in Nepal wear NBA T-shirts, teenage girls in Sudan hum the Titanic theme, bankers in Buenos Aires meet at Starbucks. 

To the rest of the world, we look like a 200-foot giant. Immense wealth and power may be respected, are occasionally admired, will sometimes be feared, but they are never loved.

?But don?t they remember how we saved their bacon twice in the 20th century?? Sure they remember. Gratitude, however, is an emotion with a short half-life. If you save me from drowning, I shall be intensely grateful to you for days and weeks afterwards. Months and even years later, I may still regard you with a warm appreciation. If, however, you are still reminding me of the good deed fifty years on, I shall find it irritating. That is not fair at all, but it?s human nature. ?I did for you what you could not do for yourself? contains, if you look at it closely, an implied comment about my own abilities.

They don?t understand ? Our deep idealism. All right, Americans say, we are a giant. Are we not a kindly giant, though? Was there ever a giant with such a will to do good? Can you imagine what a world dominated by Russia would be like? Or China? (If you can?t, ask a Hungarian, or a Tibetan.) We are proud of the great good we have done in the world ? Lend-Lease, victory over fascism and communism, the Marshall Plan, and all the liberating and wealth-encouraging institutions we have helped fund and support ? the World Bank, the IMF, the WTO, and, yes, in theory at least, the UN. Sure, some of those good deeds benefited us, too. That is the ?self-interest? in ?enlightened self-interest.? Will someone please note the other half of the phrase? Uniquely among all the Top Dog nations that the world has ever had, we do not believe that the international order is a zero-sum game, that what is good for us will be bad for you.

Even when we have blundered, it has been with good intentions. France fought in Vietnam to preserve her imperial standing and keep her planters in business; we fought in Vietnam to hold the free world?s line against communist dictatorship. Every pronouncement from our leaders about possible war with Iraq comes with a rider that we shall do our utmost to avoid harming civilians. When did any other nation prepare for a military expedition with such oft-repeated declarations? When? The Chinese going into Vietnam in 1979? The Russians going into Chechnya in 1994? The French in Algeria? Iraq attacking Iran? The Libyans in Chad? When? When?

We don?t understand ? Their cynicism. Two stories.

* Around 1991 I was in a movie theater in London?s Leicester Square (which is to say, a tony movie theater in the heart of London) watching Tom Selleck in Three Men and a Little Lady.  Near the end of the movie, Tom looks into the eyes of his leading lady and says the words she?s been longing to hear:  ?I love you.?  The London audience erupted in hoots of laughter.  Can you believe it?  Americans really go for that sappy stuff!  What rubes they are! 

* In China a year and a half ago, I was talking to one of my Chinese relatives about the United States Constitution.  He waved away the Constitution with a laugh.  ?Oh, that?s all nonsense.  it?s just a piece of paper.  Doesn?t mean anything.?

There is an innocence, an earnestness about Americans that, all too often, foreigners just don?t get. If we love someone, we look into her eyes and say so. We take our Constitution seriously. One way and another, we passed through most of the great disillusioning experiences of the 20th century, from the Great War to the sexual revolution, with our illusions pretty much intact. Outside the intellectual classes, irony doesn?t come easily to Americans. Europeans who come to live in the U.S. find that they have to perform major adjustments to their sense of humor to avoid giving offense to the literal-minded inhabitants of this country.

Americans have had no prolonged education in cynicism. We have never been expected to look up to rulers who claim to be appointed ?by the grace of God,? yet whose failings are all too obviously human. We have never had to endure the indignity of living in a ?people?s republic? in which the actual people count for nothing, under a ?constitution? whose sole purpose is to provide a fig-leaf of legitimacy to naked, brutish power.

They don?t understand ? Our patriotism. There are styles of patriotism. Old ethno-nations like France, Poland or China tend to assume that patriotism is bred in the bone, and does not need to be shown or expressed except at times of dire national emergency. The flamboyant, everyday patriotism of Americans is unsettling to them, and looks like bumptiousness covering insecurity. There is perhaps no other country in the world in which, on a day that is not a national holiday, you can walk down a residential street and see flags flying from the doorposts. I have been hunting around on the web for statistics on flag ownership ? how many citizens, country by country, actually own a copy of their country?s flag. Couldn?t find those statistics, but I feel sure the U.S.A. easily ranks number one in this table, too; and I bet that was true even before 9/11. I lived more than twenty years in Britain, and I can?t recall a single instance of any British person I knew owning a British flag.

We don?t understand ? Their patriotism. French people, Germans, Russians, even Mexicans, nurse deep attachments to their history, their customs, their language and cuisine, their traditions, the great deeds of their ancestors. We may look down at these people?s political incompetence: at France, which has been through five republics, two empires and two kingdoms in the lifetime of our own single Constitution, at the Russians, who submitted to be the slaves of amoral despots for 70 years, at the Germans, who surrendered their liberties to a psychopath with a comic-opera mustache and stood by obediently while he massacred millions of their unarmed fellow-citizens.

Still we should not forget that when you and your ancestors have lived in the same place for a thousand years, speaking the same language and eating the same food, practicing the same religious observances and quoting the same poets, gazing out over the same rivers and hills, you do not take kindly to the intrusions of a 200-year-old upstart nation, half of whose people do not seem even to be able to describe themselves as ?American? without sticking something hyphenated in front of the word.

They don?t understand ? The reverence in which we hold our institutions. We scoff at our politicians, like everyone else in the world, but the institutions they represent are taken very seriously indeed. Shortly after 9/11, on this site, I offered a rude speculation about how Bill Clinton might have reacted to the crisis. I was flooded with indignant e-mail from NRO readers ? Clinton-haters all, probably ? asking me who the hell I thought I was, insulting the Presidency at such a time. Not Clinton ? they couldn?t have cared less about him ? but the Presidency. The idea that the institutions of national governance are merely a racket, a cover for the machinations of a ruling class, is very widespread around the world. It occurs to every Chinese person, every Saudi, every Nigerian, every Russian, at least once a day. Even Frenchmen and Italians find themselves thinking it once a week or so. To Americans ? except for some small cliques of race agitators and Europeanized intellectuals ? it is utterly alien.

We don?t understand ? How badly George W. Bush travels. Never having been schooled in the fast repartee of a parliamentary debating chamber, Bush seems slow and inarticulate in response. Coming from the openly-confessional tradition of Southern Christianity, he seems to foreigners to be religiose rather than religious. Having spent most of his life in a region with a strong sense of identity, he speaks his local dialect unselfconsciously, which makes him sound like a bumpkin to other English-speakers (and even to some Americans). Pronouncing ?nuclear? as ?noo-koo-luh? tells you nothing more about the man than that he comes from Texas and doesn?t care who knows it. It is no more reprehensible than my pronouncing ?schedule? with a ?sh? instead of a ?sk,? and it is very unfair of non-Texans to snigger at it. They do, though, and I am not sure they are wrong to do so, bearing in mind what terrible responsibilities lie behind that word ?nuclear.?

They don?t understand ? The vitality of our political life. The tremendous events of 1775-1787 fired off a national conversation that is still in full flood today. Does the Second Amendment imply an individual right to own firearms? What exactly does ?subject to the jurisdiction of? mean, in Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment? How can we square one state?s approval of homosexual marriage with the ?full faith and credit? of the Constitution?s Article IV, Section 1? These things are the stuff of everyday conversation and endless public debate. American political culture has a vigor and breadth unknown elsewhere. The political life of other countries, when you go to them, seems dull and tame.

We don?t understand ? The narrowness of viewpoint expressed in their media. Centuries of state-sanctioned priesthoods and despotic bureaucracy have left other nations with a deferential attitude to bookish pontificators that America just does not know. As much as we complain of the leftist bias in our media, we can hardly imagine the situation in Britain, where the BBC ? far the most important source of news and comment for most people ? is staffed entirely by members of the hard-Left lumpen-intelligentsia, people who, to my certain knowledge (I am friends with some of them) were admirers of the Soviet Union down to the hour of its collapse. In France and Germany things are even worse. There is essentially no conservative movement in these countries, nor in any country but the U.S. There are no Second Amendment lobbies, no Club for Growth, no anti-abortion crusaders, no Christian Coalition, no Rush Limbaugh, no Sean Hannity. (I do not say these things don?t exist in Britain, France or Germany. I do say that they have no political influence whatsoever.)

Because of the lack of alternative voices, the effect of Political Correctness on these countries has been far more dire than in the U.S. In England last November, a journalist was locked up in jail for telling a pro-fox-hunting rally that country people should have the same rights as black people, Muslims and homosexuals.

Unrestrained by any constitutional protection for free speech, the ruling elites in these countries are wielding P.C. as a club to smash all dissent from approved state doctrines, all resistance to state schemes of social engineering. No voices are heard in Europe now but the voices of the Leftist clerisy who control all the media outlets. These people are all anti-American. (In France and Italy, they are not infrequently actual Communists Party members ? yes, communism is alive and well in Europe.) It is not surprising that the ordinary people of these countries, bathed as they are in this flood of lies from morning till night, are suspicious of us. And this is only to speak of nations that have some decently long tradition of consensual democracy. Russia? China? Turkey? Fugeddaboutit.


I don?t know what can be done to bridge this gulf of mutual incomprehension, not at this late stage of the Iraq game. If, as now seems likely (and in brazen defiance of my predictions), the Administration is really going to take us to war, our conduct of that war may do something to correct misunderstandings about our goals and motives.

I wouldn?t be too optimistic, though. If the war goes well, we shall be more of a giant than ever; if badly, we shall be that most contemptible of creatures, a giant brought low by hubris. And the ideology-addled elites who run the media in Europe, and the state functionaries who run them most everywhere else, will, in either case, know what to say to keep the pot of anti-Americanism on the boil.

Looks as if the Europeans, in the spirit of realpolitick, are coming to grips with W’s re-election:

Fresh signs that Europe is ready to deal with Bush
New year brings hope of trans-Atlantic togetherness

''It’s a nightmare," Sir Elton John announced shortly after the November election: “George W. Bush and this administration are the worst thing that has ever happened to America.” Yet, a few weeks later, the British “chanteur” was in the East Room of the White House accepting an award from the Toxic Texan.

It is always dangerous to read anything into a pop star’s political posturing, but Sir Elton’s rapid candle-in-a-hurricane change of heart is actually representative of a deeper change in the mood music of Old Europe. In the wake of the election, the Continent is slowly coming to terms with Bush.

This, it should be stressed, is not a first choice. Numerous surveys showed that if Europeans had a vote on Nov. 2, John Kerry would have won by a landslide. The morning after the election, the London Daily Mirror asked, “How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?”

For European leaders such as France’s Jacques Chirac and Germany’s Gerhard Schroeder, Bush’s victory reflected not just a tragedy but a failure of foreign policy.

Yet if the chancelleries of Old Europe are famous for anything, it is coldhearted pragmatism. “There is no point wondering what might have been,” says one German diplomat. “Foreign policy cannot just stop for four years.”

Paradoxically, the very thing that neoconservatives detest most about European diplomacy ? that Machiavellian willingness to cut deals with anyone ? is now working in Bush’s favor. But there is arguably more to this sea change than just a grumpy acceptance of the status quo. From a European perspective, three things are making it easier to warm to the Bush White House.

One is the death of Yasser Arafat. No issue divides Europe and the United States more keenly than the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. For the last few years, Europeans have criticized Bush for failing to put enough pressure on Israel to get out of the occupied territories and for refusing to deal with Arafat. But since Arafat’s death, Europeans and Americans have been able to find common ground: supporting Ariel Sharon’s withdrawal from Gaza, putting pressure on Israel to let the Palestinians hold elections and, covertly, backing Mahmoud Abbas to become the next Palestinian leader.

A second reason is Europe’s growing worries about Islamic terrorism. The murder in November of Theo van Gogh, a provocative Dutch filmmaker, at the hands of an Islamic militant has been called Europe’s 9/11. Though the two events are obviously not fully comparable, it is certainly true that American conservatives, such as Francis Fukuyama and Bernard Lewis, have found a wider audience recently for the idea that radical Islam is inimical to European traditions of tolerance.

The third force is the reappearance, albeit in a milder form, of the threat that kept the trans-Atlantic alliance together for half a century. The Russian bear is growling again. The Ukrainian election ? complete with its KGB-style poisoning of the opposition leader and heavy-handed electoral fraud ? has reminded European diplomats of Vladimir V. Putin’s determination to control his “near abroad.”

European bankers, who have invested a fortune in Russia, have been spooked by the state-sponsored bankruptcy of Yukos, once hailed as Russia’s most Western company. These worries are magnified by the growing influence of the eight new members of the European Union from Central Europe, all of which are instinctively much more anti-Russian (and pro-American).

If these three things have prompted Europeans to reconsider Bush, European leaders also claim that the White House is reconsidering them, particularly in the light of the Iraqi quagmire. They point to the relatively warm response from Washington to the EU’s attempts to negotiate with Iran (something Bush might well have previously dismissed as pointless). One former prime minister points out that second-term presidents have generally been more conciliatory figures, less interested in posturing and more in horse-trading. He cites Ronald Reagan as an example.

There is a personal edge to all this. Just as the snooty continentals eventually came to admire the gormless Hollywood actor, there is a grudging willingness to rethink some prejudices about the inarticulate Texan.

Many European leaders once swallowed the Michael Moore version of history: that Bush was an ignorant interloper who stole the White House. His thumping re-election, however, shows that he represents a large body of conservative American opinion.

In short, Europeans are getting used to the idea that it is not Bush who is the exception, but the U.S. itself that is exceptional ? and that if they want to deal with this exceptional superpower they need to humor it rather than rile it. Strangely enough, this has been Tony Blair’s strategy all along; it is rapidly becoming the Continent’s strategy, too.

Micklethwait and Wooldridge work for the Economist; they are co-authors of “The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America.”

Its always nice to see a conserative who you can discuss with, there arent to many of them.

What people in america and europe have to understand is that they have different basic attitudes and core beliefs. The same probably goes for liberals and conseratives in america, thats what leads to so many useless discussions, because both sides belief they are right. Nothing showed that better than the iraq war. Somebody like you beliefs Reagan was the best president the us ever had, someone like me thinks he was the worst ever.

Look, European Culture and Politics are dominated by the middle class, while in america, since the reagan era, only the richest 5% rule and the rest got little left to say. In Europe the unions have much history and influence. Thats why they have some 30 days of paid holiday a year, and mostly work something around 38 hours a week. They dont believe in letting people work for 5.50 in hour. Its obvious that some folks rather sell drugs and do other illegal stuff than doing that, thats imho the main reasons why theres so little crime in europe.

Corporate america of course has best interest in not letting that happen in the usa, and thats what so many people fail to realise. Those who benefit the most of the Iraq war are nobody but the corporations, and they are so happy to have fox news, the religious right, the neocons, patriostism, a puppet in the white house, and also the left and there discussions, to distract people from the silent winners. To distract working america from there power.

I read a statistic once that some 70% of the fox news viewers believe there were actually wmds found, i read that 80% of all americans dont believe in global warming(thats like believing the earth is flat), and a whole bunch of people dont believe in evolution. This amount of misinformation says it about all.

While there IS an amount of unjustified anit-americanism and ungratefulness in europe, its not completly without reason. But its also the other way around, like the french role in the american war of independence, and strange prejudges like “half of them probably cheered as those 2 towers went down” i read in another american board once, just to name one thing. Another gap between europe and america is doubless that europe knows a hell lot of more of the american politics and culture as vice-versa. If you were an alien and get your view of France from American Internet boards youd get the impression its the country of the devil where only zombies are walking around.

However, the anti-americanism is not completly without reason, that a micheal moore can sell one million books of “stupid white men” soley in Germany is not without reason:

makkun: “for decades the message from Washington has been that countries like Germany should invest into international organisations, supporting mostly US-driven (and in most cases absolutely justified) policies than rather trying to implement their own will”

Looool, since bush became president the usa has quit ALL international agreements if there werent for there own use. Agreements that ALL western countrys, ALL nato countrys signed, BUT the usa. Like the Antiballistic Missile Treaty, 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, UN Agreement to Curb the International Flow of Illicit Small Arms, International Criminal Court Treaty, Kyoto of course, the Land Mine Treaty, that was signed by all countrys of the world but Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey aaaaand the Us.

Of course Bush doesnt need the UNs permissons the go to war, which isnt the puppet of america that most neocons obviously think it is, they can veto every UN rule that goes against Isreal for good reasons. They believe they can lock up suspects in Guantanmo Bay without an Attorney or other rights, which is against ALL international laws. That arrogance is the reason why so many people in the world hate the bush administration.

To be continued…