compulsory reading, Iraq

Clinton, The Honorary Weasel

Timothy Garton Ash must have read my last entry ;-) and turned it into what I think is a brilliant piece on “Anti Europeanism in America, published in the current issue of the New York Review of Books.

Of course, his essay was already being printed when the “axis of weasel” became popular last weekend. But at least he remarked the popularity of “Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys” to describe the French.

According to Mr Garton Ash a study should be written about Sex And The Continents

“If anti-American Europeans see “the Americans” as bullying cowboys, anti-European Americans see “the Europeans” as limp-wristed pansies. The American is a virile, heterosexual male; the European is female, impotent, or castrated. Militarily, Europeans can’t get it up. (After all, they have fewer than twenty “heavy lift” transport planes, compared with the United States’ more than two hundred.)”

Confirming the importance of listening to each other which I emphasized in my last entry he states that –

“As a European writer, I would not want to treat American “anti-Europeanism” in the way American writers often treat European “anti-Americanism.” We have to distinguish between legitimate, informed criticism of the EU or current European attitudes and some deeper, more settled hostility to Europe and Europeans as such. Just as American writers should, but often don’t, distinguish between legitimate, informed European criticism of the Bush administration and anti-Americanism…”

He states that American claims of indifference concerning the European attitude towards America are probably vastly overstated –

“Certainly, my interlocutors took a lot of time and passion to tell me how little they cared. And the point about the outspoken American critics of Europe is that they are generally not ignorant of or indifferent to Europe. They know Europe – half of them seem to have studied at Oxford or in Paris – and are quick to mention their European friends.” –

at least as long as more informed people are concerned. In Mr Garton Ash’s opinion –

“[i]n fact, the predominant American popular attitude toward Europe is probably mildly benign indifference, mixed with impressive ignorance. I traveled around Kansas for two days asking people I met: “If I say ‘Europe’ what do you think of?” Many reacted with a long, stunned silence, sometimes punctuated by giggles. Then they said things like “Well, I guess they don’t have much huntin’ down there” (Vernon Masqua, a carpenter in McLouth); “Well, it’s a long way from home” (Richard Souza, whose parents came from France and Portugal); or, after a very long pause for thought, “Well, it’s quite a ways across the pond” (Jack Weishaar, an elderly farmer of German descent). If you said “America” to a farmer or carpenter in even the remotest village of Andalusia or Ruthenia, he would, you may be sure, have a whole lot more to say on the subject.”

In the end, he also seems to conclude that a lot of America’s Amti-Europeanism simply mirrors the political and social divisions within the United States –

“Anti-Americanism and anti-Europeanism are at opposite ends of the political scale. European anti-Americanism is mainly to be found on the left, American anti-Europeanism on the right. The most outspoken American Euro-bashers are neoconservatives using the same sort of combative rhetoric they have habitually deployed against American liberals. In fact, as Jonah Goldberg [ “National Review Online editor and self-proclaimed conservative “frog-basher”, according to Garton-Ash ] himself acknowledged to me, “the Europeans” are also a stalking-horse for liberals. So, I asked him, was Bill Clinton a European? “Yes,” said Goldberg, “or at least, Clinton thinks like a European. […] There is some evidence that the left-right divide characterizes popular attitudes as well. […] It seems a hypothesis worth investigating that actually it’s Republicans who are from Mars and Democrats who are from Venus.”

The last interesting point he makes is one indicating that the solution to the current quarrels could indeed lie in the Middle East – just not in Iraq. When asking when the problem became a media issue he finds that is was –

“[i]n early 2002, with the escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Middle East. The Middle East is both a source and a catalyst of what threatens to become a downward spiral of burgeoning European anti-Americanism and nascent American anti-Europeanism, each reinforcing the other. Anti-Semitism in Europe, and its alleged connection to European criticism of the Sharon government, has been the subject of the most acid anti-European commentaries from conservative American columnists and politicians. Some of these critics are themselves not just strongly pro-Israel but also “natural Likudites,” one liberal Jewish commentator explained to me. In a recent article Stanley Hoffmann writes that they seem to believe in an “identity of interests between the Jewish state and the United States.”[20] Pro-Palestinian Europeans, infuriated by the way criticism of Sharon is labeled anti-Semitism, talk about the power of a “Jewish lobby” in the US, which then confirms American Likudites’ worst suspicions of European anti-Semitism, and so it goes on, and on.[A problem] difficult for a non-Jewish European to write about without contributing to the malaise one is trying to analyze…”

But there’s hope the Eagle and the Weasel are not going to keep fighting forever, as he says with reference to the argument that Russia united the West, and the Middle East separates it –

“[c]oolly examined, such a division is extremely stupid. Europe, just next door and with a large and growing Islamic population, has an even more direct vital interest in a peaceful, prosperous, and democratic Middle East than the United States does. Moreover, I found two senior administration officials in Washington quite receptive to the argument – which is beginning to be made by some American commentators – that the democratization of the greater Middle East should be the big new transatlantic project for a revitalized West. But that’s not how it looks at the moment.”

And why doesn’t it look like that at the moment? Because (many, not all of) the most prominent Republican administration officials in the US show a clear lack manners when it comes to talking to a lady – oops, to Europe. Now that’s a sentence I never thought I’d say.