This is a guest post by Joe Noory:
For the past two weeks the story has been making the rounds. Fouad Ajami of the School for Advanced International Studies offers a recitation of the timbre of the traditional hatred floating around between Europe and the Near East. The title of his Wall Street Journal op-ed is "Anti-Americanism Is Mostly Hype", but seems to end up being betrayed by selectively deciding the bombings of the 80's and 90's being little other than hype, not to mention the Hizballah's debutante party on Marines stationed in Beirut as part of an Palestinian-Israeli cease fire, the holding of American diplomats as hostages in Teheran, and so forth:
I grew up in the Arab world in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and anti-Americanism was the standard political language - even for those pining for American visas and green cards. Precious few took this seriously. The attraction to the glamorous, distant society was too strong in the Beirut of my boyhood.
It is no different today in Egypt or Pakistan. And what people tell pollsters who turn up in their midst with their clipboards? In Hosni Mubarak's tyranny, anti-Americanism is the permissible safety valve for Egyptians unable to speak of their despot. We stand between Pharaoh and his frustrated people, and the Egyptians railing against America are giving voice to the disappointment that runs through their life and culture. Scapegoating and anti-Americanism are a substitute for a sober assessment of what ails that old, burdened country.
This happens to be rather at odds of the Beirut of my childhood, where being apparently "Imriki," and not Lebanese in ones' American-ness made one a hostage-taker's commodity. For all you youngsters out there: it was not a status symbol.
With the tone of "see!" I've received this article from people of numerous ideological appeals, it seems to have become something of thing that is either all things to all people, when in fact it offers the most inscrutable thing to those lacking healthy skepticism: a handful of data points. That it helps prop up a theory is one thing, that it shows us patterns that will remain in force for a century to come is another: a fundamental lack of seriousness in those carrying that anger around.
Nor should we listen too closely to the anti-American hysteria that now grips Turkey. That country was once a serious, earnest land. It knew its place in the world as a bridge between Europe and Islam. But of late it has become the "torn country" that the celebrated political scientist Samuel Huntington said it was, its very identity fought over between the old Kemalist elites and the new Islamists.
Imagine the self-evasion associated with looking for evil under every sack of American corn meal, and what this means to the risk it exposes the emoting "victim" of this malady of the concrete risks to their lives, and to the detriment it does to the prospect of looking at ones' own society honestly.
That we are to minimize the weight given to the impact Anti-Americanism has is an evasion in itself. If it IS just a metaphor for those who can't "discuss the Pharaoh," and it remains that way for the next 50 years as it has for the past 50 years, then it's indicative of a much larger problem than even those hesitating to minimize the use of anti-Americanism as a verbal magic wand can imagine.
Further he notes:
He said he feared that Mr. Obama, as a "black man," might succumb to an "inferiority complex" if he were to come to power. "This is a great menace because Obama might turn out to be more white than the whites, exaggerating his persecution and disdain of blacks. The statements of our Kenyan brother with an American nationality about Jerusalem, and his support for Israelis, and his slighting of the Palestinian people is either a measure of his ignorance of international politics or a lie perpetrated on the Jews in the course of an election campaign."
There is no need to roam distant lands in search of indictments of America's ways. Tales of our demise appear every day in our media. Yes, it is not perfect, this republic of ours. But the possibilities for emancipation and self-improvement it affords are unmatched in other lands.
But this is meaningless in the context of America's future, or even the future of the anti-American at that. It is simply a truth, but one that may not cause anti-Americanism as some would fear, nor endear America to those given to resentment.
It simply 'is' while the risk to America is not in it's image, it's the concrete risks identified on the left as "the amount of time we must remain in the dar el harb, and by the right that the concept of the dar el harb still exists in the zeitgeist at all. Either way, a beloved or hated America, as Ajami cites the lack of seriousness found among those who hate it, still has to debate whether or not we are America Alone.
Image, as Ajami points out by example, isn't everything. But risk and interest have very little to do with image. The European Union should take this as an object lesson, since that very same concern with their image seems rather consuming, and consuming at the expense of their effectiveness in creating any sort of instrument of statecraft at all.
Joe Noory is an Architect who blogs in his abundant spare time at ¡No Pasarán!