"Why do they hate us?" Much ink has been spilled over the past six years in attempts to answer that question. By contrast, not enough attention has been paid to what is, in some ways, a more perplexing conundrum: Why don't they like us as much as they used to?
But then it gets better: She notes that "there were strong pockets of 'pro-Americanism,' even in the most 'anti-American' countries. In Europe, for example, the upwardly mobile felt more warmly about American power than the establishment."Besides, she blames the US government's "incompetence" for the lack of European willingness to follow US leadership any longer:
What's more curious is that our friends' faith in us has weakened just as their perceptions of potential threats are growing ever more similar to ours. True, more Europeans worry about global warming than Americans, but the difference (85 percent vs. 70 percent) is not as great as one might think. And we all worry about everything else -- international terrorism, a nuclear Iran, global epidemics -- in almost equal measure. This last point strikes me as most interesting: For in fact, it indicates that what our closest friends really dislike is not our traditional pushiness, our violent movies or even our current president (though they don't like him much) but our incompetence. A full third blame the perceived decline of the transatlantic alliance on the "mismanagement of Iraq." Not the invasion of Iraq, the "mismanagement" of Iraq. Which makes sense: If you're really worried about Iran, do you want to put your faith in the United States, the country that bungled Iraq?
Personal comments: I think US policy mistakes or failures are not the only reason why Europeans do not want to follow US leadership anymore. Europe has its own ambitions. That's normal. The US is not interested in following EU leadership either, for instance by joining the EU-3 negotiations with Iran.
I find it interesting that Applebaum, like most US journalists, assumes that it would be normal for European countries to follow US leadership. She treats the lack of willingness to follow US leadership as the exception that needs to be explained rather than the other way around: It is to be expected that a country follows US leadership (no matter in which direction the US leads). But when a country refuses to follow the US lead, then suddenly an explanation is required: Probably the US has done something wrong and some therapist has to explain why this country does not love or like the US anymore and might even hate the United States now. See related post in the Atlantic Review: The Anti-Americans and the Manichaean Narcissists.Applebaum's piece is also published in Slate under the headline "Why Don't They Like Us as Much as They Used To? The United States has lost its aura of competence." Hm, an "aura"? Is the US supposed to be a saint with a halo?