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"The Fantasy of a Pro-America Europe"

"Rumors of a return to trans-Atlantic harmony are premature for the moment," writes Niall Stanage in The New York Observer. He criticizes the wishful thinking by some arrogant US commentators. Instead of the term "arrogance," Stanage uses the euphemism "a robust sense of self-importance," which instantly became one of my favorite phrases:

The ascensions of Ms. Merkel and, particularly, Mr. Sarkozy have been heralded by American conservatives, who see their victories as evidence that anti-Americanism is neither as widespread nor as trenchant among Europeans as some have suggested. After all, they argue, didn't Mr. Sarkozy's detractors label him 'Sarko the American', and did he not win over French voters regardless?

Mr. Sarkozy's victory, Fred Thompson said in an ABC radio commentary, "has been a serious blow to those who claim that America has earned the undying hatred of Europeans. A French president who openly admires America is an embarrassment to those who view us as the country bumpkin cousins of the sophisticated Europeans." The New York Sun put things even more colorfully in an editorial: "How are all those Democratic Party, pinky-in-the-air U.N. admirers who wailed about Mr. Bush's alienating of Europe going to explain this turn of events?" it gloated.

It is not quite as simple as that. For a start, it takes a robust sense of self-importance to assume that national elections on the other side of the Atlantic are nothing more than referenda on relations with America. In fact, the French and German elections were largely decided by domestic issues. In both cases, a moribund economy and a general sense of dissatisfaction with the status quo fuelled the victories of candidates whose pro-free market reform credentials were more important than their pro-Americanism.
Stanage ends with quoting a poll: "Seventy-seven per cent of EU officials and 74 per cent of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) answered 'yes' when asked whether it was desirable that the U.S. exert strong leadership in world affairs. But the survey indicated that only 36 per cent of the EU public agreed."

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Axel on :

I'm not so sure if it's really arrogance or ignorance in the first instance. In my opinion, it's also some kind of readers' expectations that has to be fulfilled: painting a simplistic picture of the world, where good guys wear white heads and a country is either pro-American or not. Just take the Congressional Research Report [url=http://opencrs.cdt.org/document/RL33252/]"Germany's "Grand Coalition" Government: Prospects and Implications"[/url] as a counterexample. It's a competently and precisely written work with very realistic and fair assessments, especially when dealing with foreign policy and terrorism. But do you really think that ordinary US readers are interested in such a sophisticated and nonideological analysis? I have serious doubts.

Badboy Recovered on :

no they are not - thats what drives me crazy!

Zyme on :

Well sometimes the choice can be easy: In case we like to have intensive entertainment in the evening news, we should all applaud the american efforts in leadership affairs.

Badboy Recovered on :

"we"? You mean us! YOU are going to be providing the entertainment!

SC on :

Well Joerg, my take on Strange is that he's giving his own straw man a good hard whack. Do you or the readers here seriously think that Thompson or, if you prefer a more likely presidential candidate, Giuliani is persuaded by the election of Sarkozy in the belief that "Transatlantic Harmony" is now here or about to arrive? If so, read again the Foreign Affairs article authored by Giuliani and reviewed here not so long ago. A better reading of that comment by Thompson would be as pure mockery of the very attitudes Strange wants to mock; and a message meant for an American audience primarily. To those in the US who've argued that American actions have poisoned the well of cooperation with Europe, Thompson might say, "on the evidence, apparently not so much - at least not to the point that Europeans generally, or European politicians specifically, will vote against their own interests in the pursuit of a vain anti-Americanism as some might have it." In particular, he might well be mocking the likes of John Edwards or Barack Obama - neither of whom barring some remarkable turn of events is likely to be the next US president. That Clinton and Giuliani - the most likely at this point to be the next US President - seem quite far from being starry-eyed romantics when it comes to foreign relations generally, and relations with European nations or the EU in particular, will probably disturb very few in the US.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

Giuliani is not mentioned in the article. Though, his Foreign Affairs article exhibits many other examples of wishful thinking. I think there are plenty of journalists, pundits and some politicians in America, who tend to think that "national elections on the other side of the Atlantic are nothing more than referenda on relations with America." Well, I don't know if they really *think* that, but they certainly make statements going in that direction. And yes, Merkel's and Sarkozy's "Pro-Americaness" has been exaggerated. There were plenty of statements about new Atlanticism and the end of Anti-Americanism etc. For instance this one recently: "The dawn of a New Alanticism comes as a welcome surprise." [url]http://atlanticreview.org/archives/877-More-Mosques-New-Atlanticism.html[/url] And many others. So... I don't think he is making a strawman. At least not more than anybody does.

SC on :

Actually Joerg, I'm not convinced that any but a few politicians or pundits - less sure what to think about journalists - actually believe that European elections are "nothing more than referenda on relations with America." I would highlight "believe" in that previous sentence. I write this because of my own, admittedly limited, experience about which I've written in the past: In conversations when this issue arises of European opinion/politics as it relates to US foreign policy, it has always been as an aide to advance a particular policy point by the people with whom I've spoken - as a means to score debating points. When to test the importance of European opinion to those who assert it I've pointed out evidence like that poll cited above taken among European politicians which can conceivably be spun against their point, European opinion becomes a bit less important. Ah, that reflects only the insincerity of those with whom I've spoken, one could observe. Perhaps so. But would I have any reason to doubt the sincerity of the point when raised by pundits and politicians? Hmmmmm . . . let me think about that. Take the passages Strange cites from the New York Sun and from Thompson. Odd isn't it that the New York Sun writer singles out Democrats for opprobrium as if there are no Republicans to whom the same charges could be applied? And in Thompson's case what does he mean when he writes about an "embarrassment to those who view us as the country bumpkin cousins of the sophisticated Europeans." I don't know whether Thompson was addressing a European audience or not, but I can tell you this: that last part would be heard loud and clear and will generate a smile in certain parts of this country. That's ol' Thompson out for spin in his rhetorical "red truck". Strawmen? Sure. And I can understand the purpose to which they are employed by pundits and politicians alike.

SC on :

Of course, Strange=Stanage.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

@ SC "...European politicians specifically, will vote against their own interests in the pursuit of a vain anti-Americanism as some might have it."" Isn't that a strawman? How weak a statement is "some might have it"? Assuming that Europeans vote against their own interest in order to piss of Americans is pretty arrogant as well. And I don't know who seriously made such a claim.

Anonymous on :

Oh Joerg, not as weak as I'm capable of. ;-) So, let's give a go here . . . Quite right, it is a straw man. I'm not claiming that anyone has "said" this; certainly not directly. But why do politicians and pundits in the US raise the issue of European public opinion of "America" at all? If they really believe that it's dispositive in regard to transatlantic relations and in particular with regard to the pursuit of US national interests then I would expect a bit different policy choices not only in the present but in the past as well. And, thinking like the mathematician I am, I can see the logical extremes of such a belief being that Europeans would in a fit of pique vote against their own interests simply to spite US interests or in opposite extreme to forgo their own interests in fit of transatlantic love. Ridiculous in either case. So why do politicians and pundits concern themselves publicly with European opinion? As I suggested in response to your note above, I think it has more to do with advancing their own preferred choices and agendas. In other words, discussions of foreign policy are not always about "foreign policy". Foreign policy has been, is now, and likely forever will be a battle ground on which domestic politics plays out.

David on :

Rudy Giuliani, when asked if waterboarding is torture, replied "It depends on who's doing it." In other words, if the bad guys (any non-American) use waterboarding, it's torture, but if the good guys (ie "Christian" Americans) do it, then it's "stiking a blow against Islamofascism." But what do we expect from a serial adulterer with a fondness for wearing dresses?

Zyme on :

"But what do we expect from a serial adulterer with a fondness for wearing dresses?" Ahh the american morals again. Don´t you think such issues are of his private concern?

David on :

Hardly private. [url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4IrE6FMpai8]Here he is in full drag[/url] kissing Donald Trump, no less!

Zyme on :

*lol* Maybe he has too much humor to become president ;)

Anonymous on :

"But what do we expect from a serial adulterer with a fondness for wearing dresses?" I dunno, but we got just what we expect from you.

Anonymous on :

It's kinda unusual to see someone from the right doing what George Orwell said ... let's see - you know, by shall-we-say "rubbing" themselves with a news item. We get such a barrage of that from the left that it's almost refreshing to see it from the right for once. Everything that happens is viewed as proof of politico-religious belief, even if you must look at it upside down down to view it that way. But a European election CAN be about anti-Americanism. If a politician like Schroeder makes it a referendum on that. But, hey, 70-80% of Brits screamed that the war they were waging is evil and demanded out of it and then turned around and voted their pocketbooks to re-elect Tony Blair. So, we know how real all that "humanitarian concern" is. Sarcozy and Merkel will be whatever it's politically advantageous for them to be. Sarkozy, especially, is as much a chameleon as Chirac was. Maybe these politicos were just trying to show how wrong the Democrats were. But by just blindly arguing with Democrats they perpetrated a falsehood - that Europeans are sincere and really are just mad because of W. Europe's hatred of America since forever, and especially since the Berlin Wall fell, and especially since 911 (to score points with the terrorists) - Europe's hating has earned repayment in kind. Europe just doesn't like us. Never has and never will. It's always something. Even WWII did cure their hatred. Nor did protecting Europe during the Cold War. Time to just forget Europe. Not like it has any power to throw the whole world into war anymore, so why bother?

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