"Europeans of a nervous disposition should probably avoid going into bookshops on their next visit to the US. If they venture inside, they will come across an array of titles with a blood-curdlingly bleak view of their continent’s future." writes Gideon Rachman:
In Bruce Bawer’s While Europe Slept (Amazon.com, Amazon.de) -- now into its eighth printing -- the American reader is told that by ignoring the threat from radical Islam: "Europe is steadily committing suicide and perhaps all we can do is look on in horror." Tony Blankley, author of The West's Last Chance (Amazon.com, Amazon.de), warns that: "The threat of the radical Islamists taking over Europe is every bit as great to the United States as was the threat of the Nazis taking over Europe in the 1940s." In The Cube and the Cathedral (Amazon.com, Amazon.de), George Weigel, a Catholic conservative, claims that "western Europe is committing a form of demographic suicide". In this he echoes Pat Buchanan, who argued in his best-selling The Death of the West (Amazon.com, Amazon.de) that Europe's population is set to fall to 30 per cent of its current level by 2100, meaning that "the cradle of western civilisation will have become its grave".
I suspect that few Europeans would recognise themselves in this distorting mirror held up from the other side of the Atlantic. And yet -- tempting as it was to toss all these books into the bin and go out for a drink in the midst of my doomed civilisation (one might as well enjoy what little time is left) -- it is impossible completely to dismiss the American prophets of European doom. Strip away the hysteria and the hype and they make two serious points.
He describes these points as rising Muslim populations and low fertility rates, but also points out:
Similarly, the American vision of a Muslim takeover of Europe -- creating a new continent called "Eurabia" -- relies on projecting demographic trends to their limit and beyond. Weigel fantasises about a day when "the muezzin summons the faithful to prayer from the central loggia of St Peter's in Rome". Given that just 1.7 per cent of the Italian population is currently Muslim, that seems a long way off. Of the 456m people of the EU, just 15m to 16m are Muslim.
"The American vision"? Surely, most Americans do not share these opinions...? The Financial Times provides his entire review article. Endnote: Davids Medienkritik approvingly quotes more Islamophobia, but also thankfully presents Dr. Gedmin's great column "If I were Muslim, I'd be offended by the Pope's speech". Related:Too Much Cookies (German Blog) analyses the Mozart opera controversy. English summary in Dialog International.
It is often claimed that the German media is biased and focuses on negative stories about the U.S. In recent months, however, there have been many articles in Germany praising the successful integration of immigrants in the United States, while pointing out that Germany and Europe in general have often failed to integrate the first, second and third generation of immigrants. Many newspapers argue that Germans should take Americans as role models not only regarding the integration of immigrants, but also in terms of philanthropy. Bill Gates' decision to spend more time for his foundation, and Warren Buffett's decision to donate 30 billion dollars to the Gates Foundation have been big news in the German media. The weekly Die Zeit chose the headline "Philanthropische Republik Amerika", i.e. calling the United States "philanthropic Republic." This article wasn't buried deep inside the weekly, but highlighted next to a graphic on the front page: "Role Model America: To Endow - The Good Side of Capitalism." Related posts in the Atlantic Review: Americans donate and volunteer a lot for good causes abroad and Immigration and Naturalization Reform in the U.S. and Germany.
Endnote: Some German papers have even praised President Bush's new environmental policy, like Der Tagesspiegel's feature about the biggest maritime national park and the plans for emission free power stations. Some German media outlet will probably write about the latest Newsweek cover story as well: "Going Green: With windmills, low-energy homes, new forms of recycling and fuel-efficient cars, Americans are taking conservation into their own hands." The Atlantic Review likes to recommend to our German readers articles about the U.S. that help to reduce stereotypes about Americans and improve the US image. The Atlantic Review also points out to our American readers that the German press coverage of the United States is not as negative as many Americans believe it is.
In his column "America, you do it better" about the immigration debate, the Washington D.C. correspondent of the Financial Times Deutschland describes President Bush's immigration policy as even more courageous than the German Green party's position:
Doch wo in Europa rechte wie linke Regierungen fast unisono Missmut über Spaniens Masseneinbürgerungen äußerten, findet die Legalisierung Illegaler in den USA auch im rechten Lager mächtige Fürsprecher - vorneweg den Präsidenten, einen Rechten, der in der Einwanderungspolitik einen Kurs fährt, der in Deutschland selbst manch Grünem zu mutig wäre.
Thomas Klau compares German and American attitudes to immigration and concludes that Germany can learn a lot from the US how to successfully integrate immigrants. His column in German, translation by Google, via Apocalypso. The German media is frequently accused of Anti-American bias, which is often correct. However, all articles concerning the integration of immigrants that I have read have been praising the U.S. criticizing the German track record.
It was the textbook example of agenda setting: As soon as President Bush restarted the debate over (illegal) immigration, the majority of US-Americans considered the matter of greater importance than the war in Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of US citizens and non-citizens, legal and illegal, demonstrated on the streets from Washington D.C. to Washington State, often broadening the protest to include anti-war and anti-Bush statements. The fact that 461 bills concerning immigration and immigrants are currently pending in 43 state legislatures underlines that this is a smouldering issue, ready to be roused before the midterm election. In his article Latin America's Left Turn in the May/June 2006 edition of Foreign Affairs the former foreign minister of Mexico, Jorge G. Castañeda, links the US immigration debate to its and Europe's policies towards Latin America:
Continue reading "Mas Protestas: What Connects Immigration and US-Latin-American Politics"
Edit Copy has a round up of the press coverage of President Bush's Oval Office address on immigration on Monday. Immigration policy reform has been a controversial issue lately, especially in the U.S. South. Some liberals seem to be concerned that the proposed guestworker program will not give immigrants a fair chance of citizenship, while some conservatives consider it tantamount to an amnesty for illegal immigration. Yet some business- oriented conservatives favor the guest worker program, while labor oriented liberals oppose immigration in general because they worry about depressed wages for low income Americans. In recent weeks, several US newspapers have pointed to Germany's guestworker program as an example of failed integration and social problems. The Atlantic Review's earlier post already mentioned Fareed Zakaria's piece in the Washington Post. Colin Nickerson wrote a good article about the German guest worker program in the Boston Globe (via Dialog International). However, both Nickerson and Zakaria and others failed to acknowledge the changes in the German immigration policy and the modernization of the nationality law in 2000. German laws are now more similar to U.S. laws than before. According to the Federal Ministry of the Interior:
As of 1 January 2000, a child born in Germany to non-German parents automatically acquires German citizenship at birth. The principle of citizenship by place of birth (jus soli) was introduced with the Act to Amend the Nationality Law of 15 July 1999 and is subject to the following conditions: that at least one parent had lived legally in Germany for at least eight years prior to the birth, and that at the time of the birth, that parent had a permanent residence permit. In this way, approximately 191,000 children of non-German parents had acquired German citizenship in addition to that of their parents by the end of 2004. (...) The modernization of nationality law has also made it much easier for foreigners to become naturalized German citizens: They are eligible for naturalization after having lived legally in Germany for eight years if they have a permanent residence permit, declare their allegiance to the free and democratic order, are able to support themselves and their family members, and have not been convicted of any criminal offences.
While it is well known that past and present U.S. governments spend much less on foreign aid as a percentage of GDP than most other rich countries do, the enormous amount of private aid is less well known outside the U.S. The State Department summarizes a new study:
The U.S. private sector donates to international causes at a level nearly four times the amount spent by the U.S. government on official development assistance (ODA), according to a report about to be published by the Hudson Institute’s Center for Global Prosperity. Called the Index on Global Philanthropy, the report tallies $71 billion in international donations by U.S. private charities, religious organizations, universities, corporations, foundations, and immigrants sending money home for the year of 2004 (the latest year available). That compares to $20 billion in government foreign aid for the same year. (...) According to the Hudson Institute, "the tradition of private giving is considerably less developed in Europe than in the U.S." (...) Close to half of all American adults do volunteer work, according to Independent Sector, a forum for charitable organizations. The index estimates volunteering for international projects totals 135,000 full-time work hours per year -- worth more than $4 billion. Web sites like www.volunteerabroad.com encourage the trend. (...) For information on how U.S. foreign assistance is affecting lives, see Partnership for a Better Life and Global Development and Foreign Aid.
Steven Radelet, who was deputy assistant secretary of the treasury from 2000 to 2002, takes issue with exaggerations of U.S. aid. Writing for Foreign Policy, he argues that several beliefs held by many Americans are wrong, for example the assumption that "America is the most generous country in the world if you include private donations to charities" or that "Americans provide generous economic aid through the remittances foreign workers send home to support their families." Our related post on US Foreign Aid. UPDATE: European countries inflate their foreign aid figures as well, opines Oxfam:
Ahead of vital talks next week of EU Foreign Ministers on whether the EU will meet its aid targets, NGOs criticized key EU member states including the UK, France and Germany for inflating their aid figures. NGOs provide evidence that a total of €12.5 billion of headline EU aid in 2005 did not result in additional money for poverty reduction but was spent on debt cancellation, housing refugees and educating foreign students in European universities. (...) While technically permitted under OECD rules, European Union governments' insistence on accounting for this debt cancellation in their ODA figures contravenes the United Nation's 2002 agreement in Monterrey. The agreement calls for debt cancellation to be funded additionally to Official Development Assistance (ODA). [Hat tip: Kosmoblog]
In light of the intensive debate about new laws against illegal immigration in the U.S., Wash Post Columnist Fareed Zakaria is concerned that Americans favor European immigration policies, which would result in less integration and less security. He gives the example of Germany's failed "Green Card" initiative to attract Indian computer specialists without giving them the prospect of becoming German citizens, unlike the U.S. Green Card system. The U.S. should not adopt a similar immigration policy towards Mexicans:
Many Americans have become enamored of the European approach to immigration -- perhaps without realizing it. Guest workers, penalties, sanctions and deportation are all a part of Europe's mode of dealing with immigrants. The results of this approach have been on display recently in France, where rioting migrant youths again burned cars last week. Across Europe one sees disaffected, alienated immigrants, ripe for radicalism. The immigrant communities deserve their fair share of blame for this, but there's a cycle at work. European societies exclude the immigrants, who become alienated and reject their societies. One puzzle about post-Sept. 11 America is that it has not had a subsequent terror attack -- not even a small backpack bomb in a movie theater -- while there have been dozens in Europe. My own explanation is that American immigrant communities, even Arab and Muslim ones, are not very radicalized. (Even if such an attack does take place, the fact that 4 1/2 years have gone by without one provides some proof of this contention.) Compared with every other country in the world, America does immigration superbly. Do we really want to junk that for the French approach?
He concludes that immigrants must
have some hope, some reasonable path to becoming Americans. Otherwise we are sending a signal that there are groups of people who are somehow unfit to be Americans, that these newcomers are not really welcome and that what we want are workers, not potential citizens. And we will end up with immigrants who have similarly cold feelings about America.
UPDATE: Our reader Fuchur pointed out Zakaria fails to recognize the changes in Germany's immigraton policies. Besides he points out that there have not been "dozens" of terrorist attacks contrary to Zakaria's claims. Read his comment. Fuchur has written the criticism of Zakaria, we at Atlantic Review failed to do. Sorry! Thank you, Fuchur! A new post about immigration shortly.