Debating Anti-Americanism

I’m not sure whether the Anti-Americanism/Anti-Anti-Americanism divide is becoming one of the contemporary world’s most salient fissures. Andrei Markovitz’s book Uncouth Nation: Why Europe Dislikes America suggests that it is helping to forge a a common European identity on foundations that are less than ideal. (Also see, Peter Katzenstein and Robert Keohane eds., Anti-Americanisms in World Politics.) In Dissent, James B. Rule and Pascal Bruckner debate whether the anti-anti-Americanism of intellectuals like Bruckner is the echo of a new Trans-Atlantic neo-conservatism. Rule:

Bruckner detests European critics of America, he tells us, because their stance pays no heed to fact or reasoned analysis. “[A]nti-Americanism is an autonomous discourse of its own,” he notes. “It feeds on itself and is emancipated from reality: an event doesn’t shake it but confirms or reinforces it even when the event seems to contradict it.” Fair enough; political visions of every description all too often work that way. But then Bruckner goes on to exemplify these shortcomings by his own wild swings with the broadest of brushes. Here is how he characterizes the views of his adversaries: “America is the bad Europe, colonizing and arrogant; her dissolute, illegitimate daughter who brings together all the negative traits of her parent countries.”

For statements as gamy as this, a bit of substantiation might seem in order—both as to who actually espouses such views and where they go wrong.

But when he starts extolling America’s alleged virtues, Bruckner soars into a world of pure fantasy. His cloying words would bring a blush to the cheeks of Nancy Reagan. “What is it that seduces us about American culture, popular or elitist?” he wonders. Among other things “. . . it has faith in the perfectibility of man, a cult of the ordinary hero . . . trapped in a difficult situation and forced to get out of it with only courage and will as weapons.” By this point, I’m scratching my head, wondering what works Bruckner’s been reading or watching. “America remains carried away by a meliorist optimism,” he continues, “while Europe combines an idealism in international relations (peace, tolerance, dialogue) with pessimism about change.”

The “meliorist optimism” that Bruckner cites is apparently what underlies the world-wide neoconservative crusade whose somber course in the Middle East Americans are now struggling to escape.


I have bad news from Paris for James B. Rule: the French love America and love to hate it. They whip the Republican administration only to give freer rein to their lust for everything that comes from the United States. Such is the ambivalence of our anti-Americanism, an impossible passion.

I have worse news: even our current government collaborates with the Bush team. The French fight alongside American troops in Afghanistan under the auspices of the NATO International Security Assistance Force (mandated by the UN); they cooperate with the U.S. navy in all the global hotspots (especially in the Red Sea). Even worse: in the heart of Paris, at the École Militaire, France has set up an international center for intelligence gathering. There France’s major intelligence organizations work with the FBI, the CIA, the German MBK, Britain’s MI5 and MI6, along with the Canadian and Australian secret services.

And it gets worse: according to a poll recently published by the German Marshall Fund, nearly 53 percent of French people are in favor of using force if Iran attacks our interests. So I guess 53 percent of French people have become neoconservatives in the Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld mold.