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February 15, 2007

A Hard Look At Anti-Americanism

Janet Albrechtsen's piece Protector of the free world deserves better, addresses the widespread anti-Americanism in the world today, the history behind it, and explains that it's not just caused by anti-Bush sentiment. It's an essay on "Why they hate us" that's a must read for every American (hat tip Sister Toldjah):

[...] Where once it was relegated to the far Right and the far Left to despise American culture and capitalism in equal doses, now it's become part of the respectable mainstream. Markovits augments countless surveys and opinion polls with myriad examples of quotidian life in Europe where anything nasty is blamed on the US, from the Americanisation of European accounting practices, electoral campaigns, urban planning and credit card use to the US infecting sport, film, music, language, habits. If it's nasty, it's America's fault. Even reality television is bagged as an American blight. (For the record, Europeans invented that gem of a genre.)

Anti-Americanism has less to do with US politics and policies and more to do with what Markovits calls the "perfectly respectable human need to hate the big guy". Half a century ago, Hannah Arendt commented on the same psychology of mistrust aimed at the US. It was, she said, the inevitable plight of the big, rich guy to be alternately flattered and abused, remaining unpopular no matter how generous they were.

And so Norwegian Nobel laureate Knut Hamsun hated the US for being too big and too fast. Anti-Americanism has morphed into a desire to bring America to heel, something that coincides with the goal of Islamists. But if the big, fast rich guy retreats, it's worth asking who will step up to the plate when the West needs things fixed. The dawdling burghers of Europe may recall that small and slow did not help the Kuwaitis, Bosnian Muslims, Kosovars, Afghanis or the tsunami victims.

... of course, US policy is not always right. Indeed, big countries make big mistakes. Pick a decade and you'll find a major stuff-up by American political leaders, from the passing of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act by US Congress in 1930 that led to worldwide protectionism, to the CIA overthrowing the government of Iran in 1953 which unleashed anti-American sentiment across the Middle East.

But the distinguishing features of anti-Americanism are its intellectual dishonesty and irrationality. US malevolence is assumed, not proven.

So the Islamic world will complain the US is anti-Muslim while overlooking Bosnia. Europeans regularly overlook the fact that American power, resolve and, yes, idealism, delivered them from both Nazism and communism. Nor, when they nip down to the corner store for some foie gras in their BMWs or Citroens, do they remember the contribution the Marshall Plan made to their postwar prosperity.

While Russian President Vladimir Putin was railing against US power at an international security conference in Munich on Saturday, a respectable case can be made that, as hegemonies go, the US is the most benevolent history has ever seen. Not perfect by any means, but certainly deserving of better treatment than the acid reflux and bile of Western elites. America is big, rich and makes mistakes. But for the past 50 years at least, it has been the ultimate guarantor of the Western way of life. Surely it deserves a more balanced press from its critics.

Jules Crittenden summarizes Albrechtsen's piece by saying the real reason they hate us is because - "we're ... bigger than they are":
It's all bigger, and that's what they just can't stand it. Our cars. Our houses. Our parking lots. Our supermarkets. Our highways. Our crap and our beauty. Bigger. Our urban sprawl and our wide-open spaces. Our country. Don't forget what they really love to hate, but can't keep away from. Our McDonalds and Starbucks and Microsoft. Our Coca-Cola culture. Our space program. Pretty much everything we do. All bigger.

But that's just some of the stuff we have and the things we do for fun and money. Then, there's the stuff that matters. Our ideas and ideals. None of that Euro shoebox socialism over here. There are actually people here who want to shove us into that, but it ain't happening. Our stuff is too big. The good, the bad and the ugly, all bigger. Not only bigger. Better.

And so big, we can't even contain it. We can't keep it in. But that's OK, because everyone wants some of it. They just don't like to admit it. They hate it. But they still want it. Don't worry, we've got plenty. We'll slip you some when no one's looking if you're that uptight about it. We've got more than we know what to do with. That's why we keep trying to give it to everyone else ...

Unfortunately, the more we give the more the rest of the world wants to take, and hate us for giving it. Go figure!

Be sure to read all of Albrechtson's excellent essay, and be damned proud to be an American. We should all join with Pat Santy who writes: "I am more proud than I can say to be an American at this point in history, as the US stands so resolutely and fiercely against the vicious tyranny of this century's incarnation of yet another genocidal 'Thousand Year Reich":

America has never claimed to be perfect or infallible. It has stumbled along, through both Republican and Democratic administrations, doing the best it can at the moment to protect the precious legacy given to us at great cost by our forefathers; and defended down through the years with the blood of courageous patriots. America is definitely imperfect, but it stands for something real; something wonderful and rare in this insane world where there are delusional nations and psychotic murderers who desire only tyranny and death as the legacy of mankind.

Posted by Richard at February 15, 2007 9:09 AM

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