Europe's Anti-American Blinders

Europe needs to hate us for its own reasons having nothing to do with American behavior. In an essay adapted from his forthcoming book Uncouth Nation: Why Europe Dislikes America, Andrei S. Markovits writes:
Anti-Americanism has already commenced to forge a concrete, emotionally experienced - as opposed to intellectually constructed - European identity, in which Swedes and Greeks, Finns and Italians are helped to experience their still-frail emotive commonality not as "anti-Americans" but as Europeans, which at this stage constitutes one sole thing: that they are "non-Americans."
In other words, Europeans are building a common society not as Europeans, but as non-Americans, much in the way that John Kerry ran for president in 2004 - not on any solid Democratic plan, but as a non-George Bush.

As John Kerry lost his 2004 presidential bid, will Europeans fail in their bid to become a solid European community?

Markovits is correct in saying that the unification of Europe is a very ambitious political project. Creating a cohesive community out of nearly 30 different countries (with others hoping to be accepted into the fold) can be likened to searching through your refrigerator and throwing various ingredients into a casserole dish, popping it into the oven, and hoping the combination will make a delicious and nutritious entrée.

For almost the entirety of their histories, various European countries have been at one another's throats: invading, conquering, and overthrowing one another. The concept of a European Union (EU) has only been in existence for the past fifty years or so. It's no surprise that the road to unification has not been a smooth one.

For example: although it has been an EU member since 1973, Britain has yet to give up its currency, the pound (£,) for the euro (€), which was launched in 2002. Part of the reason is that many influential British business concerns feel that the independent Bank of England is helping to contribute to Britain's lower unemployment and higher productivity than its EU counterparts, and that a move to the euro would prove unstable. And in 2005, France rejected  the newly-crafted EU constitution, which would further erase political and economic borders among the sister states. As France is a charter member of the EU, this was considered a big blow by those who wish for Brussels to the capital city of the European continent. The constitution would allow the central EU government to set foreign policy, regulate housing, and more.

The main reasons for the formation of the EU were political and financial: to heal the region after two devastating world wars and to create an economy that could rival that of the United States. Yet by relying on anti-Americanism as the mortar for their dream state as Markovits posits, the European chattering classes paper over many of the real problems they face: a climbing crime rate, high unemployment, escalating taxes to pay for endless social programs, and rising problems with radical Islam.

It's convenient indeed to point fingers at America and blame her for all the problems in the world. Americans are blamed for a myriad of issues, from global warming to cultural decay. As Jean Francois-Revel  puts it:
The fundamental role of anti-Americanism in Europe in general, and particularly among those on the Left, is to absolve themselves of their own moral failings and intellectual errors by heaping them onto the monster scapegoat, the United States of America. For stupidity and bloodshed to vanish from Europe, the U.S. must be identified as the singular threat to democracy (contrary to every lesson of actual history). Thus, during the Cold War, it was dogma among Europeans from Sweden to Sicily, from Athens to Paris, that the "imperialistic" power was America, even though it was the USSR that annexed Eastern Europe, made satellites out of several African countries, and invaded Afghanistan, even though it was the People's Republic of China that marched into Tibet, attacked South Korea, and subjugated three Indochinese countries. A similar dynamic applies today in the war on terror.
After a short "we are all Americans now" moment in the aftermath of 9/11, Europeans quickly went back to criticizing America, this time for daring to buck world opinion by invading Iraq to topple the evil regime of Saddam Hussein. No matter that Hussein had consistently defied the UN and its resolutions, which many Europeans (and a distressing number of Americans) feel should be the be all and end all of world policy. No matter that, in the days and months following 9/11, it was folly to ignore the despotic ruler of an unstable country who was thought by many (including Jacques Chirac) to have WMDs. No matter that Saddam Hussein was known to have used such weapons, in the form of nerve gas, on his own citizens.

America decided to do something about it, so the knee-jerk reaction of Europeans was to condemn it.

Twice in the twentieth century, Europe nearly committed suicide. Both times Americans jumped in to bail them out, at huge personal and national cost, something which must eat at their psyche - the colonial upstarts who dared to create a new world had to come to the aid of the old. Those classless, cultureless, money-grubbing Americans had to go in and do a managed intervention, keeping Europeans safe from themselves and a now-collapsed Soviet threat. (That American money, while considered to be dirty capitalist spoils, also comes in handy, too.) Guilt in their complicity in the mass murder of European Jews who contributed so much to their culture and the world at large - Albert Einstein, Marc Chagall, and Niels Bohr, to name a few - keeps them from admitting to the fact that the bias is still there, ready to boil over at any moment. America's steadfast support of Israel, therefore, is another bone of contention.

Europeans, weary after centuries of warfare, want to believe in utopia. So their governments created cradle to grave social programs to keep the people happy, to keep them from asking too many questions. In a sense, not much has changed since the days of the lord and serf. They downsized their militaries, putting all their stock in diplomatic solutions, forgetting their past success with negotiations with Hitler. Criticizing American policies and American missteps allows them to forget their own. Squealing about the "torture" of terrorist detainees at Abu Ghraib allows the French to ignore their alleged involvement  in the Rwanda killing spree, in which 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus died in only 100 days. It allows the Dutch to bestow honors to troops who failed  to protect nearly 8,000 Muslim men and boys, killed by Serb forces that overran Srebrenica in July of 1995. And Belgian and Italian soldiers, sent to protect Somalia under the umbrella of the U.N. in the late 1990s, were said to have raped and tortured those wretched people - facing  only fines and dishonorable discharges for their crimes.

Radical Islam is a growing threat. Rather than assimilate, many Muslims have chosen to keep to themselves. Until a few years ago, it didn't seem to pose much of a problem, as native Europeans preferred to think of the immigrants as second-class citizens. The latest of many unpleasant reminders that all is not well is Britain's Channel 4 broadcast special entitled Undercover Mosque, showing that the moderate face of Islam in Britain shields a darker, more sinister purpose: that of jihad and the establishment of an Islamic state.

By going into Afghanistan and Iraq, America is trying to contain the menace of radical Islam. Blinded by their burgeoning disdain for Americans, Europeans either cannot or will not acknowledge this. And they ignore radical Islam in their own backyard at their own peril.

Anti-Americanism may be the glue that holds the EU together in its infancy. That glue, however, is a toxic substance. Like the schoolyard bully who seeks to make himself feel better by putting others down, Europeans continue to sneer at and heap scorn on the descendants of their own outcasts, who fled across the Atlantic in the hopes of a better life. They accuse the United States of imperialism and greed in the shadows of their own collapsed empires and struggling economies. The chattering classes demand an end to American world dominance.

Thus the question begs to be asked: if America withdraws from the world stage, who will fill the void?
Pamela Meister writes about politics and world events on her blog. She can be contacted here.