What's With Europe?

My only source of European philosophy is the Germans, so my question is based on their general disdain for America. And the Germans I’ve talked to don’t provide a good reason, so I’ll place this before the worldly Qt3’ers: What is it Europeans don’t like about America and Americans? I’ve suffered more than one back-handed remark from Germans. (My favorite was a German cousin pointing to her husband’s round belly and saying “He’s looking American.”)

I’ve heard the dislike of American “conspicuous consumption,” and our way of equating weath with being a good person – but our capitalist system has provided motivation for some fantastic technological advances.

American conservatives go as far as saying that Europeans are simply jealous of our opulant society, but I don’t buy that. It’s like your mom saying that everyone teased you in school about your high-water jeans and no-name sneakers because “they’re jealous.”

The Ugly American illustrated the general European image that Americans are rather uneducated, crude and lacking sophistication. Okay, we’re apes, but why hate us? And what has Europe been contributing to the world in the past century?

To quote:

Jean-Francois Revel, a curmudgeonly titan of French political thinkers, published a book last year titled “The Anti-American Obsession.” His thesis: Anti-Americanism today expresses the revenge of a defeated, but still pervasive, European left that never forgave the United States for winning the Cold War and exposing what he calls its bankrupt ideology.

Revel and others say Europeans are hypocritical because they still expect U.S. military might to save their bacon if they are ever threatened.

Silvia Figini, a Spanish sociologist at the Madrid march last week, put it this way: "If there is a war in Iraq, the opinion that Europeans have of Americans will still be exactly as ambiguous as it is now, unfortunately: ‘How terrible that they attacked — what warmongers — but it’s a good thing that they are there for us.’ "

Anti-Americanism is nothing new. It’s been around since the early parts of the century, after we had to save Europe’s ass (the first time) in World War I. Then we had to save their ass a second time in World War II. Then we rebuilt their ass with the Marshall Plan. Then we protected their ass for 50 years during the Cold War.

Part of it is jealousy and envy. Part of it is self-loathing for having to depend on a bunch of “cowboys” to defend them. Part of it is being weak powers who have no chance to compete against the big power.

Also, Europeans have largely been willing to sacrifice their indidual national sovereignty for the institutions of the European Union. Whereas the United States and its people embrace their sovereignty with great zeal. But the Europeans expect that the US should give up its sovereignty and join into their international institutions, many of which are geared at trying to put limits and controls on US power.

In the end, all their name calling is just that. The Economist does a pretty damn good job of shooting down all their objections. And this is a European magazine we’re talking about. For instance. “George Bush is too religious, and Americans are too religious in general.” Bullshit. If religion were driving our war for Iraq, then why are all the major religious groups anti-war? And most Americans believe that there should be a line between Church and State. And the one thing Europeans don’t understand is that America doesn’t have a national church like most of them do. We’ve got hundreds of denominations, each of which has to fight, free market-style, to keep its members. That alone guarantees the development of one uber state-church, like Catholicism in France or Anglicanism in England.

Oh lord, that’s an absurdly jingoistic interpretation. “Gosh darn it, the Europeans are just evil!”

It’s mostly differences over a) the use of morality in statecraft and b) not trusting Bush’s intentions.

Normally, I would only be amused at European venom directed at America, but Jacque Chirac has just been pissing me off lately. The French never hid their disrespect for us, but his latest nonsense is a half-step away from being our enemy.

EDIT: To address the the above post, Americans are always wrangling with the morality thing; it isn’t Europe’s business. We don’t force our morality on Europe, so why should they try to force amorality on us?

As for Bush’s motivations, the Europeans disliked us long before the war drums were being beaten.

You shouldn’t believe what CNN tells you.

I wasn’t aware of the CNN thing. :) I was getting pissed at ol’ Jacque all by myself.

Well, whatever news source you’re using. The gap between the US and France isn’t that wide, as that interview points out.

For example, check out this CNN article. The linked title is “Chirac blasts ‘new Europe’ for siding with U.S.” The title is “Chirac blasts ‘new Europe’ for siding with U.S.” The intro is “French President Jacques Chirac has attacked eastern European countries hoping to join the EU, saying they missed a great opportunity to ‘shut up’ when they signed letters backing the U.S. position on Iraq.”

Now, looking at actual quotes in the article:

“These countries have been not very well behaved and rather reckless of the danger of aligning themselves too rapidly with the American position.”

“It is not really responsible behavior. It is not well brought-up behavior. They missed a good opportunity to keep quiet.”

“I felt they acted frivolously because entry into the European Union implies a minimum of understanding for the others,” Chirac said.

Chirac called the letters “infantile” and “dangerous,” adding: “They missed a great opportunity to shut up.”

In other words, it’s an EU thing.

Actually, one of the statements was his recent declaration that the European nations currently siding with the US may find it difficult to join the EU in the future.

Jacque can have his own opinion, but he’s being a real Jacque-ass by making a public statement like this. Sure, it’s politics, but blackmail usually isn’t so arrogantly advertised. (I see now you edited this into your post).

Anyway, my question was about Europe’s general dislike for Americans, not about the impending war. “Guest” may have a point. Maybe Europe (or at least the Germans and French) are suffering from a kind of inferiority complex. After all, it’s been nearly two hundred years since France was a force to be reckoned with – and Germany has a rather embarassing military history.

Here’s one.

This is probably the main reason for all of the anti-war rhetoric going around right now, both in Europe and at home.

No democrat gets the racism and war for oil accusations.

How is Europe trying to force amorality upon you? You are forcing your morality on the world, because you use morality as an excuse for policy. Most European politicians think that morals are a personal matter and should not be allowed to make policy, except when it comes to basic human rights.

As for Bush’s motivations, the Europeans disliked us long before the war drums were being beaten.

Yes, but Bush has made it all far worse than it could have been. The Bush administration’s policy regarding international treaties, multilateralism a la carte, and general heavy-handedness when it comes to foreign policy did a fine job of widening the rift between the continents and fostered a lot of resentment over here. They seem to feel they already know whats right and good, this is where morality comes into play, and they see no need to consult with others.


Just remember… A clear majority of Americans voted against Bush.

So don’t use “you” to refer to our govenment’s policies, please. Many of us are aghast as to what our country has become internationally in three short years.

I’d have to agree. Clinton did a much better job at handling foreign relations. He was probably better liked here in Europe than in the US.

As for the French dislike of British and American culture and politics - nothing new there. You’re just starting to notice what the brits have had to put up with for centuries :)

I’m not really surprised that Germany is a bit reluctant to go to war. They have a pretty unique legacy to take into account.

Also, the (perceived) general ignorance of the world in general doesn’t help.

I know, I try to keep that in mind but in this case I was answering Jack who wrote “We don’t force our morality on Europe.”

EDIT: This was in reply to Denny

I was mentioning this in reply to Jason. Morals are always a sticky subject since they’re generally hard to agree upon; I can’t think of an example where a fellow US citizen has railed any European country for being amoral. It seems absurd to blast America for injecting morals into our laws. Sometimes the laws are wrong and they get changed, but our government was designed to be fluid. If enough folks want to do away the death penalty, then it’s gone. If enough are for it, it stays.

Isn’t European aversion to the death penalty a sort of state-sanctioned morality? France held on to Ira Einhorn for decades because we’d put him down like a rabid dog when he got back to US shores. Only after agreeing not to impose the death penalty did France give him up. A moral choice?

Thanks, France. Way to respect our sovereignty. Of course, you know better. No, really, we’ll try to rehabilitate him.

I agree with Kalle: Morals don’t belong in state policy. Again, thanks for keeping that in mind, France.

This thread is bullcaca. An American, I’ve lived for three years in Europe and travelled there afterwords people were incredibly friendly and generous to me. Europeans are not “anti-American;” they have disagreements with the actions of our government. Try not to get yourselves worked up into a hissy fit over imaginary boogeymen, boys.

after we had to save Europe’s ass (the first time) in World War I.

You’ve got to be kidding, right? American involvement in WWI was token at best. By the time US troops even reached Europe the war was nearly over.

What gets to me about Chirac is that he says that the Eastern European countries are bad because they signed a letter that the EU didn’t sign, thus making them bad people because they agree with the U.S.

The problem is, there are 15 member nations in the EU, and 5 of them signed the letter. Obviously the member nations are allowed to make their own decisions, so why can’t the prospective members? Chirac’s statements are essentially “you disagree with France, we won’t let you in the EU”.

Not even the Republican party is so pompus to say that if you don’t vote 100% along the party line, you can’t be a Republican.

That’s good to hear. I mentioned that my personal reference has been various Germans (in-law relatives) and they were all rather anti-American (too fat, too lazy, too arrogant). I was really hopeful that it wasn’t all that bad.

The Western European populace are welcome to dislike American culture and politics if they like. (Note that I say “Western” and “populace” since the two letters of support for America recently came either from the leadership of Western countries whose people disagree with the war or from Eastern European countries). But it is a bit galling that they choose, essentially, to trust a brutal dictator and not the leadership of a democratic country that has protected them for decades. It’s the same problem as we see in South Korea now, as well. It’s probably inevitable that a country with a strong foreign military presence – however friendly – will come to have some degree of resentment, growing at times change and folks forget why the troops are there.

So, fine, the common Pablo, Tomas, and Reiner don’t know why they should support America, but their leadership should. And, again, based on the “New Europe” letters, MOST of them do. The exceptions – Chirac and Schroeder – however, are obvious charlatans trying to stay in power by ditching their country’s most important alliance in favor of appealing to popular uninformed opinion.

Chirac, as I understand it, likely faces serious corruption charges once he’s out of office, so I guess you can’t blame him for doing whatever is necessary to save his ass. Schroeder, meanwhile, is so desperate to get elected that he rips into America all the while covering up credible German intelligence reports about Iraqi smallpox stores (story just broke – wish I had a link, but the only ones I can find are in German; I’ll try to post one when I find it). Compare to Tony Blair who is committing slow, drawn-out political suicide over the Iraq issue because he believes firmly in the same vision that Bush does.

Okay, maybe those are unfair charicatures of those men, just as much as the “war-mongering cowboy” image Europeans have of Bush is unfair. All that aside, these men claim that they want the disarmament of Saddam Hussein, but they are doing more to hinder that cause than anyone. A united front of UN nations, with the threat of serious force is quite obviously the only way to get Saddam to disarm peacefully. Do you think there would be any inspections happening right now if Bush hadn’t moved to attack Iraq at the end of last year? Unfortunately, Chirac and Schroeder (and the anti-war protestors of this weekend, although, again, we can excuse their ignorance) have given Saddam the confidence to continue his games until forced by an invasion to end them. Way to go, Jacques! Thanks, Gerhardt!