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  • Anti-Americanism

    Posted by Mitch Townsend on January 1st, 2005 (All posts by )

    Some of the recent articles at David’s Medienkritik and No Pasaran are not only depressing in themselves, but even more so in aggregate. Whatever the occasion, there is something the US did wrong. The degree of hatred expressed by the European left is orders of magnitude out of proportion to any wrongs we may have done them, a mindset shared by multitudes in the Middle East. That is, of course, unless they both still resent our role in the implosion of their sponsor, the USSR.

    I think that there is also a fundamental misunderstanding of the US in Europe and in much of the rest of the world as well. Fundamentally, we are a regional power that has outgrown its region. With vast oceans east and west, friendly nations north and south, and only weak enemies in our hemisphere, Americans have often felt the rest of world needed a good, brisk leaving-alone. We had a war in 1812 – comparatively a small war in the years of Napoleon’s bloody project – and didn’t appear again on the world’s battlefields until Great Britain helpfully showed us that Germany was trying to get Mexico to enter the war on their side by invading us (the Zimmerman telegram). We avoided the Second World War until it came to us. Until that point, there was sympathy for Great Britain and China, but the war fell into the category of Europeans doing stupid and cruel things to each other, with Japan taking the traditional European role of ravaging China.

    The change came when we realized that the USSR was no more kindly disposed toward us than the Nazis had been. Mass graves full of class enemies or of racial enemies were pretty much the same thing to us, if not to the more sophisticated and learned Europeans, and if preventing them meant we couldn’t go home, we didn’t go home. That doesn’t mean we didn’t want to.

    From Washington’s farewell address in 1796:

    The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.
    Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?

    The Europeans have to understand that this distance from their affairs is more than physical. Frankly, we would be content to never think of them except in terms of trade and vacation destinations. We’re willing to ignore you as long as you do the same for us. You don’t have to like us. You don’t even have to notice us. Just leave us alone.

    If only Osama, Mullah Omar, and Saddam had been able to absorb this simple idea.

     

    30 Responses to “Anti-Americanism”

    1. Jefe Says:

      The links aren’t working for me. I get two pages that mention trackbacks, and one is an error page.

    2. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      Mitch, I also have a strong isolationist streak which I have to work pretty hard to surpress. I always try to remember that the Brits were in this position last century and everyone, including Americans, resented and even hated them for it.

      Because of their power and prosperity, they were always in the crosshairs of all the major powers. The less influence the Brits had the more influence they/we/whoever would have, and vice-versa. That’s the nature of relations among nations. I think it comes with the territory. Plus ça change…

      In the 19th century, from I’ve read, it was the USA who was constantly trumpeting international law, maritime law and international organizations of all sort in an effort to curb the enormous power of the British. From our prespective, anything that limted their power to do us harm was good thing. Tie Gulliver down with as many ropes as possible; the more the better. Now, of course, we’re Gulliver. And we don’t like all this talk about ropes.

      Fuuny thing is, the more we protest the more other nations look at each other and say, “Get more rope.”

    3. Mitch Says:

      I fixed the links. Sorry, I was trying to register a track-back.

      Michael, the essential point is that there is no isolationist tradition in Europe. Quite the contrary. They seemed to have spent the last half-millenium forming alliances and invading each other, or conquering other parts of the world. One of them gaining overwhelming power would have been the end of the others. This was why they were so eager to join with us against the USSR. We were the more distant power, and therefore the weaker one in European terms.

      We are different in not having had a Bonaparte, a Frederick the Great, or a Phillip II, let alone a Hitler or a Stalin. Part of their hatred and fear comes from not understanding that we have not acted as they would have done. They must think that we will do so in the future, and must be resisted.

      This is only going to get worse for them. The two great rising powers – India and China – are like us in that respect. Each will gain in economic and military terms, but each is about as big as either intends to get.

    4. Ralf Goergens Says:

      Very good points, Michael.

      Mitch,

      Europe doesn’t have the geography to be isolationist in. There is no “sea to shining sea” for us, only “get them before they get us” (at least so far”). Also, if Europoe had been isolationist, there would be no USA, so that’s a rathger curious complaint to make for an American. :)

      American isolationism also happens to be a rather
      curious one. Your left out a couple of wars, I’m afraid. ;)

      As to ignoring America: Well you recently kicked up quite a fuss over part of our backyard, and are still camped out there. Just try ignoting us if we did that with Brazil.

      Very good points, Michael.

      Mitch,

      Europe doesn’t have the geography to be isolationist in. There is no “sea to shining sea” for us, only “get them before they get us” (at least so far”). Also, if Europoe had been isolationist, there would be no USA, so that’s a rathger curious complaint to make for an American. :)

      American isolationism also happens to be a rather
      curious one. Your left out a couple of wars, I’m afraid. ;)

      As to ignoring America: Well you recently kicked up quite a fuss over part of our backyard, and are still camped out there. Just try ignoting us if we did that with Brazil. :)

    5. Bill Hight Says:

      The two great rising powers – India and China – are like us in that respect. Each will gain in economic and military terms, but each is about as big as either intends to get.

      You may be correct concerning India, but you are certainly wrong about China. I wonder when the peoples of Tibet and Xinjiang will be allowed a popular referendum on the occupation by the Chinese? Hong Kong? What is in store for Taiwan?

      Eastern Siberia is becoming a stealth colony of China. Chinese influence in latin america is becoming harder to ignore. Where will China get its deepwater ports in the Indian Ocean? Taiwan is certainly in the way of the Pacific access. China needs oil–a lot of oil. The middle east is soon to get a new bullyboy with singsong voice.

      China is a world player, due to its economic growth–made in america. China is flexing its muscles. But China absolutely has to spread out, like Nazi Germany, or Napoleon’s France. It is its destiny.

    6. lindenen Says:

      Yeah, I was going to say that you’ve forgotten the war in the Phillippines and the Mexican-American War and the fighting with the Native Americans and I know I’m forgetting something. For a bunch of isolationists, we sure spent the 19th century annexing even more and more land.

    7. Mitch Says:

      @Ralf:
      The missing wars between 1815 and 1914:
      The Mexican War (1846 – 1848). This began with a Mexican attack across the Rio Grande and ended with American troops marching from Veracruz to Mexico City. The US had admitted the Republic of Texas to the union after it had been independent for 10 years. The Centralist opposition in Mexico had threatened that this would be an act of war, as they had never relinquished their claims to all of Texas. The ruling Federalist party disputed only the territory between the Rio Nueces and the Rio Grande, but having asked for negotiations, refused to meet with the American representative. In retrospect, this might seem to have been a missed opportunity, as the peace treaty provided for the US annexation of Mexican territory already settled by Americans.
      The Civil War (1861 – 1865) was strictly an internal affair, despite the favor shown to the South by France and Great Britain. It took the threat of war to get the British to stop building and arming Confederate commerce raiders. When it ended, the US demanded that the European occupation leave Mexico*. A million men under arms and the most advanced navy in the world must have ensured that this demand would get careful consideration. President Juaréz resumed office shortly thereafter.
      Two centuries of Indian Wars ended in 1890 at the battle of Wounded Knee. More on these wars later.
      The Spanish-American War (1898)was a mistake. The explosion of the USS Maine in Havana’s harbor was likely an accident, not sabotage. Cuba was given its independence, which had been the primary US objective. The US kept the Philippines, although the public outcry against this led to the transition to independence beginning in 1934, culminating in 1946. We still hold Puerto Rico, which has voted in favor of continuing the commonwealth arrangement in three plebescites.

      In each event, the trigger for war was something happening on or within our borders, not the Great Game. The default setting for US foreign policy was neutrality. Our 1898 – 1934 experiment with European-style imperialism was short-lived, unambitious in scale, deeply unpopular, and voluntarily ended.

      Switzerland seems to have done all right with something like 19th C American isolationism and neutrality.

      * In 1861, Britain, Spain, and France attacked Mexico over the non-payment of their debts, and the French and Austrians installed a puppet government. Hardly model behavior, and the US came to Mexico’s defense as soon as our Civil War ended.

    8. Sandy P Says:

      AHHHHHHHHH!!!

      Larry Kudlow reads you????

      He’s in for Bob Brinker and was just naming his favorite blogs!

      Bjorn Staerk read Revel’s book,

      “What I didn’t expect was how much my own views would offend me when I heard them repeated in Revel’s voice. Revel overstates his case so hard, so sloppily, and with such anger towards a vaguely defined enemy camp that, while agreeing in essence with most of what he says, I was more annoyed by this book than anything else. At times it even repulsed me. We may have reached many of the same conclusions, but Revel is no ally of mine.”

      Bjorn and others pick up a tone in the book I didn’t, but I read it as an American.

      I remember one European telling we Americans that when we read a European piece (if we dumped it in a tranlsation program, IIRC) that we should have a European explain to us what the author meant.

    9. Lex Says:

      Mitch, I disagree with you top to bottom here, with one significant point of agreement.

      The Euro Left does not misunderstand us. They correctly perceive the United States as (1) the latest and greatest iteration of the commercial-minded Anglo-Saxonisme that they have hated for over 300 years, and (2) they know that this alternative civilization is a mortal threat to all they believe in and care about it. It goes back way before the Cold War, and it is not delusional but based on a correct appreciation of the fact that we represent a more wealthy and vigorous way of life, and that we are willing to sacrifice things to have this way of life that they are not. James Caesar’s book on this topic is very strong.

      In short, the Euro Left perceives that we are their mortal enemies just by existing and being ourselves. We may not see this, but they are correct to see it.

      Second, “Fundamentally, we are a regional power that has outgrown its region.” I disagree with this absolutely. It is mythology. Take a look at the opening chapers of Walter Russell Mead’s book Special Providence. We have had a deep interest in foreign affairs all along, and we have never limited our interests whether commericial or military to our own territory or region. We were free riders on the British Empire, and grabbed the bits they were too busy to grab. We expanded ruthlessly in all directions from the moment of our founding, on our own continent, annexing outright. Overseas we landed marines over 100 times in our first 100 years. Max Boot’s book on our small wars is a good recent treatment of this topic. We showed our usual wisdom (most of the time) by not running up the flag in places like Latin America or the Caribean where we established an effective economic hegemony. But make no mistake, we owned the place. And the desirable parts that we were unable to quietly take over, we eventually took by force, i.e. Cuba and Panama.

      The British wanted the forms of Empire, we wanted exclusive rights to Chilean guano, or a good site for an Isthmian canal, and fancy uniforms be damned. We have always done it this way. It’s cheaper.

      America is a hardball player on a global scale and always has been, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

      Moreover, economics aside, we have always had a messianic streak, and the Declaration says “ALL MEN”. This is a challenge flung at the world’s feet. Washington’s view, echoed by JQ Adams saying we don’t seek to slay dragons abroad, is only one school of American foreign policy and not the predominant one. Wilsonianism didn’t start with Wilson. We outlawed the Slave Trade in the Constitution itself, and our navy assisted the British navy in enforcing it.

      In short we have never been a regional power. We are a trading power with worldwide interests, and we always have been, even before we were independent.

      I do agree that weak powers try to use formal means to tie down powerful ones, and that we tried to do this with the British in the 19th Century. They, wisely, took as much of this as they thought served their interest, and in the process set up the free-trading, liberal world trading order, with it’s gold standard and various commericial conventions, that worked so well up to 1914.

      Anyway, just as I don’t think consumers are deluded about their interests, I don’t think other categories of people usually are either. We are a threat to all kinds of people. They see this, and they try to respond in whatever way seems likely to be effective and most persuasive. The European Left is no different. If the Anglo-American world order prevails, they are done for. I say, GOOD. They, not surprisingly, feel differently.

    10. Richard A. Heddleson Says:

      America is the most revolutionary power in world history. America is the idea that sovereignty arises from the people and is not the possession of some superior power above the people. That Europe is still having difficulty with this concept is shown by the mechanisms of the EU.

      This idea, and all its implications, represents a threat to every country that does not accept it. Osama and Mullah Omar recognized this threat and responded to it the only way they could in an effort to preserve their way of life.

      We interact with other countries as tourists as traders and in those capacities change the other country. That we will do so at the point of a gun was established with the Japanese in 1854.

      When we conquered Japan and Germany, we remade them in our own image as thoroughly as we could in the short time available. That we are not content to keep our distance from Europe is indicated by the continued presence of our Army there to represent our interest in seeing that Europe does not again drag us into one of its innumerable wars.

      Having conquered Iraq, we are now in the process of remaking it in our image as rapidly as possible.

      America is an idea that the rest of the world must come to terms with. And it is not easy for them to do so.

    11. Mitch Says:

      @Richard, Michael, Lex:
      That we are still having this identical argument two centuries later indicates that there is some merit in each position. Besides, behind every interpretation of the past is a prescription for the future. I would just as soon we not undertake any more big projects abroad unless circumstances force it.

    12. Richard A. Heddleson Says:

      You aren’t going to like what happens when China decides to do Germany Redux, Mitch

    13. Giles Says:

      I think that there is an isolationist part of Europe – its called the EU. It wants a self contianted trading system that blocks out the rest of the world – a bit like the old Soviet isolationism.

    14. Sandy P Says:

      — America is the idea that sovereignty arises from the people and is not the possession of some superior power above the people. That Europe is still having difficulty with this concept is shown by the mechanisms of the EU.–

      It’s not just Europe, had the same conversation w/an Ozzie.

      They just don’t get US. As long as I’m sane – it all comes back to what I call “mutated monarch” unelected one, or unelected many, it’s still the same.

      Actually, I’m going to have to find a different term than “unelected.” Stalin, Castro, Hussein, some of the black turbans were “elected.”

    15. Lex Says:

      “I would just as soon we not undertake any more big projects abroad unless circumstances force it.” I agree. But we always do end up undertaking those projects. We swear off for a while when we get our fingers burned, but we are back in someplace like Bosnia pretty soon. My concern is that we develop the capabilities to do it well, i.e. build a counter-insurgency capability, including what Barnett calls a “System Administrator Force”.

      I agree that the arguments about what we should do are perennials. But we actually have done, i.e. acted like a regional power or not, are matters of the historical record. The common American idea that we were invard-looking up to 1917, then retreated again into isolationism until Pearl Harbor, is dead wrong, a myth, false.

      I also agree that America is a fundamentally radical, revolutionary, destabilizing force, and that this is a good thing. (Ralph Peters has written about this more eloquently than any of us, on many occasions.) Others find this alarming. So be it.

      Sic semper tyrannis.

    16. Sandy P Says:

      We’re the original rogue nation and I revel in it.

      Hmmm, must have absorbed some of that 60s boomer mentality after all. Destroy what our ancestors built, but I’m outward looking, I look to the world, not America.

      Operating outside normal or desirable controls: “How could a single rogue trader bring down an otherwise profitable and well-regarded institution?” (Saul Hansell).

    17. James R. Rummel Says:

      “As to ignoring America: Well you recently kicked up quite a fuss over part of our backyard, and are still camped out there. Just try ignoting us if we did that with Brazil. :)”

      What are you referring to here, Ralf? The only thing I can possibly think of is when the US intervened in the Balkans when the European powers proved to be somewhat less than powerful when it came to either preventing or stopping genocide.

      But maybe you’re thinking about something else. Either way, please let me know.

      James

    18. Sulaiman Says:

      America the isolationist? Leave us alone?

      Why don’t we leave others alone so that they can leave us alone? How can it be when the US has commercial interests all over the world? Trade has brought the tyrannies and democracies of the world in very close contact with each other. Ancient Greece also had a similar situation and war was the norm and peace the exception.

      There are plenty of dictators all over Africa but the US has chosen to ignore the region for the past couple of hundred years. This is not the case with the Persian Gulf region from where black gold flows.

      Has anyone here read Max Boot’s “Savage Wars of Peace”?

    19. Mark Says:

      Leave US alone? But aren’t the USA doing their best not to feel alone at all?

      1. China – 1945 to 1960s: Was Mao Tse-tung just paranoid?
      2. Italy – 1947-1948: Free elections, Hollywood style
      3. Greece – 1947 to early 1950s: From cradle of democracy to client state
      4. The Philippines – 1940s and 1950s: America’s oldest colony
      5. Korea – 1945-1953: Was it all that it appeared to be?
      6. Albania – 1949-1953: The proper English spy
      7. Eastern Europe – 1948-1956: Operation Splinter Factor
      8. Germany – 1950s: Everything from juvenile delinquency to terrorism
      9. Iran – 1953: Making it safe for the King of Kings
      10. Guatemala – 1953-1954: While the world watched
      11. Costa Rica – Mid-1950s: Trying to topple an ally – Part 1
      12. Syria – 1956-1957: Purchasing a new government
      13. Middle East – 1957-1958: The Eisenhower Doctrine claims another backyard for America
      14. Indonesia – 1957-1958: War and pornography
      15. Western Europe – 1950s and 1960s: Fronts within fronts within fronts
      16. British Guiana – 1953-1964: The CIA’s international labor mafia
      17. Soviet Union – Late 1940s to 1960s: From spy planes to book publishing
      18. Italy – 1950s to 1970s: Supporting the Cardinal’s orphans and techno-fascism
      19. Vietnam – 1950-1973: The Hearts and Minds Circus
      20. Cambodia – 1955-1973: Prince Sihanouk walks the high-wire of neutralism
      21. Laos – 1957-1973: L’Armée Clandestine
      22. Haiti – 1959-1963: The Marines land, again
      23. Guatemala – 1960: One good coup deserves another
      24. France/Algeria – 1960s: L’Etat, c’est la CIA
      25. Ecuador – 1960-1963: A text book of dirty tricks
      26. The Congo – 1960-1964: The assassination of Patrice Lumumba
      27. Brazil – 1961-1964: Introducing the marvelous new world of death squads
      28. Peru – 1960-1965: Fort Bragg moves to the jungle
      29. Dominican Republic – 1960-1966: Saving democracy from communism by getting rid of democracy
      30. Cuba – 1959 to 1980s: The unforgivable revolution
      31. Indonesia – 1965: Liquidating President Sukarno … and 500,000 others …… East Timor – 1975: And 200,000 more
      32. Ghana – 1966: Kwame Nkrumah steps out of line
      33. Uruguay – 1964-1970: Torture — as American as apple pie
      34. Chile – 1964-1973: A hammer and sickle stamped on your child’s forehead
      35. Greece – 1964-1974: “Fuck your Parliament and your Constitution,” said the President of the United States
      36. Bolivia – 1964-1975: Tracking down Che Guevara in the land of coup d’etat
      37. Guatemala – 1962 to 1980s: A less publicized “final solution”
      38. Costa Rica – 1970-1971: Trying to topple an ally — Part 2
      39. Iraq – 1972-1975: Covert action should not be confused with missionary work
      40. Australia – 1973-1975: Another free election bites the dust
      41. Angola – 1975 to 1980s: The Great Powers Poker Game
      42. Zaire – 1975-1978: Mobutu and the CIA, a marriage made in heaven
      43. Jamaica – 1976-1980: Kissinger’s ultimatum
      44. Seychelles – 1979-1981: Yet another area of great strategic importance
      45. Grenada – 1979-1984: Lying — one of the few growth industries in Washington
      46. Morocco – 1983: A video nasty
      47. Suriname – 1982-1984: Once again, the Cuban bogeyman
      48. Libya – 1981-1989: Ronald Reagan meets his match
      49. Nicaragua – 1981-1990: Destabilization in slow motion
      50. Panama – 1969-1991: Double-crossing our drug supplier
      51. Bulgaria 1990/Albania 1991: Teaching communists what democracy is all about
      52. Iraq – 1990-1991: Desert holocaust
      53. Afghanistan – 1979-1992: America’s Jihad
      54. El Salvador – 1980-1994: Human rights, Washington style
      55. Haiti – 1986-1994: Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?
      56. The American Empire – 1992 to present

    20. Ralf Goergens Says:

      James, I was kidding, alright? I was playfully referring to the war on Iraq. Whatever you can say about that, it is kind of hard to ignore.

    21. Jonathan Says:

      [. . .]

      49. Nicaragua – 1981-1990: Destabilization in slow motion

      [. . .]

      52. Iraq – 1990-1991: Desert holocaust
      53. Afghanistan – 1979-1992: America’s Jihad

      [. . .]

      There you Americans go again, destabilizing nice, peaceful countries that were merely minding their own business.

    22. James R. Rummel Says:

      “James, I was kidding, alright?”

      Sorry, Ralf, didn’t get that. I hope I didn’t offend.

      James

    23. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      Mark, you forgot that mention that the four seasons and solar eclispes are the results of the CIA’s attempts to destabilize the sun.

    24. Ralf Goergens Says:

      Not at all James. :)

    25. mishu Says:

      36. Bolivia – 1964-1975: Tracking down Che Guevara in the land of coup d’etat

      Tracking down an Argentinian, Stalinist mercinary to stop him from waging war in Bolivia? For shame!

    26. Sandy P Says:

      –There are plenty of dictators all over Africa but the US has chosen to ignore the region for the past couple of hundred years.–

      Isn’t that frogistan’s turf? I can understand why we stay away.

    27. Sandy P Says:

      What can we say, Mark?

      We’re a work in progress.

    28. Mitch Says:

      26. The Congo – 1960-1964: The assassination of Patrice Lumumba
      Mark, even at our worst, we never managed even to reach the standards of rapine and massacre set by Belgium. Belgium! And yet, have you ever heard of anti-Belgianism? If the European anti-Americans were to apply the same standards to their countries as they do to ours, they would be morally obliged to nuke themselves.

    29. Patrick Chester Says:

      Hm… that Afghanistan entry. Something seems to be missing from your commentary, Mark. I just can’t place my finger on it… oh wait, I know. What nation invaded Afghanistan in that time period? Please answer the question Mark. I’m sure the answer will be rather interesting.

      (Hint: It wasn’t the USA, though it has US in the acronym for its name.)

      Mitch: I guess Mark didn’t think his list was big enough so he had to pad it a bit with other nation’s actions.

    30. Emery Says:

      Information in this site is aimed toward foreigners on the Internet and expatriates in Thailand, having the loved ones visiting the areas during the disaster, to get the information about their friends, relatives or colleagues. For Thai nationals, we recommend that you start at the Government official website website and jump from there.