January 29, 2003

The Shrewdest Article on Eu...

The Shrewdest Article on European-American Tension I Have Read in a Year: Not surp Posted by at January 29, 2003 10:28 PM


Interesting article, but similar to that old adage about Chinese food--- somehow I am still hungry.

However, this bit struck a chord with me,

"The new Rome no longer feels in awe of the old Greeks. "When I first went to Europe in the 1940s and 1950s, Europe was superior to us," a retired American diplomat with long European experience wrote to me recently. "The superiority was not personal—I never felt demeaned even by condescending people—but civilizational." Not any more. America, he wrote, "is no longer abashed.""

This really strikes to the heart of the matter, many Europeans still feel (how can I say this?) entitled.

However, this bit struck a chord with me,

"The new Rome no longer feels in awe of the old Greeks. "When I first went to Europe in the 1940s and 1950s, Europe was superior to us," a retired American diplomat with long European experience wrote to me recently. "The superiority was not personal—I never felt demeaned even by condescending people—but civilizational." Not any more. America, he wrote, "is no longer abashed.""

This really strikes to the heart of the matter, many Europeans still feel (how can I say this?) entitled. Entitled to that seductive aura of sophistication and rich cultural history that for so long defined the Old World in the eyes of Americans, but now looks so 'eight days ago'.

This editorial, while a bit crude, sums it up well---


Anyhow, the sad thing is that the EU is a Trojan Horse for a bunch of soft-core commies like Schröder and Chirac to spread the gospel of European Socialism eastward to the sad countries that have spent the last 40+ years or so living the horrors of communism/socialism. The Hungarians already have shot themselves in the foot by electing Medgyessy, not that Orbán, while not a commie, is that much better with his non-stop nationalistic chest-thumping. Oh well.

Posted by: vlad at January 30, 2003 01:07 AM

I'm so bored with Americans moaning about Europe and making childish jibes about Germans and French -Blogland is just full of this stuff.

I guess America is feeling a bit lonely at the moment?

And Vlad - Medgyessy is a banker (not a typo) - isn't that what globalisation is all about. Small countries run by bankers negotiating with the big bankers running the IMF?


Posted by: Harry at January 30, 2003 08:13 AM

Dunno if this will relieve your ennui, but Blogdom seems to have spilled out into the mainstream media:


We in Europe have a relationship with the United States which has stood the test of time. Thanks in large part to American bravery, generosity and far-sightedness, Europe was set free from the two forms of tyranny that devastated our continent in the 20th century: Nazism and Communism. Thanks, too, to the continued cooperation between Europe and the United States we have managed to guarantee peace and freedom on our continent. The transatlantic relationship must not become a casualty of the current Iraqi regime’s persistent attempts to threaten world security.

José María Aznar, Spain
José Manuel Durão Barroso, Portugal
Silvio Berlusconi, Italy
Tony Blair, United Kingdom
Václav Havel, Czech Republic
Peter Medgyessy, Hungary
Leszek Miller, Poland
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Denmark


This week, several of America's allies refused to go along with a proposal that Nato should begin planning for the event of war against Iraq. France and Germany thought that would send the wrong signals while diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis were not yet exhausted.
The old cliche used to justify the establishment of a common EU foreign policy is that an American president needs to know who in Europe to ring in a crisis.

Well, George W Bush knows exactly who to ring. It is Tony Blair.

Seems to me, France and Germany, as "Old Europe" are the ones becoming more and more lonely.

Posted by: Ray Eckhart at January 30, 2003 08:36 AM

to Ray Eckhart:
Funny, I read this open letter and I couldn't find anything Schröder and Chirac wouldn't agree with - they'd have signed it too. No commitment whatsoever, just feelgood rhetoric.

Posted by: Chris K at January 30, 2003 09:19 AM

Yes, a great article, txs for the link.
Garton Ash hits the nail on the head, as far as I can tell when it argues that "the Europeans" are also a stalking-horse for liberals. On my side ot the ocean Philippe Roger, in L'Ennemi américain : Généalogie de l'antiaméricanisme français also argue that french anti americanism always had a domestic purpose, as a straw man for internal arguments.

But, paradoxicaly, I can't help but feel that, besides the 'new jacksonians' currently in charge in DC, the blogosphere hysteria and the furious rethoric (Chirac, a soft-core commie...), the relationship between both sides of the pond should actually getting healthier and closer. Europeans are no longer, as they may have been in the 50's, jealous of US standards of life. Americans are no longer impressed by european supposed sophistication and culture. On the long term our cultures, way of lifes, and concerns are more and more alike. Different models indeed, different mix of free market and welfare state, of individual freedom and social solidarity (though still democratic capitalism), but less jealousy and ignorance of the other.

Posted by: philippe at January 30, 2003 09:25 AM

"Europeans are no longer, as they may have been in the 50's, jealous of US standards of life."

You have got to be kidding. Europe has never been more jealous of the American way/quality of life. In fact, this is exactly what drives most, if not all Anti-Americanism. Allow me to indulge in some (admittedly) simplistic stereotyping:

In the US, when a person acheives some level of success, be it financial, be it in sport or anything else, Americans (in general) are very admiring. In fact, they are sometimes too eager to ascribe unrelated positive personal characteristics to a successful person. i.e. Bill Gates --- Bill Gates is no doubt, extremely shrewd and talented, but he was also in the right place at the right time, in some ways a function of pure chance. Americans like to paint him with undeserved words such as 'genius' or 'visionary'. When words such those should be reserved for people like Leo Szilard.

Now let us examaine the European outlook. Again, I feel the need to use the word 'entitled'. When Europeans observe someone who is successful, a common response is: "Him?/Her? They are nothing special. I am just as smart and just as good-looking. Why are they rich and why am I not? Aren't I entitled as well?"

This attitude explains a lot about European business culture, why Euro entrepreneurs feel stifled - why there is no culture of technological innovation in European universities - why Germans feel entitled to insane, inflexible labor laws that benefit the worker at the expense of the entire economy - it also explains a lot about Anti-Americanism....

It all boils down to jealosy/entitlement.


Posted by: vlad at January 30, 2003 01:37 PM

Uh, I just babbled about this subject in the comments of the link just above. I blame Chandler.

Posted by: Matt Welch at January 30, 2003 02:39 PM

Heh. Blogged Garton Ash's piece, with comment, on the morning of the 27th. Did you read the piece on the visit to North Korea?

Posted by: Gary Farber at January 30, 2003 03:25 PM

Well Harry,

Considering the fact that the American media has previously covered ad nauseum the international (read European) viewpoint of American and its failings (foreign policy driven by domestic concerns, crony capitalism, etc.), I would say the blogosphere reaction is quite healthy. I actually agree with Matt Welsh and think that the Europeans should pursue an independent military and social policy--however, it's time Americans woke up to the fact that Europeans as a whole are not allies, which definately does not make them evil, but merely governments after their own interests, like ours. If that is the case, fine, but then why would Washington give their view points more weight than any other region? (It would not be economics.) The whole standard media story is a split or rift in the "Western Alliance", if there was no supposed alliance the story would be much more subdued. I have a feeling that the only thing NATO as a whole would agee on would be activities in Europe, so where is America's benefit?

Posted by: Steve W at January 30, 2003 09:21 PM

as a brit, i don't think we are generally jealous of the american standard of living, particularly when we have lower unemployment, higher growth and lower social inequality than the US

Posted by: xavier at January 31, 2003 07:56 AM

Ah, but do you have Britney Spears? Just teasing. However, a quick look at The Economist tells me that:

(all numbers for year 2001)

GDP per Capita

We smoked you there.

UK Recorded unemployment (%):5.03%
US Recorded unemployment (%):4.79%

Here as well.

(from 1998-2001)
UK-GDP(% real change pa):2.92 2.41 3.08 1.93
US-GDP(% real change pa):4.28 4.11 3.75 0.25

You got us in 2001 for ="comments-post">Posted by: vlad at January 31, 2003 11:25 AM

As a Canadian, I find I/we get an interesting perspective on the matter.

From my vantage point, the current US/EU divide seems to fall primarily along left-right lines, as Garton-Ash points out. Same is true in Canada, although there's more of the old right animosity for the US too. A heckuva lot of conservative Canucks I know sound like pre-WWII British lords droning on about American classlessness (not a good thing, BTW), arrogance, ignorance, etc.

Canada's also been deeply anxious about the US for a century now, primarily due to our inability to figure out who we are in relation to ourselves, as opposed to in relation to the Yanks. If the EU, as Ash suggests, is starting to manifest that anxiety by defining itself against the American behemoth I can only say "STOP NOW -- it's a neverending, pointless struggle. And besides, the Yanks never do it themselves, which will only breed more resentment in you" (cuz who wants to spend all their time worrying about a relationship that the other party barely considers?).

We recently had a silly columnist, one Richard Gwynne, put much of what's inane about Canadian Anxiety in a single article, which sought to celebrate the so-called "moral superiority" of Canada -- y'know, cuz we're peacekeepers and soft power pros and all multicultural and stuff. yay us!

Anybody who's taken a look at our military budget, our UN non-existance, or one of our Indian reservations, knows this is a pleasing self-deception at best.

Which is maybe my point. It's the self-deception that gets one into trouble. Seems to me the Euros have a problem (at least on the left) similar to canada, in that they like to pretend they're above and beyond the vulgar world of military might, preferring always the "multilateralist" course as an end itself and not a means. But there are numerous cases where this is either a disaster (Kosovo) or just a convenient fiction (France in Cote D'Ivoire). So quit pretending you're master planners or benevolent peaceniks. If you want to influence the US, highhanded lectures really really don't work (BTW, the "cowboy" insult doesn't work cuz a good number of Yanks LOVE what "cowboy" means to them -- freedom, tougness, integrity, etc. It's like insulting a Frenchman by calling him a food-loving intellectual). Get yourselves a decent army and a coherent foreign policy that doesn't look like it's been figured out based on whatever will piss the US State Dept. off most, and you'll start getting real respect.

Americans, on the other hand, (at least on the right) seem to believe they can stomp their feet and take the ball home when they don't get what they want -- cuz they got all the big ships and the most bread. But current UN maneuvering through the SC would suggest otherwise. The stupidest ongoing mistake of the Bush admin would appear to be its basic refusal to take diplomacy as seriously as pure force power. Which isn't to say it's not necessary, when France blindsides you, that you don't go all Powell and start talking about "guts" and "courage" -- just ask the Brits. But you lay the smackdown with that Gang of Eight letter. If Euros love multilateralism, that's where you have to hit em. Look how freaked they are about Old/New Europe and "disunity," etc. I'm assuming you can thank Blair for that touchdown. Let's hope Bush listens to him this weekend.

As for me poor Big/Little Canada, I'd love it if we could take the advice I just gave you guys. But we won't. Our biggest ongoing debate is about healthcare. We don't like the US because it's a "bully" (bow to our stunning grasp of int'l. power politics, bow!), but we wouldn't wanna live in Europe cuz how would we get all our favourite American shows and movies and cars and clothes and...you get the picture.

But it pains me to see you two kids fighting. You've got so much in common, and you used to be such good friends. Keep it together. You make a great team when it works.

Posted by: Adam at January 31, 2003 01:47 PM


I thin what xavier meant was that the gap betwen the poor and the rich in the UK is not as pronounced as in the US.

Posted by: M Ali Choudhury at January 31, 2003 05:10 PM

Ash could have been a bit more careful with his examples. His very first example of "anti-Europeanism in the United States" is a quote from Mark Steyn -- a Canadian.

Posted by: Lynxx Pherrett at February 1, 2003 05:13 AM

As Matt hinted, I started making comments in the section linked to the wrong article. Hope you'll forgive a little cut-and-paste to get back into the right conversation...

What I find most remarkable about the "Gang of Eight" letter is that it seems to offer a genuine alternative to the Franco-German black hole of "ever-deepening union."

This a very welcome development, if only because we should frown on any international project with a credo that might be mistaken for the title of a porn film.

But the 'Gang of Eight' letter is also a hint of what a looser European Union could like. Leave sovereignty at the national level, spend the bucks (or zlotys) on your own armed forces but also open your borders to free trade and cooperate with your fellow Euros on the big international questions of the day.

Sort of a U.N. for the Eurovision crowd...with the benefit of being an association of nations that are far more democratic than typical members of the U.N. are.

That's a Europe I'd want to be part of if I were a young computer programmer from Prague or a British ad exec -- indeed, if I were anything but an Ecole Normale grad living off the Euro-trough.

Posted by: chandler at February 3, 2003 09:18 AM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

/body> ent.comments_form.bakecookie[1].checked = true; } //--> /body>