The other day, I was doing a Lexis/Nexis searh in search of something else (material related to the Echelon surveillance program), and I came across an article with the headline:
Europe's Dim View Of U.S. Is Evolving Into Frank Hostility
Poking fun at America has always been a European pastime, particularly among the French. In the past, Americans have been ridiculed as Bermuda-shorts-wearing louts who call strangers by their first names and know nothing about the good life. But today's criticism is far from being an amusing rejection of food rituals. Experts say that it has a virulence and an element of fear never seen before.
And this was published when?
April 9, 2000.
Some more excerpts:
Just read the title of his new book and you'll get an idea of Noel Mamere's perspective: "No Thanks, Uncle Sam."
Mr. Mamere, an outspoken though hardly extreme member of the French Parliament, has devoted an entire book to his argument that America is a worrisome society these days. It has a record number of armed citizens. It embraces the death penalty, turns the poor away when they need medical care, and its legislators have failed to approve a nuclear test ban. Yet, argues Mr. Mamere, the United States throws its weight around and would have the entire world follow in its steps.
At this moment, he says in his closing chapter, "it is appropriate to be downright anti-American."
In France, indeed in Europe, Mr. Mamere is by no means alone in his criticism of the United States. Wander a French bookstore these days and you will find any number of catchy titles ("The World Is Not Merchandise," "Who Is Killing France? The American Strategy," "American Totalitarianism" to name a few) deploring the American way -- from its creation of a society ruled by profit to depictions of the United States as an unchecked force on its way to ruling the world. The books are only one sign of what experts say is a growing backlash of anti-Americanism. More and more often, Europeans talk about America as a menacing, even dangerous force intent on remaking the world in its image.
The article notes that this perception is linked to the United States' sole-superpower status since the fall of the Berlin wall.
The Europeans read menace in a wide range of recent events. Far from seeing America's involvement in Kosovo as a hand of support from across the Atlantic, for instance, many Europeans saw it as an American manipulation of NATO. And the humiliating fact that the intervention would not have been possible without American air power only rammed home the perception of America's military superiority, and of European deficiency.
But suspicion runs high in other areas as well. The Clinton administration's cheerleading -- for instance, its repeated description of the United States as being the "indispensable" nation -- strikes a threatening chord here. And recent disputes such as America's decision last year to impose an import tax on goods like Roquefort cheese and foie gras because the Europeans would not accept hormone-enhanced beef from the United States only fuels the European sense that the United States is a bully.
To be sure, the average European is embracing much that comes from the United States. Its films, its music, its fashion and, even if no-one in France particularly cares to admit it, its fast food. The weekly best-seller list shows more than half the top selling novels in France are translations of American books. There are frequent complaints of a brain drain as young people flock to Silicon Valley and elsewhere in America to get their start in life.
But at the same time the view of a belligerent United States is growing too. Polls conducted by CSA in the last few years suggest that Europeans have some extremely negative views of the United States. In April last year, 68 percent of the French said they were worried about America's status as a superpower. Only 30 percent said there was anything to admire across the Atlantic. Sixty-three percent said they did not feel close to the American people.
Another CSA poll in September 1998, which compared the attitudes of the Germans, Spanish, French, Italian and British toward the United States, found they had deep reservations too. ...
"We have the impression that America has no more enemy," says Michel Winock, a professor at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris who often writes on the subject of anti-Americanism. "It does what it likes now when it wants. Through NATO it directs European affairs. Before we could say we were on America's side. Not now. There is no counterbalance."
The European/American divide, the article notes, stems partly from differences on social issues such as the death penalty, and is exacerbated by many European commentators' preoccupation with American social ills such as police violence and racism.
"Never has America been so loved and so hated," says the novelist Pascal Bruckner, who has also written on anti-Americanism. "But in some ways America should be glad. We are not condemning the Russians for a lack of morality. We don't care. They don't count."
Felix Rohatyn says he has felt the change of attitude take place since 1997, when he arrived in Paris as the American ambassador.
"The anti-Americanism today encompasses not a specific policy like Iranian sanctions but a feeling that globalization has an American face on it and is a danger to the European and French view of society," Mr. Rohatyn said in an interview. "There is the sense that America is such an extraordinary power that it can crush everything in its way. It is more frustration and anxiety now than plain anti-Americanism."
Claims that today's European anti-Americanism is Bush's (or the Bush Administration's) fault often focus on the overwhelming sympathy for the United States in Europe right after 9/11, symbolized by the "Nous sommes tous Américains" -- "We are all Americans" -- editorial in Le Monde, published on September 13, 2001. It is a common charge that we have "squandered" that sympathy by our post-9/11 actions, and particularly the war in Iraq. Yet it is very likely, given the pre-9/11 climate in Europe, that this surge of sympathy was inevitably going to be temporary and probably short.
The 2000 New York Times article is a useful reminder of that.