David Frum has written a five part series in the Daily Telegraph attempting to explain American views of the world and American foreign and domestic policy to British readers.
So it was a very pleasant surprise to spend a week here in person and discover just how faint and marginal true anti-Americanism is. It exists, of course, but even when it does, it often seems motivated by envy rather than hatred. "You have to understand," one Left-wing journalist told me over a boozy lunch, "that everybody in our business here wonders whether he didn't make the mistake of a lifetime by not moving to the United States when he was 22."
But here is where the no-war-for-oil crowd make their mistake. Those Americans who worry most about oil tend to oppose action against Saddam, because they worry about the effects an Iraq war would have on Saudi Arabia.
Washington is full of people such as Leon Feurth, Al Gore's former chief adviser on security issues, who have rotated out of government with their heads full of secrets - but who no longer draw a government salary; or Jim Hoagland of the Washington Post, a journalist so connected to the intelligence services that reading him is like listening to the CIA talking to itself; or Richard Perle, the former Reagan defence aide who trained an entire generation of Republican national security operatives who still look to him for ideas and advice.
These people talk to one another and argue and attend conferences together and read each other's newspaper columns - and out of it all, ideas get hammered out and party positions are formed. And not just party positions, but true national consensus. The definitive case for war with Iraq has just been published, not by some still-bitter alumnus of the Gulf war, but by Kenneth Pollack, who analysed Iraq on President Clinton's National Security Council.
But who is the real threat to the international rule of law: America, for acting on the ancient and universal sovereign right not to adopt a treaty that does not serve its interests? Or those European countries that claim that the agreement on the international criminal court binds America, whether America adopts the treaty or not?
International law is an idea with a powerful hold on the European mind; maybe too powerful, since Europeans often pronounce things "unlawful" when they merely mean that they disapprove of them.
America does not want to destabilise the Middle East. But Islamic extremism, anti-American incitement, and willing and unwilling support for terrorist organisations have fastened themselves deep into the societies and cultures of the Middle East. Osama bin Laden's terrorism is not the work only of a few sociopathic killers: it is the product of a wide and deep complicity throughout the Arab world. Finding, uprooting, discrediting and destroying terror will have equally wide and deep - and unpredictable - consequences.
And that is why so many Europeans with an interest in the Arab world and its oil have urged America to learn to live with terror: to be realistic, to adjust, to accommodate - as they have had to do. And it is America's refusal to be realistic in this way that, more than anything else, has puzzled, vexed and even enraged so many in Europe and in Britain.
I think the best point Frum makes here is with Myth II. The 9/11 attacks have forced the traditional American interests groups that have involvement in the Middle East to give way to the demands of the US populace as a whole that something be done about the Middle East. There is a widespread view that something has to be done to make the Middle East's peoples less of a threat to the American people. The cozy relationships between business interests, diplomats and regimes of the region have been overwhelmed by larger concerns. The populace as a whole feels threatened. That, more than anything, is providing the driving energy of US foreign policy. Therefore national security trumps all else.
(I originally discovered the fourth article of the series on Vinod's blog)
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2002 October 25 01:16 AM Europe and America|