2003 November 28 Friday
Revel On European Resentment Of America

Frenchman Jean-Francois Revel has written another essay on European anti-Americanism.

The real cause of September 11 unquestionably lies in the resentment against the United States, which grew apace after the collapse of the USSR, and America's emergence as the "sole global superpower." This resentment is particularly marked in the Islamic lands, where the existence of Israel, which is blamed on America, is an important motivator. But the resentment is also more quietly present over the entire planet. In some European capitals, the sense of grievance has been raised to the status of an idée fixe, virtually the guiding principle of foreign policy. Thus the U.S. is charged with all the evils, real or imagined, that afflict humanity, from the falling price of beef in France to AIDS in Africa and global warming everywhere. The result is a widespread refusal to accept responsibility for one's own actions.

As for the American "hyperpower" that causes Europeans so many sleepless nights, they should look to their own history and ask how far they themselves are responsible for that predominance. For it was they who made the twentieth century into the grimmest in history. It was they who brought about the two apocalypses of the World Wars and invented the two most absurd and criminal political regimes ever inflicted on the human race. If Western Europe in 1945 and Eastern Europe in 1990 were ruined, whose fault was it? American "unilateralism" is the consequence--not the cause--of the diminished power of the other nations. Yet it has become habitual to turn the situation around and constantly indict the United States. Is it surprising when such an atmosphere of accumulated hate ends in pushing fanatics to compensate for their failures by engaging in carnage?

By putting so much energy into their resentment of America many Europeans are missing the real threat:

In the two months after 9/11, the phobias and fallacies of traditional anti-Americanism massively intensified. The clumsiest of them was an attempt to justify Islamist terrorism by claiming that America has long been hostile to Islam. The United States' actions historically have been far less damaging to Muslims than those of Britain, France, or Russia. These European powers have conquered Muslim countries, occupied and indeed oppressed them over decades and even centuries. Americans have never colonized a Muslim nation. Americans evince no hostility toward Islam as such today; on the contrary, their interventions in Somalia, Bosnia, and Kosovo, as well as the pressure exerted on the Macedonian government, were designed to defend Muslim minorities. And the U.S.-led coalition that removed the Iraqi army from Kuwait during the first Gulf War acted to defend a small Muslim country against a secular dictator who had used chemical weapons against Muslim Shiites in the south and Muslim Kurds in the north.

Another myth strenuously maintained since 9/11 is that of a moderate and tolerant Islam. The dominant idea in the Muslims' worldview, in truth, is that all humanity must obey the rules of their religion, whereas they owe no respect to the religions of others. Indeed, showing such respect would make them apostates meriting instant execution. Anxious to show tolerance, the Pope encouraged the erection of a mosque in Rome, the city where Saint Peter is buried. No Christian church could be built in Mecca, or anywhere in Saudi Arabia, for that would profane the land of Mohammed. There is no ambiguity about al-Qaeda-style intentions: It is quite simply to convert the whole of humanity to Islam by force. Murder and mayhem is justified in the eyes of the terrorists because it strikes at the infidels who refuse to embrace Islam. We deceive ourselves if we think we can negotiate with the al-Qaeda fanatics and their ilk.

The day after 9/11, Le Parisien-Aujourd'hui published an account of the jubilant atmosphere the previous evening in the eighteenth arrondissement of Paris, home to a large Muslim community. "Bin Laden will nail all of you!" was among the more moderate remarks hurled at passersby who didn't appear to be North African. Or: "I'm going to celebrate big time tonight! Those guys were real heroes. That'll teach those American bastards--and all you French are next!" Snippets of this sort were ignored by almost all media.

Revel correctly points out that the irrationality of so much of European criticism of America causes Americans to ignore European criticism even when Europeans are making valid points. The effect of the resentment then is to decrease European influence in America and effectively to cause American policy to be more unilateralist than it otherwise would be.

See previous posts about Revel: Jean Francois Revel On Anti-Americanism and John Vinocur: Why France disdains America. See also his book now translated into English: Anti-Americanism.

Also see my previous post On Globalization And The Psychological Visibility Of America.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 November 28 12:10 AM  Europe and America


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