March 30, 2005
George Bush, the Europeans and the Middle-East
The former French foreign affairs minister Hubert Védrine launched the debate again on "The Great Middle-East" on the columns of the weekend's edition of French daily Le Monde.
It is too early to say if Mr. Vedrine's opinion represents an increasing number of people in Europe, yet it proves the skepticism the Europeans showed in the beginning of 2004 might change to a different perception of George W. Bush's project of a Great Middle-East.
The starting point of this potential change is the recent events in the Middle-East and especially the Iraqi and Palestinian elections.
The success can become a fiasco if Ariel Sharon doesn't give Mahmoud Abbas other political perspectives than the retreat from Gazza. In Lebanon, the situation is not calm yet while in Iraq, the cooperation between the minorities and the shiite majority will be a condition for stability. So it's too early to say mission accomplished, says Hubert Vedrine.
For the French diplomat, it is relatively easy to organize elections. What is really complicated is to set democracy as a culture. The multiple attempts to modernize the arab world have failed since the 19th century. Why would it work this time? Are Arab societies really willing to change? And most of all, are we (Americans and Europeans) ready to accept the results of democratic elections if they imply the victory of Islamists?
But for the moment, it's the wait and see. If the Americans succeed in bringing a wind of change in the Middle-East, it will be interesting to see how Europeans will react. Hubert Vedrine explains why Americans and Europeans should work together on things that unite them, like stability in the Middle-East while avoiding a new neo-colonial age.
A powerless beginnig for Bush II ?
By Pierre Langlais
The major threat for George W. Bush’s popularity could come from inside the USA. That’s what the French daily Le Monde is advancing in an article about Bush’s failure on the Social Security reform.
This reform, announced as the most important one of the second mandat, is about to be postponed to next year, said Bill Frist, leader of the Republicans at the Senat.
After his (quite) successfull visit to Europe, things seemed to work well for the re-elected president, at least within the US boundaries.
« It has been a long time since Republicans have been that powerful. Since the re-election of the President in November 2004, they control the White House and enjoy a comfortable majority in both of the houses. »
Writes Eric Leser, underlining this paradox : « It is inside of his own party that George Bush is unable to convince [about this reform] »
There is two major reasons for this almost certain defeat in domestic policy: First, a large part of the Republican senators are already thinking about the next elections, next year, and even about the presidential election in 2008. Those don’t want to take any risky positions. Then, the opposition to this reform received support from unions like the AFL-CIO and from the very powerful American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), which has 35 millions members. The retired people have such an important place in the Republican electorate that the point of view of the AARP changed everything for most of the senators.
This defeat could be, for Le Monde, the end of
« the great ambitions, declared at the end of last year in the euphoria of the re-election, to take down the welfare state and the legacy of Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal. »
This « snub » comes in the middle of bad circumstances for Bush. Indeed, a CBS News poll revealed last week that 82 % of the Americans disagree with the position of the Congress and the White House on the Terri Schiavo case. A major part of the country is in favor of the « euthanasia » for this 41 year old woman, who has been in coma for more than 15 years while Bush helped pass a special law to hold Mrs. Schiavo in a stable situation.
At the same time, the opening of a nature reserve in Alaska to oil drilling, and the rise of the price of gas has brought the President to his lowest rate of popularity ever, with only 45% of favorable opinion, according to a Gallup poll for USA Today and CNN.
And Eric Leser concludes with the question:
“Many American presidents knew difficult second mandates: Will George Bush be able to avoid a similar destiny?”
March 29, 2005
South African Trade Detours United States
The news from South Africa last week painted a picture of a vacuum—a great empty space where coverage of the United States might once have been. South Africa’s newspapers suggest not the presence or influence of the United States, but its absence. The sole reporting from the U.S. among the country’s major newspapers revolved around the Michael Jackson trial, of which there was abundant wire coverage.
The Cape Times (subscription required) Cape Town’s leading morning daily, reported on a visit to South Africa by the Foreign Ministers of India, Natwar Singh, and of Brazil, Celso Amerin—focusing on their creation of a ‘Business Council’ with South Africa’s Foreign Minister Nkosazma Dlamini-Zuma to facilitate trade between the three countries. [Cape Times, 10 March, 2005] Specifically, South Africa is in the process of establishing closer relations with the member countries of the Mercosur trading bloc—Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay—and to bring South Africa into the web of trade accords between that bloc, of which Brazil is a leading member, and India.
The meetings between these powerhouses of the developing world take on new meaning in light of the dramatic slowdown in negotiations between Brazil and other Latin American nations and the Bush Administration in negotiating a Free Trade of the Americas agreement.
That effort to establish a NAFTA style, hemisphere-wide trade accord have floundered—while efforts to create an alliance among the tri-continental powerhouses of the southern hemisphere are taking on steam. The three countries have established an alliance, known as IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa) “to strengthen south-south cooperation,” reports Angela Quintal, Political Editor for the Cape Times. Trade between the three countries amounted to $4 billion last year, the Cape Times reports; SA Foreign Minister Dlamini-Zuma said that the three nations hope that will grow to some $10 billion by 2007.
In the same week, several other developments suggested the growing ties between the three economic powerhouses of the developing world. According to The Sun Times (subscription required) a South African national daily, Brazil has endorsed the call of the African Union (in which South Africa is a major player) for two African seats on the U.N. Security Council—as well as a permanent seat for a representative from the Arab world. [The Times, 12 March, 2005] The paper suggests that if approved, Africa’s two seats would go to South Africa and Nigeria.
The Cape Argus, a Cape Town afternoon paper (subscription required), reports that India has also thrown its support behind this effort to expand membership in the Security Council. “The foreign ministers of India, Brazil and South Africa said the UN Security Council no longer represented the reality of today’s world,” writes Argus correspondent Thokozani Mtshali. “They reiterated their call for urgent and extensive UN reform and for it to be ‘responsive to the priorities of its member states’ especially the developing world.” [Cape Argus, 13 March, 2005]
Not one of the articles made reference to the U.S. position on this matter. While Michael Jackson’s squirming in Santa Barbara was by far the dominant news about America for South Africans, the main international reporting that week was on the gathering force of political and economic alliances that are detouring Washington altogether.
March 27, 2005
Bush burning, and rapprochement of sorts in Caracas
Following a well established tradition (in its 64th year) people gathered in several Caracas cemeteries and public squares to burn a few images. George W. Bush was among the victims.
It can hardly be seen as a friendly gesture. But there might not be as much anti-Americanism in it as one might think. The US president was surrounded by a group of unpopular local politicians and celebrities who suffered the same fate.
The rite is called “Judas burning” and takes place on Easter’s Sunday. To make the punishment more acceptable, some Caraqueños (Caracas dwellers) refused to give a person’s name to their effigy, and called it “the interventionist,” explains El Universal a local daily newspaper.
At the very same moment Bush was burnt in a pro-government neighborhood, Hugo Chavez went in flames in an opposition quarter. They had never been so close.
March 26, 2005
The American Dream vs. the European Dream
American author Jeremy Rifkin was interviewed Friday in Deadline, a Danish news program, about his book “The European Dream”, in which he claims that a newly emerging European dream seems more appealing to many than the better-known American Dream (read his October 2004 article in the Washington Post).
Rifkin thinks president Bush is “starting to wake up to the fact that he cannot ignore Brussels”, indicated by his latest visit to Europe (see earlier entry). The European Union’s GDP was larger than he United States’ a year ago, the EU is the largest exporting power in the world today, the EU has the largest commercial market, and 61 out of the 140 world’s largest companies are European, whereas only 50 of these are American. Further, the EU now leads in key industries like banking, insurance, chemicals, aero space, and engineering. All this makes the EU a possible challenger to US world dominance, which is why the ideology or dream of Europe becomes important.
The American dream sees America as the land of opportunity: if you can get a good education and if you work hard, you can become a success in your life. That dream has been robust for at least 150 years. Even as late as in 1960 the US was the most middle-class egalitarian country in the world. Unfortunately, according to Rifkin, today the American dream has seriously unraveled. Today, the US ranks 24th among industrial countries in income disparity – the gap between rich and poor. Only Mexico and Russia have greater disparity in income. Today, polls show that only 51 percent of Americans believe in the American dream, and more to the point one third say they don’t believe in the dream at all. In Rifkin’s mind, the basic problem with the American dream is that it is founded on the individual, which is problematic in an increasingly globalized world.
There is a new dream emerging in Europe, however, which in many ways present an alternative. According to Rifkin, a lot of young people around the world are beginning to look to this European dream the way so many generations looked to the American dream in the last century. Whereas the American dream aims for “personal success in life”, the European dream aims for “a good quality of life for one’s family and community”. Rifkin lays out the European dream as incorporating:
1) Inclusivity: the idea that no one should be abandoned totally by society, and that we have an obligation to our fellow human beings; 2) Respecting multicultural diversity; 3) Promoting a good quality of life for the community; 4) A strong commitment to sustainable development, the environment, and the earth; 5) Promotion of social rights and universal human rights; 6) Balancing work and play; and 7) Peace and harmony.
Hard to live up to, and a somewhat naïve and optimistic dream some may say. Rifkin admits this, but points out that this is the first “dream” that attempts to create a global consciousness in a globalized world: “It may be too ambitious, but it’s an extraordinary departure”, says Rifkin.
In my opinion, this story is interesting to our blog since Rifkin’s book contributes to an understanding of what the EU project is also about: creating an alternative to the American project, which many seem to dislike for numerous reasons. Are the emerging conflicts between the US and EU (Kyoto, ICC, multilateralism and so on) really a clash of ideas based on different “dreams”, or do the two powers simply have different interests?
March 25, 2005
An American Student in France: Reflections from Bordeaux
By Monti Datta
I recently had the opportunity to interview Tracy, an undergraduate student from the University of California, who has been studying in Bordeaux, France since last October. I posed several questions via email to Tracy, to inquire about her experiences living as an American in France. What follows are some of my questions and Tracy's candid answers.
Q.To what extent do you find French public opinion positive or negative toward the United States government?
The French will make the distinction that their perceived animosity towards Americans (their so-called anti-Americanism) is directed, for the most part, at the Bush administration. The French public has very negative opinions about current and future American foreign policy, noting specifically policies dealing with Iraq and Afghanistan and lack of signing key treaties like the Kyoto Protocol and ICC [the International Criminal Court]. The newspapers are critical of decisions that the Bush administration makes, and they will continue to be. I've found that peoples' levels of negativity [vary] by generation: those of younger generations and who have high levels of education are more apt to be diplomatic and more understanding and open-minded (though not more willing to compromise, of course) of American policies as opposed to older generations who are more hardline in their opposition. This is a broad generalization that has its exceptions, but holds up on most accounts.
Q. To what extent do you find French public opinion positive or negative toward Americans living in France?
On the whole the French public is kind and respective to Americans living in their country. They see that we (Americans) are speaking their language and learning about their history, culture and heritage--thus making a huge effort to understand and appreciate everything French---and in return they respect and encourage our endeavors. It would be extremely hypocritical for the average French person to say they didn't like Americans or American culture because wherever you turn there's evidence of American culture (and the effects of globalization). Whether it's the obvious McDonalds, Hollywood blockbusters and Billboard hits, the "American" style sandwiches at the local boulangerie, or the western cowboy fashions in season this spring and summer, the French flock and buy-up anything and everything branded American. It's really a love/hate relationship between our two countries: they loathe our president yet love our culture.
Q. Are there any personal anecdotes or stories you could share regarding your experiences of how others have perceived you as an American living in France or anywhere else abroad?
I found that after Bush's re-election I had to explain myself a lot more to strangers. Before Nov. 2, I would introduce myself as either American or Californian, and either way I would be asked questions about what I thought of our president and what I hoped would happen in the election. After Bush's re-election I now call myself a Californian, which has a heavy importance since most French people understand that California was a "blue" state, therefore most citizens were in favor of Kerry. It's a sad state of affairs when perfect strangers judge me on who I voted for in MY country's presidential election, but it's the only way that we can achieve a level of understanding and find a common ground--that we both don't like who's president.
I want to thank Tracy for sharing her experiences. Please feel free to comment on your reactions to Tracy's thoughts on life as an American in France.
March 24, 2005
Kyrgyzstan: Chinese, and Russian perceptions
Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev, has been expelled by protesters who overtook the presidential palace in Bishkek early March 24. What happens next is anybody’s guess at this point, but perceptions of the US and its intentions will play a siginficant role.
These are some extracts taken from George Friedman’s Intelligence brief published today by Stratfor.com:
What makes all of this particularly interesting is that both Russia and China have a tendency to view any upheaval in regions where they take interest as part of a conspiracy orchestrated by the United States in order to challenge their hegemony.[...]
This might be paranoid thinking. It might be prudent "worst-case scenario" planning. Or it might be a rational appreciation of Washington's intentions. Whichever it is, the simple fact is that both regional powers regard any instability in any country in the area as being generated by the United States and intended to harm them.[...]
The Russians […] see the United States turning its attention from al Qaeda to other issues, and they don't buy the Bush administration's line that its political involvement in the region -- specifically in Ukraine, where Washington helped secure a win by pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko late last year -- is simply about the American love for free elections. They believe the United States sought to install a pro-U.S. government in Kiev in order to bring Ukraine into NATO and undermine Russian national security.[...]
The Chinese don't believe the United States is obsessed with al Qaeda any longer. They believe the Americans are obsessed with China, and they see events in Kyrgyzstan as a security threat.
March 23, 2005
Conference on "Islamophobia and Anti-Americanism"
This conference will explore the root causes behind the twin phenomena of Islamophobia and anti-Americanism. To tackle these important issues, we have assembled a group of leading experts, including university professors, authors, researchers, community activists, and faith-based leaders. The conference is expected to initiate serious dialogue on both issues and will also seek positive and practical solutions.
March 22, 2005
From ex Danish Foreign Minister Uffe Ellemann-Jensen
Mr. Uffe Ellemann-Jensen served as Denmark’s Minister for Foreign Affairs from 1982-1993. He was president of Venstre (the Liberal Party) from 1984-1998, leading Venstre to become the largest Danish party. In this letter he answers two questions posed by worldandus.
1. How can a small country like Denmark influence the policy of a superpower like the United States?
We can do that first of all by demonstrating our qualities as a trustworthy friend and partner – in words as well as in deeds. Our motives have to be cut out crystal clear: We share the values behind our alliance – and we are not looking for ways in which we can act as a “counterweight” to the role of the United States on the global scene. On this point a small European country has probably got a better position than some of the big countries, who seems to find it hard to put their glorious past in a modern context. (It is after all so many years ago that the Danes ruled over England, that we can no longer be suspected of dreaming of a restoration of past positions).
The above mentioned policy has been followed by Denmark since the end of the Cold War: We were active participants in the first Gulf War, i.e. by sending a warship to the Gulf – we sent special forces to Afghanistan – and we are part of the Coalition in Iraq. By doing that, we demonstrate our earnestness as a partner – and that of course earns us a right to be listened to, also when our views might be different from those of the United States.
2. Does it matter whether the US listens to the world’s perceptions of US foreign policy or not?
Yes, of course it matters! Being the only superpower left the US will always be suspected by everybody else for not caring about anything but narrow American interests. And the only way to do away with that suspicion is to listen – and react to what differences of opinion might arise, either by changing positions or explaining (patiently) why positions are not changed.
The US needs partners – even small ones like Denmark – to share the burdens of keeping the moral high ground in international policy. Therefore we also share an interest in securing an international rule of law.
March 21, 2005
Welcome Mr Wolfowitz, says Europe
European leaders have decided not to oppose the nomination of Paul Wolfowitz, the Neoconservative who had a leading role in preparing the war on Iraq, as the new chief of the World Bank. The lack of an opposition among European governments (that control 30% of the World Bank votes as shareholders and could undermine a US candidate if they wanted) seems one of the results of the new "honeymoon" between the second Bush administration and its Atlantic partners. Without further comment La Repubblica the liberal Italian newspaper which is often critical of the US policies, forecasts a smooth welcome to Mr Wolfowitz.
La Repubblica, March 22, 2005: "Green Light for Wolfowitz"
BRUXELLES - The nomination of Paul Wolfowitz as the new president of the World Bank will be discussed by the ministers of Finances in their meeting tonight in Brussels. There seem to be no obstacles to the designation of the Pentagon's Number Two, the ideologue of the war on Iraq, as the chief of the institution which has the mission to support the development of the poorest countries. Yesterday the German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder swept away any doubt on the European support to the US candidate. «We will be surprised by his work», Schroeder said. The president of the European Commission Josè Manuel Durao Barroso sounded a similar note: he invited European member States not to hold prejudices against Mr Wolfowitz.
March 20, 2005
Demonstrations against the War in Iraq
Two years after the American-led invasion of Iraq, people from many parts of the world went to the streets protesting, but not in as large numbers as in 2003. The demonstrations in Europe were larger than in the United States, and the European protesters received much more media coverage too. The overall tendency – apart from in the U.S. – was that the largest demonstrations took place in countries involved in the war coalition.
Sunday March 20th The New York Times reports that “Beyond New York and San Francisco, protests unfolded in Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Diego and what organizers said were 725 other cities and towns … Numbers were hard to gauge, but it seemed likely that tens of thousands took part across America”. Only late in the article by McFadden, the European demonstrations are mentioned:
In Europe, the gatherings were also modest compared to the 2003 protests. But 45,000 people marched in London in the day's largest protest. In Istanbul, Turkey, 15,000 demonstrated. In Spain, protests unfolded in nine cities, including Madrid and Barcelona. About 3,000 demonstrators halted traffic in Athens, and there were protests in Rome, Oslo, Stockholm and other cities.
In Denmark, 3-4,000 people gathered in Copenhagen, according to Berlingske Tidende. Denmark is participating in the war with close to 500 soldiers. Like in most other war coalition countries, the Danish presence in Iraq has been welcomed by the right wing parties and media, but criticized by the left wing parties and media. The disagreement about Iraq is on-going and was also obvious in the media’s coverage of the demonstrations. The conflict mainly regards when to withdraw the troops, where the left wing argues for a quick withdrawal.
The moderate/right wing newspapers embraced the Danish military effort: “Iraq is moving toward freedom and democracy. That is why we need to stay” and “the coalition must stay, not for symbolic reasons, and not for eternity, but in order to finish the job”, the editorial of Berlingske Tidende stated. “To set a date for a Danish withdrawal of troops would not only be naïve, but also a give-away to the terrorist forces trying to get us out”, said Jyllands-Posten.
The left wing newspaper Information is very critical to the war and the Danish participation in the occupation: “Silvio Berlusconi’s statement about a beginning Italian withdrawal was Thursday followed by the Bulgarian government’s decision about a downsizing and later possible withdrawal from the military operation. If they both leave, Blair and Fogh [the Danish prime minister] will be the only Europeans with troops in Iraq”. The editorial quotes a poll saying that 85 percent of the Iraqis want the US-led troops out as soon as possible, and continues: “The Americans have removed Hussein, but by their continued presence they infringe the Iraqis’ pride and are in the eyes of many actually causing the continued insurgency and terror”. And finally: “For the dead civilian Iraqis there is no doubt. Their human rights were definitively violated by an invading army with false reasons and mixed motives. That can never be called just”.
In the evening television news TV-Avisen, a Danish protester was asked “Do you think Bush is listening to your complaints?”, and the answer was a quick and obvious “no, of course not” followed by laughter. But the demonstrator hoped that his march against the war would make an impact on the Danish prime minister.
In my opinion, this last remark by the protester indicates an important aspect of the world-wide demonstrations. People are not necessarily protesting in order to make Bush change his mind, but to make their national government change policies toward Iraq. This might also explain why the demonstrations seem to be larger in countries with troops in Iraq. The implicit argument is that “the U.S. does not listen to us, so we can’t make Bush change his mind, but our own country should not be part of this unjust war, and that is why our troops should be withdrawn”. Or in other words, maybe the demonstrations were more directed towards participation in the war than they were directed towards the war as such?
March 19, 2005
Hitler's writing popular in Turkey, blamed for Anti-Americanism
Are the books people read indicative of the country's ideological and political persuasions? The Associated Press speculates whether the growing sales of Adolf Hitler's book "Mein Kampf" is correlated to alleged anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism in Turkey.
In the Jerusalem Post, ('Mein Kampf' interest blamed on xenophobia, media), the AP reports
New paperback versions of "Mein Kampf" have suddenly become top sellers in Turkey, raising questions about whether the sales reflect growing anti-Semitism and anti-American sentiment in this Muslim country, or if it's just curiosity and a cheap read.
Specifically, the attempt to draw a cause-and-effect relationship comes from Lina Filiba, executive vice president of Turkey's Jewish Community. He called the newfound popularity of Hitler's book "disturbing," but admitted to the fact that the book is also getting media attention and is low-priced to the curious masses.
He also linked the anti-semetic, anti-foreigner, and anti-American feelings to the December 17th decision by the European Union to open membership talks with Turkey.
In the Turkish online Zaman Times, however, the author points to the ambivalence of Turkish-American relations and sentiment within Turkey and its officials.
Lina Filiba, executive vice president of Turkey's Jewish Community, said on Friday that the new popularity of Adolf Hitler's book "Mein Kampf" in Turkey is "disturbing," but added that price and curiosity due to prominent media attention were major factors.
New paperback versions of "Mein Kampf" have suddenly become top sellers in Turkey, raising questions about whether the sales reflect growing anti-Semitism and anti-American sentiment in this Muslim country, or if it's just curiosity and a cheap read.
Filiba said the sales were part of a "worrying trend" with anti-Semitic publications - such as the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," a 19th-century anti-Semitic tract - on sale even in bustling department stores.
"I think there's an increase in anti-Semitic, anti-American, and anti-foreigner feeling that have paralleled (the) December 17th decision by the European Union to open membership talks with Turkey, Filiba said.
The country's top seller, "Metal Storm," is a novel about a fictional war between Turkey and the United States. Conspiracy theory books are popular sellers and the press is extremely critical of the United States and Israel.
Anti-Wolfowitz voices from Germany
The very serious German TV station Deutsche Welle publishes on the forum of its news section reactions of German citizens after the nomination of Paul Wolfowitz as the World Bank's future president, next May.
The reactions speak for themselves.
"Wolfowitz should be arrested as a war criminal the moment he sets foot outside the US. The purpose of democracy is to avoid violence in determining issues of power. His idea of democratizing the Middle East, like Iraq, is brutal theft of territory and resources by privatization. His idea of lifting billions out of poverty is to steal their sandals and offer them concrete shoes. Putting a genocidal grand thief in charge of the World Bank is what you expect of a nation of hypocrits". -- Peter Vervoorn
"Wolfowitz succeeded in transforming a country with first world income to a starving dying population in order to steal their oil. That is exactly what he will do to the world. This is really the person who through his position will help administer the policies of population reduction in the service of the oil and weapon industries. Welcome to Brave New World". -- Beatrice Boctor
"Imagine you are in charge of national security. The worst breech of national security takes place on your watch. Therefore, you are made secretary of state. Imagine you are on record as hating the UN. Therefore, you are made ambassador to the UN. Imagine you have started an immoral war and made a total mess of it. Therefore, you are put in charge of the World Bank.
This makes perfect sense when you understand that there is only one criterion: loyalty to George Bush. It also helps if you are a complete and utter idiot". -- Mary M. Schmidt
Anti-Wolfowitz from inside the World Bank
Will there be violence in the developing world if Wofowitz becomes the World Bank's president?
For Nobel Prize Joseph Stiglitz, who was also the chief economist of the World Bank, it is inevitable. "The World Bank will once again become a hate figure. This could bring street protests and violence across the developing world", he said in an interview.
He adds that President Bush's decision can be seen as "an act of provocation or an act so insensitive as to look like provocation".
"Wolfie", the cold shower
And suddenly, all the speeches and columns about a new era in transatlantic relations faded into illusions. George Bush's choice to nominate Paul Wolfofitz as the next World Bank president is seen in France as another sign of America's will to control the world's most important organizations. French daily Le Monde titled it's editorial just as The New York Times' "Why Wolfovitz?".
"A few days after his european visit, George Bush takes a new unilateralist decision that reminds of his first presidency and contradicts his speech about dialogue", says Le Monde's editorialist.
Wolfofitz, described as one of the Iraqi war's architects, is designed as one of the thinkers that inspired the crusades of "good against evil" to George Bush and is therefore the wrong profile for the presidency of the World Bank.
"For a large part of the world, Mr. Wolfowitz's nomination appears as a new manifestation of America's arrogance".
Read Le Monde's coverage:
Les deux vies de "Wolfie", le "néo-con" au "cœur qui saigne"
March 18, 2005
"Americans have no place in Iraq"
For the second anniversary of the Iraq war, events are taking place all around the world, especially organized by the Anti-war movement. In Mumbai, India, an anti-war rally followed by a peace march is scheduled for Saturday March 19th. In this event, one person, Osama Hussein, seeks the support of Indians for a free Iraq. ‘‘We need your support. We don’t want to give our country to the British or to the US just to get rid of one dictator", Hussein told the local population of Mumbai. The Iraqi citizen, who says he was a victim of Saddam's regime, created a year ago the National Foundation Congress, Iraq, which offers peaceful resistance to American occupation of Iraq.
For Hussein, Iraq's oil was the true reason for the American invasion. ‘‘America wants to make Iraq a base in that region and then gradually move on to Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt,’’ he said. ‘‘This is just the first step.’’
March 17, 2005
An American Student in Spain: Reflections on Anti-American Sentiment
I recently had the chance to interview Carmen, a student from the University of California, who has been studying abroad in Spain since last fall. I posed a series of questions to Carmen, who responded to me via email. At times Carmen wrote eloquently yet painfully of some of her recent experiences as an American student living in Spain. What follows are some of the questions and answers from my interview with Carmen.
To what extent do you find Spanish public opinion positive or negative towards the United States government?
I have found Spanish public opinion to be extremely negative towards the US government. It is a daily topic of discussion in the streets and on the news. The incumbent president, Zapatero, is noted as one of the most Anti-american presidents Spain has ever had. During a Spanish congressional hearing, the President was asked about US relations; he stated the the US and Spain have always had good working relations, but due to US bigotry, Spain was deciding not to have relations at this moment. During another hearing, he made a few jokes about not needing the US. Though most people are fed up with the incumbent president, his Anti-American resonance lives in his people.
To what extent do you find Spanish public opinion positive or negative towards American citizens living in Spain?
When I arrived, I believed that I would face Anti-Americanism towards our policies and not towards our people. This I found was a mistake. ...When I voiced that I was American, they turned their backs on me. I volunteered for a language exchange program to help Spanish students practice their English. When I began speaking they noticed I didn't have a British accent; they immediately closed up and began voicing back every American stereotype that existed that they believed would be indicative of me. For example, "you're from the states so you have a lot of money and don't care about us poor Spaniards", "all Americans are conservative oil grubbing people, especially if they're from Texas", and "Californians are idiots because theyre being led by movie stars." I was also knocked for my "American" accent a few times for being unrefined. I thought that this might be a big city view of Americans since I am living in Madrid. However, I went to a tiny town in the southern region called El Campello in the region of Jaen. This town has about 400 people in it. ...Once I was discovered to be American, people closed off to me. ...It was hurtful because they knew me to be a nice person, until they found out I was from the US. I encountered the same in the northern region of Spain as well.
That Carmen has felt a strong wave of Anti-American sentiment in Spain is unquestionable. As to the extent to which we may generalize about her experiences, I am unsure. On the one hand, there clearly seems to be deep-seated resentment against Americans living in Spain. On the other hand, perhaps the wave of Anti-American sentiment is only temporary. It still remains to be seen if other students such as Carmen will continue to feel the sting of Anti-American sentiment, or if the tide of negative public opinion in Spain will eventually subside.
I want to thank Carmen for her comments and insights. I hope the experiences she has shared can serve for further discussion. What do you think about Carmen's experiences? Please post your comments.
Will Wolfowitz follow McNamara’s example?
Paul Wolfowitz nomination by President Bush to head the World Bank, after the designation of conservative John Bolton as US Ambassador to the United Nation is not a good sign for multilateralism according to the French Le Monde.
The Elysee Palace (where the president works and lives) said it would study the nomination “in the light of the Bank’s critical mission in favor of development.” Some observers fear Wolfowitz might be tempted to use his new position more as a tool in his quest for democracy in the Middle East.
Le Monde's correspondent in New York highlights opposition to the nomination coming from the United States but ends its story with a positive note: “some executives at the World Bank hope he [Wolfowitz] will follow Robert McNamara’s example.” After organizing the war in Vietnam McNamara became one of the staunchest promoters of development.
March 15, 2005
Nigeria, the next Afghanistan?
Many experts raised the attention on Nigeria, since 9/11, as a nation where anti-americanism could feed Al Qaeda cells. According to Princeton Lyman, a former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria, one of the recommandations of the 9/11 commission was to "take steps in remote regions, such as West Africa, to prevent the rise of future sanctuaries".
The Nigerian case is special : the country is multi-ethnic and multi religious. In a country where the population already suffers from poverty and marginalization, it's easy to deviate from moderation to extremism. That's why the administration should avoid a faux-pas by acting very cautiously. "Washington should seek to ``pre-empt'' the rising radicalism, not with military force but through diplomatic and economic engagement" says Lyman.
Lebanese patriarch "friend of democracy"
Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir is in Washington and called himself "a friend of democracy" seeking to promote friendship between Lebanon and the United States, reports The Daily Star (Lebanon).
"We want for Lebanon to live in peace, to be a free, sovereign and independent country, a country for all people. Let's give it an opportunity to regain its special status within the international community."
Maronites, Lebanon's Christians, constitute 23 percent of the population. Lebanese constitutional law mandates that the president must be a Maronite.
Maronites gained self-rule under the French mandate of Lebanon in 1920 and secured their position in the independent Lebanon in 1943. They were one of the three main factions in the Lebanese Civil War.
Sfeir to meet Bush to talk Hizbullah and bilateral relations
By Rita Boustani
Daily Star staff
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
Sfeir to meet Bush to talk Hizbullah and bilateral relations
BEIRUT: Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir said Tuesday he was in Washington as a "friend of democracy" and to promote friendship between Lebanon and the U.S.
Speaking upon his arrival in the American capital, where he is due to meet U.S. President George W. Bush Wednesday, Sfeir said: "We want for Lebanon to live in peace, to be a free, sovereign and independent country, a country for all people. Let's give it an opportunity to regain its special status within the international community."
It has been understood that Sfeir's visit is aimed at convincing the Bush administration to soften its stance toward the Lebanese resistance group Hizbullah, which the U.S. deems a terrorist organization.
But Sfeir said his visit to the U.S., which he described as a "democratic country par excellence," was aimed at promoting "brotherly relations between Christian and Muslim communities in Lebanon and the people of this great and noble nation."
He added: "The message I am carrying is that of love, respect and appreciation for the United States. We appreciate and thank all those who can help Lebanon regain its sovereignty and independence."
The Patriarch is on a one-week trip that will take him to Washington and New York for meetings with top-level U.S. and UN officials.
Commenting on the ever-changing political developments in Lebanon, Sfeir said he was "proud the Lebanese people are determined to live side by side and work together for a better future."
He added that he had thanked God "because we have moved toward a true reconciliation, peace, dialogue and unity."
The Lebanese Patriarch expressed pride at hailing from a country that Pope John Paul II described as "a message of brotherhood and coexistence for the whole world."
On Tuesday night, the Maronite Church in Washington held a reception in Sfeir's honor, while the Lebanese Ambassador to the U.S., Farid Abboud, will hold another reception at his home for the Patriarch.
Sfeir, accompanied by Bishop Roland Abu Jaoude and Father Khalil Alwan, was welcomed at the airport by Lebanese Ambassador to Washington Farid Abboud, charge d'affaires at the Lebanese Embassy Carla Jazra, and Military Attache Brigadier Tony Abu Jaoude.
Also on hand were Bishops Estephan Doueihy, Robert Chahine and Gregory Mansour; members of the Lebanese community in Washington; head of the Lebanese Forces politburo Joseph Jbeily; member of the Qornet Shehwan Gathering Christian opposition group Jean Aziz; member of former army commander General Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement Antoine Haddad; and Michel and Charles Hajj.
Pro- and anti-Syrian, but decidedly anti-American
Amid the chaos of anti-Syrian (and pro-Syrian)demonstrations in Beirut, protestors took their fist-shaking and chanting to the door of the United States Embassy, burning American and Israeli flags.
US government-funded Voice of America reports that a crowd including Hezbullah and pro-Syrian figures demanded the end of American meddling in Lebanese affairs and one speaker called for the removal of U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman.
Reuters reports that the demonstration was comprised of about 3,000 students and was organized by pro-Syrian people against the international presssure the U.S. put on Syrian forces to withdraw.
"Don't interfere, leave us alone, we don't want your fake democracy that we saw ... in Iraq ... through your massacres and human rights breaches there ... and in Palestine through your support to Israeli massacres," one speaker said at the rally.
During Tuesday's protests at the U.S. embassy, reports came of Syrian intelligence forces leaving Beirut. They are the last trace of Syria's military presence in Beirut.
The Lebanese Daily Star's coverage is Here .
BEIRUT, March 15 (Reuters) - Around 3,000 pro-Syrian students chanting "Death to America" marched on the U.S. embassy near Beirut on Tuesday, burning American and Israeli flags and denouncing what they said was U.S. interference in Lebanon.
Waving Lebanese flags, the crowd chanted: "Ambassador leave, keep our country free", in reference to Washington's envoy to Lebanon, Jeffrey Feltman.
The United States has led international pressure that forced Syria this month to announce a two-stage pullout from Lebanon.
"Don't interfere, leave us alone, we don't want your fake democracy that we saw ... in Iraq ... through your massacres and human rights breaches there ... and in Palestine through your support to Israeli massacres," one speaker said at the rally.
Scores of Lebanese soldiers and riot police, backed by armoured personnel carriers, had deployed around the embassy complex in Awkar, north of the capital, and put up metal barricades and barbed wire to keep the crowd away.
Soldiers had taken up positions on rooftops of surrounding buildings, but there were no clashes with protesters.
The march was organised by Syrian-backed political parties including the Shi'ite Muslim Hizbollah guerrilla group.
It follows huge rival rallies over the past month by loyalists and opponents of Syria's dominant role in Lebanon.
"We are against the American onslaught on the region," said a protester who identified himself only as Haitham.
"We are against foreign interference," another student said.
March 14, 2005
Improving the image of the U.S. abroad
Karen Hughes’s nomination as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy shows President Bush’s interest for improving perceptions of the U.S. in the world, and the difficulties he is facing.
In an article published… by the Christian Science Monitor Linda Feldman writes:
The White House sought in its Monday announcement to highlight Hughes's foreign experience, such as accompanying Bush on foreign trips and working to promote women's rights in Afghanistan, but no one is pretending that foreign affairs is her forte. And two years after a US- dominated coalition invaded Iraq, hurting America's image throughout much of the world, Hughes will face a tougher audience than any in Texas or the bluest of blue Democratic states.
Her two predecessors in the post - advertising executive Charlotte Beers and Margaret Tutwiler, a onetime aide to former Secretary of State James Baker - both left with limited records of accomplishment.
But, analysts say, don't count out Hughes before she begins, particularly as recent elections in Iraq and the Palestinian territories have given Bush's vision for Middle Eastern democracy a boost.
Skepticism exists on the conservative side too. For the Heritage Foundation, for example:
Instead of crafting campaign messages—for which she has a knack—Karen Hughes will have to leverage her influence with the President to clean up a botched merger at a time when challenges in foreign communication are the greatest since the beginning of the Cold War. Moreover, she will have to buck those in the Administration who think effective public diplomacy is repeating a slogan slowly and loudly enough until the audience “gets it.”
In fact the Heritage Foundation demands not less than a complete overhaul of Public Diplomacy. Among other advices it suggests that:
[...]she should urge the White House to establish a public diplomacy coordinator position at the National Security Council to put other agencies with missions like information warfare, media development, and foreign broadcasting in sync.
It would be interesting if that meant that conservatives open themselves to the very liberal notion of “Soft Power” promoted by Joseph Nye.
Reactions abroad (where Hughes is not really famous yet)are still slow to come, and came in a trickle.
“Propaganda War Gets a New General” is the title of a dispatch from Inter Press Service. IPS presents itself as “civil society's leading news agency, […] an independent voice from the South and for development, delving into globalization for the stories underneath. It’s headquarter is in Rome, Italy.
The story quotes an American Middle East specialist:
”You need someone who knows something serious about the Middle East publics and is willing to engage them on their terms,” Juan Cole, a history professor at the University of Michigan and an authority on the Middle East, told IPS.
”Ms. Hughes could be effective, but she needs to get good advice from non-toady Arabs and others. There is also the question of how much you can dress up the U.S. support for Israeli occupation and annexation of Muslim lands or the U.S. heavy-handedness in Iraq. PR without policy changes is most often not very effective.”
March 09, 2005
Bush’s Trip to Europe Revisited
In this analysis of Bush’s trip to Europe the recognized Danish newspaper Weekendavisen sums up his Reconciliation Tour as “A changed tone, but no change in substance”.
According to the analysis, the purpose of President Bush’s recent trip was to mirror a sincere desire to reestablish the strongly injured transatlantic relationship after the disagreements on Iraq. But Bush did not bring any concrete promises or initiatives that could mark a “real” change in policy from Washington. No change in the American stand on Kyoto, The International Criminal Court, and no support for the European attempts to use diplomatic measures to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
But what was lacking in concrete policy changes, the Europeans to a high degree received in changed rhetoric and symbolism – which should not be underestimated. At this level, a change in rhetoric often indicates an ongoing or approaching alteration of policy. Thus, Bush was the first American president ever to visit both of the European Union’s executive branches – the Council of Ministers and the European Commission in Bruxelles. This is important, taking into consideration that not long ago members of the Bush Administration talked about “the European integration” as against American interests.
On his trip Bush now talked of Europeans as “America’s closest allies”, he supported the establishment of a “strong Europe”, and he even pretended to be “best pals” with the Iraq critics Chirac and Schröder. Furthermore, he refrained from publicly criticizing proposals for NATO reform, aimed at changing NATO from being a military organization to becoming a political forum for transatlantic dialogue – an idea Washington is strongly against.
Despite the changed rhetoric, friendly handshakes, and a sincere desire to improve the relationship, this Reconciliation Tour could not veil that inconsistencies between Europe and the United States still exist.
Reflections on Iraq
Now, let's think about it again.
Was the aspiration to democracy a reason to invade Iraq? asks the columnist Bernard Guetta in the French newsmagazine L'Express.
The author is really questioning the legitimacy of this invasion, so decried by the anti-war movement but encouraged by neo-conservatives who say a new "democratic regime" in Iraq can maybe encourage a change in the region's regimes.
Is the crisis in Lebanon the premise of a small revolution? After the success of the elections in Palestine and in Iraq, should we believe democratic polls will rule from now on?
Even in Syria, some people speak up against the regime. In Egypt, President Moubarak announced constitutional reforms. In Saudi Arabia, first elections were organized and more changes are to come.
All these are good news, but they don't prove George W. Bush was right. It only tells the world that Ariel Sharon realized peace was impossible without a first concrete step, that Lebanese people aspire to govern their country by themselves and that sooner or later, Syrian citizens would have asked for reforms in their country.
As for the Iraqi elections, their price was really high.
But George W. Bush certainly assimilated the "lesson". He proved it in the Lebanese crisis, when the U.S. and France let the U.N. take charge. The U.S. policy might be on the right path to change.
Bolton's nomination greeted with skepticism in Germany
John Bolton's nomination for the post of American Ambassador to the United Nations was seen as questionable by mainstream German media. The Financial Times of Germany called him a hardliner in their headline and the Tagesspiegel said that European Diplomats must have dropped their breakfast pastries when they heard the news.
Bolton is known for being a staunch neo-conservative, with uncompromising beliefs about Taiwanese independence, Iran's nuclear ambitions and Middle East policy. In its report, the Tagesspiegel wrote:
"Many will see Bolton's nomination as a revision to Bush's conciliatory course of the last week."
Is this an obvious slap in the face to the UN and the US's European allies, or as the New York Times reported it, simply a debatable choice?
March 08, 2005
An assessment for Bush's policy in Middle-east
As an introduction to George W. Bush's speech on Middle east situation and war against terrorism, the French daily Le Monde published on Tuesday March 8th a long article about the reaction of the media, the politics and the Americans on Bush's policiy.
For Corine Lesnes, the Bush's administration avoid avery kind of triumphalism regarding the changes happening in middle east and eastern Europe. She quotes Condoleezza Rice:
"there is no need for triumphalism, because if there's a triumph here it's not America's triumph; it's the triumph of the human spirit; it's the triumph of human will to live in freedom."the Secretary of State said on Friday March on PBS. Lesnes insists however on the fact that Ms Rice added, "when the American president says things, it matters".
Then she makes a quick review of the US press. Only one word comes to her mind : "historic". She quotes the editorial of the New York Times(march 1rst) :
"The Bush administration is entitled to claim a healthy share of the credit for many of these advances. It boldly proclaimed the cause of Middle East democracy at a time when few in the West thought it had any realistic chance."She also quotes Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek, who wrote that Bush's vision of a new mideast was "fondamentaly right", "maybe because of his relative ignorance of the area".
The "Neocons" are in the best position to show their support to the president. William Kristol, one of the thinkers of the movement, estimates that January 30th - the Iraqi's elections - will probably remain one of the key-dates for a validation of Bush's policy as the best response to 9/11. Kristol wrote in the Weekly Standard
"If Bush manages to succeed in Iraq, to force Syria to withdraw from Lebanon and to weaken Iranian mollahs, then the historians will say: Bush was ready to fight and he was right."
Even the Democrats seems to join the congratulations for president Bush, says Corine Lesnes. She quotes Senator Ted Kennedy, who said that the changes in mideast are "extremely constructive", stressing the importance of the president's role and his "reflexion" on the democratization of the Arab world. She also quotes diplomat Nancy Soderberg, who worked with Bill Clinton, saying last week in New York that "if Bush succeds [in the area] it is over for the Democracts for the twenty next years".
However, some Democrats keep attacking George W. Bush, like Congressman Charles Rangel, who said that
"What we [The USA] want is to catch terrorists, not Americans to die just for elections."
Lesnes also gives the point of view of experts, especially Juan Cole, Professor of History at the University of Michigan :
"Much of the authoritarianism in the Middle East since 1945 had actually been supported (sometimes imposed) by Washington for Cold War purposes. The good thing about the democratization rhetoric coming out of Washington (which apparently does not apply to Algeria, Tunisia, Jordan, Yemen, Uzbekistan, and other allies against al-Qaeda) is that it encourages the people to believe they have an ally if they take to the streets to end the legacy of authoritarianism. But Washington will be sorely tested if Islamist crowds gather in Tunis to demand the ouster of bin Ali. We'll see then how serious the rhetoric about people-power really is" he wrote for his blog, antiwar.com.
She finally insist on the Americans opinion, quoting a CBS-NYTimes poll which reveled that Bush priorities are out of step with Americans. Indeed, 59% of them care more about the economic situation and the local matters than about the international situation.
March 07, 2005
22-Nation Poll: China Seen More Favorably Than US, Russia
GlobeScan and the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) have conducted a poll of 22 countries for BBC World Service. The poll was completed during December 2004 in most countries. Among the findings from the poll:
China is viewed much more positively than two other major powers, the US and Russia, which are viewed quite negatively. Russia is viewed as having a negative influence in the world by citizens of fourteen countries and a positive influence in just five, with an average across all countries of 36 percent viewing it positively and 40 percent negatively. The US is also viewed negatively in fifteen countries and positively in just six, with an average of 38 percent viewing it positively and 47 percent negatively. Indeed, China is viewed nearly as positively as Britain by citizens polled worldwide—on average 50 percent view Britain as having a positive influence as compared to 48 percent for China.
Click here to access a summary of the findings
March 06, 2005
Survey on Arab Views of America
I recently came across a 2003 survey on Arab public opinion toward the United States. Shibley Telhami (Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland, College Park, and a senior fellow at the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution), prepared the survey for Zogby International, which interviewed 2,620 men and women in Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Jordan. The study, “A View from the Arab World: A Survey in Five Countries”, was conducted between February 19 and March 11, 2003.
In a summary of the survey’s findings, Telhami reports:
On attitudes toward the U.S.
Very few people in the survey countries have a favorable opinion of the United States: Only 4% in Saudi Arabia, 6% in Morocco and Jordan, 13% in Egypt, and 32% in Lebanon.
Most people say that their attitudes toward the U.S. are based on American policies, not on American values.
On U.S. policy abroad
On the issue of U.S. policy in Iraq, an overwhelming percentage feel that American policy is motivated mainly by oil and secondarily by U.S. support for Israel. Specifically,97% of Saudis, 91% of Lebanese, 87% of Jordanians, 93% of Moroccans and 77% of Egyptians feel that oil is an extremely important issue in motivating U.S. policy toward Iraq. More than three-quarters of Saudis and Jordanians say Israel is an extremely important issue in determining U.S. policy in Iraq, followed by 72% of Moroccans and over 50% of Egyptians and Lebanese.
On the issue of U.S. policy toward the Arab-Israeli dispute, the majority feel that U.S. policy is motivated by support for Israel and oil. Nearly three-fourths of all respondents feel that both Israel and oil are extremely important factors in U.S. policy.
Outside leaders admired most:
Jacques Chirac was often mentioned as one of the most admired leaders.
Figures (past/present) admired most:
Gamal Abdel-Nasser of Egypt, who died in 1970, ranked first in all five countries.
Nelson Mandela ranked second in most countries.
Click here to access the full report on Arab views of America.
March 05, 2005
A serious incident
Upon her arrival in Italy Giuliana Sgrena declared that the US soldiers shot at her car “without motives” (see this note). Her statement was confirmed by an Italian secret agent who survived besides her. They said that the shooting came from a patrol and not from a check-point.
This screen shots of the home page of La Repubblica taken just before 6pm local time on Saturday March 5th, gives a sense of the tension.
According to La Repubblica Sgrena declared:
“The most difficult moment was en I saw the man who saved my life die in my arms.”
The Corriere della Sera gives importance to a declaration from Pier Scolari, Sgrena’s companion according to whom Giuliana’s had been told that “they” would try to kill her. Italian Secret Service answers that such is not the case and that it would have been a very silly way to go. More covert actions could have been implemented, and what happened could endanger the “collaboration of an allied service.”
An article in Today’s New York Times ends with this paragraph:
"This incident will increase popular anti-Americanism," said James Walston, a political scientist at the American University of Rome. “But it won't seriously prejudice the official Italian position of keeping troops in Iraq."
March 04, 2005
Elation and bafflement in Italy
The liberation of Italian Journalist Giuliana Sgrena by her Iraqi kidnappers and the accidental killing of secret service agent Nicola Calipari triggered emotions that might influence the perception of the US in that country.
The titles of two of the most important Italian newspapers are revealing.
The middle of the road Corriere della Sera highlights the fact that the US have declared it was “a mistake”.
The more liberal La Repubblica writes that Calipari was killed by “friendly fire from the USA.” (The screenshots were taken slightly before 8 AM local time on Saturday March 5th).
In the following hours, a significant place has been given to Bush’s phone call to Berlusconi, and to the accidental nature of Calipari’s death.
Nevertheless, the whole sequence might have an impact on perceptions of the US in this European country whose government is a close ally of George Bush while the population does not favor the war in Iraq.
Europe – New realities that the U.S. cannot ignore
One of the most delicate issues when trying to track “perceptions of the United States in the World” might be to gauge the impact of facts on feelings. In particular of changing realities.
The war in Iraq or the growing trend towards democracy in the Middle East is obvious elements about which much has been written.
There are deeper shift though that deeply affect perceptions… on both sides. This excellent article by Mark Schapiro titled “New Power for ‘Old Europe’” is a case in point.
It shows that decisions taken at the EU level may have a serious impact on major US companies that can’t do as much as they would like about it. Schapiro studies in particular the case of REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals), a directive that:
[...]represents an upheaval in the basic philosophy of chemical regulation, flipping the American presumption of "innocent until proven guilty" on its head by placing the burden of proof on manufacturers to prove chemicals are safe--what is known as the "precautionary principle."
The chemicals industry and the State Department have done what they could to derail it, but it’s difficult to influence a democratic body of 25 countries and a market of 450 million consumers.
When Henry Kissinger was Secretary of State for President Ford in 1977, he famously asked in frustration, "What telephone number do you dial to reach Europe?" Today, the area code for that number is clear: 32-2, for Brussels […].
And he adds:
Every European diplomat I spoke with was careful to insist that Europe's new generation of environmental directives is not intended to "impose" Europe's will upon the United States. Camilo Barcia Garcia-Villamil, the Spanish consul in San Francisco, who spent fifteen years working with the EU in Brussels, comments: "The European Union now has increased decision-making capacity. And if American companies want to be active in the European market, they must take account of European rules. We are not imposing our standards. We are making foreign companies respect our standards when they are in Europe."
Such an evolution might influence perceptions of the US abroad, and of the American perception of the problem.
That is less complicated than it sounds.
On one hand, the US might appear as less relevant to some, less all-powerful. On the other, Americans resenting the loss of importance might be tempted to conclude that anti-Americanism is growing.
That’s not necessarily the case, and still this is an essential shift that can’t be ignored.
What do you think?
March 03, 2005
Domestic Conversations on Anti-Americanism
The website Red State.org has a multi-participant conversation on Americanism and Anti-Americanism. Poster DonPMitchell explores the prevalance and history of anti-Americanism throughout Europe, and he and the participants offer up their theories of why anti-Americanism is present. These include the idea that a small group of self-appointed spokespeople represent America and are outspoken in their criticism, the idea that "intellectuals ridicule Americanism and Capitalism because it is a game they cannot win," a suggestion in a comment that the French don't like America because of a history of feeling incited by elitist, etc.
Americanism and Anti-Americanism
By: DonPMitchell · Section: Diaries
Anti-Americanism is not a grass-roots movement in the world, it is not the result of our nation being less generous or less moral than other nations. It is the result of a small class of elitists who hold the power to incite the masses in many nations.
America is a democracy of the common man, a civilization that provides for its own cultural and political needs without the significant involvement of an intellectual class or a ruling clerical class. And that is why the spread of our ideals so threatens such men in Europe, in the Third World or even here at home.
Feb 28th, 2005: 19:01:02, Not Rated
Following Bush's latest visit, a poll showed that more Europeans trusted Russia than America. As remarkable as this seems, it is nothing new. For the last fifty years, anti-Americanism has been widespread in Europe and much of the Third World.
In 1976, the American philosopher Eric Hoffer discussed this puzzling fact in his book Ordeal of Change. In the midst of the Cold War, Hoffer asked why so many people in the world turned to Communism. America was generous, helpful, successful and its citizens enjoyed unprecedented personal freedom. Communism had a long record of purges, censorship, propaganda and had failed to provide economic success. Why would anyone chose the far left?
Hoffer's claim is that most common people do (or could) view America as admirable and desirable. Many people would live here if they could, to give their families a better life and greater opportunity. The source of discontent and anti-Americanism is a small class of self-appointed spokesmen, the intellectuals who dominate the media and endlessly criticize America. In much of the world, men of words hold the power to steer their nations direction.
To understand why these spokesmen hate America, you must first understand what Americanism means. And I am amazed by how few people today have a clear sense of that. Principles that were familiar to every schoolchild in the 1950s are rarely articulated by modern teachers or the media. Speaking them out loud in many forums will elicit laughter.
America was established as a democracy of practical common men. We govern ourselves, we manage our vast economy, and we satisfy our cultural needs, without a hereditary nobility, without holy edicts of all-powerful clerics, without the guidance of an elite intellectual class. Today the whole world watches our movies, listens to our music, uses our software, and benefits from our inventions: atomic power, the internet, communication satellites, etc. For people with talent, bravery and a willingness to be productive, our system offers the opportunity to rise from any circumstances, to be successful, even to shape history.
Now look to European (or even American) intellectuals, or look to the radical Islamic clerics, and imagine the threat they feel in the spreading influence of Americanism. No society has ever been as successful as America, but in no society has the intellectual or the cleric ever been less powerful. We as a people admire men of action, the brave soldier, the hardworking laborer, the practical inventor, the common family man. We instinctively distrust men who eschew hard work, or who step back from a fight when our society is threatened.
Intellectuals ridicule Americanism and Capitalism because it is a game they cannot win, a system that fails to grant them the status and power some of them crave. Just as radical clerics in the Middle East have denounced Democracy. For those men, radical mass movements offer a tempting path to fame and status. If you cannot engineer new food crops that feed billions, then become a spokesman for the radical environmental movement and try to ban those crops. If you cannot be a Bill Gates and make computers accessible to 500 million people, then become an industry pundit who denounces it as just a greedy trick. If you cannot develop a drug to cure disease, then incite people to burn down a medical research lab in the name of animal rights. And those are small movements, compared to the scope and suffering caused by Marxism and Jihadism.
< The Lunacy that we are dealing with! (0 comments) | Another chat with Bill Bennett (0 comments) >
Americanism and Anti-Americanism | 5 comments (5 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
Take it from someone who knows... By: ArrogantConservative
anti-Americanism in Europe has been there for years! Although WW2 was a great victory for americans liberating europe, many were resentful. Some people had no food and blamed Americans. If people were bombed they blamed Americans. Currently we are being blamed for the death of Van Gough's nephew or whatever!
In the 70s Communism and Socialism prevailed in many European nations and these had anti-American sentiment. The Cold War had actually divided many European nations who saw America as the land of capitalists and oppressors. Many governments that sympathised with the US were plagued by internal terrorist bent on toppling it. The French didn't just suddenly start hating us!
Comment Rated: (none / 0) (User Info) (#1)
The French By: DonPMitchell
So are you saying the French (for example) hate us because it is a grass-roots sentiment among its people? I'm suggesting there is a long history of this feeling being incited by elitists.
Comment Rated: (none / 0) [ Parent ] (User Info) (#4)
Not so sure about the status of intellectuals By: modo
no society has the intellectual or the cleric ever been less powerful.
Clerics in America command a great deal of respect and in the case of Pat Robertson, a dose of political power at times. Intellectuals in the Cato Institute and especially the Heritage Foundation have more direct access to power and influence on policy than JS Mill or John Dewey ever did.
Intellectuals ridicule Americanism and Capitalism because it is a game they cannot win
Be careful assigning unconscious motives to whole groups of people. Or even nefarious conscious motives. This statement sounds like the flip side of "conservatives just promote capitalism because it's a game they themselves are winning". It is just as possible to believe capitalism has limitations as a system, as to support capitalism because you think it does the most good to the most people. That said, I know plenty of 'intellectuals' who simultaneously are doing quite well in the capitalist arena.
It is true that there are differences between the way academics make a living compared to most of working people; tenure, publish or perish, and I'm sure a host of other things i'm not privy to, are conditions particular to academia. Every job has such unique characteristics. True they are not motivated to work by profit incentives, but by the chance to advance in their universities and achieve professional recognition. I can understand that would be hard for some people to accept as an honest motivator. But they still have to produce ideas to achieve tenure, they have to teach, they have to maintain professional ethical standards, and I'm not sure why they garner such disdain as a group. Do you feel the same way about the intellectuals at Heritage Foundation? If not, what allowed them to escape the fate of anti-Americanism, since you seem to believe that the position of intellectuals in society destines them to it?
"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves." --A. Lincoln
Comment Rated: (none / 0) (User Info) (#2)
Hoffer and Intellectualism By: DonPMitchell
When Hoffer talks about Intellectuals, he is talking about a particular flavor and a particular activity, and I have probably not made the distinction clearly.
He's not talking about a great teacher, or an academic who made a discovery, or a professor who started a company. He's talking about intellectual elistist, pseudo-intellectuals, and journalists who are anti-american because they fear that americanism will diminish the status they enjoy.
I think Hoffer is correct in identifying this as a driving force in foreign anti-americanism.
Comment Rated: (none / 0) [ Parent ] (User Info) (#3)
Thankfully ... By: coemachine
I am glad my ancestors took the initiative and fled.
Take heed, Europe! The fat and happy welfare state years sheltered by the US backed NATO defense umbrella are coming to a close. Cozy up to China and Russia at your own riisk.
Comment Rated: (none / 0) (User Info) (#5)
Anti-Americanism not a way to unite Europe
The Miami Herald ran an opinion piece by popular syndicated columnist Carlos Alberto Monater asserting that The EU Must Reject Anti-Americanism.
Monater points to the coinciding events of Spain overwhelmingly voting in favor of the EU constitution (which he says hardly anybody read) and Bush's visit to the Old Continent. The paradox, he says:
"But what should horrify any sensible person is the basic reason brandished by Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero to support the European Constitution: To strengthen a major political entity destined to balance and confront the present power of the United States and the potential development of China."
He goes on to say that Spain's Socialists used the reason of the country's strong Anti-Americanism to solicit votes for a united Europe.
It gets complicated, though, as Monater explores old and new perceptions of power dynamics in the world, and the differences of interpretation of Europe and the United States.
His prescription is that old mental perceptions must be renounced for there to be any progress or cooperation.
"It may be easier to stimulate pan-Europeanism if the anti-American component is used in political campaigns, but that type of aggressive nationalism founded on an unfair rejection of others (''others'' who gave their lives by the thousands to rescue Europe from Nazism) merely shows a profound inability to understand the historic moment in which we find ourselves and the enormous possibilities of collective happiness this moment entails."
EU must reject anti-Americanism
BY CARLOS ALBERTO MONTANER
Shortly after the Spanish referendum on the European Constitution, President Bush landed in the Old Continent. Both events were marked by paradoxes worth exploring.
The referendum was intended to procure the approval of the Spanish people for a lengthy document that must be ratified by the 25 nations that form the European Union. The text -- more of an international treaty than a true Constitution -- had been coordinated by former French President Valery Giscard D'Estaing, with the cooperation of about 100 politicians and European parliamentarians.
The result was a kind of operations manual for the EU, with a sizable sidebar about rights and a certain social-democratic aroma very typical of the type of bureaucratized federation of nations that, little by little, is being forged in Brussels.
A Pyrrhic victory
The Spaniards went to the polls with low spirits and a high degree of ignorance (almost no one read the constitution), but more than 80 percent of those who showed up (42 percent of the registered voters) voted in favor, so the great European ''law of laws'' survived its first trial by fire.
That was important, because rejection by only one country would be enough to bring the whole effort crashing down. The triumph of the Yes vote in Spain, although a Pyrrhic victory, was a good beginning for the long process of electoral consultation and parliamentary debate that looms ahead. Naturally, the big question is: What will happen in Britain, where society has traditionally been suspicious of the political machinations in what Britons call ``the continent.''
So far, it appears there is nothing substantial to criticize. But what should horrify any sensible person is the basic reason brandished by Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero to support the European Constitution: To strengthen a major political entity destined to balance and confront the present power of the United States and the potential development of China.
Zapatero's Socialists used anti-Americanism (which is very strong in Spain) to solicit votes for a united Europe. This was said on Spain's official TV channel by none other than the president of the European Parliament, Josep Borrell, a Socialist engineer from Catalonia, a man with moderate leanings who is, however, a victim of an archaic, sectarian and dangerous way of interpreting international relations.
The great opportunity for peace and prosperity now before the world comes precisely from the disappearance of power blocs after the Cold War and from the unstoppable expansion of the values and methods of government established in the West's cultural perimeter, a huge space that includes nations as dissimilar as Japan, Turkey, Israel, India and South Africa, along with Europe, the United States and Canada.
What's needed, therefore, is not to recreate the old tensions between adversarial fragments but to strengthen the cooperation between countries that respect human and civil rights, make decisions by democratic means and organize their economic transactions according to the market and the existence of private property. In other words, the three fundamental features that give shape and sense to what we call ``the West.''
Somehow, the essence of Bush's message when he stepped on European soil was this: The United States, unlike what Borrell thinks, does not perceive Europe as a different or adversarial force. It does not worry about its union and does not lose sleep over the existence of the euro.
Quite the opposite. The United States believes that the growing cohesion of the Old World is an excellent opportunity to conduct business without costly customs barriers and to fortify the Atlantic Alliance, a military force that is very necessary to prevent massacres and genocides such as the ones the Americans and the Europeans managed to halt in Yugoslavia with difficulty -- or, in the future, to suppress the homicidal spasms of ''mad states'' such as Iran, Syria or North Korea.
It may be easier to stimulate pan-Europeanism if the anti-American component is used in political campaigns, but that type of aggressive nationalism founded on an unfair rejection of others (''others'' who gave their lives by the thousands to rescue Europe from Nazism) merely shows a profound inability to understand the historic moment in which we find ourselves and the enormous possibilities of collective happiness this moment entails.
Today, the ''perpetual peace'' foretold by Kant remains possible, but to achieve it, it is necessary to renounce old mental perceptions. That's the only obstacle looming on the horizon.
March 02, 2005
Turkey - Can public opinion affect the relations between two states?
It is tempting to say “no”, and this might be taken as a satisfying answer in traditional circles. In today’s world though, with the growing impact of democracies, and the emergence of everyday more powerful civil societies it looks insufficient and potentially dangerous.
Let’s take the case of Turkey on the basis of a fascinating story published yesterday by the Turkish Daily News about the tensions between Ankara and Washington.
Turkish public opinion is not favorable explains TDN. Iraq is a great cause of concern.
[...] religious Turks, […] are infuriated by what they see as the persecution of Sunnis in Iraq. Secular Turks, for their part, are frustrated by what they perceive as American efforts to pave the way to the creation of an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq.
As usual, it can take some exacerbated forms:
Some eccentric Turkish newspaper reports even blamed the United States for the tsunami that hit southern Asia late last year, killing more than 250,000 people. Accusations ranged from "causing the tsunami with a secret nuclear test" to deliberately failing to inform the region's people in time.
Also, Turkey's new best-selling novel, “Metal Storm,” although it is pure fiction, highlights the deep fear and anger that many Turks feel toward the United States. The book is about a U.S. invasion of Turkey in 2007.
100,000 copies of “Metal Storm” have been sold since its publication in December. It strikes a chord with Turkish fears, and is said to be cautiously read by political and military leaders (according to this story published in Middle East Times.)
Could all this alter the relation between Ankara and Washington? TDN is very ambiguous about that.
Nothing seems to have changed behind the scene except for some tension at the beginning of each bilateral meeting. The “fundamental of ties between Ankara and Washington remain unchanged” in particular in the military cooperation field.
This is traditional diplomacy in tense situation. And a Turkish Foreign Ministry official went further when, according to TDN, he commented that:
“The anti-American sentiment in the Turkish public opinion has very limited leverage on the government. Has anyone ever seen a fundamental change in historic ties between two states because of negative public sentiment?”
In fact US officials seem to have a different view and they let it be known. They complain about the media, and, according to TDN:
remarks by Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy […] made a major impact in Ankara. “It's crucial,” said Feith, “that the appreciation of our relationships extend beyond government officials down to the public in general, because otherwise the relationship is really not sustainable ... We hope that officials in our partner countries are going to be devoting the kind of effort to building popular support for the relationship that we build in our own country.”
Feith’s understanding of how a government should deal with public opinion may be a subject of interesting controversies, but it clearly reveals that the US administration is paying attention to anti-Bush, and anti-American sentiments in the world.
Politicians, diplomats and scholars who see the world in terms of Realpolitik may still believe that public opinion does not matter much in state to state relations. They cannot ignore the fact that it is a cause of serious concern for the most powerful of them.
The US government is learning that even with unchallenged military power it cannot ignore the feelings of the people abroad. That is becoming a fact of international relations that everybody will have to adjust to. And we might discover on the way that civil society is becoming a major actor of foreign relations.
March 01, 2005
Is everything okay between the US and the EU?
If you believe this summary of the EU-US meetings in Brussels last week, it is. Published in Die Welt, Germany's third-largest, and conservative, non-tabloid newspaper, this article looks at some points of contention between the US and the EU. For something that is not an opinion piece, it expresses a surprisingly strong belief in the unity between the US and the EU on a number of foreign policy issues. This is a word-for-word translation of the article.
Convergence or Differences?
The bridge across the Atlantic is strong again – at least the US and the EU are giving this impression. In Brussels, George Bush and the European Union demonstrated united forces. Washington and the EU members have officially buried their disagreement over Iraq, but there are still differences of opinion on bigger political questions. However, in some points there is a move towards consensus.
The EU wants to lift the weapons embargo on China, which was put into place fifteen years ago as a result of the suppression of the democracy movement there. Germany and France lead this charge, and only Ireland and Sweden still have reservations. The US is against the removal of sanctions on the grounds of human rights issues. From Washington’s standpoint, the end of the arms embargo would endanger the stability of the region, especially the relationship between China and Taiwan. A possible compromise could come through an agreement to determine which goods are allowed to be exported, and which ones not.
Both the EU and the US are denying Iran’s right to develop nuclear weapons. However, beyond this, there are differences of opinion. Great Britain, Germany and France have been trying to practice diplomacy for months, to convince Tehran to give up its uranium enrichment program. The EU asks proof from Iran that their program is for a peaceful use of the energy. So far, the US has shown no readiness to accept the EU’s line of negotiating. Bush said multiple times in Brussels that the military option is not on the table. Bush called the assertion ridiculous that concrete plans for an attack are ready.
The European Union wants to arrange an international Iraq conference together with the US. At the meeting, aid for Iraq should be coordinated. The EU is ready to organize this conference. From this, Brussels wants to open an EU office in Baghdad. Bush has signaled acceptance that Germany didn’t send any soldiers into Iraq.
The US and the EU share the viewpoint that Syria should be called on to reduce its security forces in Lebanon. The EU – led by France – wants to achieve this goal without imposing trade sanctions. Both the US and EU support a jointly sponsored UN resolution to investigate the murder of former Lebanese president Rafik Hariri.
The Middle East
The EU and the US want to undertake a joint effort to achieve peace and stability in the Middle East. The chance for peace has never been this apparent as now, Bush pointed out. EU council President Jean-Claude Juncker said it is clear “that we’re not going to move forward, unless Americans and Europeans pull together.”
On the question of NATO-reform, Americans and Europeans demonstrated extensive unity. Bush praised NATO as the “most successful alliance in the history of the world” and called for an intensive political dialogue between Europe and the US. On the issue, Gerhard Schroeder has expressed agreement for the most part, over the form there “will be discussions.” In the closing discussions, it appeared that the strategic partnership with the EU should be further developed. Schroeder recently made the suggestion of NATO reform and a strengthening of the direct dialogue between the US and the EU. While the European NATO states are for the idea of direct dialogue, the US rejects this request. In the final communiqué reads – “NATO remains the decisive forum for political security consultations between Europe and America.”
“The US and the EU are again bound to each other,” EU Commission president Jose Barroso said. Bush spoke of a “new era of transatlantic relations.” Belgian host Guy Verhofstadt said, a new understanding should arise out of the disputes of the past. And all political observers are of the opinion that the meeting between the US and the EU has ended the transatlantic ice age.
Bush and French President Jacques Chirac renewed their relationship at a communal dinner. A relationship that suffered during the Iraq war. A California wine and French fries were served at dinner as a sign of reconciliation. Chirac wants to visit the US this year. The bilateral relations to Bush’s second antagonist on the question of Iraq, Gerhard Schroeder, will be at the center of discussions during Bush’s visit to Germany.
From Silvia Ayuso - Is the Spanish “yes” to the EU constitution a “no” to the US?
Spaniards have massively (77%) approved the European constitution in a recent vote. This comes after they withdrew their troops from Iraq, and in the midst of much cooler relationships between Madrid and Washington.
Silvia Ayuso, a journalist for DPA in Madrid, and a friend of WORLDANDUS sent us this letter commenting on the deeper meaning of the vote as a potential indicator of evolving feelings towards the US.
With this we open WORLDANDUS to your contributions. You can comment on the entries, and you can send us longuer letters. We will publish the most relevant ones in the core section of the site.
Silvia Ayuso’s letter:
European leaders have praised the Spain’s vote as a "success" and an example for the countries that still have to decide via referendum over the EU's treaty.
But, what lies behind of that overwhelming approval of the text that's going to give the first Constitution not bounded to a concrete nation but to 25 and over 450 million people?
Could it be read as a stance against the US? The answer is far easier... and even selfish: For most Spaniards, this was a mere question of benefits.
The Eurobarometer states that the Spaniards are the most enthusiastic "pro-Europeans”" of the continent. They feel that their lives have improved enormously since the country entered the EU 1986.
In fact, in the past 19 years, Spain has evolved from an almost third world country to play in the "major league".
So even though 90% of the Spaniards admit that they had not read the constitutional text before going to the polls, they were convinced about voting "yes" as the main parties -the governing socialist and the conservative in the opposition- had promoted.
Still, it should not be forgotten that the abstention rate –over 57 %- was very high, though similar to the last European elections in June 2004. The “no” campaign was very strong too, exposing the many lacks in social matters, welfare and equality that it has.
But maybe this was not that important for most Spaniards compared with the feeling of belonging to a bigger community that has given them so much and that, why not, may represent a stronger position towards the unilateralism of the US.