This piece - written for the Wall Street Journal by Lebanese author Fouad Ajami - provides ample food for thought:
"American liberalism is heavily invested in this narrative of U.S. isolation. The Shiites have their annual ritual of 10 days of self-flagellation and penance, but this liberal narrative is ceaseless: The world once loved us, and all Parisians were Americans after 9/11, but thanks to President Bush we have squandered that sympathy. (...)
The deference of American liberal opinion to the coffeehouses of Istanbul and Amman and Karachi is nothing less than astounding. You would not know from these surveys, of course, that anti-Americanism runs deep in the French intellectual scene, and that French thought about the great power across the Atlantic has long been a jumble of envy and condescension. In the fabled years of the Clinton presidency, long before Guantanamo, the torture narrative and the war in Iraq, American pension funds were, in the French telling, raiding their assets, bringing to their homeland dreaded Anglo-Saxon economics, and the merciless winds of mondialisation (globalization).
I grew up in the Arab world in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and anti-Americanism was the standard political language – even for those pining for American visas and green cards. Precious few took this seriously. The attraction to the glamorous, distant society was too strong in the Beirut of my boyhood."
This speaks to the reality - eloquently identified by Dr. Andrei Markovits - that America will always be disliked primarily for what it is and not what it does. The Blame-America-First line of thought so powerful among members of the American left meshes very well with this trend and often seeks to highlight and justify it in political terms.
(As an aside, the irony of foreign America-bashers seeking visas and green cards also reminds of this story, entitled "Green Card" from fellow blogger Karin Quade.)
There is one line in the article - however - that is difficult to agree with:
"The great battle over the Iraq war has subsided, and Europeans who ponder the burning grounds of the Islamic world know the distinction between fashionable anti-Americanism and the international order underpinned by American power. George W. Bush may have been indifferent to political protocol, but he held the line when it truly mattered, and the Europeans have come to understand that appeasement of dictators and brigands begets its own troubles." (emphasis ours)
The European reaction to Iraq at the very beginning shows that this is still not entirely the case.
Even if Europeans possess this understanding of the dangers posed by dictators and fanatics at some level - painfully few are willing to take REAL ACTION (as opposed to talking about, passing resolutions, writing angry letters of condemnation or just wringing hands from the moral high-ground) to combat them.
Just look at how few Germans support the mission in Afghanistan. One poll showed 85% opposed to sending troops into the south of the country were most combat was taking place. A poll from last year showed a solid majority favored bringing German troops home.
Questions for our readers: Let's assume that Obama wins the upcoming election and people in Germany and France suddenly begin to love the United States a whole lot more. What would be the difference or benefit in real terms for the United States and its people? Would we see more European troops in conflict zones? Better trade conditions? More German tourists (is that a good thing?) Perhaps fewer uncomfortable social encounters with taxi drivers, party-goers and university professors?
Or...might relations actually get worse (if the US goes protectionist for example?)
Please leave us a comment with your thoughts...