by Victor Davis Hanson
American Enterprise Online
An entire industry has arisen to account for the recent anti-Americanism. In the case of the Europeans, the end of the Cold War lessened the need for subsidized American protection, emboldening them to caricature Americans as fat and materialistic.
Did envy arise because the world’s sole superpower ignored weaker Europeans’ efforts to tie up the U.S. with multilateral strings? Did the Cold War make us forget that we were always different peoples — Americans the freer, richer, more religious, fertile, and optimistic? Perhaps George W. Bush — drawling, Christian, and Texan — earned us their fury, so unlike French-speaking John Kerry or obsequious Bill Clinton?
The Middle East was spoon-fed this European anti-Americanism. Twenty-one autocratic governments also deflected popular outrage onto us through state-run media. The bogeymen Israel and America were responsible for everything from stealing oil, even when it was sold to us at sky-high prices, to killing a few hundred Palestinian terrorists, when hundreds of thousands of Arab civilians were butchered by the Husseins and Assads.
But mostly anti-Americanism was a boutique enterprise, revealed as such when the U.S. was the most desirable destination of the world’s migrating poor and its popular culture had swept the globe. It is always surreal to read Mexico City elites slurring the United States as millions of illegal aliens risk their lives to cross our borders and escape the corruption and racism of their home country.
Things are changing, however, both here and abroad. Thousands of American troops have left Europe. Its denizens now sense that the American people no longer wish to subsidize their defense only to earn ingratitude. The E.U. dream of heaven on earth may be mired in high taxes, low growth, high unemployment, and demographic and entitlement time bombs — not the sort of platform from which to hector a supposedly sinking U.S.
Things are even more evolutionary in the Middle East. Dissidents in Egypt or Beirut are not singing the praises of the E.U. or U.N. Nor are the new democrats in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is still too early to appreciate much of this shifting, but historical forces are now in play which are not conducive to vaunted European “soft power,” so often a mask for crass profiteering.
Soon, freed Middle Easterners are going to make a few simple deductions: France profited mightily from Saddam; America removed him. The E.U. wanted nothing to do with the new democracy in Baghdad; Americans from places like San Antonio and Tulsa died to preserve it. An Iranian knows that the U.S., not Germany or Belgium, wishes him to be free and is more likely to take the risks to see it happen. An Afghan could assure him of that.
The muscle-flexing of China has given Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan second thoughts. They worry not that the United States invites them into partnerships, but that we might not. The Americans allow outsourcing to India, buy thousands of Hondas, and send young men to the Korean DMZ. Europe sells China new bombs, the French fleet goes on maneuvers with the communists, and the E.U. keeps it tariffs and subsidies high. A once-caricatured America starts to look very good again.
There is another wild card at play that explains the decrease in anti-Americanism. After September 11, the American people are in a much less apologetic mood — more likely to pull troops or cut off aid than to ask forgiveness for imaginary grievances. No one here laments that we left the Philippines or are departing Germany. We took out Saddam without Belgians and Frenchmen, without bases in Turkey, and despite, not because of, the U.N. or Arab league.
America runs high trade deficits with Asia and Europe. It lets 20 million illegal aliens cross our borders. It spends liberally on defense, patrolling sea-lanes and protecting commerce rather than setting up autocracies and stealing oil.
Americans are finally beginning to wonder whether all these ungrateful folks are worth the toil and treasure. In response, critics abroad are beginning to sense that their cheap rhetoric may have real consequences, that maybe the U.S. was a good deal for the world, after all.
George W. Bush did not cause this new round of anti-Americanism. But he may well have done more than anyone to end it.
©2005 Victor Davis Hanson