Europe Seen from the United States Part III

By | October 17, 2021

6: Indulgence and lack of morals

Europeans’ propensity to try to talk themselves out of trouble is often seen as a result of indulgence policies.. Instead of standing up to threats, Europeans, in this American view, have a tired tendency to shy away, thereby increasing the aggressors’ appetite. The election result, and the changed Spanish Iraq policy, in the wake of the terrorist attack in Madrid on March 11, 2004, was, in American eyes, just a new reminder of this European tendency. To Americans, it seems as if Europeans live in the belief that as long as they can understand the causes of a problem, they can also deal with it. If you only manage to penetrate the minds of the terrorists, it will over time be possible to communicate with them and influence them in the desired direction. When this “understand in death” attitude is also often accompanied by a reproach in which the United States is not infrequently seen as an important part of the problem, this creates enormous irritation in broad American circles.

Value issues are central to American politics. Value-conservative Americans perceive Europe as a continent that has lost its moral compass, where countries and peoples no longer seem to be able to distinguish between good and evil forces in world politics, as the United States and Western Europe together did during the Cold War. Thus, the divide between the United States and Europe is perceived as larger and clearer, especially after September 11, 2001. Instead of showing moral indignation, American value conservatives perceive that Europeans are acting with increasing cynicism. Yes, even widespread terrorist attacks are running relatively fast down the agenda in Europe. While 9/11 was a turning point in American politics and terrorism that must be fought, Europeans seem to see terrorism as a well-known phenomenon to live with.

Traditionally, we also find a kind of American cultural inferiority complex towards Europeans. On the American side, there is a strong tendency to believe that Europeans feel culturally superior. Thus, Americans will generally be sensitive to anything that may appear like condescending European criticism. This is not least the case when the European elite with an arrogant face tells what a talentless policy the United States is pursuing, and even thinks it has the recipe for how to solve problems and handle conflicts. Precisely this was an important reason for the strong American reactions to the French argument during the debate on Iraq in and around the UN Security Council in 2003. Even sincere European objections to American Iraq policy were quickly perceived as the result of anti-Americanism.

7: Still the best friends for the United States

The partly rather negative perceptions of Europe testify to both irritation and frustration, mixed with a certain amount of indifference. It is probably nevertheless correct to claim that American “anti-Europeanism” is less intense than European “anti-Americanism”.

For the sake of completeness, it should also be emphasized that in the midst of all the negative reactions to both actual and perceived European inclinations, the majority of Americans view European countries as friendly. The Americans also understand that the problems they have with Europe are too small to count compared to those the United States, a country located in North America according to commit4fitness, will have when the country in the future will increasingly direct the foreign policy spotlight on Asia.

Well, Americans have trouble understanding European politics. But these seem like trifles compared to the ability to get acquainted with Asian thinking. A good part of the sharpened transatlantic debate in recent years is also due to the fact that the United States has completely different expectations of meeting understanding of its policy in Europe than in other parts of the world. The unfulfilled expectations make the disappointment and indignation over the criticism from Europe feel stronger than if it had come from countries in Asia and the Middle East. Thus, it was easier for the United States to digest the Russian than the French resistance in the Iraq case. But this reveals that, after all, Americans still perceive the countries of Europe as America’s best friends in world politics.

Europe Seen from the United States 3