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The US/European "Divide"

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  • The US/European "Divide"

    Financial Times article. Sums it up pretty well.

    Gerard Baker: The land of the free enjoys being a force for good
    By Gerard Baker
    Published: April 11 2003 19:43 | Last Updated: April 11 2003 19:43

    Since the end of the cold war, the felling of other people's totalitarian icons has been a central feature in the self-told American narrative of the sweeping encroachment of liberty.


    From Berlin to Bucharest and Moscow, the image of failed tyrants ending up on the scrap heap of history has steadily banished the doubts of the Vietnam era and served increasingly to confirm Americans' faith in the ultimate success of their leadership in the human struggle for freedom.

    But the events that were broadcast into US homes from Firdos Square on Wednesday captured so aptly the American self-image that they might have been scripted by military choreographers. With Saddam Hussein's regime collapsing around them, a gaggle of excited Iraqis marched into the half-empty square in central Baghdad and set about downing the giant statue of the benignly beckoning dictator. When the plinth's masonry refused to yield to their efforts, a platoon of American marines was on hand to provide the necessary final push to topple the bronze figure.

    There it was - replayed on US television screens and in frame-by-frame still photographs on the front pages of newspapers this week. A repressed and brutalised people yearning to break their bonds, chipping away at the base of the regime that enslaved them but in the end needing and welcoming the benevolent assistance of American might. Even the brief public relations bêtise of the marine throwing the Stars and Stripes over the head of the tyrant seemed to fit the story perfectly. It was a fleeting visual reminder of the many triumphs over which Old Glory has waved before happily ceding its place to the symbols others choose to represent them.

    American reaction to what is universally described as the liberation of Iraq this week has provided an important lesson in the outlook and international politics of the world's now enhanced hyperpower. The war to remove Mr Hussein may have been the brainchild of a small cabal of political idealists and national security planners. It may have damaged America's standing in the world and its leadership of traditional alliances. But the winning of the military campaign has once again, for most Americans, amply repaid their faith in their country and the ideals it represents.

    This is not to say either that the victory is yet complete or that the American people have been fooled into believing this war has made the post-September 11 world safe again. On the contrary, a poll for ABC News and The Washington Post this week suggested that a clear majority of Americans believed their military would be occupied in Iraq for many months, if not years, and feared terrorism would not abate. Yesterday the looting, violence and disorder of almost-postwar Iraq was a reminder of the fragility of the long-term success of the project.

    But whatever the doubts, however grave the risks of the uncertain new world created this week, the contented reaction of even sceptical US politicians and commentators is telling. It was yet another chapter in the story of liberty.

    "It has always been like this for tyrants," proclaimed the Los Angeles Times, from the heart of cynical California. The Boston Globe, the mouthpiece of liberal Massachusetts, acknowledged that "liberation from Saddam Hussein's tyranny" was long overdue. On Thursday New York held what was probably the first of many victory rallies.

    It is this self-faith as much as anything that defines and differentiates Americans from most of the rest of the world. There is not much doubt that outside the US American intentions, especially under the Bush administration, are regarded with a degree of suspicion and resentment. In the Arab world this week, but also even in much of Europe, the images of Americans on the streets of Baghdad were confirmation of worst fears.

    But more significant than differences between Americans and everyone else in how they view the world or how they view America is the difference between how Americans and others view themselves.

    Americans, almost alone in the world, have a serious, unironic, uncynical, even simplistic belief that their country is a force for enduring good. They acknowledge it does not always get it right, that at times its antics fall far short of its highest ideals, but all but the most hardened cynics really believe in America as a force for freedom and prosperity and in the universality of these goals. This belief is born of the country's history, religion and culture.

    For most of the rest of the world, this ingenuous faith in the nation's unyielding will and power to produce beneficial outcomes for everybody is almost non-existent. Europeans, especially, live in a post-religious, post-ideological, rationalist-pragmatist haze. Coming off a century that left millions of them dead at the hands of successively failed ideologies, and a succession of wars that almost everyone lost, they are understandably sceptical of politicians and pundits who claim their country is an effective force for good. They are more inclined to see the world as a complex struggle between morally equivalent interests.

    There have been illuminating illustrations of this difference in the course of the war. Much has been made in the European press of the co-operative, some would say supine, approach of the US media to the military and political leaders of the campaign. Embedded reporters have mostly told heroic tales of derring-do. Except for a few days of doubt in the early stages, when Iraqi resistance was tougher than expected, mainstream American reporting of the war has come dangerously close to patriotic cheerleading.

    By contrast, British journalists - representatives of the only European country actively engaged in the war - maintained a much more critical stance. This was not new. The British Broadcasting Corporation in particular has been repeatedly criticised in past conflicts for its attempt to be balanced - and has faced some flak in the US.

    The reaction in Britain to the success of the campaign is also typical. There has been little patriotic chest- thumping, except in predictable corners of the UK media, just acknowledgment and gratitude to the armed forces for their professionalism. American soldiers, interviewed on the streets of Baghdad, were asked repeatedly this week why they were there. Almost all said, self-consciously but without a hint of irony, "to free the people of Iraq". It is almost impossible to imagine British soldiers offering such an unqualified expression of idealism.

    It is not hard to see why this self-belief evinces such cynicism around the world. The US record - supporting tyrants, even in places such as Iraq where it eventually topples them - is hardly unblemished. At times, America's commitment to liberty has looked a little selective.

    But you can hardly blame Americans as they contemplate once again a rapid victory by the force of their arms, followed by scenes of jubilation in a foreign land, for thinking that they sit on the right side of history. And you surely cannot help but marvel at the fact that they are almost alone in seeing themselves that way.
    "Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding."

    – Associate Justice Louis D. Brandeis, Olmstead vs. United States.

  • #2
    I'm somewhat surprised that you would post an article like this MikeJ.

    Pierre
    Scientists have announced they've discovered a cure for apathy. However no one has shown the slightest bit of interest !!

    Comment


    • #3
      What's surprising about it?
      "Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding."

      – Associate Justice Louis D. Brandeis, Olmstead vs. United States.

      Comment


      • #4
        I don't know. It seems kinda conservative.
        Scientists have announced they've discovered a cure for apathy. However no one has shown the slightest bit of interest !!

        Comment


        • #5
          Heh.

          Well the author points out the differences in perception of US actions, not that US is either benevolent or malevolent - he doesn't make that judgement call.

          This is why the debates surrounding the US oten get so heated. Both sides of the fence think they occupy the moral high ground and neither side could prove the other wrong in any kind of absolute sense.

          Though, obviously, the liberal viewpoint is more in the right .
          "Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding."

          – Associate Justice Louis D. Brandeis, Olmstead vs. United States.

          Comment


          • #6
            Is this the pro-American Mike J?
            "There is no great genius without some touch of madness."

            Seneca (5 BC - 65 AD)

            Comment


            • #7
              I'm still not sure why people see political leanings in this article. The writer goes to great lengths to avoid doing so, as not to detract from his central point.
              "Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding."

              – Associate Justice Louis D. Brandeis, Olmstead vs. United States.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: The US/European "Divide"

                Originally posted by MikeJ
                Financial Times article. Sums it up pretty well.

                For most of the rest of the world, this ingenuous faith in the nation's unyielding will and power to produce beneficial outcomes for everybody is almost non-existent. Europeans, especially, live in a post-religious, post-ideological, rationalist-pragmatist haze. Coming off a century that left millions of them dead at the hands of successively failed ideologies, and a succession of wars that almost everyone lost, they are understandably sceptical of politicians and pundits who claim their country is an effective force for good. They are more inclined to see the world as a complex struggle between morally equivalent interests

                Hi,

                I really like this article, especially this part concerning European.
                If Us citizen are able to keep that in mind, they may understand why peace is so important for us.
                Once again all my grandgrandfathers fight against prussians both my granfather fight against german, my father fight germans too
                etc...
                And at the end at the VERDUN 80 years celebration in 1986, both Mitterand and Kohl Hand in Hand to celebrate more than 1/2 million deads (for nothing??).
                We know the price of war, you had the luck to be never invaded, neither to see your towns destroyed by artillery of aerial bombings.
                Even if she has 70 my mother always tremble of fear when she ears the monthly testing of bombing alarm in Paris ( each 1st wenedsay of the month all alarm are tested in Paris. it is frightening if your are thinking it may come true one day)

                So I'm happy that Sadam was thrown away, but how many deads ??

                Best Regards to all of you

                Der Wanderer
                The Best weapon ever:a good Joke. The Best shield ever: Humour
                JLBETIN© Aka Der Wanderer TOAW Section Leader is a █ WHQ/SZO/XG/Gamesquad® product since 01/2003
                The Birth of European Army Tournament round Three is opened

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