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Mar. 2003 - America, Europe, and the rest of the world

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Chris OConnor

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Mar. 2003 - America, Europe, and the rest of the world

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This thread is for the discussion of Massimo's March 2003 article entitled America, Europe, and the rest of the world.Quote:N. 34, March 2003America, Europe, and the rest of the worldHow deep is the current divide between Europe and the United States in terms of how to conduct international affairs? Alarming notes have been sounded on both sides of the Pond to the effect that the rift risks breaking up NATO and rendering the United Nations "irrelevant" (to use the rhetoric of the Bush administration. Usually, the French are being singled out for leading the rebellion against the US hegemony, even though an overwhelming majority of European citizens have been voicing their opposition to the current US policy on Iraq, even in "pro-American" countries such as Britain and Italy.As it is often the case in complex matters, one cannot form a reasonable opinion just by listening to alternative ways of spinning the same stories in the media (assuming that one bothers to check directly what the French or British press say, since American media are becoming more and more homogeneous thanks to their ownership by an increasingly smaller number of multinationals). It was therefore refreshing to see actual data from a large survey of American and European attitudes conducted by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations (CCFR). The picture emerging from the study is more complex and nuanced than what we tend to hear trumpeted by talking heads and media pundits. It comes down to the following: Europeans are inclined to agree with Americans on more issues than either of them agrees with the rest of the world (this is good news for people who are worried about the collapse of the West). However, there are major areas of disagreement that might make for a very interesting upcoming decade in geopolitics (and this is the good news for those who are interested in a more open discussion of international issues). Let's take a look at some of the details. First off, Americans and Europeans really like each other, and this goes even for the French. On a scale of 0 to 100, Americans rate European countries between 61 (Germany) and 76 (Great Britain), which is much higher than they rate any other country except Canada. Conversely, the Brits rate the US at 68, and the rest of Europe doesn't go any lower than the Dutch's 59. Furthermore, Europeans and Americans see the same threats in the world, with terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism ranking the highest. And, both sides agree that war on Iraq would be justified, if backed by the United Nations (complete opposition to the war run at only 13% in the US and 26% in Europe at the time the survey was conducted). However, worldviews start to diverge when one digs a bit deeper. Generally speaking, Americans find the world a much more threatening place than Europeans do. Most importantly, the two also differ on their analysis of why some threats are there to begin with. For example, 55% of Europeans think that US foreign policies have directly contributed to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 (and I would add that a good case can be made that they are not far off the mark). Americans and Europeans also sharply disagree on how to fix the problems they face. Only 19% of Europeans would like to increase their country's military spending, as opposed to 44% of Americans (and one need to notice that the US already allocates significantly more money to the military than European countries do). On the other hand, Europeans are much more willing to spend their resources on foreign aid, since a large majority of them sees that as a much more effective key to long-term planetary peace and prosperity. This divergence has major consequences for the whole concept of "superpower": Americans think that the key to superpower status is a strong military, while many Europeans want a united Europe to become a superpower in the sense of cultural and economic interaction with the rest of the world, opposing more military spending by either their own countries or the European Community as a whole. If one broadens the horizon beyond the immediate concerns of war and terrorism, other interesting similarities and differences emerge: Americans are only slightly more supportive of globalization than Europeans, and about half of both Americans and Europeans think that global warming is a high-priority threat. However, 66% of Europeans are opposed to some degree to biotechnology, against only 45% of Americans. Perhaps the largest divergence of opinions manifests itself on immigration: 66% of Americans consider it a threat of the highest level, while only 38% of Europeans agree with that assessment (of course, there are differences among European nations themselves, with Italy being on the most worried about immigration). What are we to make of all this? On the one hand, declarations of an insurmountable divide between the US and Europe are obviously blown out of proportion: we are not witnessing the big schism of Western culture just yet. On the other hand, it would be foolish for anybody (and especially for rather single-minded American politicians) to underestimate the areas of divergence between the two major blocks of world democracies. And please, stop telling the Europeans that they should get in line because America saved them during World War II: gratitude is an important value, but wishing to translate it into perennial and unquestioning allegiance is a bit insulting. And one thing nobody needs is to add any additional insult to the dialogue between the two major democratic blocks of the world. Edited by: Chris OConnor  at: 7/19/03 3:07 pm
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Chris OConnor

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Re: Mar. 2003 - America, Europe, and the rest of the world

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Quote:...55% of Europeans think that US foreign policies have directly contributed to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 (and I would add that a good case can be made that they are not far off the mark). This statistic would make for some interesting discussions. What US foreign policies specifically have fueled the rampant hatred we are seeing for the US? It seems we should be focusing on this root cause a bit more. We can expend our limited resources on chasing down the Bad Guys(TM), but if the reason these people hate the US is not addressed more will replace them once they're nabbed.I liken the terrorist problem to a bad case of weeds in your garden or yard. Cut the weeds at the base and you temporarily remedy the situation. You create the illusion of a fix. But overtime...the same weed will emerge from the dirt since the roots were left intact. So why do so many in the Middle East hate the US? I'm tired of the propaganda. I'm not falling for "They hate the US because we represent freedom." My ass they do. To thine own self be true. Lets not bullshit ourselves. There are deeper or root causes for their disdain, and I think we had better address them before our beautiful garden is overrun with weeds.Chris Edited by: Chris OConnor  at: 3/8/03 3:39:57 pm
pigliucci

Re: Mar. 2003 - America, Europe, and the rest of the world

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Chris,
So why do so many in the Middle East hate the US? I'm tired of the propaganda. I'm not falling for "They hate the US because we represent freedom." My ass they do. To thine own self be true. Lets not bullshit ourselves.
Well, I can give you my impression as a European, not a Middle Easterner. As I say in my column, Europeans by and large like Americans, but, we also see America as a big bully that wishes to impose its values, culture, and economic system on the rest of the world.If Europeans resist this, despite the fact that our own values, culture, and economic systems are pretty close to the American version, can you imagine what the rest of the world thinks?Then there is American foreign policy, starting with inaction in the Middle East as far as the Palestinian problem is concerned. The US has often potrayed itself as a peace broker, but often comes across as simply on the side of Israel. (Incidentally, one of the statistics I didn't include in my column is that Europeans are much less favorable to Israeli policies than Americans are.)Ciao,Massimo
PowerProf2

Re: Mar. 2003 - America, Europe, and the rest of the world

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Quote:we also see America as a big bully that wishes to impose its values, culture, and economic system on the rest of the world.If you insist on framing it in those terms, I see this as a kind of zero sum game. If we don't "impose" ourselves on the world, the world will be "imposed" on us. Quote:Then there is American foreign policy, starting with inaction in the Middle East as far as the Palestinian problem is concerned. The US has often potrayed itself as a peace broker, but often comes across as simply on the side of Israel. (Incidentally, one of the statistics I didn't include in my column is that Europeans are much less favorable to Israeli policies than Americans are.)I agree. In fact, I think P.J. O'Rourke has got the right idea. "We can recuse ourselves. We can explain to the court of global public opinion that, because America possesses the largest economy, the widest network of business relationships, and the only effective military force on earth, we have too great a vested interest in world events to render fair and impartial judgment. On every issue of geopolitical adjudication, from 9/11 to the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, America is a jury of cops and crime victims. A change in venire has already been called for by noisy street protestors, France and suchlike. Let's accede to the pre-emptory challenge and go home ...... America will enjoy cleaner air and less traffic congestion as oil goes to $200 a barrel due to chaos in the Middle East. A U.S. withdrawal from the Middle East will cause chaos, of course. Then again, a U.S. intervention in the Middle East has caused chaos already. And, during those periods of history when the U.S. was neither intervening in nor withdrawing from the Middle East, there was . . . chaos. The situation is akin to the famous complaint women have against men: failure to acknowledge that not every problem can be fixed. Sometimes the best thing is just a little sympathy. America had everyone's sympathy after the World Trade towers were attacked. We can get that sympathy back if we limit our foreign policy objectives to whining."Just so. Damned if we do, damned if we don't. Heck with it. Let's support the one true democracy in a sea of thugocracies, kleptocracies, and bloated, dry-rotted aristocracies. As you may have guessed, my support of both Israel and my country's support of Israel is unabashed and unapolegetic. Does it not occur to you ... that by purging all sacred images, references, and words from our public life, you are leaving us with nothing but a cold temple presided over by the Goddess of Reason
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