Sunday, October 30, 2005

Somewhere, a grad student sheds a hot tear of shame...

I agree with most the points that James Traub makes in this article in the New York Times Magazine about anti-Americanism amongst the European intelligentsia. It really does get away to silly degrees. People like Harold Pinter and Dario Fo have created in their minds the necessary underpinning of any true faith; a convincing devil. And I think that Traub makes a good point about how the old cold-war anti-Americanism, which was powered in large part by the idea of dichotomy, of "choosing sides", had nowhere to go after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and thus became even more bitter and ingrown, to the point that European leftists were vociferously supporting a thug like Slobodan Milosovec back in 1999 just to spite America.

But the thing that made me sad was the way this article felt like it was dated, like it was written in 1999, when anti-American hysteria in Europe was less, well, justified. The article felt strangely mis-directed, and as I thought of why, it struck me, the degree to which one of the most undercounted costs of the Iraq blunder was the rhetorical arming of people who already hated America.

It's not to say that it hasn't been reckoned in one way; we all realize how our actions have inflamed anti-Americanism in the Islamic world. But we've also unfortunately, by our poor leadership, proven every crackpot on the left just a little bit right.

Don't get me wrong. These folks had their agenda long before George Bush strolled carelessly onto the scene. Yes, you had Kosovo, and you also had the immediate reactions right after Sept. 11th. Noam Chomsky went to Pakistan, a roiling, unstable hotbed of Islamic terror, and gave a nationally televised speech in which he claimed that the American invasion of Afghanistan, then about to start, would take at least 100,000 Muslim lives. People like Pinter and John LeCarre have long said unbelievably foolish things about America. You have the case of Lars Von Trier, a man seemingly obsessed with making two-dimensional attacks on American culture, even though he has never set foot in the United States. It's just bizarre. But the battle was never for these minds, given as they are to flights of melodrama and excess, to the love of a good Miltonian villian. Rather, one wonders about those who would be swayed by such rhetorical talents.

Which is why in our adolescent temper-tantrum on the world's stage, we are, as my mother used to remind me, only hurting ourselves. Be it through their condescending reporting (is there a single cracker left in Alabama who hasn't been talked into making sub-literate religious exclamations on the BBC?) to the smarmy polemical crowd-pleasers old artistic hacks use to mask their fading talents (has anyone even performed Pinter since 1973?) anti-American intellectuals are making a killing right now in Europe. They've just got so much material to work with.

There is an old political axiom about giving your enemy the knife to stab you with. In its diplomatic tone-deafness, armed hubris, and gross miscalculations in Iraq, the administration has done the equivalent of taking the street corner prophet, the mad ranter in rags who normally shouts his curses in raging impotence, and arming him to the teeth.
That can't be good for the neighborhood.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well they DID just give him a Nobel prize.......

You're right, Harry has said some silly things but we in the UK have seen our Prime Minister gamble our safety to suck up to Gorge Bush, and get nothing at all for it (except bombs in London and 100 dead soldiers in Gulf War II). I am a Brit who has lived in the USA on and off for years so I know what the USA is like, but America's image abroad is at a rock bottom and most Yanquees don't seem to know/care...........

3:37 AM  

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