Why They Don’t Like Us
Would You Follow the Country That Bungled Iraq?
By Anne Applebaum
Tuesday, October 2, 2007; A19
“Why do they hate us?” Much ink has been spilled over the past six years in attempts to answer that question. By contrast, not enough attention has been paid to what is, in some ways, a more perplexing conundrum: Why don’t they like us as much as they used to?
“They” in this latter question are our very, very closest allies. By this I don’t mean France, or even Canada, democracies that are part of the Western alliance but that have never particularly warmed to the idea of American leadership, whether political or cultural. The French have always been huffy about NATO, and downright nasty about Hollywood; the Canadians have actually formed their national identity around being “not-Americans.” No, the more interesting question is why support for American leadership has declined among our traditional friends: Britain, Poland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands.
And it has declined — drastically. Since 2002, according to the latest German Marshall Fund ” transatlantic trends” survey, support for “U.S. leadership in world affairs” — that’s whether they want to follow our political lead, not whether they think we’re nice — has plunged by 30 percentage points in Germany, 26 points in Italy, 24 points in Poland, 23 points in the Netherlands and 22 points in Britain. More generally, support for U.S. leadership, which was at 64 percent across Europe in 2002, is now at 36 percent (though that figure includes the touchier countries).
What to make of a columnist for a major newspaper is so far divorced from the reality of her own country that she doesn’t understand what’s going on. Anne is perplexed.
Even her premise is warped. We Americans don’t even like ‘us’ by a 70/30 majority percentage. What do you make of that, Anne? Or is that just some strange anomaly from the country folks, outside Washington, D.C., that unsophisticated bunch who aren’t tuned to Nancy Pelosi?
“There are other factors, of course: As I (and many others) have written before, we’ve been bad at looking after our allies over the past five years, bad at thanking them or compensating them for military contributions to Iraq, bad at maintaining very basic aspects of public diplomacy, such as student-exchange programs. Still, NATO will not fall apart because our president has been rude to his German counterpart or a few Britons don’t get scholarships.”
We’ve also (while you weren’t noticing) been
- unconsionably incompetent,
- destroyed an Arab nation of 50 million for no purpose,
- enraged terrorists worldwide,
- produced skyrocketing oil increases
- and prevented any area accommodation in the Middle East for at least several decades.
Somehow you see that in shades of rudeness and scholarships.
The United States, under this president, has for the first time in its history engaged in preemptive war. The most dangerous military (and now political) power in the world has decided to strike first at any enemy it perceives and you find it strange that we have fewer friends under that doctrine.
George Bush stands at a press conference and damns Iran–who has bombed no one and is not a nuclear power–while he supports Pakistani junta dictator Perez Musharraf, who clings at the abyss of a radical Muslim nuclear armed nation by a fingernail. And you think that student-exchange programs may color the view of America in the world.
Hang it up, Anne.