America-bashing is in fashion as it has not been since Ronald Reagan accurately described the Soviet Union as an “evil empire”. Anti-Americanism is not confined to the usual radical chic suspects of the Left; in Britain, it infects the High Tory Establishment, “good Europeans” and little Eng-landers alike. So why are we all anti-Americans now?
American stumbling on the rough road since 2001 has played some part. Yet had there, inconceivably, been no wrong steps, had America been positively obsequious in courting international support (and it has done more on that score than its critics admit), anti-Americanism would still be on the rise. The US is never less popular than when it is aroused and determined in defence of democratic freedoms, never less trusted than when the world is most reliant on its unmatched ability to project power.
Democracies are psychologically ill-adapted to open-ended confrontations where there can be no decisive victory, the essence of the effort to subdue global terrorism. Eternal vigilance is a wearisome business. The more vulnerable that Europeans feel, the more liable they are to shift blame across the Atlantic.
The strength of disdain is a measure of Europe’s weakness. Smugness is one of Europe’s great contemporary exports. We may all think that we know America, its music, its culture, its self-confident exceptionalism. We tend to forget that Americans fight only with extreme reluctance. We overlook their penchant for agonised self-criticism; everything bad we know about the US, we know because Americans inexhaustibly rehearse their society’s shortcomings. There has never been greater transparency, whether than on the battlefield or the boondocks, and there has never been more open debate about the country’s virtues and vices — the internet has transformed the quantity and, at times, the quality of the conversation.
Couldn't agree more.