Feb 22, 2007 12:37 pm


Aware of my interest in the book, Jeff Weintraub sent me his post on Andy Markovits' Uncouth Nation. It like the book is well worth reading. Indeed, I hope some of the teachers reading this blog would consider assigning it to their students. Anti-Americanism is not to be dismissed with a shrug for as all irrational hatreds, it tells more about the haters than the hated.

I hope to write a full review of the book once I get home. In the meantime, let me just note that as Markovits points out anti-Americanism is tied to anti-Semitism AND I would emphasize to"anti-democratism." For hundreds of years America stood for the replacement of the rule of the elite with the rule of the"uncouth masses." It is still so in the Third world. The Indian elite could not be more anti-American but the eyes of the average Indian lights up when they here we are from America. If anti-Americanism has spread to the European middle classes, I suspect the reason for that is the fear that the US is identified with globalization and older Europeans fear globalization may endanger their comfortable retirement. The young who would like the Islamist threat to go away and not interfere with their chance to grab the brass ring of globalization, simply take out their wrath on the messenger, i.e., the US.

Be that as it may, Weintraub's basic argument remains valid:

Readers may or may not agree with every detail of Markovits's analysis of these problems. But there's no question that the problems he has identified are real and important, and they deserve a serious and honest conversation.

One last possible objection. In the past, some people whose judgment I respect, and who have not tried to deny the undeniable fact that European anti-Americanism exists, have nevertheless suggested that it's not a sufficiently important problem to warrant much concern. The US, after all, is a wealthy and powerful superpower that can take care of itself. European hostility may wound the pride of some Americans, but it isn't going to do the US much harm, and the idea of serious conflicts between Europe and the US seems fairly implausible.

I think there is a grain of truth to such points, but I'm not entirely convinced. In the first place, it's always a good idea to face reality rather than evading it, and if an analysis like the one offered by Markovits can help or encourage some people to do that, then this is enough to make the effort worthwhile. But there's also more to it than that. In so far as anti-Americanism is one factor that contributes to poisoning relations and mutual understanding between Europeans and Americans (not the only such factor, but definitely one of them), that can potentially create or exacerbate a whole range of problems, especially in areas where constructive Euro-American cooperation is necessary and important. And anti-Americanism clearly helps to distort political judgments about a range of substantively important issues.

And that's not all. A friend and colleague once suggested to me that instead of worrying about the relatively trivial problem of anti-Americanism in Europe, I should spend more time worrying about anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism in Europe. Well, as Markovits shows, the unfortunate reality is that the three of them are closely interconnected, and the combination is toxic and dangerous. We need to pay careful attention to it, and Uncouth Nation should give some people a necessary wake-up call.

comments powered by Disqus