Here, in a series of crisp cutting observations about Jacques Chirac and his government's duplicitous dealing with the US --- including a recently disappointed, highly sobered Colin Powell who was left fuming at French turn-abouts at the Security Council in late January that contradicted understandings reached with them in the October and early November run-up to Security Council Resolution 1441 on Iraq and its obligations to cooperate immediately, totally, and unconditionally to disarm --- The Economist accuses the French of once more overreaching and causing havoc in their continued search for power and le gloire . . . which The Economist, like the London Times and Daily Telegraph and Financial Times in Britain, means blocking the US and stymying it far more than dealing with Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, not least by a manipulative use of German amateur naievete and moralizing and a guise for its own cynical self-serving aims. In the process, thanks to this French guile and chicanery all backed by a uniformly nationalist press and state-controlled TV and radio --- to say nothing of the popular pandering to "l'Obsession anti-Americaine" (the title of Jean-Francois Revel's hard-hitting book about omnipresent French obsessions with America and French resentments and envy that feed this manic preoccupation) ---the Atlantic Alliance, the EU, and East and West European relations have all been dealt a sharp, maybe bruising blow from which they will never fully recover.
2. JEAN-FRANCOIS REVEL'S L'OBSESSION ANTIAMERICAINE REVIEWED BY LE MONDE
Le philosophe discerne dans l'antiaméricanisme actuel les mécanismes d'une idéologie qu'il critique.
[The Buggy translation follows the French]
Pas moyen d'y échapper. Que ce soit dans les journaux, à la télé, à la radio, au Café du commerce, vous entendrez dire du mal de l'Amérique. Depuis le 11 septembre, paradoxalement, on médit plus encore. Presque partout, mais singulièrement en France. Toutes sortes de petites mains excellent dans le genre. Car les griefs, comme chacun sait, sont multiples. Capitaliste, l'Amérique est censée s'enrichir chaque jour en appauvrissant les pauvres. Impérialiste, elle ne songerait qu'à étendre sa domination économique et militaire sur le monde. Egoïste, elle ne se préoccuperait que de ses intérêts et de la défense de son mode de vie. Belliciste, elle choisirait les bombes plutôt que les accords politiques. Pollueuse, elle détraquerait le climat, mettrait la terre en péril. Fasciste, elle organiserait le règne de la censure, limiterait la démocratie, multiplierait manipulations et violences. Inculte, elle tenterait d'imposer au monde entier des distractions vulgaires et uniformisées. Sans doute ne vous dira-t-on jamais tout cela de manière aussi brutale. On y mettra des formes - allusions, suggestions et autres variations. Mais toujours, quel que soit le dossier, la source de tous les maux, la cause des malheurs du monde, finalement, c'est elle.
Jean-François Revel s'attaque à cette obsession avec une pugnacité et une intelligence rares. Il en démonte un à un les rouages avec autant de clarté que de précision. Première tâche : rappeler que ces accusations sont fausses, voire absurdes. Besogne aisée, tant les informations abondent pour les contredire. Démarche cependant difficile, tant les résistances sont pesantes. L'énigme de l'antiaméricanisme réside en effet, selon Revel, dans une volonté de demeurer désinformé. Les données les plus exactes sur les Etats-Unis sont largement accessibles. Mais ces faits réels sont systématiquement écartés par le désir irrationnel de croire l'Amérique responsable de tout ce qui ne va pas. Revel ne juge pourtant pas l'Amérique sans défauts. Il ne cesse de souligner qu'elle doit être critiquée sur bien des points. A condition qu'il s'agisse de ses vraies faiblesses, mises en regard de ses réussites. L'antiaméricanisme diffère d'une critique argumentée par sa malveillance fondamentale et mécanique, insensible aux démentis de la réalité comme à ses propres incohérences.
Aux accusations des antimondialistes, Revel réplique que les pays en voie de développement progressent économiquement sous l'effet de la mondialisation et de la croissance américaine. Celle-ci n'accroît donc pas la pauvreté. Aux écologistes, il rappelle qu'aucun des 177 pays signataires du protocole de Kyoto ne l'avait ratifié quatre ans plus tard, au milieu de 2001. En fait, nul ne l'applique. L'observateur critique note combien la recherche pour l'environnement est plus importante aux Etats-Unis que partout ailleurs, et comment presque personne ne se soucie des catastrophes écologiques de l'ex-URSS. Le philosophe travaille aussi à rafraîchir la mémoire des pacifistes : l'Irak avait envahi le Koweït avant que l'Amérique n'envoie ses troupes, l'agression du 11 septembre a précédé la guerre contre les talibans. Qu'on cesse donc de transformer en agresseur un pays qui se défend, en oubliant toujours le début de l'histoire !
L'EUROPE EN QUESTION
L'argument décisif du livre consiste à faire remarquer que c'est l'Europe, et elle seule, qui a produit les colonialismes du XIXe siècle, les guerres mondiales du XXe siècle, les totalitarismes nommés fascisme, nazisme, communisme. Jamais l'Amérique, soupçonnée par ses adversaires de n'être pas authentiquement démocratique, n'a engendré de telles dictatures. Deux conséquences principales en découlent. La prépondérance planétaire de l'Amérique, aujourd'hui, n'est pas simplement due à son activité propre. L'incurie et l'échec des autres puissances en sont aussi la cause. L'unilatéralisme qu'on reproche aux Etats-Unis résulte de la faiblesse de ses interlocuteurs. Deuxième conséquence : la principale fonction de l'antiaméricanisme, pour ceux qui le professent, est de leur éviter de regarder en face leurs propres responsabilités.
Cette volonté de ne pas savoir s'est amplifiée depuis le 11 septembre. On a vu se multiplier les propos ignobles sur la part de responsabilité que porteraient les Américains dans les attentats, juste réplique à une domination inique. C'est oublier, Revel le rappelle avec vigueur, que les terroristes islamistes ne se dressent pas contre les riches, mais contre les Occidentaux impies et impurs, c'est-à-dire laïques, démocrates, partisans de la liberté d'expression et de l'égalité des femmes et des hommes. La cause de leur lutte est idéologique, non économique. Préconiser le développement comme premier moyen de lutte contre le terrorisme revient donc non seulement à s'interdire toute résistance pratique immédiate, mais encore à se tromper du tout au tout.
Etant donné le climat d'ensemble de l'époque, ce livre courageux et lucide a toutes les chances d'être copieusement détesté par des gens très divers. Il est clair que Jean-François Revel ne s'en soucie pas, préférant la vérité et la cohérence aux aveuglements de tous bords. N'est-ce pas ce qu'on appelle l'honneur des intellectuels ?
No way to escape it: Whether in newspapers, on television or radio, or just gossip at the local café, you're bound to hear America slammed. Since 9/11, paradoxically, the slamming's got worse . . . almost everywhere, but singularly in France itself, where all sorts of busy hands specialize in this genre of assault. As is apparent, the gripes of the anti-Americans are numerous: "a capitalist country, it gets rich daily by daily impoverishing the rest of the world; imperialist too, its leaders plot systematically to extend its economic and military domination around the world; egomaniacal, it is concerned only with its own interests whether or not that jeopardizes the rest of the world. It gets worse. Fascist too, its government is busy introducing systematic censorship and limits on democratic life everywhere, not just in the US itself, all the while manipulating others with chicaneries and violence. And vulgar in the extreme, it strives to impose its uniform, repulsive entertainment upon everyone else, etc. etc." True, you usually don't hear the anti-American tittle-tattle puts so brutally. The experts in anti-Americanism like to finesse their brutal stuff: by allusions, hints, and a variety of other stratagems. Always, though --- whatever the topic --- the source of all the evils and misery of the world can be reduced in their view to Americans.
With pugnacious and intelligent verve of an unusual sort, Jean-Francois Revel --- "a philosopher by training, and well-known journalist" [the buggy prof's insertion] --- tears into each of these anti-American obsessions, one by one, showing how they exaggerate, distort, and obfuscate. His first aim: show how idiotic and false these obsessive attacks on America are . . . not an easy undertaking, mind you; what with the ponderous resistances that anti-Americans in France rely on, falling back willingly, deliberate, on one after another in order to rest secure in their ignorance. Oddly, though accurate information about the US and American life is easily accessible, the real truths about American life are systematically brushed aside by the true-believing American-haters in order to sustain their faith that whatever is wrong with the world, the US is responsible for it. Not that Revel finds the US without problems or blemishes: the US can be criticized fairly on a number of counts . . . but only fairly too if the US's numerous successes are weighed against its drawbacks. In the end, French anti-Americanism is an ideology, nothing less: hostile by nature to the US, blind to anything that contradicts its pious fundamentals, indifferent even to the incoherent amalgam of contradictory claims it heaps together.
Take the critics of globalization: for Revel, the only way countries develop is under the impact of globalizing forces and the growth of the American economy, and the stuff that these influences impoverish the developing world is poppycock. As for the ardent ultra-green fanatics, Revel reminds them that none of the 177 countries that have signed the treaty, four years after its introduction, has applied it in the last 18 months. The informed observer, moreover, would stress how much important environmental research --- the best in the world --- is undertaken by Americans, even as the systematic destruction of the Soviet Union's environment left almost everyone indifferent during the cold war. Under Revel's microscope, the pacifist movement doesn't emerge any better: the US went to war with Iraq in 1991 only after Iraq had attacked and occupied Kuwait; the terrorist attacks of 9/11 were what drove the US to destroy Taliban Afghanistan . . . all facts ignored or downplayed by the anti-Americans, who manage in their ideology to distort history and transform American self-defense into American aggression. "
Revel's decisive argument is to argue that it's Europe ---and it alone --- that created colonialism in the 19th century, the world wars of the 20th century, and the various totalitarianisms that we call fascism, Nazism, and communism. For all that America's adversaries like to claim that it isn't even democratic, it has never produced any dictatorships --- a truth with two upshots. The global dominance of the US doesn't derive from just its own efforts; the foolhardiness and failures of all the other powers have also contributed to it. And the main function of anti-Americanism for those who profess it so ardently is that they then don't need to face up to their own responsibilities for their countries' weaknesses.
The will not-to-know here has accentuated since that attacks of 9/11: hence all the rabble-rousing hokum afoot that sees the US as responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, essentially --- in the view of its adversaries --- nothing more than a justified riposte to its quest for global dominance. To claim this, Revel notes vigorously, is to ignore that the Islamist terrorists weren't attacking just the rich, but all Westerners as impious and impure idolators --- secular, democratic, exponents of free expression and women's rights and equality. Their goal is ideological, not economic, and hence to plead for economic development as the solution to terrorism is not just to sidetrack effective anti-terrorist activities, but to see the whole terrorist threat in fantasy terms.
Given the scope and virulence of anti-Americanism these days, this brave, clear-sighted book will likely provoke instant repugnance in numerous intellectual circles. Not that Jean-Francois Revel will care, preferring as he does hard truths and rigor to all sorts of illusions and blinkered anti-Americanism. When you get down to it, isn't that why we should honor truth-seeking intellectuals?
JOSEF JOFFE ON THE DUO OF FRENCH GUILE AND GERMAN STUPIDITY, WITH NATO, THE EU, AND THE UN SECURITY COUNCIL HARMED IN THE PROCESS
Bismarck must be spinning in his grave at Germany's blunder
Josef Joffe, a Harvard-trained Ph.D., leads a double life as an international relations scholar and the editor of one of Germany's best weeklies, Die Zeit
of Hamburg. Rigorously trained in this country, he has steadfastly avoided all the pc-pieties and humbug nonsense that emanates reflexively, like ink from a frighened squid, out of German intellectual and journalistic quarters, especially from the left, about the US, its influence, and the impact it has had on Germany and Europe --- and not just persistently avoided this hot-air hokum, but fought against it for decades in both his scholarly and journalistic writing. Since German unification, he has been particularly left aghast at the bombastic moralism and simpleminded utopianism that the German left and most of its intellectual and journalistic life have vented the last ten years. In his view, it has contributed to the repulsive anti-American panderings of the Schroeder Green-Socialist coalition, complete with former Socialist ministers likening President Bush to Hitler, the last few months . . . and no less reprehensible, to that government's startling self-righteous ridigity and bungling diplomacy on the whole Iraqi issue.
For Joffe, not only is the German government's policy here rash and dangerous --- especially its anti-American demagogy and insults --- it has also let itself be manipulated by the French and ended up isolating itself with Paris and the Belgians within the EU and in NATO. The French can't be trusted; they will do what their interests dictate and join the US and the UK in a war if need be. Not rigid Socialist-Green Germany. It's stuck with his moralizing mission and will be left isolated. Nor is that all. Joffe notes that one reason Britain, Spain, Italy, Denmark, Greece, Portugal, and Holland have rallied to the US side in the quarrel with the Franco-German duo is that they all worry much more about French-German efforts to dominate the EU and them than they do about American power and influence. For that matter, that's also the case of the East Europeans who have lined up clearly behind the US --- the three current East European members of NATO, and 10 other East Europeans. All of them worry about and fear French-German machinations and power-grabs far more than any American plot to dominate them and Europe.
Will the kind of informed criticism that Joffe offers here have an impact in German politics?
Hard to say right now. Right now, the clumsy sanctimony of the Schroeder government has been coming under a drumfire of denunciation, but almost all from the Christian Democratic conservatives --- though at least that makes the German political scene different from the uniformly conformist nationalism found almost everywhere in the French media, whether the state-controlled TV and radio or the private newspaper world. To topple Schroeder's government, there will have to be more rebukes voiced openly within his own Social Democratic-Green coalition. And though so far Joschka Fischer, the Green Foreign Minister has angrily attacked Schroeder in public (with leaks to the media), and though too some senior Social Democratic leaders in the Bundestag (Parliament) have voiced criticisms, it will take something of a rebellion of numerous other Social Democrats before Schroeder either backtracks or is simply brought down. Or, a twist here, the economy has been performing so poorly in Germany in the Schroeder era since 1998 (and earlier) that the German electorate may start doing even more in the future than they did in local elections the last few weeks: leading the Social Democratic candidates to electoral slaughter.
Whatever, we've reached a watershed point in Transatlantic relations, something realists have predicted all along. NATO isn't the same alliance it was during the cold war; neither is the power distribution in the world, neither are the threats that face the US and its European allies --- the French and the Germans and the Belgians so far seeing the threats very differently from the Bush administration and the other European governments --- and neither is the US need for military allies other than the British. The only leverage the resisting Germans and French have is the power of trying to stymie the US and its allies in mulitlateral organizations: the UN Security Council (where 9 out of 25 votes are needed to pass something, and the French have a veto power); NATO --- which operates by consensus --- and the EU, where the French and the Germans have alienated not just smaller countries by their thinly disguised condominium proposed for running the EU in the future, but Britain, Italy, and Spain, hardly small insignificant countries, and the future East European members too.
"How the once-mighty have stumbled! In the old days (not that they were such good days), the Germans simply used to overrun Belgium - and triggered two world wars in the process. Now they hide behind this tiny country in order to kick Uncle Sam in the shin.
" . . . Though Berlin did not formally veto Nato planning for the defence of Turkey in case of an Iraqi war, German Nato diplomats earlier this week egged on France and Belgium to say "Non". Making a mouse roar, to do in Nato? This is a new one in the annals of diplomacy, and it adds inanity to injury. Or, to quote the French master cynic Talleyrand, who served both Napoleon and the restored monarchy: "This was worse than a crime, it was a mistake." The crime, though not necessarily with malice aforethought, is a blow that could yet do for the world's most successful and enduring alliance of all time.
" . . . If this is the crime, what is the mistake?
" . . . The Germans and - much more subtly - the French have been desperately trying to stop America's and Britain's war against Saddam. Their reasons may be sound or even honourable, but the effect is the opposite of intelligent statecraft.This duo, plus Belgium, have arrayed themselves on the side of Saddam. They give him hope against hope - that, somehow, he will be able to escape from the UN siege with his capacity for making weapons of mass destruction essentially untouched. Not a smart move.
" . . . Such are the insights that even the most basic course in diplomacy teaches to young foreign ministry acolytes, but then, neither Bismarck nor Talleyrand is running foreign policy in Berlin or Paris these days. These wily manipulators of men and nations would have asked a more fundamental question: "Are we willing to sacrifice Nato to our attempt to tie down the 'hyperpower'?"
Joffe then notes how the duo-actions of French cynical nationalism and anti-Americanism on one side and German moralizing naievete and big-mouthed diplomacy on the other--- "Speak Loudly and Carry a Small Stick", the opposite of Theodore Roosevelt's wise dictum --- have backfired. In the EU, six countries have sided with the US, only Belgium with the French and Germans. Same story in NATO: the French-German-Belgian maneuverings have left them isolated, even as all the other European members of NATO, 12 in all --- not to mention 7 more that will be joining NATO this year and openly supported the US too --- have rallied to the US. Not that the alliance hasn't been hurt in the process, reduced to a "well, let's see case-by-case mutual defense pact" after the trio, isolated, blocked aid to Turkey faced with a war with Iraq, maybe using WMD.
"As the open letter of the "Wall Street Eight" and the declaration of the "Vilnius 10" showed, the rest of Europe is not amused. The east Europeans obviously march to a different tune. The lyrics read: "The closer we are geographically to Russia, the closer we must be politically to America." For only the "hyperpower" can reliably protect us against a resurgent Russia.
"But there is more. Those east Europeans have only recently recouped their sovereignty, and so they are far less willing than Germany or Belgium to yield it to Brussels. And they are even less willing to yield it to a Franco-German directoire. Better to huddle under the umbrella of a remote superpower than to submit to nearby medium powers that are much better placed to meddle in the affairs of the smaller European countries. Indeed, so their reasoning goes, we want Mr Big in the game to give us some leverage against the "Old Europe" Interestingly enough, these motives have also shaped the calculations of Spain and Italy."
In the end, Joffe wonders, how did Germany end up playing a fool's role for French guile, leaving itself no way out of its moralizing absolutism in NATO and the UN Security Council, even as the French and Russians, self-serving as always, have left themselves plenty of room to join the alliance-of-the-willing in order to get in on the spoils of post-Saddam Iraq.
The author is editor of the German weekly Die Zeit