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Saturday, March 20, 2004


This is the second of a two-article mini-series on the EU public opinion toward the US as a country, not just American foreign policy, let alone such policy in the Bush era. The first article tried to bring out the systematic distortions that dominate the EU Continental media's reportage on the US and American life and politics, owing to a mix of

  • Ideological traditions in journalism, with newspapers historically identified clearly with specific political ideologies: communism, socialism, moderate liberalism, Christian Democracy, conservatism, or (in the past and to an extent again) reactionary conservatism, and fascism;

  • Intellectual habits in German-speaking and Latin Europe that encourage fanciful flights of obscurantist speculation unanchored in any hard evidence: the more abstract and opinionated, the better, it seems . . . particularly if contorted rhetoric, neologisms run-rampant, and constant hints at arcane guru-status knowledge of a Gnostic sort mark the intellectual sky-hootings.

-- Note that post-modernist relativisms, crammed with endless citations of Nietzsche or Heidegger or Derrida or Foucault or any other French-Thinker-of-the-Month, are an inevitable upshot of these giddy fly-away traditions of wild rumination. Reviewing the leading French purveyors of this pretentious pishposh --- in the context of the famous Alan Sokal hoax of the late 1990s --- a distinguished analytical philosopher, Thomas Nagel of Harvard, didn't hesitate to brand them either frauds, or idiots, or a mixture of both. [See gordon-newspost for Nagel's long review article.]

-- In particular, according to Nagel, "the [French] writers arraigned by Sokal and Bricmont use technical terms without knowing what they mean, refer to theories and formulas that they do not understand in the slightest, and invoke modern physics and mathematics in support of psychological, sociological, political, and philosophical claims to which they have no relevance. It is not always easy to tell how much is due to invincible stupidity and how much to the desire to cow the audience with fraudulent displays of theoretical sophistication. Lacan and Baudrillard come across as complete charlatans, Irigaray as an idiot, Kristeva and Deleuze as a mixture of the two. But these are delicate judgments."

  • The dominance in the media, universities, and left-wing parties all over the EU on the Continent of the 1960s student radicals, now in their late forties, fifties, and early sixties;

  • The inevitable high-pulsating mishmash of envy and resentments that flourishes on the Continent, not just in intellectual circles, toward the US . . . aggravated, it needs to be underscored, by the huge gap in wealth, power, and influence between the two sides of the Atlantic that especially emerged --- contrary to left-wing and other EU hype about American decline, rife throughout West Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s --- after the end of the cold war.

It will have helped, needless to say, if you've read the previous article. Among other things, it examined these theses in greater detail and looked specifically at the media in Spain, Germany, and France. Using the same organizational scheme, we continue the overall analysis --- which forms a coherent argument --- with Part Four.



The previous article in this mini-series referred to Joffe, a Harvard Ph.D. in political science, a good two or three times: in particular, to his recent argument in The Demons of Europe --- which appeared in the December, 2004, issue of Commentary . For that matter, several earlier buggy articles analyzed the strengths (and weaknesses) of his argument, which we're about to uncoil again here --- only at greater length . . . mainly because it reflects an astute series of observations by an European observer, who's also properly trained academically speaking. [The main weakness, some of you might recall, was a failure by Joffe to tap several good opinion surveys of European attitudes toward Jews, Israel, and the US; these surveys would have reinforced Joffe's analysis, anchoring it in more hardheaded evidence.]

Specifically, to get down to business, Joffe's article set out and probed the roots of the recent resurgence of anti-Semitism --- the first of the demons --- in European life, a scourge well over a thousand years old that had briefly gone into eclipse in the aftermath of the Holocaust and its horrors in WWII, only to burst through the barriers of taboo the last few years. [The two ADL surveys on European anti-Semistim in 2002 found that about a third of West Europeans showed strong degrees of anti-Semitic prejudice. This varied across countries: much higher in France, Spain, and Germany than in Britain or Italy, and practically non-existent in Holland. A subsequent study sponsored by the Italian government found the exact same degee of anti-Semitism in that country: 22%. See the buggy analysis here.] And the second demon, systematic anti-Americanism? Joffe uses the same analytical framework to explain it. Usually, though not always, the two sets of stereotyped prejudice, envy, and resentments go hand-in-hand in European circles. Both add up to moral and intellectual deformity of a worrying sort in European life.

What, then, underlies the pervasive nature of Europe's second Demon?

Essentially, according to Joffe, five mental pillars of emotionally charged hostility to the US as a country, national culture, and powerful polity, starting with the reliance in the dominant EU media and intellectual circles, as well as on the political left and now extreme right, of . . .

1. Stereotyping and Obsession

" First, America is morally flawed. It executes its own people, and it likes to bomb other people. It is the land of intolerant fundamentalist religion. Selfish and self-absorbed, it refuses to ratify the International Criminal Court or agreements to protect the environment. It is "Dirty Harry" and "Globocop" rolled into one an irresponsible and arrogant citizen of the world.

Second, America is socially retrograde: it is the fountainhead of a "predatory capitalism" (according to a former German chancellor) that denies social services to those who need them most. Instead of bettering the lot of its darker-skinned minorities, it shunts millions of them into prison. America accepts, nay, admires gross income inequalities and defies the claims of social justice.

Finally, America is culturally inferior. It gorges itself on fast food, wallows in tawdry mass entertainment, starves the arts, and prays only to one god, which is Mammon. It sacrifices the best of culture to pap and pop. In matters sexual, America is both prurient and prudish. It is a society where Europe's finest values solidarity and community, taste and manners are ground down by rampant individualism."


2. Demonization.

"The best shorthand statement under this heading is a cartoon on a Jordanian website in April 2002 that showed a jeep-like SUV, a pack of cigarettes with a Marlboro design, a can of Coca-Cola, and a hamburger all dripping with blood. These, the cartoon insinuates, are the weapons that drive America's quest for global domination. They are meant to seduce, but the blood with which they are saturated symbolizes violent imposition. Yield to the seduction, and the price will be the loss of your own culture, dignity, and power."


3. Omnipotence

"Like any proper target of anti-ism, America is seen as omnipotent and omni-causal. America's is the hand that pulls all strings. The U.S. is the cause of poverty, despotism, and exploitation in the third world. Like any target of anti-ism, the U.S gets it coming and going: it is a threat to peace when it uses its fearsome power (Iraq) and a traitor to humanity when it does not (Rwanda as well as Bosnia/Kosovo before the bombing campaign)."


4. How Anti-Americanism and Anti-Semitism Usually Hook Up

Joffe then notes why the two prejudices --- the latter far more serious, what with the exterminationist history towards Jews in European civilization, which culminated after centuries in the Holocaust of WWII that implicated most European governments --- go together:

"The similarities with anti-Semitism are hard to escape. Like Jews, Americans are selfish and arrogant. Like Jews, they are in thrall to a fundamentalist religion that renders them self-righteous and dangerous. As classical anti-Semitism opposes the loving kindness of the New Testament to the vengeful God of the Old, rapidly de-Christianizing Europe likes to contrast its secular-humanist ethos with the harsh Calvinism of America. If the Jews bestride the world as the "Chosen People," Americans claim to live in "God's Own Country" while arrogating unto themselves, as a favorite anti-Bushism has it, a "divine mission."

Another mainstay of the anti-Semitic faith, anti-capitalism, has likewise passed smoothly from the Jews to the United States. Like Jews, Americans are money-grubbers who know only the value of money, and the worth of nothing. Like Jews, Americans are motivated only by profit. Relentlessly competitive ("pushy"), they are the solvents of social justice as they are of every worthy tradition. If the empire of international Jewry was built on finance and trade, America's is built on a "globalization" that exploits the helpless and kills jobs.

Here conspiracy rears its head. Again like the Jews, America is the mastermind extraordinaire, its hand behind every plot, even the immolation of the World Trade Center; in 2003, a half-dozen books on this theme became bestsellers in France and Germany. Echoing a classic indictment of "World Jewry," a poster during an anti-Bush demonstration in Berlin in 2002 read: "Stop Bush's Grab for Global Power!"


5. The Core of European Resentments of Israel and the US

Near the end of Joffe's essay --- which, to repeat, could easily have been strengthened by drawing on numerous survey polls of EU opinion, such as Israel being singled out as no. 1 threat to world peace in Europe last fall, followed by the US in 3rd place --- he singles out a host of similarities that the US and Israel share, all running counter to EU utopian longings and prejudices. What follows here, needless to say, is buggy paraphrasing and elaboration:

  • Both Israel and the US have strong national identities. They don't sense a need to bury their sovereignty in regional and global institutions . . . not least because, unlike in the Europe (which Joffe didn't emphasize enough), nationalism has been a disaster, producing WWI and WWII.

  • Both countries make no apologies when it comes to using force against their declared enemies.

  • From strong national identities comes a strong sense of national purpose of an unapologetic sense in both Israel and the US. Most Continentals have taken mental refuge in a series of utopian flights that dilute any strong willingness to defend even their ideals with military power if need be, coupled by naive beliefs, maybe shattered last week in the grisly Madrid bombings, that the US and Israel alone are targets of Islamist extremist terrorism and deservedly so.

  • Both dominate the regions they are in, and the US exists as the only super-power on the globe, the only one since the Roman Empire in its own world two thousand years ago. Israel itself, armed with nuclear warheads, advanced land missiles, and nuclear-carrying submarines, is capable of destroying any Jew-persecuting state in the world, something that hasn't existed to defend Jews since the Romans destroyed Israeli independence in the middle of the second century C.E. and dispersed the Jews throughout the Mediterranean world.


6. Add to that Joffe-Buggy View Two Other Things.

First, in much of European culture during the past and now in the present, Jews and Americans, as he noted, are traditionally identified as money-grubbing capitalists. In Nazi demonology, of course, world-Jewry also dominated the Communist world, and for that matter the globe itself . . . a view repeated, with similar racist and exterminationist language and symbols, by Islamist fundamentalism and the Arab media all over. For that matter, it's a view voiced by Mahathir Mohamed, the former Prime Minister of Malaysia, last fall at the World Islamic Summit. For an unusually perceptive treatment, see David Brooks' essay, Among the Bourgeoisophobes Why the Europeans and Arabs, each in their own way, hate America and Israel [Brooks, as you might remember, is now a weekly op-ed columnist for the New York Times, his appointment part of the efforts by the new Times editorship to arrive at more balance in its journalism and editorial pages.

And second, just as Israel is a far more advanced and wealth country compared to the Arabs --- far richer, far more technologically powerful and modern, and democratic to boot, hence a source of major envy and resentment --- so the same can be said about much of European opinion and certainly the dominant EU media regarding the US. None of this should happen.

Muslims, to start with them, are supposed to be favored by God for being his true-believers and flourishing as a result; instead, the fantasized tiny Israeli demons flourish and are powerful while Arabs and other Muslims are humiliated in warfare with it, never mind in literacy, knowledge, science, and technology. Similarly, in much European mythology, Americans are simultaneously the victims and perpetrators globally of an alleged reckless casino-capitalism, not to mention being crude and lacking in European sensibility and heritage.


7. Three Questions Immediately Rear Up Here:

1) How then is it possible for the US not only to be far richer and more flexible and technologically advanced than West Europeans, a society to which the beleaguered German and French researchers, to take just them, continue to flock by the hundreds each year?

2) Why has the gap in per capita income and productivity levels so widened since the end of the cold war that the EU averages here are roughly where they were back in the mid-1960s?

3) Why do Americans generally win about 75% of the Nobel prizes in science and economics, a trend several decades old now? Or why do American space ships land on the moon or Mars, and not European ones? Or why do American companies dominate the information, communications, and biotech technologies of the future, and for that matter, why have thousands of French, German, and other EU brains drained so much to the US in these research areas the last several years? On the recent protests against the drain in France, see this link.

As for cultural creativity, only a handful of words. Since 1945, there's just one EU country that has enjoyed more creative innovation and breakthroughs compared to its pre-WWII past: Britain. Whether that gladdens British hearts is another matter. Still, it's best the best period ever of British painting (and indisputably since the 18th century), the best ever in music of all kinds, and probably the most creative period in British theater since Elizabethan times --- not that anyone, anywhere, will ever match that period of geniuses. Similarly, after about 30 years of barren literary production, several new British novelists like Martin Amis rejeuvenated the glitter of British fiction from the 1980s on. And despite a huge drain of cinematic talent of all sorts to Hollywood since the 1970s, the British alone in Europe continue to produce high-quality films of a consistent sort.

Even the French, usually so prickly when it comes to the steady loss of their cultural creativity since the 1930s, have produced a spate of books and articles the last year on France's general decline across-the-boards. See the analysis in the International Herald Tribune last fall, though it misses some of the charged impact of the criticisms. They were so extensive that de Villepin --- the fawning admirer of the mass-murdering imperial expansionist Napoleon --- took it on himself to try refuting them in Le Monde.

For an amusing story by a British academic on just how rife and deeply running American cultural influences happen to be in the EU, see this link. It has a very surprising twist at the end.



1. Another Two or Three Pivotal Differences on
the Two Sides of the Atlantic

For about four centuries, Europe --- especially the western parts --- dominated the globe, roughly 1500 until 1918. In particular, along with the US from 1789 on, certain countries there pioneered the nationalist, industrial, and democratic revolutions, Similarly, it was European imperialist powers that spread out overseas, stopped and then forced back Islamic imperialisms in Europe and elsewhere, and came to colonize almost all of non-Europe, including of course North America originally. Similarly, starting in the 17th century, Europeans pioneered the modern scientific revolution and set the pace in philosophical, artistic, and ideological innovations --- not all of the latter, by any means, something benign. On the contrary, in the form of totalitarian Fascism, Nazism, and Communism, mass-murdering regimes of such horror and devastation that only with the massive role of the US were they destroyed even on their European home soil.

Since 1945, or even 1918, it's been a steep downward plunge for West Europe in global power, influence, prestige, and cultural impact. The 3 big exceptions (mentioned earlier): 1) the great heroic stand of the British in WWII against a uniformly totalitarian Continent --- Nazism, Fascism, and until the Soviet Union was invaded, hostile Soviet Communism; 2) the creative period of European Unification, especially in the 1950s through the 1980s; and --- as we just saw --- 3) a quickened pace in British cultural life, still sustained decades later.

Good for the British!


2. What follows?

Sidestepping several links in the argument for the sake of brevity, these three differences in US outlook and social practices compared to Europe:

(i.) Europe Repudiated. Americans can trace most of our history back to a decision for our forebears to flee Europe --- either to escape religious bigotry and persecution, political repression, or poverty. Rejection of a European heritage, even if British legal and political institutions still pulled hard in American life after 1789 --- fortunately --- marked part of our national identity. It still does, only more so as more and more the US population's European origins is diluted by our multicultural society, enriched by Asian, Hispanic, Caribbean, and African descendants.

(ii.) Moral Superiority. Something else also marked American identity. Most Americans rightly or wrongly, came from the Puritans on to regard our country as a beacon to the world's impoverished and persecuted, superior to Europeans in morality, decency, democratic practices, and tolerance.

That hardly applied to African-Americans brought here by means of slavery, thanks to European and African and American slave-traders, but then, along with Britain, it was the US that destroyed the slave-trade and slavery for the time in history. It must be galling and a source of confusion --- a speculation, nothing else --- for EU media types and intellectuals and others to see that President Bush, the arch bugaboo in West Europe it seems, subject to the intellectual advice of two African-Americans in foreign policy, Secretary of State Powell and National Security Advisor Rice.

It must be doubly galling at a time when the exclusion of Muslims from influence and power in the EU --- whatever the causes, not just discrimination alone --- conflicts with the far greater inclusion of African-Americans in posts of influence and power here. No, not just Rice and Powell or a Supreme Court justice or thousands of black mayors, Congressmen, police chiefs, and the like; but also the CEOs of Time Warner, American Express and Merrill Lynch, the presidents of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the American Bar Association.

(iii.) Wealth, National Success, National Dynamism. On top of that, by the 1880s, the US --- an unusually innovative country in technology and with very enterprising people --- became the richest country in the world: it surpassed Britain in per capita income in that decade and has held the lead ever since . . . just as the US has pioneered the last three phases of clustered revolutionary technologies ever since: electrification and automobiles and mass production from the 1880s until the end of th 1920s, then air travel, mass tourism, synthetics, consumer electronics, movies and mass entertainment and mass credit after the 1930s, and then since the 1970s the ongoing revolutionary changes in information and telecommunications and biotechnology and now, it appears, nano-technolgy.

Two outcomes ensue that need to be teased out and clarified . . .


3. The First Outcome?

In wealth, technology, scientific prowess, military triumphs, and moral and national purpose, not to mention scholarship and artistic achievement, then, Americans have always felt different from Europeans and, rightly or wrongly, morally and politically superior as well. In most of West Europe, by contrast, the 20th century was a disaster: in power, prestige, influence, and imperial retreat, not to mention dynamism . . . relieved by the great heroic record of Britain as a victor in WWII and then the creative decades of West European integration. As for Germany and the fascist allies in WWII, the less said here, the better. Ditto the fawning adulation in some parts of the West European left for Soviet totalitarianism. That said, note something else. The US is a much more mass-oriented society: we lack, for good or bad --- mainly good --- an aristocratic heritage and authoritarian institutions in culture and social life, and we are also a much more commercialized society.

The differences here in 2004 aren't, it's no less true, as great as in 1924 or even 1954 --- thanks mainly to changes in European life since the end of WWII --- but they still exist. Not surprisingly, the changes in West European life that reflect commercialism and mass-society can then be easily blamed on American influences, whether Yahoo popular culture or the breakdown of traditional manners and authority or the now surging threat of rampant urban violence.


4. The Other Outcome?

Envy and resentment --- two impulses that Joffe repeatedly hinted at in his analysis of anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism in much of European opinion and especially the media and intellectual life --- ought to have been given far more prominence. They exist in all societies, not just in West Europe; but they seem especially rife there in what, after all, even in Northern Europe, were traditionally much more hierarchical societies full of resentments and envy --- a major cause of ideological extremism on the left and right. Nor is that all. Envy and resentment are likely to grow, singling out more successful countries, notably the US, to focus on. Why? Put bluntly, the near future does look encouraging for West Europe: it is faced with

  • growing violent crime and violent terrorism;
  • rapidly growing and alienated Islamic communities;
  • demographic problems galore (an aging population, a receding native European population everywhere), economic challenges including stagnation in parts of the EU and high levels of unemployment;
  • and growing social conflicts and strife as governments are forced, under the impact of outside globalizing forces --- heavily resented, and identified with the US and its capitalism --- to try dealing with those challenges, however incrementally and with tardy resolve.


5. The Impact of New Member-Countries in the EU

Nor is that all. As long as the EU remains far from politically unified, with 10 new East East European members further diluting it, then a common foreign and security policy will remain a will-o-the-wisp. In the upshot, the gaps in power and influence across the Atlantic will very likely increase rapidly in the years to come. To the extent, too, that utopian views about post-modernist diplomacy flourish --- including the cloud-chasing illusions that independence and military power are relics of history, something West Europeans shouldn't dabble in any more --- that gap will be all the greater.

The conclusion is evident.

As long as the EU future looks gloomy --- and the Eurobarometer poll taken last fall stressed that gloom and pessimism about the European economic scene and almost all its institutions were the dominant emotional attitudes in the EU then --- Americans will have little alternative but to expect more envy, more resentment, and yes a fair amount of scapegoating. (On the Eurobarometer poll, see the buggy analysis and some extensive commentary about European anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism here.)


6. Might This Gap Narrow?

Yes, possibly. In particular, if more Islamist terrorism spreads throughout the EU --- something made more likely by its soft targets compared to the US, now aggravated by the recent Spanish vote that looks like appeasement --- that might offset the growing gap in EU and US public opinion. Would a Bush defeat at the polls next November aid here? Many observers think so. The buggy prof isn't so sure. Anti-Americanism was flourishing in the EU in the 1990s and 1980s, long before George Bush came to office --- it was in the Clinton era that the French foreign minister and a Harvard-trained Ph.D. in France put out their book on American hyper-power --- and whatever a Kerry administration does, it will not likely be the respectful ally that campaign rhetoric seems to imply right now.

The reason? The gulf in power, global interests, societal dynamism, military prowess, and national purpose between the two sides of the Atlantic is likely to persist whatever the change in styles of foreign policy.

Britain, I add, is likely to remain our closest ally, in foreign and security policies and public opinion both there and here.



Australia: that is very informative, your commentary, Joel --- the visitor who left a comment dealt with in the first article in this series --- and I appreciate it. Both Australia and New Zealand shucked off much of its overbearing regulatory apparatus and welfare-statism in the late 1980s and early 1990s, mainly to recover economic dynamism --- something they've both generally done effectively, with some ups-and-downs, exactly like Britain since Mrs. Thatcher's reforms in the 1980s. There are bound to be members of the Labour Party in Australia, as in Britain --- especially on the left --- who not only dislike these changes, but hate global capitalism as they understand it and would like nothing more than to plunge their countries into a fantasized left-wing utopia of regulations that, far from being what they imagine, would probably lead to the kind of prolonged economic stagnation found especially in Germany over the last decade, but also in most of the EU save for a handful of small countries and Britain.

More to the point, to clinch this commentary, Australia and Britain are two countries with proud military traditions, and the strong nationalist pride that exists in both --- captured in survey data above all in Europe, which shows British nationalism far stronger than its equivalents on the Continent --- bring both closer to the dominant American outlook.


The War on Terrorism

Oh, almost forgot. Regarding the war on terrorism, yes, I think we're doing unusually well . . . a point that the buggy prof has repeatedly made: we've destroyed the monstrous Taliban regime in Afghanistan, itself undergoing transition; the monstrous Saddamite regime in Iraq, where the first non-despotic government in the Middle East will likely emerge.

We have got Al Qaeda on the run, with Musharraf in Pakistan finally cooperating vigorously with us to hunt out and destroy its leadership there. We are helping the Philippines government, Indonesia's, and Georgia's to destroy their home-grown Islamo-fascist terrorism. We are initiating a major turnabout in American policies toward the Arab dictatorships, no longer tolerating their double-dealing game and the use of their media for hateful fundamentalism racism and loony conspiratorial nonsense; we have forced Khadaffi's Libya to own up to its nuclear and other WMD programs and have international inspection; Iran is making gestures this way, not following through of course because the EU's diplomacy isn't taken seriously --- grand gestures mean nothing; still Iran's policies will change likely when, no less likely, that clerical fascist government topples within --- soon we hope.

And, contrary to what hacks or partisan politicians think, Germany and France are bandwagoning to the US, and NATO is generally in a better condition than it was before the war. That includes a NATO Rapid Reaction Force, largely comprised of European contributions.

Here, in the US, the new Homeland Security department is making big headway. We are getting ready for a debate on the anti-terrorist Patriot Act. It's desirable to have it.


Mark Steyn on The False Doom-Doom Stuff of the Critics

For a stimulating review of the doomster, semi-apocalytic predictions about how everything in Iraq would go bust for the US and the UK and its allies after Saddam --- a litany of nonsensical stuff that, needless to say, the critics prefer to ignore and would have bankrupted them, one and all, had they been fortune-tellers at a sea-side resort --- see Mark Steyn's take on it all, one by one, and the realities on the ground in Iraq a year later: Iraq, One Year Later

Replies: 1 Comment

I just returned from a brief trip to Germany last week. Regarding journalism, I couldn't believe what I was reading in the mainstream (less high-brow) German press about the US and Bush in particular. It was pure anti-US propaganda (not to mention shabby reporting), making outrageous assertions about the Bush Administration's motivations without any factual support and, even more disturbingly, hinting in at least two journalistic reports at a Jewish cabal directing US foreign policy.

One article in the weekly magazine Stern, for example, reported that a dissenter to US policy in Iraq inside the State Department was visted by some shady-sounding government agents and pointedly told that there would be consequences to her if she were to make any criticism of Israel. It was completely off the subject of the article. Simply outrageous.

Those kind of suggestions can only be to try to corroborate the dangerous and false anti-semitic beliefs held by too many people in Europe.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the mainstream German media I read through, there's much fretting going on about Schroeder's pension and labor reforms and the stagnant German economy which, as a regular vistor to Germany, was palpable. I've generally sensed an enormous amount of uncertainty and anxiety in Germany (in the press and talking to people) each time I've visited there in the past few years. This time it seemed even more intense.

Arguably, Germans are lashing out at the Americans for piling on to their general insecurity and anxiety by pressuring them to spend money they don't have and take risks they're too anxious to be in a mindset to accept to participate in a War on Terror and to help put out fires the world over in a manner befitting one of the world's wealthiest countries. So it's a bit of an embarassment to German nationalist ambitions too, which an assertive and demanding American foreign policy seems to rub their noses in.

Posted by john @ 03/22/2004 02:55 PM PST