1) The timid or ineffectual behavior of EU mainstream politicians in grappling with their challenges and problems;
2) The harm and influence of the EU poll-parroting media in concealing the nature and magnitude of those problems --- including the incessant habit of scapegoating the US or George Bush or global capitalism as their profound causes --- and limiting the accepted options for dealing with them;
3) In the wake of the resulting political and intellectual voids, the opportunistic reactions of right-wing populist parties to widespread popular disenchantment and disgust with the US and even more with their own political and media elites. The efforts to offset this appeal by a nationalist reaction probably play some role, as Francis (our English correspondent whose email kicked off this mini-series) notes, in growing criticisms of the USA in a minority of EU countries. France is the biggest exception; strident nationalist drumbeats have been a rallying force in French life ever since the end of WWII, and especially with the return of General de Gaulle to power as the president of the new 5th Republic in 1958.
4) The more that radical Islamist sentiments snowball in appeal among the rapidly growing Muslim communities, the more likely there will be populist backlashes among native Europeans, and it's fairly easy to predict the outcome: mounting strife, violence, and terrorism of various sorts in most of the EU countries.
EU governments, it's true, may try to insulate themselves from those domestic reactions, hoping to salvage an alliance with the US that is needed for their own strict purposes of national security, now and way into the future. That can be fairly safely counted on, maybe even in France. In the long run, though, no alliance of democratic countries can operate effectively when, simultaneously, there is disagreement about the main security challenges that the allies confront and how they should be dealt with . . . at a time of surging anti-American sentiments almost everywhere in West Europe and political alienation at home.
Come to think of it, there's an important 5th trend
at work in US-EU relations that has coincided with the growing shift of US concerns and ad-hoc alliances away from NATO and toward the other countries listed here in a moment or two.
Namely? The sharp decline in West European defense spending, along with the failures of the NATO West Europeans except for Britain to overhaul their militaries, developed during the cold-war era, for effective and distant air-lift and sea-lift operations around the globe. (The French government has, to its credit, ended conscription and is seeking to develop a smaller and efficient professional military, but it's a decade away from matching British capabilities here.)
The result? Even with a military intervention approved by the UN Security Council and NATO --- the war to topple the murderous, women-whipping Taliban regime in Afghanistan in late 2001 --- the total number of peace-keeping forces that West Europe has sent to that country since then adds up to less than 5000. It would, of course, be useful to have more NATO West European forces as peace-keepers in Iraq during its transition to an electoral democracy; but essentially few numbers would be available even if West European governments were committed to sending more troops, and mainly they would be useful for guarding government buildings, roads, and similar infra-structures in that country, little else. That role, note, would still be useful . . . but mainly in order to free more US and Iraqi forces for fighting the insurgents and terrorists on the ground.
And On the US Side of the Alliance?
As the world's only super-power caught up in a prolonged war with Islamo-fascist terrorism and support for it among way too many Muslim communities --- Bin Laden found by an opinion survey last year to be admired by 65% of Pakistani, 55% of Jordanians, and 45% of Morocco (the most moderate of Arab countries), not to forget the 95% of Saudi men who were found after 9/11 to hold the mass-murderer fanatic in esteem --- its governing elites will, from time to time, favor a clear partnership formed with a country like Britain, not least because it has a good military and pro-American or at least realistic political elites in control of the Labour and Conservative Parties. Mainly, though, the governments that will matter for the US in the future are those in Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Russia, Turkey, and China, plus the pro-western Arab governments that are willing to carry out an agenda of at least modest liberal reforms. To this list, please note, should be added one or two of the more important new East European members of NATO, above all Poland.
Such, at least, seem to be the realities of global challenges, power, and national interests in the US and elsewhere for the foreseeable future.
One huge qualification rears up here --- the only one Prof Bug can pin down as relevant to invalidate this prediction: the growing revulsion at work now among the native West European populations to Muslim extremism, jihadism, and fundamentalist fervor in Holland and elsewhere could pick up increasing force, overthrowing the jumble of multicultural and other pc-orthodoxies that dominate EU political and media life, while pressuring mainstream politicos to stop their own evasions and timid behavior and recognize that if they don't, the dangerous upsurge of right-wing conservative populism will sweep across the political landscape and intensify the already visible growth of ominous social and ethnic strife and violence. If, in short, EU governments show more courage and determination to tackle forthrightly the main challenges that overhang their countries --- Islamist fanaticism and threats to European democracy and secularism, plus economic stagnation, population decline, and soaring crime and violence --- then, possibly, the huge intellectual gulf that has opened up between the US and most of West Europe the last few years could narrow again in the future . . . much to the benefit of US-European relations.
Even then, the narrowing of this mental gulf would have little spill-over onto concrete alliance policies unless one other change occurred in European politics: far more financial resources --- a great deal more in countries like Germany and Italy and Spain --- would have to be allocated to defense spending and the overhauling of their militaries into lean and effective professional forces. Otherwise, expect the Trans-Atlantic alliance to lose more and more of its significance.
And now, to resume the argument left hanging fire at the end of the initial article in this series.
ANTI-AMERICANISM AS A RHETORICAL TACTIC?
Is the rife nature of anti-American rhetoric in political and media circles in West Europe these days --- something that pre-dates George Bush's election in 2000, but has soared since them --- largely or even partly the outcome of a deliberate subterfuge manipulated by politicians to divert the public's attention in their countries from their own failures or problems?
You say it is, Francis, and maybe so . . . though of course that's not true of party leaders in the Labour or Conservative Party in Britain, the right-of-center coalition in Italy, the moderate centrist parties in Portugal, or the right-of-center governments in Holland or Denmark --- all led by leaders firmly friendly to the US. In Germany, despite some anti-American outbursts since the start of 2003 in parts of the Christian Democrats, most of the party's leaders are also eager for friendly relations with the US, and for that matter, that's also true of Joschka Fischer, the head of the Green Party and the country's Foreign Secretary --- despite the virulent rhetoric in both the Green Party ranks and among Social Democratic zealots. So I wouldn't exaggerate the depth or efficacy of such tactics.
Enter Anti-Americanism Through A Different Source
In the growth of anti-American sentiment, what's much clearer than the use or impact of demagogy are two other things: the role of party activists, and the influence of the pc-media.
(i.) Even in mainstream left-wing or conservative parties, the activists at the grass-roots levels are far more inclined toward blaming some combination of globalization, American hegemony, and cruel callous casino-capitalism for their troubles. How much trouble they've caused in US-EU relations --- at any rate on the level of attitudes and discourse --- isn't itself as clear, though no doubt some responsibility for seeing President Bush as a new Attila-the-Hun with six-shooters can be traced back to them.
(ii.) A greater fount of the rampant anti-American sentiment has to be traced to the influence of the EU media all over the Continent.
Dominated at it is by post-modernist wordsmiths full of politically correct shibboleths in place of clear thought or open-mindedness --- and, no less worse, devoid outside of Britain of a traditional sense of fair-play or professional responsibility to balance opinions when they invite guests to discuss controversies (something even Fox News does regularly here, not to mention the use of two noted liberal news-hosts such as Geraldo Rivera and Alan Colmes) --- the EU media on the Continent seems to specialize in mouthing utterly predictable left-wing banalities about multicultural harmony, or EU breakthroughs in global cooperation and goodwill, or morally superior EU social-sharing in economic policies even as economic growth has ground to a near halt and structural unemployment afflicts more and more young people and minorities.
The futile lip-service paid to multicultural harmony is probably the greatest self-delusion, voiced the more stridently, it seems, the faster all the dreams of social harmony with Muslim communities crash all around them. Social strife is on the rise everywhere in the EU. So is violent crime. So is Islamist fundamentalism and extremism. And so, of course, is the breakthrough nearly everywhere except in Britain and Ireland of right-wing populist movements.
Sidebar Clarification About Unemployment
It always surprises people, whether Europeans or Americans, to be informed about the big differences in job-creation and the labor markets in the US and EU. For almost three decades now, unemployment has averaged 2-3 times higher in the EU than in the US. It gets worse each time the business cycle is completed (a growth phase, a slow-down, then recession; and even more worrying, it is mainly long-term in nature. Most US unemployment is short-term, lasting only a few weeks. An International Labor Organization chart here brings out the startling differences in long-term unemployment, defined as lasting a year or more. Click here
for the ILO source.
And Thus . . .
. . . Enter the need for a scapegoat to account for how these intellectual illusions and airy-fairy aspirations have crashed into one wall of reality after another the last few years: the US in the era of George Bush.
Bush-the-Terrible now looms as a worse affliction in European life than Ivan-the-Terrible or, to repeat, Attila-the-Hun . . . an arrogant idiotic Christer-Cowboy who is set to trample all over the cloud-chasing utopian landscape that these EU media types and their intellectual hangers-on have created in their minds and communicated non-stop to others for decades now. And just as Attila bragged that where his armed-to-the-teeth horsemen rode no blade of grass would ever grow again, so the EU media types appear to see Bush and his Texas Rangers set to do the same to their little welfare-state dreamscape crammed with multicultural illusions and harmony. The Huns are coming! the Huns are coming! Only their leader this time wears a cowboy hat, carries six-guns, and has a pea-brain underneath the hat.
Add in the professoriat, the Protestant mainstream clerics, the bureaucrats manning the social services, and left-wing activists all over the Continent --- even in much of Britain --- and you have a pervasive, poll-parroting set of slogans and symbols of delusive sort that inundates the EU populations day-in, day-out. As you also note, out of the vacuum of reality created by such delusions, there has burst into EU political life not the Texas cowboy or the US Marine Corps, rather the likes of Joerge Haider, Jean-Marie Le Pen, Pim Fortuyn, Silvio Berlusconi, the various heads of Vlaams Bloc or the Danish People's Party, and their counterparts on a smaller scale elsewhere.
Britain, fortunately, remains a partial exception, what with the influence of certain London-based papers or weeklies like the estimable Economist
, The Financial Times
, and The Telegraph
. . . with the Times
in its Murdoch era still searching for a new voice, but at least open to a wider variety of views than you would find in the rest of the British media . . . the BBC, alas, no noticeable dissenter from the poll-parroting, even under its new directorship. In Britain too --- unlike anywhere on the Continent of Europe --- there's a long tradition of fair-play in the media that still survives in some journalism . . . a belief that it's only right to let different sides on an issue be represented in intellectual exchanges. And not only is Britain an exception here, it is also --- along with Ireland and its successful economy --- just about the only EU country not to have any looming right-wing populist movement in its political life. (Note that the tradition of fair-play in media life persists with even greater impact in the US these days . . . yes, on Fox News too; more so than ever.)
Some Hard Evidence About the EU Media
The absence of any deep traditions of fair-play almost everywhere in the EU media is fairly easy to document.
Last fall, for instance, Harvard sponsored a symposium on the German media's coverage of the US --- attended by all the major German reporters in this country --- and to a man they admitted that they had no choice in their reportage except to cater to every simple-minded prejudice about American life that their editors and readers back home expected. See this buggy link
; also this one
. In France, the situation is scarcely better --- and maybe worse in the TV news, controlled as all the stations are by the state directly; and for that matter both Jean-Francois Revel and Phillipe Roger wrote well-known books on the long-lived deep-seated anti-American prejudices that have flourished in French elite circles for decades. The books came out in 2002, and were discussed at length in a few buggy articles: start with this one.
In Scandinavia, the efforts of fanatical radicals and their henchmen in the media to condemn the writings of Bjorn Lomborg, the author of The Skeptical Environmentalist
for breaking ranks with extremist environmentalist orthodoxies --- Lomborg himself formerly on the left and a erstwhile member of Greenpeace --- sent a chill up and down the spines of those who, like myself, have always admired the civic traditions and democracy of Denmark, Lomborg's own country. His critics didn't just criticize Lomborg's writings, their right; they dismissed them as unscientific and demanded he be dismissed from his new post as an adviser to the conservative coalition Danish government. A whole year went by before Lomborg's attackers had to back down, found to be witch-hunters by an official Danish governmental inquiry. See this buggy link
on this. And this earlier one.
Nor is that all. PC witch-hunting also pervades, alas, a fair amount of British journalism and the BBC these days --- the latter ostensibly sobered after an official Royal Commission condemnation of its excesses, but still flinging what an editor of the estimable Financial Times
rightly calls attack-dog journalism.
On these trends, see this buggy link
. And also this one.
The latter link also documents the flagrant anti-Semitism in much of the Greek media. On the corruption of the opinion-manipulating Italian media, see this study.
This study is more general in its analysis of anti-American prejudices in most of the Italian media
outside of Berlusconi's. Come to that, a spokesman for the Italian Foreign Ministry outrightly condemned in 2003 the widespread anti-American ideology that pervades most of the Italian media. See this
WHAT CAN WE CONCLUDE ABOUT THE NATURE OF US-EU RELATIONS,
AT ANY RATE ON THE LEVEL OF PUBLIC OPINION?
Well, just this: as far as this American is concerned, Italians, Greeks, Germans, Scandinavians, Frenchmen, Britons, and other West Europeans can think what they want about the US. It's their right. But then it's also a scholarly duty of Prof Bug to note just how shallow, ideological, and lopsided most EU coverage is about a country that most West European governments are still allied with, that stood by them during the cold war confrontation even if it meant the US could be dragged into a nuclear war that started in Europe, and on which their leaders --- political or military --- still depend for their security in a perilous era these days.
Prof bug himself worries --- as his previous article published a couple of days indicates --- that far too many West Europeans are living a world of self-deception and delusion . . . increasingly aware that things have gone haywire in European life, whether in economics and rising social conflicts and violent crime, but without any effective way of making sense of them; rather, only a ragbag of shibboleths and pious pieties that their political leaders, media, and intellectual classes have been feeding them for decades now. The future looks doubly ominous in West Europe. It also looks ominous for US-European relations, especially since no alliance of democratic countries can amount to much if there is so much disgruntlement among the electorates in most of the allied members. More and more anxious and bewildered --- half of them found in Eurobarometer surveys last fall (2003) doubtful that the European Union has been a good development in European life --- West Europeans appear to be resorting in increasingly large number to age-old reflexes of reaching down into the murky areas of their psyches and dredging up a cast of scapegoats to explain their multiple, rapidly mounting troubles. Such psychic-mongering, after all, is a far easier mental tic to rely on than to have the root causes of those troubles explained to them by forthright political leaders and media pundits.
Who Are The Chief Bogeymen in the EU Media Litany of Nightmarish Threats?
(i.) For many EU media types, intellectuals, politicos, and party activists, it's the USA pure and simple . . . the home of everything they dread that's at odds with their illusionary hopes: free-market capitalism, a US standard of living now 55% higher than the EU average --- the exact same it was in 1914, a century ago --- and a strong patriotism and a belief in American independence. There's also widespread support for an active global role to deal with murderous threats, if need be by military means; what could be more calculated to frustrate utopian dreams of world-wide peace than that? Then there's the export of democracy where possible, which means among other things --- a great surprise to West Europeans whenever they learn this --- that nowadays, aside from Castro's jailhouse country, all of Latin America south of the Rio Grande border with Mexico is governed by democratic elections these days. The same is true of Pacific Asia, except for the remaining Communist countries: China, North Korea, and Laos and Vietnam. Everywhere else, especially since the economic crash of 1997, democracy has either cropped up for the first time --- as in Indonesia --- or strengthened itself where it did exist, right down to the Philippines and Thailand getting rid of corrupt heads of government. What, is that possible in an era of American Neo-neo imperialism? And of frightening globalization?
Apparently so, however much these heart-warming developments collide with European conventional wisdom.
And it gets worse for the EU faithful. Essentially, Americans show little or no interest in European life, whether its culture, politics, or what have you. The exception? It occurred in early 2003. To the surprise of average Americans, many of whom have dead fathers or grand-fathers buried on French soil, three allies of the US in NATO not only dissented from the UK-US initiative to topple Saddam Hussein --- which is their right after all, and in the buggy prof's view acceptable in relations among allies --- but, far more than this, actively worked to erect a counter-balancing coalition with Russia.
Then too, to return to American values at loggerheads with those espoused by the EU talky types, most Americans still believe in the need for individual responsibility and initiative, which means that individual persons and families need themselves to take on the tasks of improving their lot in life . . . even as, as with Britain and Australia and New Zealand, there are plenty of government programs to help those who can't clearly help themselves. A strange view in European life these days, at least on the Continent, no?
Well, let's continue with the oddity.
In effect, if things go sour in your personal life here, the vast majority of Americans will ask themselves what they did wrong and how they can do better. What do average Europeans do in a similar situation? Apparently, from what the buggy prof can tell --- after 60 years of living in a regulation-mad Nanny-State (which is slowly going bankrupt everywhere, given its welfare demands) and have their lives controlled in detailed ways by bureaucrats all in the name of do-gooding --- Europeans tend to blame others for their troubles: whether the system, the callous government of the day, other better organized groups getting more of government largesse, Americans, globalizing forces, or anyone else at any rate besides themselves. And in a way that's understandable. Contrary to what politically correct, frustrated American left-wingers think, recent studies --- all of which will be cited, along with the statistics, in the next buggy article on political ideologies in the US and Europe --- show that upward social mobility is about double to triple in the US compared to West Europe. What's more, unlike here, it's virtually impossible for Europeans to drop out of the state-controlled channels of advancement, from primary school on, and then try to return . . . particularly in your 20's or for that matter 40's and change professions entirely.
By contrast, Americans constantly alter and remake their lives here, and they don't expect state officials to hold them by the hand and bring happiness like some sort of bureaucratized tooth-fairy
Two examples I'm reminded of each time they come to my house --- which is weekly recently, given some aches and pains --- just as anecdotal evidence, nothing more.
The two are professional massage therapists and have been for decades. Both are in their late forties. One of them decided five years ago to get a license to become a physical therapist assistant; it required him to enroll in a professional school for a two-year intensive program, plus several months of internship, and on top of that, he couldn't get his license until he also prepared for and took exams to get his secondary school degree. You see, a counter-cultural type, he dropped out of high school his senior year, becoming the body guard of a well-known rock star, only to quit that when he had to use his gun to protect the guy from a violent drunk. He now works 45 hours a week as a physical therapist assistant, and another 10-15 hours doing private therapeutic massage work. The other fellow moved recently from Florida, where he practiced as a professional massage therapist for 15 years following a divorce and the bankruptcy of his boat business. He holds diplomas from several US and Swiss massage schools. Two years ago, despite a good massage practice, he was accepted into the program of acupuncture at the Santa Barbara College of Oriental Medicine . . . a three-year stint, 11 months a year, plus several months of clinical internship, which is not only strenuous in its demands but very time-consuming. He now is in his last year, hoping to combine his professional work in acupuncture (and the licensed ability to prescribe Chinese herbs) with his massage therapy. He works at least 60 hours a week. Asked by the buggy prof why, given his pretty good massage practice, he went back to school for another difficult-to-obtain professional degree, he said simply that he thought it would enhance his knowledge to better serve his clients.
Both, by the way, seem very happy, confident men.
I know of nowhere in West Europe where two men or women in their mid-forties could find any accredited institution of higher learning that would allow them to enter a two or three-year program, lacking as they do any background or work in those fields. I know scarcely any Europeans that old --- at any rate who haven't emigrated to the US to escape Nanny-State controls over their lives --- who would even show this kind of personal initiative, with all the strenuous hard work that it entails. There are, it's true, more state-sponsored retraining programs for young people unable to find work, or in a handful of countries like Sweden to retrain older workers for a few months who have lost their jobs if their employers went bankrupt or had to restructure their companies. After a few months, maybe a year, of low-pay subsidized work, the programs end, and the young people return in droves to the ranks of the unemployed. As for the Swedish-style adult retraining programs, good studies have shown for years now that they don't have much impact on the job market. Essentially, those programs are little more than what the British in the 19th century called "outdoor relief". We'd call it disguised welfare payments.
(ii.) Back to the turnip-ghost bad-guys in EU outlook that explain why things have gone so sour in European life.
For even more West European politicos, media types, intellectuals, and party activists, it's not just the US that's the Big Boo of the day: much worse, it's President Bush and those Americans who support his policies --- or who don't at least share left-wing disgust for him and them, among them yours truly. No more needs to be said on the topic. It's been an obsessive topic of simpleminded ideological discussion in virtually all the EU media for four years now, reaching a crescendo immediately in the aftermath of Bush's surprising election.
Even more alarmingly, as the age-old horrors of anti-Semitism gain more respectability again in European life, there are more and more West Europeans who stigmatize Jews as insidious scapegoat-miscreants . . . or, to be more exact, both the US and world Jewry working together, conspiratorial view diagnosed at length by the German editor of the weekly Die Zeit
--- Josef Joffe, a Harvard-trained Ph.D. (See Joffe's well-known article, The Demons of Europe
, and the extensive buggy analysis of it that appeared in late 2003: click here
.) Small wonder that in the fall of 2003 tiny Israel was singled out as the greatest threat to world peace, 57-58% of West Europeans seeing things that way. On this count, even Bush's America attracted only 53%.
Nor is that all. The list of insidious evil-doers runs on. For right-wing Europeans and increasing numbers of just average West Europeans, the culprit for their troubles also includes Muslim minorities --- many of whom, alas, are justifying the alarm and prejudices what with the thrust in Muslim communities all over West Europe toward fundamentalism, voiced hatred of European secular life, increasing support for Islamist terrorism, and above all the violent crime being caused by young, rootless, hate-filled young Muslims. Not to forget more and more outright vicious Muslim racism expressed toward Jews.
A FINAL SET OF OBSERVATIONS ABOUT THE EU, NOW AND IN THE FUTURE
None of These Developments Analyzed at Length Here, It Goes Without Saying, Augur Happily For West Europe's Future.
Just the opposite. The future in West Europe almost everywhere aside from Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, and Britain --- or maybe Norway outside the EU --- looks menacing and very likely destined to get worse, not better.
On this count, moreover, prof bug stands by his recent claim set out in the previous buggy article: aside from Britain, there are few signs of any noticeable creativity of any sort in European life except in one area: boldly imaginative vacation trips, whether spent in Europe or abroad, to the tune of several weeks a year --- not to mention all the sick leave days, holidays, and strikes that afflict about 2/3 of the EU countries.
Thus the German economy staggers on, no economic growth to speak of for almost a decade; German unions, meanwhile, have demanded up to a 4.0% annual increase in wages. What could possibly justify such haughty ignorance, at a time when German unemployment is around 12%? All over the EU, there's been a marked decline in the number of people aged 50-65 who are in the work-force compared to 30 years ago; for that matter, whereas both the EU and the US in the mid-1970s could count on about 62% of the adults between the age of 18 and 65 being actively working, the figure for the EU has declined slightly since then, whereas it's risen to around 71% in the US. All this has occurred as every EU country gets rapidly older, with more and more retirees living on state-pensions financed by taxes? Where will the money come from? On a different level, in France these days, fishermen don't like rising gasoline prices. Well, who does, but Americans aren't threatening to close down their ports if their government doesn't come to their aid. Or will the truckers strike and block all the highways not just in France but to all the surrounding countries as they did three years ago, blackmailing the government to make similar concessions to them? Or will the farmers --- incensed with this or that --- drive their cattle onto the Place de Concorde in Paris and throw dead carcasses on the train tracks, a tactic leaving you wondering who had time to bury the 15,000 extra dead old people who collapsed during the heat wave of August 2003 when most of the doctors and nurses were on holidays . . . including President Jacques Chirac, getting apparently a facial in Canada?
The Woes Mount
Eearlier this year, repeated attempts were made to assassinate the major administrative leaders of the European Union. Not to worry, mate; they survived unscathed; in any case, those leaders weren't all found guilty with their fingers in the EU's till as was the entire EU Commission --- its executive body --- three years ago and forced to resign to a man. Have things improved since then? Not according to a Dutch administrator, who quit the EU budget committee when he found that there was no more accountability and transparency after two years had gone by than when the original scandal had broken out. (See this buggy link.) Speaking of Dutchmen, the citizens of Holland were convinced as late as two years ago that they had a sane, stable society dedicated to human rights and brotherly love --- free of all the conflicts that their media had assured them make American life a nightmare. What happened? Well, they have waked up since then to find find that the real violent nightmare has been unleashed in their own country, not George Bush's.
Then there's France once more, always a weather-vane of official cant and hypocrisy, plus barely concealed social strife.
Believe it or not --- as French unemployment rises into double figures again, most of it long-term (unlike here) --- French workers are incensed that a cockamamie left-wing scheme that cut back the work week to 35 hours with no pay cuts a few years ago might not be sustainable amid economic stagnation. Not to worry. The government, faced with economic stagnation at home, has just decided to raise the minimum wage again. Will it work? It might boost consumption slightly in the short run; in the long run, it will only lead as it has in the past to ever more rigid labor markets and ever greater unemployment for young people and minorities. Meanwhile, when the transportation and communication systems aren't shut down in mass strikes by workers in the public sector, French administrators in Corsica have to duck bombs tossed at them by terrorists.
No less odd, a radical-chic type like Jose Bove --- reared in Berkeley's counter-cultural traditions of the 1960s, hypocrisy and all --- trashes a McDonald's in his own town recently, an act that then inspires a fire-bomb attack on a McDonald's elsewhere in France and kills a French worker, and what does the Prime Minister of the day, Lionel Jospin, have to say? Well, he might not approve of Bove's tactics, but he can understand why Frenchmen might hate hamburgers! Even that claim rings false. There are now about 1000 McDonald's in France employing over 40,000 people, each of them jointly owned by a French owner, serving food mainly bought in France (except beef: nobody in his right mind would eat beef butchered from cows fed treated sewage, a French tradition brought out during the flap over e-coli diseases in British cattle.), and presumably they aren't all American tourists that keep these 1000 businesses rolling in the euros.
To top it all off, the three investigating magistrates who had probed the charges of corruption involving Jacques Chirac that go back over the decades --- the man somehow acquiring enough loot in his 40 years of public service to acquire, among other things, a ritzy chateau in the Loire Valley --- were so irritated by years of being stonewalled that they all quit at the same time in the spring of 2002, followed by a public declaration that they could draw only one conclusion: in France, there are two systems of law . . . one for ordinary people, the other for the rich and powerful. The President himself wasn't bothered. At the height of the heat epidemic back in August 2003 that caused the deaths of 15,000 people owing to callous medical neglect and faulty air conditioning systems, the President was getting his facials toned up in Canada and was incommunicado.
The Cauchemar Americain in Iraq or A Nightmare in France?
It might surprise the French media to know that 15,000 French deaths of this sort would be the equivalent of 75,000 American deaths --- 50% more than the number of American soldiers killed in 10 years of warfare in Vietnam, and 75 times more than have been killed in what French TV regularly refers to the American cauchemar
--- nightmare --- in Iraq. At the rate of US casulaties in Iraq over the last 20 months, fighting there would have to continue about 130 years before the number of US deaths as a percentage of the US population would equal the number of old people who died in France from neglect in the one month of August 2003. But then, why bother with trivial matters like death rates when the world needs to be saved from the clutches of the Toxic Texan and his gunmen cronies like Donald Rumsfeld and Richard Cheney?
Enter an old Nazi leader's saying. Wer ein Jude ist stimme ich
, said a drugged-out fat slob degenerate like Reichsmarshal Herman Goering, the number two man in the Nazi regime: "who's a Jew around here is something I'll decide". A good choice by the Nazi murderer. You see, the main airplane designer for the Luftwaffe, which Goering led, was half-Jewish and hence slated for the death camps without Goering's intervention. Word play like this is repeatedly a staple of the French media. Apparently, what's a cauchemar
is something the French talking-heads will determine, depending on whether it involves poor French older people callously neglected in a heat wave and dying in droves during vacation time for the rest of the country, or American gunsels wearing GI fatigues and Marine uniforms.
Which brings us to Spain again.
There, hundreds of innocent people were slaughtered by Islamist crazies while traveling on trains in Madrid, and Spaniards rushed to punish their government in the elections a week later as a way to appease Islamist terrorists. The new Socialist Prime Minister no sooner took power than he openly castigated George Bush and Tony Blair for their lunacies in Iraq. Well, did the Spanish appeasement work? Apparently not. Ever since, the Madrid police have uncovered numerous terrorist cells still plotting bomb attacks; and Bin Laden, encouraged by Spanish appeasement, has demanded that southern Spain be handed back to the Arabs. . Well, given the Spanish rush to have the Israelis commit suicide by withdrawing pell-mell from the West Bank whatever the consequences, maybe Bin Laden is only being logical in dealing with the Spaniards.
Are Other EU Countries Better Off Than Those Mentioned So Far?
If so, it's hard to find them. In Greece, the country's leading musician was recently feted after calling Jews evil and vicious, the source of the world's ills everywhere, and governmental ministers present at the public rant stand by and applaud along with most of the rest of the country. In Belgium, home of unctuous political leaders for decades now, law-and-order looks at times broken beyond repair. Further to the north, Muslim-Danish conflicts are soaring in a decent little country like Denmark; and when the new Danish conservative coalition government moved to limit Muslim immigration, the Swedish government --- as unctuous as it once was during the cold war (Sweden not shedding one citizen's blood to destroy Fascism, Communism, and Nazism in the last century, but profiting mightily from the struggles of others to do so) --- openly castigates it for not adhering to accepted EU dogmas. Outside the EU, two tiny countries --- Norway and Switzerland (4 and 6 million) --- have experienced a huge breakthrough recently of right-wing xenophobic parties, the Norwegian Progress Party and the Swiss People's Party . . . each getting around 30% of the vote in national elections. The Swiss People's Party is actually the largest in the Swiss Parliament.
To the east of Sweden, there's Finland . . . a fellow member of the EU, even tinier (4 million, roughly the same population as Denmark's or Ireland's). Tthe Finnish general who heads some phantom EU Rapid Deployment Force --- which would have trouble, it appears, of air-lifting a platoon of European soldiers even to Sicily without NATO (read: US) reconnaissance, communications, and command and control --- isn't worried by these non-existent forces he's supposed to command. European influence in the world, he tells us, is grounded in moral force, and any efforts to acquire real military clout that could operate independently of the US would only spoil the vast impact of that force around the world.
And everywhere in the EU --- even in traditionally law-abiding Scandinavia, Holland, and Britain --- high taxes have spawned an underground economy of lawless, asocial behavior that, according to the best comparative study of the subject carried out by an Austrian team of economists, is at least twice as high as in the US (15% vs. 7%), whereas in Latin Europe it's three times as high. In Greece, it's worse than that.
The booby-hatch behavior run wider.
Almost everywhere now save in a handful of fairly sane countries such as Denmark and Britain and Ireland, demagogues like Haider and Le Pen or their tin-pot imitators are flourishing more than ever. Then, topping it all off, there are all the wild-eyed Muslim spokesmen full of rage and hatred urging Muslim communities to attack Jews and other nefarious infidels. My favorite among these? A couple of lovely Muslim clerics who beseech their fellow Europeans to be open-minded and discuss openly the virtues and values of husbands being able to beat their disobedient wives with sticks and other handy implements. Islamic law, they say, is on their side. Besides, they reassure us, there are ways to inflict necessary bodily harm without visible marks left on the women's bodies . . . at any rate, those parts of the bodies that would be exposed in public, which means in the case of the clerics essentially two eyes and a nose poking through a very fashionable burka.
On and on it goes, a lengthy list of head-turning lunacies, failures, evasions, moonbeam rhetoric, and political behavior of a March Hare sort while the huge problems and challenges in European life continue to pile up at an alarming rate. Still, there is one big exception to European out-of-luck flopperoos in economics, politics, ethnic relations, or come to that creativity of practically any sort. To a man, it seems, West Europeans are very deft at figuring out where to spend their 8-10 weeks of annual vacation time, plus holidays and finagled sick leave.
Is The End Near?
Well, far more so than most West Europeans are just beginning to sense. There really isn't much more time left. Unless drastic changes are made in West Europe in the decade or so to come, the Continent will be headed for hari-kari by mid-century. None of these changes will be easy; many will be painful and prolonged. Among them: very difficult economic reforms, almost certain to be dislocating; a big turnaround in the West European birth-rate; a renewed willingness of West Europeans to show more spunk and risk-taking and start businesses of their own, the only reliable way to offset growing structural unemployment; come to that, the need to restore a waning work ethos; and a frank effort, perhaps the most painful of all, deal with soaring violent crime and Islamist fundamentalism that have made so many West Europeans apprehensive and fearful for their personal security.
Is all this just an idiosyncratic American view? Hardly. It's exactly what a French institute predicted last year would happen to the EU by 2050 --- in the absence, at any rate, of very radical changes of the sort just mentioned. (See this buggy link on the study
In the meantime, whether the changes and reforms are made or not, one thing is certain. In the next decade or two, most West Europeans will feel increasingly worried about their security, increasingly confused about their economic future, and more and more powerless and disillusioned about how they are governed . . . both on the national and EU regional levels. Simultaneously, just how weak and without influence West Europe happens to be on the global level will, in time, sink in more clearly into European thinking, with all the resentments that will follow. Against this background, what can Americans and some of the more sober-minded, clear-thinking Europeans expect will mark European views of the United States?
The Future of the Atlantic Alliance
Essentially this: it will be a prolonged repeat of the same pattern of silly shallow mental responses now at work in existing European views of the US, only with more heady virulence behind them: there will be more whines, only more stridently put; more gripes about stupid Americans, only more incessantly voiced; more envy of American wealth and power, only more openly expressed the greater the gulf between the two continents becomes. God who made us might, make us mightier still
was an old refrain, pre-WWII in nature, that Britons use to chant at a time when their empire ruled a quarter of the world's population. In the current EU version, it appears, the chant should read: We who are making ourselves weaker, make us weaker still.
And topping it all in this pattern of predictable EU views of the US and the wider world, there will be far more flagrant scapegoating of Americans in the media --- in effect, the only explanations the EU media types and pundits and their intellectual soul-mates have at their disposal for making sense of why things have gone out so out of whack in European life.
And so . . .Aufpassen, meine Damen und Herren! Es besteht die Gefahr, dass die Bundesrepublik sich verirrt! Faites attention, mesdames et messeurs! 'Faut se mefier! On n'est jamais trop prudent!!! Fijense francamente en la realidad de la vida, senoras y senores. El futuro no parece muy halagueno, por el contrario.
Or, translated into simple American English, we need to be forearmed here. In particular, we need to know what's at work in Europe, now and in the years to come. We have to understand what happens when things go badly haywire for lots of illusion-laden people.
Fortunately, those of us who have been lucky enough to take university courses in psychopathology --- which means we understand how disturbed and mentally dislocated people resort to denial and wild projections (among other defense mechanisms) to account for their tangle of self-made troubles --- will be particularly well situated to make sense of these increasingly strident outbursts in West Europe, ever louder, ever more furious, amid the heaped-up wreckage of one European self-delusion after another and the tatters of their hocus-pocus pipe-dreams.