Wednesday, December 22, 2004


I am reading Anti-Americanism by Jean-Francois Revel, a bracing polemic that deconstructs the decadent roots of the anti-Americanism that pervades the academic, political and media elites of Europe in particular and the world in general. It is an excellent short book well worth reading if you need, as I do, an occasional break from the rage of the Left. (You may not feel that need as acutely, of course -- remember that I live in an absurdly affluent and ridiculously liberal college town, and I spent six weeks in Europe on business this year.)

I may work my way around to a full-fledged review of the book. Until then, I'll post interesting tidbits in the hope that you run out and read the book yourself.

At the end of a long chapter on "Contradictions," which carefully describes the profound inconsistencies in most European or Left criticisms of America and American policy, Revel devotes a few paragraphs to the American way of talking to the world:
It's understandable that Americans, confronted by such a host of inconsistencies, are sometimes tempted to think of themselves as crusaders invested with a kind of universal mission; this is why their spokesmen are not unlikely to indulge in irritating, obnoxious or comical remarks, sometimes verging on megalomania. This unfortunate tendency calls for some comment.

First, such remarks -- however over-the-top -- have a basis in indisputable fact. Second, thousands of equally grotesque statements have issued from French mouths, celebrating, over the course of the centuries, the "universal radiance" of France, the "country of human rights," burdened with the responsibility of spreading liberty, equality and fraternity throughout the world. Likewise, the Soviet Union regarded itself as the bearer of universal revoution, while Muslims want to force even non-Muslim countries to obey the sharia.

Third, the concept of a state policy, or realpolitik, indifferent alike to morality and the interests of others was discredited as a principle of international politics after the First World War. It was replaced by the principle of collective security, brought to Europe from the United States by Woodrow Wilson in 1919 and strongly reaffirmed by Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman in 1945.

The style of international politics inspired by this principle is an American invention and has been played out since 1945 under American leadership; it's hard to see what other approach could take us towards a less flawed world. For the politics of collective security (which naturally includes the war on terrorism) not to give rise to American "hyperpower," many other countries must have the intelligence to work together towards its fulfillment, instead of slandering its foremost champion.

Indeed. Read the book.


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