The American Enterprise

Europe learns the wrong lessons.(Bird's Eye)

Nearly one third of Germans under 30 say that the U.S. government ordered the 9/11 attacks. In France, a book insisting that Americans carried out the assault themselves to increase defense budgets becomes a huge bestseller. In Britain, major newspapers carry headlines like "The USA is Now the World's Leading Rogue State."

Asked which countries are the biggest threat to world peace, Europeans name the U.S. as often as North Korea and Iran (each are picked by 53 percent). Countries characterized by Euros as less menacing than the U.S. include Syria, Iraq, Russia, China, Afghanistan, Libya. As one American living in Britain, Anglican minister Dwight Longenecker, summarizes: "Our cultural ancestors have become unrecognizable, even hostile, to us."

Unlike some forms of bigotry, anti-Americanism is most virulent among Europe's elites. Everyday Germans and Brits and Italians tend to be more appreciative of American culture, economic achievement, and government than their political lords. But ordinary Europeans have relatively little influence on the direction of their societies. The thing about European governance most striking to American eyes today is its comparatively undemocratic nature. In much of the continent, elections mean little, unaccountable bureaucracies and elites commandeer the most important decisions, the same people hang onto power endlessly, and policies that would not survive the test of popular opinion are simply instituted by administrative fiat. To cite just one example, direct election of mayors has been blocked in many localities, with national authorities insisting on appointing local leaders themselves.

Because of this unrepresentative politics, lots of ideas supported by a majority of the European public--like the death penalty--have no chance of becoming law. The tradition of a peasantry ruled by its "betters" endures in numerous ways. Many of these habits are actually being deepened by the European Union, where decision making is dominated by unrecallable mandarins serving appointments in Brussels, who regularly ram through laws that could never pass by popular referendum.

Bile and grandstanding

This Europe manipulated from above has failed to keep pace with the mushrooming achievements of less heavily bridled American and Asian competitors. The continent's ruling class is thus in a foul humor. In a June column, Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal perfectly captured the angry condescension now often directed by European authorities at American representatives. He describes being ambushed at a Sunday brunch by a German diplomat:

   Apropos of nothing, he said he had recently made a study 
   of U.S. tax laws and concluded that practices here were 
   inferior to those in Germany. Given recent rates of German 
   economic growth, I found this comment odd. But I offered 
   no rejoinder.... Bad as U.S. economic policy was, it was 
   as nothing next to our human-rights record.... The gulag 
   was better than Guantanamo, since at least the Stalinist 
   system offered its victims a trial of sorts.... Civil rights in 
   the U.S., he said, were on a par with those of North Korea 
   and rather behind what they had been in Europe in the 
   Middle Ages.... My wife and I made abortive attempts 
   at ordinary conversation. We 
   were met with non sequiturs: 
   "The only people who appreciate 
   American foreign policy are poodles. … 

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