Friday, February 27, 2009

Yankee, Go Home! (and wait by the phone in case we need help)

George Walden looks at the illogic of European anti-Americanism and warns about the possible consequences of writing off America in a piece at Standpoint.Online:

The attempt to write off democracy in America, one of the greatest achievements of humankind (what other country is capable of mounting an election campaign like the one we have just witnessed?) as a self-evident failure, in contrast to the vibrant new protectionist Europe to come, and to obliterate American successes in science and technology, could be dismissed as so extreme as to be irrelevant to the debate.

But that would be to forget that, as the current crisis warps political sanity, we may be entering a phase where rationality could follow the global economy into recession.

For a sane view of the USA you have to look to Americans themselves, just as you look to them for the best science, the best orchestras, novelists, architects, art historians and (so I am told) classicists. The clearest statement of the facts about the US, its enemies and critics, is by Michael Mandelbaum, a foreign policy professor at Johns Hopkins University esteemed for the steely precision of his analyses.

Why is it, he asks in The Case for Goliath, that whereas states as strong as the US are historically subject to alliances to check them, no such anti-American alliance has formed or shows any sign of forming today? "The explanation for this gap is twofold. First, the charges most frequently levelled at America are false...second, far from menacing the rest of the world [the US] plays a uniquely positive global role. The governments of most other countries understand this, though they have powerful reasons not to say so explicitly."

There follows a highly contemporary message: that America's willingness to pursue the international activism we publicly deplore and privately welcome depends not so much on the rise of China but on the demands of Medicare and the social security budget. Three things about the US global involvement, he writes, may be safely predicted: that other countries "will not pay for it; they will continue to criticise it; and they will miss it when it is gone".

The only thing worse than a world with America playing the role of dominant super power is a world without it. When Europeans relish the apparent decline of America, they should consider just what the alternative would really look like if the US decided to pick up its ball and go home. Be careful what you wish for.

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