I grew up in the Arab world in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and anti-Americanism was the standard political language – even for those pining for American visas and green cards. Precious few took this seriously. The attraction to the glamorous, distant society was too strong in the Beirut of my boyhood.
No Turkish malady is caused by America, and no cure can come courtesy of the Americans. The Turks giving vent to anti-Americanism are doing a parody of Europe: They were led to believe that the Europe spurning them, and turning down their membership in its club, is given to anti-Americanism, so they took to the same fad. Turkish anti-Americanism is no doubt fueled by the resentment within Turkey of the American war in Iraq that gave protection and liberty to the Kurds. No apology is owed the Turks; indeed, it is they who must reconsider their intolerance of minorities. If the Turks were comfortable with the abnormality of Iraq under Saddam Hussein, it is they who have a problem.
And if there is enthusiasm for Barack Obama on foreign shores, his rise to fame and power must be a tribute to the land that has made this possible. Where else would a boy of marginality and relative poverty find his way to the peak of political life? Certainly not in his father's Kenya, where the tribal origins of the Obamas would have determined young Barack's life-chances. In an Arab world hemmed in by pedigree, where rulers bequeath power to their sons and the lot of the sons is invariably that of the fathers, the tale of Obama is fantasy.
Meanwhile, a maligned American president now returns from a Europe at peace with American leadership. In France, Germany and Italy, center-right governments are eager to proclaim their identification with American power. Jacques Chirac is gone. Now there is Nicolas Sarkozy, who offered a poetic tribute last November to the American soldiers who fell on French soil, before a joint session of the U.S. Congress. "The children of my generation," he said, "understood that those young Americans, 20 years old, were true heroes to whom they owed the fact that they were free people and not slaves. France will never forget the sacrifice of your children."
The great battle over the Iraq war has subsided, and Europeans who ponder the burning grounds of the Islamic world know the distinction between fashionable anti-Americanism and the international order underpinned by American power. George W. Bush may have been indifferent to political protocol, but he held the line when it truly mattered, and the Europeans have come to understand that appeasement of dictators and brigands begets its own troubles.
It is one thing to rail against the Pax Americana. But after the pollsters are gone, the truth of our contemporary order of states endures. We live in a world held by American power – and benevolence. Nothing prettier, or more just, looms over the horizon.
Monday, June 23, 2008
Ajami and Anti-American Hype
Whenever Fouad Ajami publishes something, I try to read it. His Dream Palace of the Arabs: A Generation’s Odyssey is a great read which leads the reader into many of the key events of the intellectual (mostly literary) world of 20th-century Arab life and culture. His latest essay makes the case that "Anti-Americanism Is Mostly Hype." Is it?
A thought-provoking read, even if you disagree.
Posted by W. at 10:52 AM