Monday, September 16, 2002

l’obsession anti-américaine

As John pointed out, the world is coming around. Even the Saudis are now saying they’ll allow the US to use its bases, provided the UN supports action against Iraq. Bush’s excellent speech before the United Nations – neither condescending nor subservient – put the world on notice that the UN’s much vaunted reputation is on the line. The world can spend as much time as it wants dialoguing about international law, sustainable development and global security, but at the end of the day, only American power can make these things a reality. Such is the nature of politics: power and morality cannot be separated. The world should only be happy that its the US with the power.

In this vein, I picked up a new book just released last week in France: l’obsession anti-américaine. The author, well-known French academic Jean-François Revel, takes on the voices of anti-Americanism in Europe. He does a masterful job dispelling widely-held myths about everything from American culture to globalization to the health of American democracy. And, shaming the European media and political classes, Revel even dares to show up the simplisme of European assessments on international affairs with an able defense of George Bush’s maligned “axis of evil” phrase.

But Revel goes further; he looks at what lies behind the European penchant for distortion – one might say, he searches for the “root causes.” On this point, he pulls no punches: the problem is a wilful decision to lie on the part of the European anti-American. Noting the ready availability of information on the actual situation both domestically in the US and internationally, Revel bluntly states that only someone driven by an ideological need to twist reality could hold the views of the typical European anti-American.

And what is this ideology? It’s nothing other than the now centuries old movement to undermine liberal democracy by any means, fair or foul. Here Revel shows his French pedigree, taking on the intellectuals on their own turf. Comparing current anti-globalization activists and anti-Americans to communists and fascists bent on destroying democracy, Revel lays bare the underlying dogma fuelling hatred of the US.

None of this means that Revel is against honest criticism of America. He repeatedly defends frank discussion about US failings both at home and abroad. But for Revel, this cannot be based on the extreme ideology of the anti-American set.

I was happy to see Revel’s book was already making waves in France. Flipping through the television channels in my hotel room last Thursday night, I saw a discussion of the book by representatives of three of France’s most prominent news magazines. In this case, it was the panel’s anti-Americans on the defensive with supporters of Revel’s book on the attack. It’s unfortunate that, despite the disasters of both Nazism and international communism, this argument still must be made. It’s good to see that someone as competent as Revel is making it. This book will undoubtedly be translated into English. When it is, buy it.

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