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October 19, 2007

Anti-Americanism: An American Specialty

Posted by Dave Blount at October 19, 2007 10:25 AM

In an excellent editorial, Gerard Baker observes that anti-Americanism is an exceedingly popular American export:

Al Gore has won a Nobel Peace Prize, an Oscar and an Emmy, the triple crown of recognition from the self-adoring keepers of bien-pensant, elite liberal, global orthodoxy. Michael Moore is treated like a prophet in Cannes and Venice, as he peddles his tales of an America that poisons its poor, sends its blacks off to war and shoots itself. Whenever a loquacious Dixie Chick or a contumacious Sean Penn utters some excoriating remark about the depravity of his or her own country, audiences around the world nod their heads in sympathetic agreement. Bill Clinton, of course, is a god. Though protocol dictates that he may not say things that are too unkind about the country he once led, a nod and a wink will suffice.
It has always amused me that the same people who denounce America as a seething cesspit of blind obscurantist bigotry can't see the irony that America itself produces its own best critics. When there's a scab to be picked on the American body politic, no one does it with more loving attention, more rigorous focus on the detail, than Americans themselves.

American anti-Americanism is the best, because our freedom gives it a stamp of validity:

Let's be honest, how much real moral weight do Vladimir Putin or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad carry when they decry American motives and actions? All but the most unhinged of America's critics know, deep down, in a part of the brain they try not to consult, that whatever they may think of the Bushitler in Washington, they don't feel comfortable agreeing with the ex-KGB hatchet man of the Kremlin or the Holocaust-denying Dr Strangelove sitting astride his Islamist bomb. It sounds so much better when Al Gore or Michael Moore says it.
But ask yourself why that is. Isn't it because they know that only American criticism really carries legitimacy? Only a country that enthusiastically and self-woundingly honours Voltaire’s old dictum about free speech can really be trusted to cast judgment on anything.

But there's a dark side to the flourishing anti-Americanism industry:

The Americans who win global approbation in Oslo or at the UN are not simply critics of current American policy. They want to construct an international system that will for ever prevent the US from pursuing its own objectives, a system designed to dilute, counterbalance and constrain America's ability to govern itself. They prefer a world in which American democracy is subordinated to a kind of global government, rule by a global elite, tasked to make decisions on everyone's behalf in the name of multilateralism.
Al Gore wants the US to give up its economic autonomy and submit to rule by binding international obligations to curb its carbon emissions. Some of the Democratic candidates for the presidency want to tie down the American Gulliver under a web of global treaties. The British Government, if recent speeches by ministers are to be believed, is now apparently seriously committed to the idea that only the UN has the legitimacy to determine how nations should behave. In other words, that a system that gives vetoes to China and Russia and honours the human rights contributions of countries such as Syria or North Korea should be accorded a full role in the promotion of the dignity of mankind.
There's a larger irony in all this. Even as the US demonstrates the openness of its own society, its unrivalled capacity for self-examination and self-correction, a free system based on the absolute authority of the rule of law, it is told it must submit itself to the views of Moscow, Beijing, and Brussels.
Fortunately, while the American system may be forgivingly tolerant of people with wild and dangerous ideas, it doesn't generally let them run the country.

Let's hope he's right:

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Hat tip: Blue Crab Boulevard.