a few days, my eldest daughter will board a plane at Kennedy
and fly off to a spring semesters study in Europe.
Besides the normal parental fears, I have other worries
of each generation travel abroad in different contexts,
the way they are viewed colored by their countrys
place and standing in the world. Despite Americas
dominant global role in popular culture, technology and
business, the reception of them today may be the coldest
I spent months in France in my 20s, the Cold War was the
backdrop to nearly everything. I read the French political
press, liked to talk politics. But even had I not, the French
would have taken me, for better or worse, as a representative
of a country perceived as big and rich, simpleminded in
its culture, unsophisticated in its diplomacy. But also
as stalwart in the great political battle of the timeover
whether the future would belong to capitalist democracy,
or some form, more likely than not dictatorial, of Marxism.
The outcome then seemed much in doubt, and most Frenchmen,
beneath layers of reservation, were on the same side.
the West, the capitalist West, has won. America has won.
The Soviet Union, home base to the Marxist coalition, sworn
enemy of freedom, collapsed and left the field. In Europe,
the Communist parties have shrunk, changed their names and
often outlooks. American military and financial powerguarantor
of the international system the Beltway pundits hail as
"benevolent global hegemony"for the moment
has no real match.
that power now represents something ugly and threatening,
at least so it seems to a growing number of the worlds
press buzzes with stories about depleted uranium weapons,
used heavily in Washingtons air war against the Serbs.
The projectiles, effective because uranium is heavy and
able to penetrate tank armor, are officially deemed not
radioactiveno more dangerous than the background radon
often found in American homes, according to one apologist
quoted in The Wall Street Journal. Such assurances
are belied by the internal NATO "hazard awareness"
document issued after the bombing, advising that soldiers
patrolling where DU weapons have landed be given warnings;
that those entering vehicles hit by DU shells should wear
masks, cover exposed skin and receive follow-up monitoring
for radiation exposure. Clusters of leukemia and lymphoma
have sprung up among NATO troops stationed in areas of intense
sudden uproar over Americas use of these semi-nonconventional
weapons in the Balkans represents an awakening of Europes
guilty conscienceas if to say to Washington, "When
you bombed Serbia, we kept silent, even went along as you
smashed churches, destroyed bridges, bombed hospitals, poisoned
the Danube, all the while reluctant to put at risk a single
one of your own soldiers in the battlefield. You have left
behind a toxic wasteland. It wont happen again."
years ago, Iraq received an American DU bombardment far
more intense than Yugoslavia. In Europe at least, recognition
of the long-term cost of that bombardment is beginning to
emerge. In Londons The Independent, Robert
Fisk describes the horrible toll of cancers and birth defects
around Basra, subject to heavy U.S. shelling in the last
days of the war. A decade of sanctions has created more
misery. Four years ago, Madeleine Albright was asked on
60 Minutes whether she was troubled by the estimate
that half a million Iraqi children had perished as a result
of the sanctions. "We think the price is worth it,"
she cheerfully replied. That toll is growing still.
the backdrop of America as a superpower whose bomb-bay doors
are always open, lesser questions fester. Trade disagreements
turn into rancorous accusations of protectionism. Few in
Europe admire the campaign of Sen. DAmato and others
to demonize and harass Switzerland for its wartime neutrality.
The indictment against the Swiss (over policies the Allies
much appreciated during the war itself) is masterfully dissected
by Angelo Codevilla in his eye-opening Between the Alps
and a Hard Place, an important work that portrays the
levers of American diplomacy rented out to campaign contributors
and groups pursuing private agendas. Polls in Europe now
show 60 to 70 percent of the populace feels that America
is unfriendly to their interests. What a turnabout since
the Cold War. What a change since V-E Day!
course its not just Europe. Harvard Prof. Samuel Huntington
reports in Foreign Affairs that surveys of elite
opinion in two thirds of the worlds societies, including
Chinese, Russians, Indians, Arabs, Muslims and Africans,
show that the United States is now regarded as the greatest
single external threat.
with depleted uranium weapons; murderous economic sanctions;
moralistic preachments about democracy and the historical
failings of other countries; a military whose technological
dominance is so complete it has no need for the soldiers
valor: these now are constituent elements of a portrait
of todays American. It is a portrait of an Ugly American,
and it breaks my heart to imagine it hung around the neck
of my beautiful daughter.