April 12, 2000

Pose and Reality

No one has ever accused the New York Times of being ahead of the curve. By the time it got around to writing about the rise of "anti-Americanism" in Europe the real story was elsewhere. Much of last Sunday’s drearily predictable article was taken up with quotes from a variety of Frenchmen. Right on cue, they trotted out a familiar litany of complaints. Americans are ignorant about the world, they are puritanical about sex, they are in love with the death penalty. There is homelessness here, racism, drugs, and police violence. But, the Times reporter hastened to point out, the Europeans are hypocrites. In reality, they can’t get enough of America. "The average European is embracing much that comes from the United States. Its films, its music, its fashion and, even if no-one in France particularly cares to admit it, its fast food. The weekly best-seller list shows more than half the top selling novels in France are translations of American books. There are frequent complaints of a brain drain as young people flock to Silicon Valley and elsewhere in America to get their start in life." In other words, it’s all just envy. We are strong, they are weak, and they don’t like it. As US Ambassador Felix Rohatyn pontificates: "There is the sense that America is such an extraordinary power that it can crush everything in its way. It is more frustration and anxiety now than plain anti-Americanism....It totally negates the notion that our interest is also in their interest. It creates the totally opposite point of view – that only the weakening of America can be good for them."

Leave aside for the moment these self-serving and condescending explanations for "anti-Americanism." What is remarkable today about "anti-Americanism" in France is not how much of it there is but how little. There is scarcely any item on the US imperial agenda that France does not sign on to. A little while ago French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin was visiting the West Bank and described the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon as a "terrorist" organization. This faithfully echoed the US line. Arab students protested. The Arab governments were a little taken aback by this new turn in French foreign policy. Last year France – the alleged longstanding friend of the Serbs – gleefully took part in the destruction of Yugoslavia. France, the champion of international law, seemed untroubled by the US disregard for the United Nations. French politicians were as venomous about the Serbs as any US State Department hack. Nor has France uttered the slightest criticisms of the crippling sanctions that have devastated that unfortunate country. Where is the vaunted Gaullist prickliness? Where is the famous independent foreign policy? Indeed, next to Great Britain, there is today no power in Europe that is as meek and abject and as frightened of incurring Washington’s wrath as France.

Recently, US policymakers suddenly turned around and accused the French of being too "pro-Serb." The French had done nothing to deserve such a vile slur. It was just that they still seemed a little halfhearted about the goal of driving the Serbs out of Kosovo. There was that Serb enclave in Mitrovica and they were protecting it. The hideous harridan of Foggy Bottom threw a fit and the media, as usual, parroted her anti-French tirades. The French responded by forcing the Serbs of northern Mitrovica to accept the return of Albanians. Needless to say, they did not demand that the Albanians accept the return of Serbs. Then, last week, the French seized the Bosnian Serb leader, Momcilo Krajisnik. French troops blew open the front door of his house. They tied up his two sons and turned their faces to floor. And they led Krajisnik away wearing only pyjamas and shipped him off to the Hague.

French "anti-Americanism" was always more pose than reality – something for journalists to write about and Americans to get annoyed over. Today, the French do not even bother to pose. France has embraced the United States. And the United States, in turn, has rewarded France by permitting it to play the bigshot in world affairs. The French, like the British, are vain and therefore easily bribed, bullied and cajoled. Last year’s Rambouillet negotiations – or rather the show of "negotiations" – were an American operation from start to finish. The objective was to provide a pretext for the bombing of Yugoslavia. Had the United States chaired the talks the ploy would have been too transparent. So the French and the British stepped up to the plate and "agreed" to oversee the bogus talks. The French and the British signed on to the Appendix B trick. The Americans go their bombing. And the French and the British were flattered into playing Number two and Number three powers in the world respectively.

France’s contemptible groveling at America’s feet began ten years ago. Ever since the unification of Germany, the French have been anxiously looking over their shoulder at Germany. Anxiety about Germany has always been something of a perennial obsession among the French elite. Despite all the brave talk of the European Security and Defense Identity the French are more afraid of the Germans than they are of the Americans. Hence the appeal of US hegemony. It enables France to counteract Germany’s economic power. As America’s loyal enforcer, France will be able to dominate Germany. France is permanent member of the UN Security Council. Germany is not. France has nuclear weapons. Germany does not. The Germans are, of course, very well aware of what the British and French are up to. That is why American hegemony holds so little appeal for them. Today, the fiercest and most telling attacks on America are coming from Germany, not France. This is the reason also why Germany is drawing ever closer to the power most threatened by a US-dominated Europe. Russia and Germany are emerging as the rival power bloc to the anodyne Transatlantic Europe. During last year’s bombing, the Germans were the least enthusiastic of the NATO participants. This was all the more amazing given their historic animus towards the Serbs. Throughout the bombing campaign, they were negotiating with the Russians behind the scenes. And it was the Germans and Russians acting in tandem that finally brought the US-led reign of terror over Yugoslavia to an end.

Recently, Karl Lamers, the parliamentary foreign policy spokesman for the opposition Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU), suggested that Kosovo be partitioned. This was a major departure from the official NATO policy of proclaiming publicly its undying commitment to "multiethnicity" while doing everything in its power to make Kosovo as unappealing to Serbs as possible. This position also happens to be very close to that of the Russians. It is a signal that Germany may soon withdraw from Kosovo. The Germans are also busily kicking out the Albanian criminals who arrived last year posing as "refugees." Where the French are strident in their condemnations of the Russians in Chechnya, the Germans are relatively discreet. Where the French are insisting on more stringent conditions on further aid to Russia, the Germans prefer laxer conditions. Where the Americans and the French seem to be happy at the prospect of turmoil in Russia, the Germans are desperate to prevent this.

The French want to see further expansion of NATO. The Germans do not. The United States and Estonia recently agreed to open a joint airspace monitoring center in Estonia –clearly an intelligence center directed at the Russians. NATO is unofficially integrating the Estonian, Finn, Latvian, Lithuanian and Swedish militaries into NATO’s logistics, intelligence, command and control networks. Lithuania has agreed to link its air surveillance systems with that of Poland. In March NATO held its North Atlantic Council meeting in Ukraine. NATO and Ukrainian forces regularly hold joint military exercises on the Black Sea. NATO and Ukraine have also been busy building relationships between their respective officer corps. NATO also holds exercises with Georgia and Azerbaijan. To the Russians it seems like a scheme to prevent them from ever becoming a serious power again. To the Americans it is a means of ensuring their global dominance. To the Germans it seems like needless provocation. As they see it, a war against Russia provoked by America will as likely as not have to be fought by America’s proxies – chiefly Germany. To the French it is the triumphant march of the West.

Germany and Russia have a clear interest in thwarting this American-French imperial expansion. In 1922 a defeated Germany came together with Bolshevik Russia at Rapallo. The two powers had little in common other than longing to overthrow the hated Versailles settlement imposed by the Western powers. Within 20 years Versailles was gone. The US-mandated order may have an even shorter shelf life.

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George Szamuely was born in Budapest, Hungary, educated in England, and has worked as an editorial writer for The Times (London), The Spectator (London), and the Times Literary Supplement (London). In America, he has been equally busy: as an associate at the Manhattan Institute, editor at Freedom House, film critic for Insight, research consultant at the Hudson Institute, and as a weekly columnist for the New York Press. Szamuely has contributed to innumerable publications including Commentary, American Spectator, National Review, the Wall Street Journal, National Interest, American Scholar, Orbis, Daily Telegraph, the Times of London, the Sunday Telegraph, and The New Criterion. His exclusive column for Antiwar.com appears every Wednesday.

Go to George Szamuely's latest column from the New York Press.

Archived Columns by George Szamuely from Antiwar.com

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Punch & Judy at The New Republic

The New World Order and You

Baiting the Russian Bear

Forever Munich: The Kagan-Kristol Thesis

The American Conquest of Europe

The Media & Mitrovica: NATO's Handmaidens

The Amazing Colossal Arrogance of Bill Kristol

William Safire: Man With A Mission

Uncle Sam Says: "To Hell With Elections"

The Fatuous Mind of Condolezza Rice

King of the Court Historians

The Podhoretz Treatment

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