Courtesy Reuters

Misunderstanding Europe


Eurobashing is back in fashion in the United States. The European visitor to Washington now encounters American economic triumphalism mixed with contempt for Europe's sluggish growth and social protection. American critics castigate Europe for not contributing to regional and global order while demanding that Europeans shoulder more of the cost of leadership. For Europeans in Washington, Newsweek's Michael Hirsh recently noted, "it's hard to get respect."

Anti-European sentiment in America is not new. The United States was built by immigrants who shook off the disappointments of the old world for the hope of the new. Businessmen and politicians in late-nineteenth-century America believed they represented the vigorous future, Europe the enfeebled past. In the two world wars Americans saw themselves as sailing across the Atlantic to sort out European quarrels that the Europeans were incapable of resolving among themselves.

After 1945, the American prescription for Europe was to make it "more like us": to build a United States of Europe that would become America's loyal partner within a broader Western alliance. In the years since, American disappointment at Europe's unwillingness to accept U.S. leadership unconditionally has fluctuated between despair over European political incoherence and fear that the European allies might agree on a framework for integration different from what Washington had prescribed.

These days, however, American commentators seem to embrace an exaggerated Euroskepticism. Irving Kristol writes of "the slowly emerging crisis in Europe's economy and society," in contrast to American economic and social vitality. "Europe is resigned to be a quasi-autonomous protectorate of the U.S.," he relates, adding, "Europeans do not know -- and seem not to want to know -- what is happening to them." Robert Altman and Charles Kupchan have asked whether the United States could help in "arresting the decline of Europe," while Senator Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), in moving the Senate resolution on NATO enlargement, declared that "the European Union could not fight its way out of a wet paper bag." Martin Feldstein has gone

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