The False Crisis Over the Atlantic

Courtesy Reuters


To European elites, the United States has become a poster child for bad behavior at home and hegemonic hubris abroad. The director of Amnesty International France recently listed -- in this order -- his organization's most urgent challenges: "The corridors of death in America, decapitations in Saudi Arabia, mutilations in Sierra Leone, and political prisoners in China." French Education Minister Jack Lang labeled President George W. Bush a "serial assassin" for presiding over executions in Texas. Italian towns have adopted American death row inmates for whose clemency they lobby the State Department and members of Congress. British tabloids feature lengthy exposes of death row. Shareholders pressure European companies to divest from American states that allow executions.

It is not just the death penalty. Some Europeans see across the ocean a society plagued by guns and violence, gorging on genetically modified "Frankenfoods," and beholden to unchecked capitalism. Commentators on both sides warn of a new anti-Americanism that, in the words of British journalist Martin Kettle, "takes issue with the American way of life itself." Because these Europeans equate globalization with Americanization, they fear being overrun by values they abhor.

This distaste for American values is matched by concern that the United States acts like a bull in the global china shop, causing a strategic split with Europe over matters such as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and national missile defense (NMD). To these Europeans, America's reluctance to join the global land-mines ban, the International Criminal Court (ICC), and the Kyoto Protocol on global warming evidences selfish unilateralism. Its fixation with "states of concern" (formerly known as "rogues") is at best naive, at worst -- in the case of sanctions against Iraq -- "genocidal." Europeans are skeptical of American support for European integration, especially in defense. And they fear that the United States and Europe are fated to economic warfare as trade disputes spiral out of control.

Together, the "values gap" and the "strategic split" form the core

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