View Full Version : Ingratitude and other passions

03-30-03, 04:25 AM
Jerusalem Post

Mar. 27, 2003

Ingratitude and other passions, By Per Ahlmark


Stunningly absent in part of Europe today are some major convictions about what the post-Cold War era demands from us. What is lacking has obviously triggered an anti-American backlash never seen since World War II.

I often find it difficult to distinguish between the root causes and the symptoms of present anti-Americanism. They often merge in a complicated way. But five faces of sometimes passionate anti-American feelings have been highly visible in Europe in recent months.

First face: The lack of gratitude. The US liberated or protected Europeans for more than 60 years from Nazism, communism and other mortal threats. There are few traces of that in the current debate in EU countries; instead, anti-American sentiments have become the philosophy of the day. A lot of people in certain European countries, once or twice liberated by the US, even try to insult America today in a bizarre way. President George W. Bush is sometimes seen as almost a bigger threat to world peace than Saddam Hussein.

Daniel Pipes had it right in the Jerusalem Post ("Why the Left is nonchalant about September 11," March 19) when concluding about Europe that "none of the millions of anti-war demonstrators had a bad word to say about Saddam Hussein, nor an iota of sympathy for those oppressed, tortured, and murdered by his regime. Instead they vent fury against the American president and British prime minister."

I know, of course, that gratitude is not the main force shaping foreign policy. Still, I think we desperately need it in order to put our current disputes and debates in a civilized perspective. Forgetting the past is not a good start when analyzing the present. It is exactly when the history of the 20th century is wiped out in the minds of many that anti-Americans get their day of joy.

Second face: Europeans have been praising people who, in an almost ridiculous way, lack competence. The head of the inspectors, Hans Blix, is a test case of the UN culture and how easy it is to deceive tens of millions of Europeans. He has been seen by several governments as a man who should be crucial when shaping Western policy towards Iraq. It does not matter to them that his career is full of fiascos.

In the 1980s Blix, as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), gave Saddam a clean bill of health regarding nuclear weapons. We later learnt that the Iraqi dictator was then less than a year from his first atomic bomb. In the 1990s Blix lectured inspectors to trust Iraqi officials and not to insult them by surprise visits to suspected sites. He wanted to preserve the old pattern: telling the Iraqis in advance where the inspectors intended to go next day.

And this year we have listened to Blix's reports at the UN Security Council, where he tried to please everybody without making anything clear. He has underlined insignificant details while ignoring crucial issues. It will soon be discovered, I assume, how irrelevant his inspections have been.

I know this conventional Swedish diplomat very well from the past. He is a pleasant man but very weak, not very smart, cannot imagine how a totalitarian regime works and is easily fooled. Having Blix as a role model just proves how important it seems to be for certain European leaders to find incompetent international officials, who could give ammunition to the anti-American crusade.

Third Face: It is also revealing how lack of compassion inspires anti-American feelings. Twenty-four million Iraqis have lived for 30 years under a sadistic dictator. Yet the liberation of these people does not seem to be important to most European mass media and politicians. On the contrary: it is not our obligation, they indicate, to decide about their government.

This is an ideology similar to what the Marxist movements after 1968 so often displayed in Europe. "Let us support third world countries on their own terms!" - usually the terms of the dictator, of course. They pretended to defend oppressed peoples when in fact they despised them. The implicit, basic European creed in recent months has been: Iraqis do not have the same right to freedom as Europeans. This is sort of inverted racism - declare proudly that you protect the Iraqi people when in fact you doom them to eternal tyranny.

Fourth face: the present European lack of danger-instinct triggers anti-US outbursts. Certain disasters do not at all alarm thousands of politicians and journalists in Europe - such as Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, the Iranian nuclear program and the present, enormous threat from North Korea. Europeans often talk passionately about disarmament but do not realize that when the worst regimes on earth are procuring or producing doomsday weapons, disarmament is particularly urgent.

Fifth face: Basically and most importantly, Europe lacks the understanding of its present role and obligation. The European Union is unique in its ability to build bridges between former enemies and current democracies within Europe. At the same time the EU is surprisingly uninterested in protecting similar bonds to democracies outside Europe, not least with the United States and Israel.

Europe's attitude to Israel also explains some of its anti-Americanism. Supporting the only free nation in an ocean of totalitarian and authoritarian states is to most of the present EU nations a strange notion. Therefore they cannot understand the close relationship between Israel and its foremost friend and ally, the United States. The EU's lack of solidarity with the Jewish state has been almost systematic during the sad period after the Camp David meeting in July 2000, when Israel has become the target of suicide-bombers, increasing anti-Semitism and international condemnations.

Instead of supporting Israel together with America, Europe has taken part in the delegitimization of the Jewish state, not least when voting for extreme resolutions in the UN. This outrageous part of European foreign policy might change in the future when countries, which were recently liberated from communism, become full members of the European Union.

But the jury is still out here. Will Poland, the Czech Republic and the other new democracies of Europe make the EU more understanding of both America's responsibilities and Israel's struggle to defend itself? Or will France, Belgium and some other old democracies contaminate also East and Central Europe with their anti-Americanism and repeated condemnations of Israel?

The future answer of that question might be the most important, single factor defining the role of Western anti-Americanism during the next 10 years.

The writer is a former deputy prime minister of Sweden and the founder of the Swedish Committee Against Anti-Semitism.