Prepare for the Overlords!

Facebook Badge

Saturday, January 24, 2004

The Only Superbad Power: "Someday Bush may be proven right, and a harmonious chain of friendly democracies may stretch from Central Asia to the Mediterranean. For the time being, the new American order has generated a tsunami of anti-Americanism, with the United States perceived in some quarters as a greater threat to world peace than Al Qaeda. Deep fissures have developed between the United States and its allies; American policies have threatened to undermine Europe's drive toward unity; Muslims around the globe have turned against the United States; many leaders in Asia now look to China for their economic and political security; and Americans themselves have become polarized in their attitude toward the rest of the world. The ''war on terrorism'' has gotten mired in an anarchic Iraq; Guantanamo has come to represent a willful violation of civil rights; and tyrants have seized on the concept of pre-emptive war to justify their own suppression of opponents, now labeled terrorists. "

I have saved a discussion of Emmanuel Todd's ''After the Empire'' for last, not because I deem it least but because it is the view of an outsider, and a highly troubling view at that. I have been living in France for the past six months, and I often wonder whether Americans are aware of the depth of the dread and revulsion in which Bush's United States is held by many foreigners. In Todd's study, translated by C. Jon Delogu, a relentless condemnation of everything American arises from an acute sense of betrayal.

A French historian and anthropologist trained at Cambridge University in England and descended from Jews who were refugees in America, Todd says he used to see the United States as a model, as his ''subconscious safety net.'' Now, he declares, it is solely a ''predator,'' living way beyond its means, racking up video-game victories over defenseless nations and undermining human rights. Nobody escapes Todd's jilted fury -- not the American woman, ''a castrating, threatening figure,'' and not American Jews, who have ''fallen into the disturbing, not to say neurotic, cult of the Holocaust.'' Todd's solace is also his main thesis, that American power is fast waning because of the country's profligate spending: ''Let the present America expend what remains of its energy, if that is what it wants to do, on 'war on terrorism' -- a substitute battle for the perpetuation of a hegemony that it has already lost.'' This is easy to dismiss as the rant of Old Europe (surprise: Todd's book was a best seller in France). But that would miss the point: his sense of betrayal is widely shared around the world, even in places the White House likes to portray as friends. Alas, I have heard too many people of good will express profound disappointment with the United States to reject Todd as an extreme or isolated voice.

Though I have lived abroad for many years and regard myself as hardened to anti-Americanism, I confess I was taken aback to have my country depicted, page after page, book after book, as a dangerous empire in its last throes, as a failure of democracy, as militaristic, violent, hegemonic, evil, callous, arrogant, imperial and cruel. Daalder and Lindsay may be constrained by an American sense of respect for the White House, but they too proclaim Bush's foreign policy fundamentally wrong. It is not only Bush's ''imperious style,'' they write; ''The deeper problem was that the fundamental premise of the Bush revolution -- that America's security rested on an America unbound -- was mistaken.'' The more moving judgment comes from Soros, a Jew from Hungary who lived through both German and Soviet occupation: ''This is not the America I chose as my home.''

Blog Archive

About Me

My photo
eureka, California, United States
As Popeye once said,"I ams what I am." But then again maybe I'm not