September 2, 2004

REACTING AGAINST THE END OF HISTORY:

Hating America: The World's Most Dangerous Ideas (Fareed Zakaria, September/October 2004, Foreign Policy)

By crudely asserting U.S. power and disregarding international institutions and alliances, the Bush administration has pulled the curtain on decades of diplomacy and revealed that the United States’ constraints are self-imposed: America can, in fact, go it alone. Not surprisingly, the rest of the world resents this imbalance and searches for ways to place obstacles in America’s way.

But an equally important force propelling anti-Americanism around the world is an ideological vacuum. Political scientist Francis Fukuyama was right when he noted that the collapse of the Soviet Union also meant the collapse of the great ideological debate on how to organize economic and political life. The clash between socialism and capitalism created political debates and shaped political parties and their agendas across the world for more than a century. Capitalism’s victory left the world without an ideology of discontent, a systematic set of ideas that are critical of the world as it exists.

There is always a market for an ideology of discontent—it allows those outside the mainstream to relate to the world. These beliefs usually form in reaction to the world’s dominant reality. So the rise of capitalism and democracy over the last 200 years produced ideologies of opposition from the left (communism, socialism) and from the right (hypernationalism, fascism). Today, the dominant reality in the world is the power of the United States, currently being wielded in a particularly aggressive manner. Anti-Americanism is becoming the way people think about the world and position themselves within it. It is a mindset that extends beyond politics to economic and cultural realms. So, in recent elections in Brazil, Germany, Pakistan, Kuwait, and Spain, the United States became a campaign issue. In all these places, resisting U.S. power won votes. Nationalism in many countries is being defined in part as anti-Americanism: Can you stand up to the superpower?

Much has been written about what the United States can do to help arrest and reverse these trends. But it is worth putting the shoe on the other foot for a moment. Imagine a world without the United States as the global leader. Even short of the imaginative and intelligent scenario of chaos that British historian Niall Ferguson outlined in this magazine (see A World Without Power, July/August 2004), it would certainly look grim. There are many issues on which the United States is the crucial organizer of collective goods. Someone has to be concerned about terrorism and nuclear and biological proliferation. Other countries might bristle at certain U.S. policies, but would someone else really be willing to bully, threaten, cajole, and bribe countries such as Libya to renounce terror and dismantle their WMD programs? On terror, trade, AIDs, nuclear proliferation, U.N. reform, and foreign aid, U.S. leadership is indispensable.

The temptation to go its own way will be greatest for Europe, the only other player with the resources and tradition to play a global role.


He was doing pretty well until he got to the absurd notion that Europe has either the resources to be or the tradition of being independent from American power. What is the last significant European problem--never mind international--they resolved without us? Napoleon?

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 2, 2004 11:16 AM
Comments

Any issue before WWI except the Russo-Japanese War. You're a bit too harsh on them by about a century.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at September 2, 2004 11:49 AM

Excellent point about TR settling the war for them.

Posted by: oj at September 2, 2004 11:58 AM

OJ:

Just because Europe lacks the power to be dominant doesn't mean that they don't have enough power to be disruptive. They do have that much power (which was I believe the author's implicit point) and have a history of using it to their own detriment.

Posted by: Jeff at September 2, 2004 12:34 PM

Jeff:

They tried stopping Vietnam, Reagan, and Bush and failed in all three. We swatted down Suez without batting an eyelash. They're gnats.

Posted by: oj at September 2, 2004 12:39 PM

Chris:

Isn't it a shame that TR has to share the honor of a Nobel peace prize with Jimmah.

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at September 2, 2004 12:42 PM

Didn't we help them out with Napoleon through the Louisiana Purchase, taking it off his back?

Posted by: at September 2, 2004 12:44 PM
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