Salman Rushdie recently wrote that America was "facing an ideological enemy that may turn out to be harder to defeat than militant Islam: that is to say, anti-Americanism, which is presently taking the world by storm." Mr. Rushdie should know, since he contributed to this storm.
But Mr. Rushdie is right. The United States is today the target of an extraordinary wave of West European anti-Americanism greater perhaps than previous waves that crested between 1952 and 1974 — during the days of McCarthyism, the Bay of Pigs and the Vietnam War.
For many European intellectuals and mediacrats, democratic America has become the Rogue State No.1. Millions and millions of dollars have been invested by the U.S. in varied cultural projects with the hope of reducing this hostility. To no avail. There is an insufficiently discussed or understood reason for this continuing hate syndrome against the United States that I will allude to in a moment.
With the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, with democracy in the ascendant and the Berlin Wall a pile of rubble, one would have thought the European intellectual left would honor the country whose military preparedness and economic aid had helped liberate Central Europe from a Soviet yoke. On the contrary. Even before the Iraq crisis and the September 11 catastrophe, European anti-Americanism, especially in British and French left-liberal media, was boiling away.
Hostility to the United States seems to have risen to a new high because of American policy towards Iraq and the possibility of an American invasion seeking the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Even the unanimous Security Council vote demanding Saddam open Iraq to inspection hasn't diminished this tide of anti-Americanism. This tide is so powerful that had President Bush announced a year ago that he would not under any circumstances invade Iraq, you can be sure Europe, with American peaceniks joining in, would be denouncing him in protest parades for perpetuating the rule of Saddam Hussein, that bloody tyrant, in order, naturally, to protect Texas oil interests.
Forgotten is the aftermath of September 11 when the European press announced, "We are all Americans now." Actually even before the Iraq crisis, Western European intellectuals had invented another monster — globalization — with which to fan the flames of anti-Americanism. Articles have appeared in the British press that would have you believe America, the most democratic country in the world, resembles Nazi Germany. A few Sundays ago , the British weekly Observer published a Goebbelsian Big Lie article by Gore Vidal headlined: "Gore Vidal claims 'Bush junta' complicit on September 11."
There are a number of theories seeking to explain the continued anti-Americanism in Western Europe directed at delegitimizing American foreign policy, no matter its thrust.
Few of these theories seeking to explain anti-Americanism have dealt with what I consider to be the driving force of this extraordinary hostility: the persistence into the 21st century of a Marxist ideological infrastructure that still dominates European culture. Marxism may have been repudiated by a global plebiscite, but European intellectuals continue to abominate the biggest capitalist power in the world. Marx predicted the inevitable collapse of capitalism because of its so-called internal contradictions, and here, in defiance of that "scientific" prediction, is the United States bigger than ever, more powerful than ever.
"Anti-Americanism early became a Marxist theme," Lewis Feuer has written, "for America offered a social alternative that threatened to reduce Marxist modes of thought and feeling into irrelevancies and absurdities."
While Marxism is on its last legs (except in American academic circles) as an acceptable solution to politico-economic problems, its afterglow is still part of West European culture. Its afterglow is energized by the nostalgic faith in vestigial Marxism as expressed by George Lukacs, one of its most revered theoreticians and a famous communist intellectual. He wrote that "Marxism as a general theory of society and history, no longer exists, that it came to an end sometime ago. We stopped with Lenin. After him there has been no Marxism." Despite this seeming obituary, he declaimed that even if Marx's propositions were proven false, even if every empirical prediction of Marxism were invalidated, he would still hold Marxism to be true and he would still be a Marxist. Marxism forever, dead or alive. Lukacs irrationalism runs in the European bloodstream.
This Marxisant anti-Americanism finds sympathetic echoes in Continental Europe, especially in Germany, and in the British Labor Party and is driven by a social-democratic credo which is wary of a free market economy, like that of the United States, especially with a Republican president at the helm. And above all, anti-Americanism exists among European elites because American capitalism has demonstrated a staying power that cannot be found anywhere else in the world even with all its Enron-esque thieveries.
And you can be sure that President Bush's midterm election victory will prove to European intellectuals that their culture faces an imminent takeover from "Macdisco," the Unholy Three — MacDonald-Disney-CocaCola.
There is little we can do about this anti-Americanism in Western Europe although I suppose the State Department should be encouraged to hold behind-closed-door conferences on anti-Americanism as it did last September. Good luck.
Arnold Beichman, a Hoover Institution research fellow, is a columnist for The Washington Times.