When Sarkozy met Condoleezza Rice, she said, ‘What can I do for you?’ And he said, bluntly, ‘Improve your image in the world. It’s difficult when the country that is the most powerful, the most successful—that is, of necessity, the leader of our side—is one of the most unpopular countries in the world. It presents overwhelming problems for you and overwhelming problems for your allies. So do everything you can to improve the way you’re perceived—that’s what you can do for me.’
The reigning culture of abuse for the US depends critically on an undeclared democratic discount. America is disproportionately abused because it is a democracy operating under a rule of law whilst its most conspicuous opponents get a free pass from America’s fiercest domestic and European critics precisely because they have no such constraints. The glib excuse that we should hold America in Iraq to a higher standard then the resistance is no more than a tacit admission that America is the only party that can be held to any sort of standard at all.
The notion that an intelligent response to the explicit challenge of ruthless fascisms is to ratchet up the moral barriers for democratic military response and to leave the fascists themselves unmolested by anything other than pro forma censure is the self destructive impulse that underlies anti Americanism and undermines the Western liberal project itself.
Therefore this process isn’t about talking truth to American power so much as us telling ourselves lies about real and existing fascisms. It’s an internal dialogue in which the opposition literally plays no part. Only American actors and actions are the proper object of censure and Americans are to blame not only for their own conduct in the field but for the indiscriminate slaughter practised by their enemies. All casualties in Iraq are American casualties. All 14 (chapter 7) UN resolutions against Saddam are legally void except for the one that wasn’t passed. A 40 nation coalition is American unilateralism. Guantanamo is compared to the gulag, deposing a genocidal dictator (a two time regional invader) and replacing him with a democratically elected government is imperialism. Providing twenty billion in reconstruction aid is exploitation and of course America is the greatest threat to world peace.
The fact that all of these anti American propositions are both false and prejudicial has not prevented their Goebbels like repetition and this is because the attractions of a safe prejudice easily trump the attractions of a dangerous integrity.
The self evident falsity of this delusional thinking will, in time, come to be regarded as one of the great follies of history. A lemming like determination to make the best the enemy of the good will be seen by our successors as emblematic of the lazy prejudice and cowardice of our shallow, self regarding and superficial era.
Condi Rice should have told Sarkozy that if he couldn’t find a political vocabulary that challenges cheap anti Americanism in France then he also lacks a vocabulary to defend the pillars of French democracy itself. Anti Americanism is western moral cannibalism – and if westerners eat themselves only fascists at home and abroad will prosper.