Cultural Revolutions

"Anti-American Feeling"

After September 11, voices from many quarters have urged Americans to reflect on the reasons for the widespread hatred that the United States endures abroad. This is doubtless good advice: Such historical reflection is always worthwhile, and the pressing need for it is amplified in times of trouble.

But whether these voices genuinely seek historical reflection (as opposed to thoughtless ideological applause) is an open question. In particular, one quarter—we might call it the academic/Hollywood left or, more broadly, the NPR crowd—has been quick to assume, as usual, that an understanding of the sources of anti-Americanism will translate fluidly into a particular political attitude: left-liberal, vaguely pacifist, archly therapeutic, smitten with the abstract charm of human rights. This assumption is historically and politically inept, and more a cause of anti-American feeling than an analysis of it.

But what, precisely, is "anti-American feeling"? The specific grievances on the lists of anti-Americans around the world vary from year to year and from region to region, but the rhetorical melody of anti-Americanism remains fairly constant across many contexts. The old time has not changed much since the end of World War II, perhaps not since the annexation of Hawaii, or even, in a way, since Fort Sumter. It goes something like this: The United States is arrogant, powerful, self-righteous, and naive. America...

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