Ronan’s OpEd in the Baltimore Sun

“Small town’s knickers in a twist as Brits’ dislike of America grows.”

I omitted the furor over Halloween, a “damn Yank holiday.”


  1. Ronan, you truly have a gift for writing. Although Brits and Americans may disagree on foreign diplomacy in the Middle East, I hope the bond between the US and UK is never lost.


  2. Thanks, Brian. OpEd hyperbole aside, I think there is a danger that America’s relationship with Britain is deteriorating. I’m not being alarmist, but anti-Americanism is really, really rife. I’m sorry about that.


  3. Ronan, anti-Americanism is really, really rife all over the world, not just the UK. I really think once George Bush is out of office and someone COMPETENT takes his place, you will see a mending of the fences not only in the UK–but all over the world. At least that’s my hope.


  4. Great OpEd piece Ronan. It’s too bad everyone hates us. It seems that a new isolationism has never been more called for than right now. Since the world seems to think that America cannot or should not ever use its might except when the UN approves of it, it might be better for America to stop interfering altogether in international affairs. I am sure, however, that if America simply withdrew its forces from around the world back to our own borders there would be plenty of criticism of that too. I am not sure America can really do anything to help people abroad view us more favorably.

    In many ways our investment in a world safe for free trade and democracy, particularly through WWII and the Cold War, is unfortunate. If now, a mere 15 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union and its slave empire of dominated states, the world cannot and does not view America favorably, then I fear that our massive investment of blood and treasure in those endeavors might have been fool-hardy. What is it to us if Russians, Romanians, or East Germans are languishing in communist police states whose leaders’ wives get their hair done in Paris while the normal citizens get fresh fruit only a few times a year? Perhaps the Randians are correct after all that altruism is never a valid reason for doing anything.

    At this point, I strain to find a reason for America to remain engaged on the international scene. I find a frustrating catch-22 or damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t scenario here in which America simply can’t win. None of that justifies idiodic American foreign policy but do you really see a situation in which people suddenly begin actually liking America? As one of the all-knowing, culture-rich Brits you qouted in your article put it, America has no culture, so I’m not sure what you are implying is the remedy here.

    Signing Kyoto? Is that the remedy to your co-patriots’ vitriolic “oil hungry” statements about America? What is your personal view of Kyoto? Is it realistic? Why do states like China and India have different obligations under Kyoto than the U.S. would have? Does or would Kyoto really reduce greenhouse emmissions given its requirements for India and China?

    Signing the ICC? Is that the remedy to you co-patriots’ vitriolic “war mongering” comments? Would U.S. participation in the ICC really have the effect that your co-patriots think? Have you or they really thought through the consequences of that? Often, the result of such things is counter-intuitive. Might not U.S. participation in the ICC make the world less safe? If the U.S. were party to the ICC, would not states and parties constantly make the U.S. the subject of politically-motivated prosecutions if the U.S. were to remain engaged in its world policing actions? (You yourself noted the rampant anti-Americanism in the world as something underlying your entire article.) Thus, the U.S. would not participate in such policing because it would realize that such politically-motivated prosecutions in the ICC, on which judges sit from such bastions of human rights as the Sudan, would be likely. Thus, without the U.S. as a deterrent, dictators would have much more leeway when the policing state is France.

    I have written a law review article addressing these concerns of opponents of U.S. participation in the ICC. My article proposes that these concerns are unjustified and that the U.S. can confidently participate in the ICC; therefore, U.S. opposition to the ICC must be located elsewhere than these smoke-screen concerns. I suggest in that article that the real U.S. objection to the ICC is in the ICC’s democratic deficit and its supra-constitutional law-making capacity. That was, however, three years ago. Now, and given such material as your article, I am wondering whether U.S. participation in the ICC would really do anything at all for curbing international anti-Americanism. At this time, for me, it seems that it would not curb anti-Americanism at all (how could it?) and that the concerns of the U.S. ICC-opponents about politically-motivated prosecutions might have been valid after all. With the presence of anti-Americanism, how could America not have such prosecutions to fear?

    Closing Guantanamo? Is that really going to make your co-patriots view America favorably? Perhaps Guantanamo should be closed, but not because it will make people in Malvern like the U.S.

    Getting rid of Bush? Would Brits and Europeans like America if Bush were canned? If so, then what is their real objection to America — that a religious man from Texas (a cowboy) is the President? My feeling is that Brits and Europeans would continue to hate America if Bush were out.

    Withdrawing from Iraq? I am almost sure that this action would not curb anti-Americanism around the world. Instead, it would simply invite more criticism. Despite the fact that everyone is criticizing the U.S. for being there at all, if the U.S. were to pull out, there would be much criticism of pulling out if the Sunni and Shia went genocidal on each other.

    So, although I enjoyed your article, I was wondering what, in your personal opinion, the solution to such anti-Americanism would be. Canning Bush?


  5. I’m not so convinced that this is the work of one hapless president, or that things will change dramatically two years from now. GWB, as a figurehead, is easy to hate which makes him a poor shield/distraction for the kinds of things that have been going on behind the scenes for the past 50 years. If anything this may be a sign that the really ugly parts of American culture and politics have come out of the closet. I don’t see them going back any time soon and I don’t see the rest of the world being fooled much by another presidential face.

    This is seriously something that the *people* of Britain and America need to take care of rather than waiting passively for the false hope of another devolving election cycle.

    The people of Britain might do well to continue hating America. Perhaps this will push the government of Britain further from the US… We don’t need good buddies right now. We need good friends…the kind that won’t put up with the BS that our government is spewing. America must go lower ’cause right now we (on average) don’t yet realize that we’re sick and need help.

    Ronan, friends don’t let friends drive drunk. I wish you the best. This Op-ed is a step in the right direction.


  6. Matt, I agree with you that anti-Americanism will be alive and well even after Bush (hated because he is a religious man from Texas, i.e., a cowboy) is out of office. But I think it is absurd to think that it is somehow justified because of “the really ugly parts of [American] culture and politics.” My extensive experience in England and continental Europe tells me otherwise.

    Might not anti-Americanism stem from the ignorance of Ronan’s small town Brit compatriots? I think this is a pretty sensible explanation. To Ronan’s small town Malvern Brit compatriots, just like to the inhabitants of Fürstenwalde or Demmin or Greifswald (or myriad other small German towns), life in America is reduced to simple absurdities that are entirely divorced from reality. To these people Hollywood movies actually depict life in America, and are not the fiction they really are.

    Let’s put it this way: when the average small town German is willing to accept uncritically the notion that the typical American leaves his or her car running all night during the winter to keep it warm inside for the morning commute, then, Matt, there is a problem that stems entirely from something other than what you claim are “”the really ugly parts of [American] culture and politics.”

    I would be really interested to hear what you think would be a resolution to “the really ugly parts of [American] culture and politics.” I suppose, based on what you have previously written elsewhere, that it would be the ascendancy of a tin-pot socialist dictator such as Hugo Chavez in the United States. Once that happens, then anti-Americanism will cease, I take it.


  7. For example, there is good evidence that Arab anti-Americanism has little or even nothing to do with American foreign policy, even though that might sound counter-intuitive to you. Rather, Arab anti-Americanism has its roots in the failed states that constitute the Middle East. Petty Arab politicians with no real or substantive agenda create and ride a bandwagon of anti-Americanism into power. How much easier it is, would you not agree, to blame all the problems of your consituency on far away, rich America rather than on your own inability to govern, your own corruption and the corruption rampant in your society, and your own frustrated fanatical desires to impose oppressive religious mores on an entire society and, where possible, on the rest of the world as well?


  8. I dunno…Ronan, what do you think? Is GWB “hated because he is a religious man from Texas, i.e., a cowboy”? Are Europeans and Brits so shallow and “ignorant” and atheistic?

    BTW, John F…I had no idea that you had read so much of what I’ve written. It seems quite obvious now that you and I may be alternate universe counter-parts in many ways. I think you’re like James T Kirk, and I’d be (not the evil Cpt Kirk but) the evil Mr Spock.

    I’m acutally quite shocked by your impression of small-town Europeans. You may get around but your mind is stuck in Kansas, dude. (Not that there’s anything wrong with Kansas)


  9. Matt, you need to spend more time reading German newspapers and blogs if you think that my impression of Germans’ impressions of the activities of “typical” Americans misses the mark.


  10. It’s hard to avoid drawing such conclusions after reading the very negative material found in German newspapers and especially blogs about the United States. But it is not only from such sources that I have drawn conclusions about what average Germans believe is reality about the United States. After all, I have had more than one German ask me how I survived to my twenties growing up in Dallas. That is, after all, where Robocop takes place, isn’t it?


  11. Heaven forbid that we all start believing the ignorant ramblings of a few to be the basis of what we think of all. I mean, if folks started believing that what GWB says and does is reflective of all American’s we’ll be in a world of hurt. Er… wait a minute… that’s exactly what’s happening isn’t it? The only problem is that when it comes to a Presidential administration and a Congressional majority, it’s hard not to imagine that at least half the nation has exited reality.


  12. Well, you make a good point. But it doesn’t not erase the anti-Americanism harbored by Germans, French, and English alike, as well as much of the rest of the world. As you note, this anti-Americanism is unjustified since it is essentially a broad conclusion drawn from negative impressions of a single individual (GWB) or of a small sample of knowledge about what America actually is or what life here is actually like.


  13. Actually, the full extent of my point was to compare the relative validity of conclusions. One based upon the words of a few ignorant folks. The other based upon a once elected and then re-elected Presidential administration and Congressional majority (IOW…not just the random banter of a few lunatics.)

    And I agree that this second basis for conclusion is also not accurate…though I have no idea how it happened and how it continues if it does not accurately reflect the minds of a huge–perhaps a majority–portion of Americans. With this second basis for conclusion I totally understand why America has fallen soundly in the eyes of others.

    And as I said in my original comment, it’s not as much that our elected officials are behaving significantly worse than they have in previous eras (though they arguably are) as much as it is that they are just doing a very poor job of disguising it. It’s like pretending to be noble is no longer important. So it’s hard to even find a good excuse to love America.


  14. Dammit, Elggren! Apologize for what you said about Kansas!

    I used to live where you do, working for the same Evil Empire. Then I decided to move up one degree of glory and became a resident of the sunflower state. I haven’t regretted it, but we have many happy memories of Puget sound.

    In case you’re wondering, I do love America, and find many things about it to be wonderful.


  15. I’m with you, Mark. She (both Kansas and America) has much virtue and much worth adoring and saving. Unfortunately, in the case of America, it’s not enough to love her…we actually have to save her and that will not be an easy task.


  16. Save her from what, exactly? There is a difference between saying we need to continue to work on public policy problems and saying that America needs to be saved. It is arrogant to say that people whose views differ from yours are so eggregious that the country needs to be saved from them. Once the democrats are back in power, there will be shifts in policy that might or might not constitute an improvement on the status quo (it will certainly constitute an improvement for certain special interests even if it is a detriment for others), but it goes too far, in my opinion, to say that the country has been “saved” from the other. This is extremist and radical language.


  17. John F wrote:

    “…but it goes too far, in my opinion, to say that the country has been “saved” from the other. This is extremist and radical language.”

    I’m glad you think so and I agree. I in no way believe that merely changing political parties will save this nation. Saving is a bi-partisan/apolitical work.


  18. Diving into this fracas (and back into the fun and games of Ronan Head Sponsored discourse) a bit late: the notion that anti-Americanism somehow BEGINS with a rational critique of American foreign policy has no factual basis.

    It doesn’t even require reading John’s German blogs. All it takes is walking into any German bookstore and noting the weirdly prominent placement of Noam Chomsky as American Foreign Policy Authority Of Choice. Yes, the same Noam who won such notoriety for questioning the reality of Nazi gas chambers and (more recently) the reality of the massacres at Srebinica. The same Noam of whom Arthur Schlesinger famously said “It has long been impossible to believe anything that he says.”

    Matt is right that current anti-Americanism isn’t a Bush-born phenomenon. It’s been around for a long time, it was just taking a nap with history in the 1990s. It goes back to and beyond the radical anti-nuclear activism that flared across Europe in the early 1980s and the widespread preference for sympathetic detente (which is French, as Mark Steyn notes, for “I’m your bitch”) with the Soviet Union.

    Matt or anyone else would be mistaken to suggest (as I think he is) that it starts with a thought-through critique of any American foreign policy choices. It begins with a relentlessly filtered and deliberately chosen (and utterly inaccurate) view of American politics. It begins with news organizations that spin every American event (like Katrina) into caricature of real news and commentary. It begins with a mindset that is actually willing and able to take Noam Chomsky seriously.

    What can we do to correct that? Not really sure. Some PR work is definitely in order. But as long as Europeans are willing to read Chomsky-in-Wonderland invective and say “ah yeah, that makes sense” it can be fairly concluded that the problem begins there,not here.

    (And a funny little piece from the Sydney Morning Herald by an old Aussie mate of mine, John Pearlman:


  19. And, Stuart, there is much worse stuff than Chomsky that many Europeans swallow wholesale because it merely confirms their own pre-conceived prejudices against fat, oil-slurping, bomber-making, church-going, illiterate, litigious, robber-baron, poverty-striken America.


  20. Stu wrote:

    “Matt or anyone else would be mistaken to suggest (as I think he is) that it starts with a thought-through critique of any American foreign policy choices.”

    Stu, you are mistaken. I would agree that it does not start there. However, I do not agree that anti-Americanism is entirely uninformed.

    And Ronan, hatred of power is only the half the story. Section 121 gives the rest.

    The assumption that critics of America are irrational, impassioned, ill-informed simpletons is actually an amazingly willful blindness. The calls of “America doesn’t deserve it” emanate from Wonderland.


  21. America might deserve it, but not because every American is a fat, gas-guzzling, religious fanatic, which, in my experience, seems to be the stereotype driving street-level European anti-Americanism. The fact that it is taken for granted that America in an Empire and that its foreign policy is “imperialism” attests to this. America is neither an empire nor imperialistic. This inaccurate nomenclature blinds the masses in Europe and around the world. The willingness to swallow such irrational, impassioned, ill-formed simpleton rhetoric and believe it as truth is the truly “amazingly willful blindness”. In many ways, it is Europe that lives in a Wonderland, still protected by American weapons of war, even 15 years after the Cold War.


  22. Matt,

    Saying “Stu you are mistaken” does not constitute an argument.

    I’ve asserted–partly on the basis of having lived six of the last twelve years in Europe– that European anti-Americanism is grounded in an irrational and indefensible critique of American foreign policy and American culture generally. Again, rather than off-handedly stating “Stu you are mistaken” then passing on the responsibility to actually provide an ARGUMENT, please try telling me how a view of America that starts with Noam Chomsky can be taken seriously?

    Now that’s not to say there are not individuals who have rationally constructed arguments against things-American, but to say the general European anti “geist” is not based in any rational critique but in a highly irrational, emotionalized and wilfully distorted view of the US.


  23. Stu,

    Your extensive and scientifically conducted research aside…

    I was responding to this:

    “Matt or anyone else would be mistaken to suggest (as I think he is) that it starts with a thought-through critique of any American foreign policy choices. It begins with a relentlessly filtered and deliberately chosen (and utterly inaccurate) view of American politics.”

    To which I wrote: “Stu, you are mistaken.” (IOW No, *you* are mistaken, not I.) for I would in fact “agree that it does not start there…” to which I then proceeded to add my own little signing statements.

    Sorry about the lack of clarity. We’ll get past this phase of assuming the worst of each other.


  24. I’m sure we will. I usually assume the worst about my brother (Stalinism, anti-Semitism, whatever ;-)) when I’m debating politics with him, so you’re in good company.


  25. […] headlife readers will know of my loathing of knee-jerk anti-American snobbery. So, it is with a feeling of hypocrisy that I present to the world this wonderful example of “only in America” Americana: the padded toilet seat, bought by my parents in Florida and now providing warm, cushiony comfort to English bottoms in Malvern. […]


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