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Why Do They Hate Us?

Walter Russell Mead
From Foreign Affairs
March/April 2003

Summary: Two wise books by French authors take a critical look at France's tradition of America-bashing and try to explain its persistence.

Walter Russell Mead is Senior Fellow in U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations and a regular book reviewer for Foreign Affairs.

...What the authors have accomplished is to define what [Philippe] Roger calls a discourse of anti-Americanism: a free-floating but well defined set of ideas and perceptions that, over time, have crystallized into a coherent world view. Anti-Americanism in this sense is very different from opposition to some specific American policy; it is a systematic view of the United States as a danger to all one holds dear.

On the one hand, anti-Americanism is, as both [Jean-François] Revel and Roger convincingly argue, a self-referential Franco-French phenomenon largely untroubled by larger questions of fact. On the other hand, the rise and persistence of this discourse reflects actual historical trends. Anti-Americanism developed and persisted in France because the United States thwarted, threatened, and diminished that country. ...

...On the evidence of these books ... anti-Anglo-Saxonism is deeply rooted and widely spread. It is likely to flourish as long as its causes exist.

These causes are not, as perennially optimistic Americans want to think, American shortcomings and failures. America's failures and crimes are the patrimony of anti-Americanism, its treasures, and its darlings. They inflame and disseminate anti-Americanism, but they are not its root cause. For that we must look to American success, American power, and America's consequent ability to thwart the ambitions of other states and impose its agenda on the rest of the world. ...

See also James W. Ceaser's Reconstructing America (The Symbol of America in Modern Thought)

© the Council on Foreign Relations, Inc.

Read the original article
Read Jay Reding's book review
Revel's book has been translated into English