Skip to comments.OP-ED: Europe through American eyes —Hans Bergström
Posted on 05/23/2004 7:14:42 PM PDT by Eurotwit
America sees Europe as excessively inward looking, sometimes dangerously so. Worse, informed Americans see anti-Semitism running rampant in Europe and xenophobic political parties on the march in country after country
Europeans are constantly reminded of all that is wrong with America. But perhaps Europeans should reverse the process: what do Americans think is wrong with Europe?
Above all, Americans see Europe as a continent of self-inflicted stagnation and with good reason. Economic growth in the EU was near zero in 2003.
Several countries, most notably Germany and France, seem hobbled by inflexible labour markets and regulations that inhibit dynamism. The European Unions highly touted Lisbon Declaration of a few years ago, which proclaimed that Europe would become the worlds most competitive region by 2010, appears laughable to Americans, whose productivity gains seem to scale new heights constantly.
America also sees Europe as excessively inward looking, sometimes dangerously so. Worse, informed Americans see anti-Semitism running rampant in Europe and xenophobic political parties on the march in country after country. Not even pacific Scandinavia is exempt from this.
Americans see a total inability by Europe to handle immigration in ways that encourage dynamism and diversity instead of antagonism and higher state spending. This seems all the more puzzling because Americans realise how badly Europe needs new immigrants, given its extremely low fertility rates.
Europes perceived attitude towards rogue states and global terrorism only enhances this perception of self-satisfied inwardness. Americans may differ about what policy should have been pursued in Iraq, but they know that their country cannot run from its role as a world leader responsible for developments in North Korea, the Middle East, Pakistan/India, Taiwan, and elsewhere. It is a jungle out there, as Americans say; not every problem and conflict can be handled through the sort of peaceful, drawn-out negotiations that the EU prefers.
Germany and France were against meeting Saddam Hussein with military force, but had no alternative for getting rid of him. What was the European answer to the problem of Saddam Hussein? asked Senator Joe Biden in a panel discussion at the recent Davos forum. Biden is a Democrat and strong critic of President Bush. I asked French and German leaders, but never received any credible answer.
We are not even ready to forcefully meet conflicts on our own continent, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski sighed. Bosnias Muslims thank America, not the EU, for their deliverance from slaughter. Europe devotes half as much in financial resources to the military as the US, resulting in one-tenth of Americas military strength, observed Pat Cox, Speaker of the European Parliament.
Americans now see Europe as compounding its military weakness by losing its leading position in science. Two-thirds of Nobel Laureates in the sciences during the last quarter century were Americans; many of the others do or did research at American universities. According to Time magazine, 400,000 European researchers now work in the US. Lack of funding, bureaucracies so complicated that even purchasing a used computer is problematic, hierarchies that hamper the joy of curiosity and creativity: all of these barriers confront European scientists and are responsible for inciting todays brain drain to America.
Add economics to this recipe as well. Price regulations and other ill-considered features of European policy contribute to the fact that 60 percent of the worlds new drugs are developed in the US, compared to 40 percent only ten years ago.
This sterility and inertia make Europe less and less interesting for Americans. So American eyes are turning elsewhere: to China with its 1.3 billion people and an economy growing at 8-10 percent, year in and year out, and to India, with its 1.1 billion people and 6 percent annual growth.
Indeed, India now has some of the worlds best engineers, IT technicians and medical professionals. India probably encompasses the worlds largest middle class. With new patent laws coming into place, India will have the same attraction for the pharmaceutical industry as it has for IT, providing clinical trials for new drugs at a quarter of the cost of Europe or the US.
While America increases its population somewhat, due to normal reproductive rates and large immigration flows, Europes share of the worlds population is approaching a mere 4 percent and seems doomed to growing older as it shrinks even more.
Demographic change in the US is also working to change Americas global orientation. With American immigration dominated by Latin Americans and Asians, the US feels its European heritage less. Similarly, domestic US politics is gravitating to the countrys south and west, regions that look towards Latin America and Asia, not Europe. The fall of the Soviet empire, naturally, reduced Americans security interest in Europe.
Is this American-eye view of Europe unfair? Perhaps. It is, however, no more unfair than how America is regularly portrayed in Europes media these days. But if Americans are critical of Europe, they are also self-critical, far more so than most Europeans.
As a European editor wrote apropos the flow of scientists from Europe to America: Whats most sad is that Europeans still believe that their society represents the epitome of civilisation, while the US is on its way to downfall. What if the reality is the reverse? Every European should contemplate that possibility, at least for a moment, before resuming their current aversion to all things American. DT-PS
Hans Bergström, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Gothenburg, was formerly Editor-in-chief of Dagens Nyheter, Swedens leading newspaper
Ah, yes, Europe, the failed nation-state.
Thanks - a very interesting article. Just as interesting, though, is that fact that it ran in a Pakistani newspaper and not a European one.
Actually, this is a summary of how relatively sympathetic, liberal viewers see Europe. The opinions of conservatives would probably be a good deal more brutal.
Europe is decadent, narcissistic, nihilistic, and given over to a suicidal death wish. Europeans are aborting themselves out of existence. Unless things change, which is unlikely, there will be no Europe in 50 years.
The key European flaw in my view is arrogance. Even though America is the real superpower, there is an arrogance about the European governing elite (not its peoples and cultures). Europe does indeed represent an apex of civilization, but one that bad leadership (EU-centric sclerotic statists) and poor ideas (socialism) is frittering away. Europe is too arrogant to notice nor correct its key faults.
This was the same error btw of the once great Chinese civilization. In the Ming dynasty, they were so arrogant they decided no other civilization could teach them anything, so they hibernated for 600 years, then woke up to find British guns on the Yalu could beat them to a pulp. Europe wont have so long to see their own fall from grace and power.
Ping to the Swedish Ping List.
Europe: An amusement park for rich Americans.
Go soon, before the Louvre is shelled by the reigning Mullahs.
And the dominant attitude in FR is gratitude to our ancestors who had the good sense to leave Europe for America. Thank God we're in America. Danken Sie Gott, daß wir in Amerika sind...
We should have never involved ourselves in WWI and WWII.
We have mistakenly prolonged the existence of a culture that simply does not deserve to exist.
I've been to a few European websites and I'd have to say that 90% of the folks on these websites hate the United States. In fact, on one particular Bulgarian website, I had one fella wish rape and death upon me....and in the next breath, demand that the United States step in and help the five Bulgarian medics who are on death row in Libya.
Of course I was kicked off of this website when I told that Bulgarian idiot what he could do with his threat!
Soon to be replaced by the exotic ruins of Babylon and the lush rolling hills of northern Iraq.
We have mistakenly prolonged the existence of a culture that simply does not deserve to exist."
Perhaps, but Darwin's "survival-of-the-fittest" will be on display within 20 years in Europe.
It'll make the Middle Age Crusades seem like a...hazing.
A perfect description of the European mind-set -- and of Liberal America.
I get the sense that many Europeans have adjusted to the new realities in a way that was not widely apparent in the United States until recently. Iraq was a very rude shock in this regard, and it is reverberating through the American consciousness in a rather magnified form. When the looming monster - and it really was - of the Soviet Union faded, Europe was left with a world in which only America stood in the way of a return to the good old pre-WWI days of the Great Powers, wherein the futures of entire continents were settled in a London or Paris or Brussels drawing-room over port. The preference within current European intellectual fashion for international negotiation at the UN and within NGOs is, in my opinion, nothing more than an updated version of this nostalgic past, one which is regarded in the United States as purely illusory and self-indulgent. Were the United States to vanish overnight the world would not return to the Habsburgs, the Romanoffs, and the Hohenzollerns, and all the wishful thinking in French academe won't make it so.
Americans, for their part, are less aware than they should be of the caustic effects of a half-century of Soviet propaganda on the collective consciousness of Europe. The generation that is now attempting to lead, both there and here, is one that cut its political teeth on the polarities of the Vietnam era, and if both sides of that struggle are reliving their youths within the current U.S. election cycle, it is much more one-sided in Europe, where the antiwar point of view never really had serious opposition and now is represented by a nearly monolithic print and broadcast journalism. That is one reason why Clinton and Kerry are in such better repute there than Reagan and Bush. But the monolithic nature comes at a cost - were the United States to succeed in Iraq it would not only never be communicated in Europe, it would be actively denied by a generation whose entire political worldview may not allow such a thing to be.
I don't see a cure soon. If there is one it may be that we will have to wait for my terribly polarized generation to fade into senescence, a prospect of some years yet, and for a new one unfettered by the political enthusiasms and illusions of the late Cold War to take the reins.
I think the Euros are beginning to comprehend just how much crap they've stepped in with their immigration policies, and it appears many have come to the conclusion that it's too late to do anything about it. They'll be dust in around a generation.
Thank you for posting it.
I think it is a more accurate and just generalization on Europe than any I've seen by Euros in reverse.
We should never forget that - at their very best - the left looks to Western Europe as the model for what they want for us here (at their worse it more like Cuba,or Nicaragua under the Sandinistas). With the creeping tide of
anti-religious sentiments breaking out in France, Germany, and Euro(ized) Canada over charges that the Bible is a source of "Hate Speech" and the Cross, and Star of David threaten social harmony when worn by students, there is much to fear from this "fatal attraction" of the Dems for Europe.
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