On The Falseness Of Anti-Americanism

Fouad Ajami makes the case with the sort of elegant eloquence to which this armadillo can only ever aspire – unsuccessfully. In Foreign Policy magazine , Ajami, the Majid Khadduri professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, and a contributing editor at U.S. News & World Report (and The New Republic), offers the sort of insight that seems to me as apt a memorialisation of September 11 as I could envisage. It’s well worth reading.

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Stephen Frost
2022 years ago

Geoff: Thanks for linking to the article. The first couple of paragraphs reminded me of a joke that did the rounds in the Philippines during protests to rid the country of US bases.

Protestor [shouting loudly]: US out! [Then whispering behind his hand as US soldiers pass by] But can you take me with you?

wen
wen
2022 years ago

Fear & envy are one thing – but the (contorted?decadent?) philosophical & moral positions of the Baudrillard’s of the world really give me the willies. We aren’t talking about representation or images here, but people.

Alan
Alan
2022 years ago

I think it’s an exceedingly feeble article with a couple of minor factual errors about who developed which technologies. Ajami simply ignores what is happening outside France, Greece and the Middle East.

The Greek attitude to America could be the result of an evil plot by the Orthodox Church. Or it could be related to a string of US interventions in Greek politics going back to the 1943-49 civil war. Arab opinion might be illogical or it could be an outcome of the US tilt to Israel since the 1967 war. Jordanians might see the free trade agreement as a major plus or they might see it as US backing for the Hashemite monarchy.

I don’t say that these are persuasive or absolute propositions, but the author shows no sign of wanting to even discuss them.

Moreover the author does not address himself at all to the major opinion shifts happening elsewhere in the world. In the end, it strikes me as an elegant piece of special pleading and not much more.

I found Stumbling into War a much more itneresting article and a much better explanation of the opnion shift.

Gummo Trotsky
2022 years ago

Interesting read Geoff.

FWIW the full text of Buadrillard’s article is here. he certainly fits the role of out-of-touch obscurantist leftie French academic very nicely. As for Colombani, I’ve googled extensively and come to the conclusion that a lot of people have dropped quite a lot of nuanced context when quoting him on the web – without a reading of Tous Americains , which I suspect isn’t going to turn up in translation any time soon, it’s impossible to say whether Ajami has done the same. On the whole, the section on France seems to me to be the weakest part of the article.

Stephen Frost
2022 years ago

Gummo: You’ve aroused my interest. Why do you think Ajami is weak on France?

I think Ajami takes a fairly good stab at explaining the love/hate relationship many critics of America exhibit. I don’t think, Alan, that he’s very interested in explaining opinion shifts (which you imply in the final sentence of your posting above). He seems – from my reading – more interested in why so many critics yell “US out!” but at the same time seem to be in thrall of the fantasy or idea of their object of hatred. My initial post is one example of that (a story I’ve heard several times, I should add, from old Filipino leftists who laughed heartily at the contradictions running through much anti-US thinking in their country. At least they have a sense of humour about it, which is more than I can say about much of the analysis provided elsewhere on anti-US sentiment). I could have added several similar stories from South Korea or China that showed the same kinds of contradictions. Like Ajami, I’m interested in an anti-Americanism whose flip side is the contradictory desire to participate in the fantasy/dream.

I agree with Wen (which has multiple meanings in Chinese by the way, but two of which – as befits a posting on contradictions – are refined/culture and disorderly/confused), and can’t really see the point of Baudrillard’s intervention, but unlike Alan don’t think Ajami’s article is ‘exceedingly feeble’. To be feeble is one thing, but to be exceedingly so probably suggests the end is in sight. Let’s hope for the sake of Professor Ajami that it’s not the case.

ps. Wen: :)

wen
wen
2022 years ago

Stephen,
Whatever ‘wen’ means in Chinese (& I’ve read ‘scholar’ somewhere) it has to be better than carbuncle which is the English definition.
Thanks, Mum. Thanks Mr Barrie.

Gummo Trotsky
2022 years ago

Stephen,

Baudrillard’s “intervention” is difficult to understand because he is such an obscurantist; one of the perils of too much post-modernism, with the obligatory tip of the hat to Nietzsche. The problem with Ajami’s treatment of France is that he singles out a couple of commentators, and represents them as typical of French intellectual opinion. This (short and out of context quote) strikes me as repeating the Francophobia that sprang up during the UN Security Council debates over the war:

But who needs high approval ratings in Marseille? Envy of U.S. power, and of the United States’ universalism, is the ruling passion of French intellectual life.

It’s a little like the casual identification of the US, or US citizens with the policy and conduct of the current Administration, or the US’ political elite (let’s not kid ourselves that they don’t have one).

At the risk of providing ammunition to an adversary in this discussion, here’s Colombani’s We are All Americans article too.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

“Like Ajami, I’m interested in an anti-Americanism whose flip side is the contradictory desire to participate in the fantasy/dream.”

Me too Stephen. It fascinates me conceptually and always has. I remember listening to young Iranians I knew in Washington at the time of the Iranian Revolution – when American University student bodies seemingly brimmed over with Iranians – fiercely denouncing the Shah and all his works. This, in direct contrast to their vocal fervour for the ghastly Khomeini and his narrow-minded medieval religiosity. Needless to say, none of them returned to Teheran.

I think the pull/push, love/hate thing is descriptive of a great deal about the American Impact.

Stephen Frost
2022 years ago

Thank you, Gummo. I appreciate the reply and link. I agree that the sentence you quote doesn’t really have a place in an article like that.

Wen: Yes, you’re right. Combining the wen of language/culture/refined with ren (person) gives us scholar. If you combine it with hao, you get literary giant. Even better! Just so this doesn’t go to your head, a different character, but also pronounced wen, means mosquito. Pretty much sums up Chinese in a nutshell… :)

wen
wen
2022 years ago

Geoff,
there’s an issue of Granta you’d probably enjoy: “What we think of America” – different writers on their complex and contradictory relationship with their US. Some are awful, but most, interesting.

Stephen,
Well – names can be amazingly predictive, can’t they? – as it happens I do have high hopes of one day being a literary gnat – oops – I mean giant!

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

Gummo – I note that Andrew Sullivan has also blogged on Adami’s piece – and has offered this pitiless observation of his own:

“Just a little reality check. The French today do little intellectually but constantly circle the drain of complete ressentiment. They have no other guiding political philosophy but envy and regret. The notion that they would ever engage in a U.S.-led campaign against global terror (when they are close to the tyrants that spawn such terror and dedicated to the immiseration of Israel) is a presposterous fantasy. Far from being criticized for not being sympathetic to such opportunists and frauds, the Bush administration should be congratulated for trying to deal with them honestly at all.”

I fear he may be over-stating his case…..a little :)

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

wen – I’ve seen the Granta issue in question. I really should read it now….BTW, great italics!

EvilPundit
2022 years ago

As a regular reader of Merde in France, I think it’s possible that Sullivan might not be overstating his case at all.

mark
2022 years ago

Well, Evil, I think we can see why.

kez
kez
2022 years ago

seems most people are over analysing this one for mine.. and some perhaps under-analysing..

i think people hear what American’s say, hear the ideals of freedom from oppression, equality of opportunity etc, and scream “me too!”.. but then they see how American’s behave, the wars against foreign govts., the abuse of third world poverty, the selfishness of ‘with or against’ and the arrogance of ‘good and evil’ and say “thanks, but no thanks”..

is that so hard to believe??

mark
2022 years ago

As in, nobody likes Americans, but everyone would like to be one?

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
2022 years ago

Oh Kez, please don’t say you believe in good an evil. When a little girl or boy stops believing in good or evil, a fairy dies in the Pentagon (sometimes they just die, sometimes someone flies an aeroplane into them).

ps: Abuse of third world poverty? Are you asking them to take their foreign aid/ capital ivestment/employment opportunities/education opportunities and rak off?

kez
kez
2022 years ago

Mark: You could say that, but then that would also mean Americans wanted to be American.

James: Err, no.. i would ask that they stop offering with one hand while taking with the other, or at the very least, stop the false moralistic propaganda: America has been promising to remove the tariffs protecting their local industry from produce made in poor nations for the past ten years.. of course, the US are only protecting their industry, but they are destroying opportunities for poor countries, all the while using their investments in these countries as moralistic propaganda when in fact, the profits from these investments go straight back to the US and the employment opportunities you so advocate often earn those people less than they need to live..

i don’t care if you agree with such a foreign policy, but you have the right to know how the system works, not just what it tells you..

kez
kez
2022 years ago

btw, if you’re interested in learning about how global trade works the World Trade Organisation ministerial meetings are on at the moment, and there’s information at:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/534216.stm
=lots of articles down right

and Oxfam:
http://www.caa.org.au/campaigns/cancun/index.html

user
2022 years ago

Learn how “globalization” really works from the Veraciraptor!

http://veraciraptor.blogspot.com
http://veraciraptor.blogspot.com

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