Tuesday, 16 October 2007

"Why don't they like us?"

Egged on by Yankee Doodle, I’m taking on the burdensome role of Candid Friend, and putting together some personal reflections on the vexed question of European-American relations. Here is my first spasm.

On my short holiday trips to the Continent [THE Continent being Europe – not America!] in recent years, I have met fewer American tourists then I used to and those I have spoken to seem dejected and sorely baffled by the change in attitude towards them on the part of their temporary hosts. Shortly before the invasion of Iraq, some friendly folk from Boston who were keen visitors to Europe asked me “Why are we so unpopular over here nowadays?” As I didn’t want to launch into a presumptuous discourse on their domestic politics, I replied “Well, for a start, you hardly ever listen to anybody else”. They took it in good part, and during the run–up to the war I rather mercilessly bombarded them with critical British newspaper comment.

This summer in Italy I met a charming young guy from Washington DC [hi, Chris!] who listened politely to what my companion and I had to say about the world situation, remarking from time to time “well, that’s an interesting point of view!” And I had to avert a near-brawl in a boat queue when a burly US gent announced loudly “Well, at least we’re safe under the American Flag!” I managed to deter my travelling companions from forcefully assuring him that they didn’t share his confidence.

The problem is, you see, that to many Europeans, including some of us who have been lifelong admirers and friends of America and Americans, our respective perceptions are now so far apart that most Americans seem to us to be living not merely on another continent, but on another planet.

I began blogging in the summer of 2007 after a long spell in hospital, because I felt so bothered about the direction the world was – and still is- heading. With vivid recollections of my 1930s childhood and WW2 teenage years, I find this first decade of the 21st century even more dark and menacing than the run up to that war. Because in those days, we knew who our prospective enemies were, and where they were, and we knew who our friends were. But now, it’s difficult to be sure about any of those categories. In particular, those whom we assumed to be the ‘good guys’, and who had merited, and received, near-universal global sympathy following the dastardly atrocity of 9/11, have since been following courses which make those of us dedicated to democracy and human rights deeply uneasy and ashamed.

In saying this, I realise that one cannot generalise about a nation of over 300 million people; and that Americans themselves are very divided over these issues. Nevertheless, for practical purposes it is the policies and actions of the incumbent Administration that counts; and this is not merely a domestic matter for Americans, since the actions of a global superpower which aspires to be world policeman affect everyone else in the world.

And this is where my self-imposed task becomes difficult – indeed, delicate. Because I sincerely want to promote dialogue, not a slanging-match, and in the present disgruntled mood on both sides of the Atlantic that is not easy.

I began my blogging by spending much time reading and posting on the Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’ site. I have been a lifelong devotee of the Guardian, but this experience has made me less so, because the site did not live up to its name; posts were censored, and sometimes even deleted, apparently for ‘politically correct’ reasons, regardless of the site’s proud title. So – believing that all opinions, however extreme or obnoxious, are healthier heard than suppressed – I voluntarily withdrew and started writing my own blogs and visiting those of others, which is how I serendipitously found Yankee Doodle.

There were, however, some fascinating and informative discussions on CiF. But there were also far too many angry blasts of hot air, billowing noisily past their targets. Three major recurring themes were the USA, Islam, and religion vs. unbelief. The posts about America brought bitter diatribes from indignant US patriots who considered Europeans and Britishers the effete dregs of a clapped-out civilisation who didn’t deserve having been “rescued” by America during WW2 and were ripe for their impending dhimmitude – often predicted with a “serves you right” gleeful air.

All this struck me as rather a waste of time. I saw no point in returning the puerile insults, though many of course did, and pondered how to persuade these angry and obviously rattled Americans to take a more reflective, introspective look at themselves.

I still haven’t really worked out how to do this – hence the rather rambling nature of this post. However, for a start, let me say that I do not consider it as ‘anti-American’, or a betrayal of ‘our’ values, to reject the nonsensical concept of a blunderbuss “War on Terror” as distinct from a fine-tuned police operation against terrorists; to feel aghast and ashamed at the immoral and illegal practices of torture and ‘rendition’; or to be dismayed by the wanton destruction of traditional civil liberties in both the US and the UK in recent years. While I accept that national interests must be dictated by realpolitik. I do not agree that the end justifies the means, and consider that to the extent that we in the West have lost our moral compass and stooped to these measures, bin Laden has scored and we are the losers. It is the uneasy consciousness of this unpalatable fact that has caused the European slump in pro-Americanism.


Richard W. Symonds said...

May I add a little something to your insights, AC :

I read an article recently - and now wishing I had kept it - which talked about "Cognitive Dissonance" and the collective American psyche...the more I think about the article, the more I think there is a ring of truth about it :

The awful realities of the Iraq war and FSD, and the complicity and culpabilty of the US government in those realities, are simply too painful to face for most Americans.

The imbalance (cognitive dissonance) is so severe that it engenders psychological denial.

Many responses by 'ordinary, decent, fair-minded' Americans to criticism (especially on the blogosphere) can be seen as a form of denial.

Just a thought.

Emmett said...

"...However, for a start, let me say that I do not consider it as 'anti-American’, or a betrayal of ‘our’ values, to reject...the [hysterical & girly-girl! -- ed]destruction of traditional civil liberties in both the US and the UK in recent years."

IT Sure as Hell IS! Are you some kind of "constitution-case," man? We got pills for THAT

s/The Doctors

Richard W. Symonds said...

I;ve found the article :

Keep OpEdNews.com Growing. Contribute
Jump to Our News and Opinion Section

" ...you're doing really great stuff. I'm very impressed with it." Greg Palast "Something Like the Drudge Report, But Designed For People Who Think" Mike Malloy "Great stuff. Duly bookmarked ... and thank you for doing this" Antonia Zerbisias "OpEdNews runs news stories and sharply smart anti-war/anti-Bush opinion pieces" Ed Weiner of the Philadelphia Daily News

They Just Don't Want to Know;

Of Dissidents and Dissonance

By Ben Tripp opednews.com

Like a full-scale papier-mache model of the Earth, the truth is so enormous that it is hard to even comprehend. And once you figure it out, the question becomes where to put it? Because it won't fit on the shelf in the living room.

I refer of course to the true reason why Americans are not more concerned at the patent absence of 'Weapons of Mass Destruction' in Iraq. I spent, I confess, several weeks waiting for the thunderous uproar that would inevitably follow the equally inevitable discovery that Iraq had no biological agents, no foul chemicals, no missiles capable of circling the papier-mache globe and blowing up Daytona Beach, Florida (or similar). The discovery has been made. You want mustard gas in Iraq, you'd better start eating pastrami. Yet the American public doesn't care.

There will be no consequences to the Bush Administration for the naked, baseless savagery it perpetrated upon Iraq's people. Why not? The answer hit me like a full-scale papier-mache model of the Earth: Americans aren't upset about the Big Lie because they never believed it in the first place.

They just didn't want to know.

Wow, that's such a cynical idea it makes your skin all crinkly. Can it be that the average American so very much doesn't give a shit what its government does? Can it possibly have gotten this bad? We were until recently known as a generous and friendly people, if loud. Are we in fact the heartless maggots that such a concept would require? It boggles the mind.

Where is the public outcry? Why isn't everybody in America going apeshit as the Bush Administration slips into the same "what, me worry?" mode they employed after the failure to snare Osama bin Laden? (Osama, as you probably don't remember was Saddam Hussein's tennis partner. And we remember Saddam Hussein, right?)

Why, he asks, restating the question yet again because he can't believe it's even necessary to ask, why is the American public not in an uproar at the administration's slow admission that they lied about the justification for this assault on another nation?

The answer, sad to say, is cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is when you find out the woman you just took back to your hotel is really a man_and you didn't get the corporate discount on the room. Another example of cognitive dissonance is when an entire nation, with world peace in the balance, throws its support behind a bunch of guys who turn out to be lying. In other words, cognitive dissonance is the agony of learning something new that contradicts what you already know.

But that's not all: cognitive dissonance is also when you learn something new that contradicts what you already know, so you discount the entire subject as unimportant. "Yeah, he cheats on me when he travels," she pules. "Who cares, as long as I get the frequent flier miles?" America is suffering from a bad case of cognitive dissonance, and it explains a lot- unfortunately, not to Americans.

We are a country in denial of certain ugly facts. For example: we are an empire, and we're in it for the money. Our leaders lie just as much as the rest of us do, and often about much more important subjects. American Democracy does not equal American Capitalism. We're not really free, and we're not really brave- no more than anybody else, at least. We're just the same turbulent mess of conflicting agendas that everybody else is_the only real difference is American government was originally designed to overcome these very agendas.

But that government has fundamentally changed in our lifetimes, which makes our actions very important for future generations at a time when we're worried more about the next fortnight than the next generation. Help, help, the dissonance is killing me.

America is a nation divided: on one side, there are those who take the "my country, right or wrong" approach. On the other side (the outside) are the Americans who believe that something has gone horribly, horribly wrong. Adherents to this outsider's viewpoint don't have cognitive dissonance, because they have adjusted their concept of reality to reflect the evidence of reality with which they are confronted. They're just depressed and afraid.

The Powers That Be call this mindset "moral relativism", which is another way of saying "who are you going to believe- me, or your own eyes?" The correct answer, for all you relativists out there, is A) God said it, I believe it, that settles it. This is the absolutist position, not only with respect to religion but also nationalism, brand loyalty, and musical tastes: hence the expression "alls I need is Jesus, Jersey, Jack and a Jukebox."

The problem with the absolutist approach to American affairs is that it does not allow for human nature- quite aside from being impossible, stupid, backwards, and rotten.

Human nature is the key here. In a perfect society, governed by the rules of law and behavior currently honored and avoided by most Americans, our leaders would be honest, straightforward, and diligent. They would care nothing for their own pelf (another word for wealth, Scrabble fans; see also "scratch", "wampum", and "mammon") and little for the ephemeral attractions of power and privilege.

This is preposterous, of course. Anybody running for anything is in it for something, and anybody who's made it to the post of Chief Executive of this great nation is in it for as much as he can get. That's just how it works. It's human nature, and I don't fault anyone for it. Neither did the Founding Fathers (now Foundling Fathers, sorry guys) who established a series of checks and balances to ensure that human weakness didn't get in the way of human affairs. We've done away with said checks and balances, mostly, and so the brilliant system of setting three separate branches of narrow self-interested shysters against each other, thus to ensure the common good will be served in the resulting scrum, has broken down.

It's pretty much the same shysters on two of the teams, and the third team refuses to play. Human nature is running rampant. How does this cause cognitive dissonance? Because people don't want to believe it, at any cost. They are desperate to believe it's all going to work out fine.

We Americans are brought up with the idea that America is a better place, a nobler and more enlightened nation that sprang up because people here were determined they would be freer, and equaler, and everyone would have the opportunity to pursue a better life unfettered by systemic oppression.

This is a ridiculous fantasy, like selfless politicians. If you believe it, you might as well believe in a rabbi that did miracles, got executed for it, and came back as an immortal superhero. Oh, wait. What I'm trying to say is that there is a myth -and it's always been a myth- about Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness at work here, and it's one most Americans aspire to fulfill.

I'm not just being cynical. Well, yes I am, but not as cynical as you think, thou apostatic baboon. Because it's the American belief in an American Way that has made us (within living memory) not quite as bad as a lot of other countries, and way better than a goodish number- in fact, pretty much as good as it gets, unless you want to live among auks and penguins and have your own country on an Antarctic island somewhere.

This idealism is cherished with fervid fervor by many Americans. Unfortunately it's antithetical to such companion American notions as Corporate Personhood and the Military Industrial Complex, so things are getting kind of dissonant in the pinched patriotic craniums of so many of our brothers, sisters, and similar. We've turned into a collective special-interest bad guy: who can handle that kind of a downer?

America invaded another nation, unscrewed its head and took a giant dump down its neck--unprovoked. Confronted with the singularly un-American nature of this exploit, our leaders responded by claiming we had to do it-- because this enemy nation was aiming a vast artillery of deadly weapons designed especially to kill blonde people at us. I don't think all that many people really believed it, not really really. But they went along with it, because to confront the real reasons for such aimless aggression would be too horrible for their fragile worldviews and patriotic self-images to bear.

When the 'WMD' bit turned out not to be true, the rationale switched to exporting American Democracy by force. Which is an oxymoron, a common symptom of cognitive dissonance. You cannot force someone to be free, any more than you can teach them a lesson by killing them (note to self). I don't think many Americans cared at that point; Bush said it, I believe it, that settles it. Easier to just agree than actually question the whole mess. Bush and his buddies were counting on this. Long before the American people had any idea why we were supposed to attack Iraq, it was clear to the cabal at the top that we would agree to the adventure under any damn pretext-- because there were so many Americans deep in the throes of denial about what was happening already (the erosion of rights, theft of elections, evaporation of opportunity, and suchlike fiddle-faddle). Too bad it's true.

The beauty part of cognitive dissonance is the worse it gets, the more people throw up [their hands] and say "who cares?" In this way such public works projects as genocide and empire-building can be accomplished, because people refuse to care. It's too damn demanding, too scary, and too damaging to that ever-threatened bird called Self Esteem. But this is the time to take a good long look at your mindset, before things get so awful you find yourself goose-stepping down the Reichsparteitag rather than face the facts.

Are you in a state of cognitive dissonance? Does the evidence of your senses not jibe with what you've been told is The Way Things Are? Do you find yourself redefining what is important to exclude what you don't want to believe? Are you angry at people who demand you think about issues you consider closed? Do you often find yourself wondering why everybody but real Americans are wrong? Do you believe there is one set of rules for America and a different set of rules for the rest of the world, and that America should enforce both of them? Are you a red-faced witless baboon?

These are symptoms of cognitive dissonance, and while denial hurts less than facing the truth up to a point, it's worth noting that while grappling with a changed world can be painful, succumbing to the urge to tell it to fuck off can be fatal. If not to you, then to other innocent people in that area outside America collectively called 'the world'. Cognitive dissonance is unpleasant. Nobody likes it. It signals a period of painful transformation has arrived. But like a life-sized papier-mache model of the Earth, it's something you just can't ignore.

Ben Tripp is a screenwriter and cartoonist. Ben also has a lot of outrageously priced crap for sale here. If his writing starts to grate on your nerves, buy some and maybe he'll flee to Mexico. If all else fails, he can be reached at: credel@earthlink.net

Emmett said...

GREAT Stuff! Plus he said it all without one curse-word -- now THAT'S cognitive dissonance!


anticant said...

Many thanks for that, Richard - spot on! [When was it written, BTW?]

I'm planning to discuss the American Dream, and its cognitive dissonance with American behaviour, in future posts. Noble myths - a la Plato - are important to all nations and races, and because of the USA's revolutionary origins they play an even greater part in the American political psyche than in most other peoples'.

The dissonance goes back much further than Iraq, though. It's been growing ever since WW2, and began with the first lurch into extra-Continental empire in the Spanish-American war. [Remember the famous telegram sent by a newspaper proprietor - Hearst, I think - to his star reporter: "I will provide war. You report it."]

That truly patriotic American and great journalist Ambrose Bierce had plenty to say about American dissonance - though he didn't wrap up his words, and would have called it 'hypocrisy'.

anticant said...

“Being an ally of the United States is an increasingly dangerous proposition”, says Patricia Weitsman, an American academic, in an article 'Why they hate us', ruminating – not very perceptively – on the nature of alliances [with especial reference to Turkey] in today’s Guardian CiF.

A couple of responses in the comments thread are worth quoting. The first is from a New Zealander:

“Americans ask why much of the rest of the world has grown to hate them. Well the answer is very simple.

"First your government appears to believe that it is always on the side of the angels (apparently by definition).

"Second, it sees its selfish interests as the most important.
"Third, it sees violence as the solution to almost every problem.

"Perhaps these perceptions are wrong, but if so Americans would do well to address each of them. They could make a good start by listening a little more and talking a lot less, by assuming they may have something to learn in any new situation, and not necessarily taking it for granted that they already know what needs to be done.”

The second is from an American:

“American foreign policy has always had one goal in mind. The economic and military advancement of the US at (almost) any cost.

"During the cold war we needed Turkey because of the Soviet naval ships passing through the various waterways. Today Turkey is less important in that respect. It, does however, have a border with Iraq, something the Americans tend to forget (along with common sense), and the PKK are a fairly thriving movement. If Turkey were to join the EC, it might be a bit tricky having a predominantly Muslim country in the group. Therefore Turkey sort of needs to see what side it is on, the West (ie US) or the other (predominantly Muslim) side.

"The US has NEVER understood foreign policy. That is because most Americans live in a huge country and rarely leave it, to them it is really the only country IN the world, the others are just a pesky nuisance. They have had numerous attempts to place US friendly governments in charge (the Shah for example) but these usually end in disaster as the PEOPLE of the other country see through all the propaganda.

"Turkey is a tricky one, if we lost its friendship and cooperation it would be a serious blow for US foreign policy, and certainly a coup for Iran, and probably the Russians, as huge numbers go there on vacation etc.

"My main problem with US foreign policy, apart from the fact that is doesn't work, is just the sheer greed behind it. The US government supports loads of US companies (United Fruit in Nicaragua, for example) and then complains when the French government supports Airbus.

"We support Boeing, with HUGE military orders, which keeps the civil side of the concern going.

"As for those who hate the US, today its just about everyone. One reason are the types of situations outlined above, the other is the war on terror.......very few countries really take it seriously today, very few countries EXCEPT the US which is completely paranoid about another attack.”

If the above views are unpalatable to American readers, they would do well not to reject them out of hand.

Anonymous said...

Anon (Michael)

Here's an interesting article "The ‘Good Germans’ Among Us"


It refers to the question of why some "good Germans" during WW2 didn't do something, or speak out against Hitler's regime and then applies this to today's USA.
Where are the "good Americans", all of which must accept some responsibly for unleashing the Bush regime on the rest of the world? Let's be serious, they voted for him not just once but twice, that's what I call slow learners.
Yes frankly and honestly , I'm totally anti-American and proud of it. It hasn't always been that way, in fact quite the opposite, I spent over 25 years of my life working for the Dept. of Defense or more exactly, the United States Air Force. For many years my only English speaking friends were Americans, I visited the USA many times, mainly to San Antonio TX. But in those days I was so busy earning a living I was too busy to get my head above the parapet and to see what was really going on.
The more you do research the more you realise that the American dream to control the world, particularly in regard to natural resources is not a new phenomena, it's been going on for decades. Just review the long list of UN Resolutions vetoed by the United States, just consider the number of democratically elected governments in the world that the USA has subverted and in some cases replaced with a military dictatorship. The truth is the USA doesn't actually care one iota about democracy, it cares only for each and every country in the world to have a government of any description which will obey Washington.
Arrogance and ignorance are the two adjectives I now apply to all Americans. I'm tired of hearing how British appeasement delayed action against Germany whilst the real appeasement was sitting on the sidelines until the USA had no alternative when both Germany and Japan declared war on it. I'm tired of how they claim that without American help Britain would now be speaking German. It rather overlooks the fact that over 80% of German troops were either captured or killed by the USSR. A few days ago one even claimed that they saved our bacon in the first World War, which overlooked the fact that the USA only became involved about 12 months before the end and it was only a matter of a couple of months before American troops were even seen in Europe, too late in fact to be considered an official part of the "Allies".
Truth is the USA only gets involved in war for economic reasons unless as in WW2 it has no choice.

anticant said...

The following comment is reproduced from the Gatwick City Forum:

Jim Baxter : While no nation can implement full global dominance lacking quality or coercion, the United States has not sought to rule other nations as policy, or as an aspect of its identity.

Without apology, this nation manifests faith and confidence in individual value, freedom, superior criteria for choice, and a visionary appreciation for a progressive future unfettered by humanistic political mediocrity of mere human opinion.

The egoistic-carnal ‘mind’ cannot produce superiority in any area of human experience or endeavor. Inaccurate definitions, plural, of ‘human,’ coupled with a lack of mental criteria worthy of thought, foretells a magnitude of total disaster in the days of immediacy....

semper fidelis
vincit veritas

Posted by Jim Baxter on 10/16 at 12:47 PM

To which I have added:

Jim Baxter reminds me of the Duke of Wellington's quip about his army in the Peninsula: "I don't know what they do to the enemy, but by God they frighten me". With friends like these, who needs enemies?

Mr Baxter also brings to mind Robert Burns’ famous lines:

“O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!”

Emmett said...

IN My monthly local-history broadcasts on KMSU-89.7 FM, in Old Mankato (online at kmsu.org, clik on archive), my interpretive basis is that the late-modern age /is/ over; this is attested by a host of factors; and, that the nation-state is, to-day, definitely a back-number is more-than-amply attested out here In The Middle Of Nowhere: by the sheer disinterest in the terror war, except on the part of the handful of families and friends of the state militia who have been called-up and extended abroad beyond all sense & reason. Everyone else murmurs: "Tsk...why ARE we over there?" in a distracted way into their pocket telephones whilst driving erratically into one another, on their way to the the maul to "buy stuff." This shibboleth is what is now appotropaically said, in passing, when word of yet another local casualty in the Mespot lands here -- and that's that. It is hoped vaguely that, by muttering this protective mantra enough, that "...that Goddam fool kid of mine won't get some hair up HER ass about joining that Goddam Army!" [Only be it noted that most of these people, now and excepting only a few recovering methamphetamine-addicts, no longer go to church; and, altogether, they all use the f-word, to-day, far more than the hearty & irate, sometimes mocking & chuckling, "God-damn" of a previous generation. A preferred sub-literate construction is the adjectival & gerundal form: /f-cken/. This usage precludes any possibilityone shall be reproved of "snottiness" in speech, by getting rid of even an hint of the subjunctive. The great sin among my Americanos is to "think yer better than everybody!" This is a solecism for which often the decree of divorcement is now granted /prima facie/ in our rural & upper Middlewestern justice-of-the-peace courts. -- ed.] /In sum/, 'the nation' as such is no longer a leading category in popular entertainment.

anticant said...

That's very interesting, Emmett. But I question whether the indifference you report signifies the demise of the nation-state. More likely it arises from the short attention span of the inward-looking spoonfed instant-gratification consumer generation who can't envisage any circumstances other then what they are familiar with. They don't really want to know about anything beyond their limited horizons - and certainly not about the over 1 million Iraqi dead since the invasion for which they might have to bear some indirect moral responsibility.

Yankee Doodle said...


I think you made some excellent points in your post (I have not yet read all the comments -- they are rather lengthy, and tomorrow is another day).

I think questioning America is the most patriotic and American thing a person can do -- especially when it is a question of war. Foolish is the crowd of people that goes goose-stepping off to war just because the Fuehrer says.

America is not perfect, and Americans need to hear the criticism not just of those who like America (like you), but of those who hate America (like the terrorists), because only by hearing it can we identify problems that we ourselves don't recognize, and we need to identify them in order to fix them. Who knows? If we fix enough of them, maybe the terrorists will find they can tolerate us after all.

And I "encouraged" you, I did not "egg you on" -- but, now I have fodder for another humorous post. ;)

Keep up the good work, Anticant!

Emmett said...

AUNTY, 'Tis /because/ these televisionised north atlantic folk on /both/ pond-sides waddle in step to such a distinct degree, credit cards in their beaks, that we may say again the nation-state is falling, falling down the Night of time in sparks and blocks breaking up in fire, clean away out of men's remembrance that bygone already time lunges down in Clio's long abyss in dark embrace. This crew might might charge off the new American flag made in China for the front garden there at Wally Mart, or indeed the Tesco's Han Chinee Union flag -- /but it's the physical act of charge-purchasing that titillates/! These late-middleaged post-perversion pre-diabetics (of all ages! and all of them, poor not-dears, clean beyond S-E-X without their 'Viagra') know nonetheless how to recruit other synthetic substitutionary thrills; and, on their last mad spree, they /are/ become the new'stakeholders' in Mr Philip Bobbitt's looming net of global 'market states'. Will-he, nil-he. /And/, their indentured great-grandchildren....

anticant said...

Is this Mr Bobbitt - who's works I'm not familiar with - the same as, or a relative of, the gentleman who made a celebrity career for himself a few years ago because his lady friend cut his penis off? If so, he is symbolic of the pathetic persons you describe.

I recollect there was a novel entitled "Shopping and Fucking". This crowd display no taste in either activity. They are best at fucking themselves - and other people - up.

anticant said...

Thanks, YD. I should have said "emboldened" me - because many of your fellow-citizens will doubtless consider comments and criticisms from outside the tent the height of impertinence. But if I were an American, I would regard questioning many things about America as an urgent duty, just as I do back here "at'ome" [as Churchill used rather curiously to pronounce it].

I cannot honestly say that I "like" America these days - though my fondness for many Americans I have met during my life will always endure. The point of my posts is that it's very difficult even for America's well-wishers to like it these days, when it behaves in ways that forfeits others' respect - as it undoubtedly has done since 9/11 so far as Europe is concerned.