Robert Kagan's celebrated analysis of the widening Atlantic is half right. But, as the split over Iraq shows, Europe is a diverse place and wields power in other ways.by Timothy Garton-Ash / March 20, 2003 / Leave a comment
Anti-Americanism has reached a fevered intensity, Robert Kagan reported from Europe recently in the Washington Post. In London one finds Britain’s finest minds propounding, in sophisticated language and melodious Oxbridge accents, the conspiracy theories of Pat Buchanan concerning the ‘neoconservative’ (read: Jewish) hijacking of US foreign policy. Britain’s most gifted scholars sift through American writings about Europe searching for signs of derogatory sexual imagery.
The last sentence must be a reference to a recent essay I wrote in the New York Review of Books. Well, thanks for the compliment but no thanks for the implication. If I’m anti-American, then Robert Kagan is a Belgian. Since he and I have never met or conversed in accents melodious or otherwise, I take it that the earlier sentence cannot refer to me; but whoever it does refer to, its innuendo is even more disturbing. That two-word parenthesis ‘neoconservative’ (read: Jewish) can only be taken to imply that this criticism of ‘neoconservative’ views has, at the least, antisemitic overtones. That is a serious charge, which should be substantiated or withdrawn. It illustrates once again how American reports of European anti-Americanism get mixed up with claims, impossible to prove or refute, of antisemitic motivation. I am disturbed to find a writer as sophisticated and knowledgeable as Robert Kagan using such innuendo.
So far as ‘sexual imagery’ is concerned, Kagan seems to have taken offence at a passage in which, discussing the mutual stereotypes of America vs Europe (bullying cowboys vs limp-wristed pansies) I refer to his now famous sentence Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus, as in ‘men are from Mars and women are from Venus.’ Or perhaps he was irked to find his work discussed under the headline ‘Anti-Europeanism in America.’
So let us start with a necessary clarification: Robert Kagan is no more anti-European than I am anti-American. In his brilliant ‘Policy Review’ article (reprinted in last August’s Prospect), now expanded into a small book, ‘Paradise and Power’ (Atlantic Books), he gives one of the most penetrating and influential accounts of European-American relations in recent years. It is not yet quite in the Fukuyama ‘End of History ‘and Huntington ‘Clash of Civilisations’ class for impact both of them journal articles later turned into books but it is heading that way. One reason it has had such an impact is his talent for bold generalisation and provocative overstatement.