Sunday, 29 December 2002

Anti-Americanism as campaign tactic (updated)

The latest from Josh Marshall suggests that running for election elsewhere on an anti-American platform is good politics:

But add these and other election results up and you start to see that hostile reactions to America's newly strident and confrontational stance in the world are becoming an important force in world politics and an important force in the domestic politics of many of our allies.

Think of it this way: when was the last time one of our friends -- or someone friendly, rather than unfriendly, to our current policies -- won an election in a major country around the world?

I think Marshall over-sells his thesis: Schröder and Roh talked up anti-American themes in their campaigns, but fully expected that the U.S. would forget about that ugliness after the election, an assessment that at least Schröder is finding wrong. As for Lula in Brazil, Marshall would probably find, as The Economist reports, that he too is kissing up to the gringos post-election. More to the point, none of these successes should be surprising — the left outside the United States has historically defined itself in terms of its opposition to American foreign policy adventurism.

Marshall may forget that history due to the relative quiet spell during the Clinton administration (where U.S. foreign policy was largely quasi-multilateral, with a smattering of wagging the dog when it was politically convenient), but it was certainly alive and well during the Reagan and Bush 41 years: the British Labour Party was basically a wholly-owned subsidiary of the CND until Tony Blair led it out of the electoral wilderness, and the German SPD (Schröder's party) was largely on the same page for much of the same time while Germany's CDU/CSU and FDP governed, leaving the SPD free to pursue wacky unilateralist views (in their case, unilateral nuclear disarmament) with the Militant Tendency wing of Labour.

Of course, if these three leaders were actually serious about their anti-Americanism — if they actually wanted the United States to withdraw from Germany (à la De Gaulle) or South Korea, or withhold financial support from South Korea or Brazil — then Marshall probably ought to worry; but, if that were the case, the costs to those states would be far higher than the costs incurred by the United States. In such a scenario, Germany would have to provide for its own defense out of its already stretched budget and probably precipitate a continental arms race in the process, South Korea would cease to exist as a viable nation-state, and Brazil's economy would stop functioning within a day; none of these events would have much direct effect on the U.S. besides reducing the supply of mobile phones from Samsung. Regardless, anti-Americanism is trendy on the Euroleft, and in the left in general, so unless real American allies like Tony Blair and John Howard start running on anti-American platforms, the pattern here isn't all that discernable.

InstaPundit has a roundup of discussion on the resurgence of anti-American rhetoric from the left; JB Armstrong has an interesting take as well.