Dokumentation des Symposiums vom 29. April 2005 in der Diplomatischen Akademie Wien

veranstaltet vom Sir Peter Ustinov Institut zur Erforschung und Bekämpfung von Vorurteilen, Wien und der Diplomatischen Akademie Wien
(gefördert von der Kulturabteilung der Stadt Wien und der Genfer Ustinov Stiftung)

 

Die USA und die Europäische Union teilen zentrale Werte, die unverzichtbarer Bestand unserer gesellschaftlichen und politischen Kultur sind: Menschenrechte, Demokratie und Rechtsstaat. Es gibt aber auch Prinzipien, über die in Europa und in den USA die Vorstellungen tendenziell differieren: etwa über die Rolle des Staates, die gesellschaftliche Funktion der Religion oder die Strukturierung der weltweiten Zusammenarbeit. Solche Differenzen sollten Gegenstand eines konstruktiven Dialogs zwischen Freunden sein.

Es gibt freilich auch Differenzen anderer Natur: Es sind dies Einstellungen, die sich von objektivierbaren Grundlagen getrennt haben, als Vorurteile zu bezeichnen sind und als „die unkritische Übernahme von Ansichten, Meinungen und Erwartungen ohne ausreichende persönliche Urteilsbildung oder Kenntnis und Erfahrungsbasis“ (Brockhaus) definiert werden können. Diese Vorurteile, die im emotionalen Bereich aufgebaut werden, lassen sich sehr leicht politisch instrumentalisieren und stehen daher einer konstruktiven Zusammenarbeit im Wege.

Es ist für die Zusammenarbeit zwischen Europa und den USA wichtig, Differenzen herauszuarbeiten und sie von den Vorurteilen zu lösen. Rational nicht begründbare Vorstellungen über transatlantische Verschiedenheiten führen genauso zu gegenseitiger emotionaler Verstimmung wie rational nicht gerechtfertigte Annahmen über transatlantische Gemeinsamkeiten. Die auf Vorurteilen beruhenden Bewertungen sind, im längerfristigen Interesse sowohl Europas als auch der USA, zu analysieren und so abzubauen. Dazu soll diese Veranstaltung dienen.


 

Summary

1. Presentation by Gret Haller

At the beginning, Haller referred to her experience with the Council of Europe, in particular her experience with the OSCE in Bosnia and Herzegovina. To her way of understanding, anti-Americanism was a judgement of specific American policies from an emotional, as distinct from a rational, viewpoint.

Haller underscored the need to understand the differences between the United States and Europe. Those differences were the outcome of different traditions governing the relationship between state and religion. In the US, religion enjoyed priority. Historically, among the European communities in what used to be the British colonies in North America, loyalty was based on a common religious identity – not on national or political identity. To the American way of understanding, separating the Church from the state was thus aimed at protecting religion from government. In Europe – and especially in France – the concept of separation was designed to protect the state. The European understanding of the state derived from the history of monarchies: a backdrop that of necessity was missing in America.

The historical background peculiar to the United States explained the country’s tendency to view international politics and policies in moral terms (coalition of the willing). In Europe, international politics and policies tended to be based on legal concepts (international law).

Haller quoted Ernest Gellner: ‘Religion is part of the American way of life’. America and Europe were linked by their common opposition to totalitarian regimes and movements; however, they were separated by their different perceptions of the role of state and religion. The US tended to seek emotional links to the government’s authority – akin to confessions of loyalty (‘allegiance’). Europe – the European Union and the national states – were more inclined to distinguish between law and morals. Europe displayed a more sombre, a more secular understanding of state and government.

Haller referred to differences within the US. The ‘blue states’ with a Democratic majority did not differ that much from the intellectual traditions of Europe, whereas in the ‘red states’ (especially in the South) religion played a highly visible role in politics. The general trend in the US was to see the ‘nation’ in an emotional context; politics (especially international politics) were perceived as a struggle between the powers of good and evil. They were good, the others were evil.

Haller stressed that anti-Americanism today took on many nationalistic, racist and religious (especially Islamic) variations. At the same time, however, it was common practice to term justified criticism of the US and its policies anti-American.

What was to be done? According to Haller, it was important to be aware of transatlantic differences, to accept them and discuss them – and ultimately to learn to live with them. Never should one argue along the lines of American or European superiority. Acceptance of differences offered the best basis for transatlantic cooperation.

2. Presentation by Andrei Markovits

Markovits opened with a reference to empirical data from Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Italy indicating that current public opinion in Europe showed a hitherto unprecedented aversion to all things American. Anti-American sentiments had always prevailed in Europe. Today, however, anti-Americanism had a new bonding effect, uniting the elites and masses. On both the left and right wings, all of Europe seemed to pride itself on its anti-American attitudes. In the next stage of his research, Markovits announced that he would be extending the coverage to include public opinion in other European countries such as Spain, Portugal and Poland.

For Markovits, the essence of those anti-American sentiments was that they were not directed towards what America did, but towards what America was. Moreover, contrary to other traditional prejudices (anti-feminism, homophobia, anti-Semitism or racism), anti-Americanism was not pitched at someone weak, but at someone strong: a dominant power.

Another distinctive variance was that anti-European attitudes in the US were not a unifying phenomenon. In the US, anti- or pro-European sentiments lay in the rift between the classes. The lower classes traditionally displayed anti-European attitudes, whereas the attitudes adopted by the elites were pro-European. In Europe, anti-Americanism by tradition displayed a positive correlation with education and social status; however, at present, the lower classes seemed to be donning the anti-Americanism mantle of the elites.

Markovits asked whether there had ever been a golden age of pro-Americanism in Europe. To his mind, that age had never come about: neither after 1945, nor during World War I – not even after 1776. From the very beginning, Europe had been markedly averse to America – a continent (or country) that lacked culture, depth and authenticity. From the very outset, Europe had construed America as a danger. America was seen to be ‘degenerate’, including the ‘degenerate’ Native Americans.

Markovits argued that in the European setting anti-Americanism was not something ‘national’ (British, French, German, Italian, etc.): it was exclusively European. All over Europe, the term ‘Americanisation’ was used as a code word embracing a complete swathe of negative qualities – in politics and entertainment alike, as well as in all other spheres. In present-day Europe, calling something ‘American’ or the product of ‘Americanisation’ inevitably imparted a negative touch.

At the end of his presentation, Markovits discussed the probability of America (the US) having become (or becoming) the ‘defining other’ for Europe – especially for a united Europe. Europe was to be seen as the antonym to America. Europe should be a ‘soft’ power, defending its welfare system and asserting its cultural diversity: the opposite to the American ‘tough’ power, the American unrestricted free market and the American melting pot.

3. Presentations by the three panellists

Krysztof Mroziewicz stressed the differences between the countries (such as Poland) allied with the US in Iraq and those abstaining from the alliance. Countries such as Poland did not consider themselves to be under American tutelage; they had been free to choose. The transatlantic relationship, however, would be overshadowed by the fact that the 21 st century was to be an Asian century; the focus of world politics and the global economy was shifting to the Pacific. The US was much better prepared for that shift in geopolitical and strategic terms than Europe. The EU had not managed to transform national strategic power (viz. the British and the French) into European power. The split within NATO and the EU over the war in Iraq exemplified the lack of European integration. Given that the EU was not – at least not yet – a strategically significant actor, it was quite understandable that the former communist countries in Europe which still felt potentially threatened by Russia placed much greater political (and military) trust in the US than in the EU.

Joachim Fritz Vannahme pointed up a central aspect that had been missing in the debate: the phenomenon of war such as the Gulf Wars and the global war on terror. The different attitude prevailing between the US and Europe and the differences within Europe could not be explained solely in terms of prejudices; the differences also had to do with interests and judgement. The mythical year 1968 had had two aspects – Paris and Prague. The same year also cast light on the links that still held between America and Europe; the anti-Vietnam War movement in America had had a strong impact on Western Europe. Even today, developments in the US exert an influence on Europe in different ways: many were the bridges that spanned the Atlantic. Just as the Ethiopian Church had canonised Pontius Pilate as he stood for the beginning of (Christian) history, so too might the Europeans claim that without Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, there would be no (European) history as they knew it today.

Daniel Vernet argued that despite a general European anti-Americanism, there were also national variations. The reasons for the anti-Americanism specific to France lay in: (a) the lack of significant French emigration to the US; (b) the persistent competition between France and the US as to the upholding of universal values (viz. human rights); and (c) the specific French tradition (especially since 1958) in favour of multi-polar structures in international politics. In terms of policies, the overriding political difference at present was that the US tended to change the status quo, whereas the EU endeavoured to preserve it and/or restrict any changes to Europe alone (e.g. EU-enlargement). Whereas the US tended to adopt its innovative approach as a means of legitimising wars, the EU (or Europe) tended to adhere to the tenets of (traditional) international law.

4. Discussion from the floor

  • The following questions and topics were raised by the audience:
  • The relationship between war and prejudice
  • The function of anti-Americanism (the feel-good factor or making Europe feel better than America)
  • America was not America: there was not only one America
  • The European-American dialogue tended to ignore the rest of the world
  • The term ‘anti-Americanism’ was the outcome of a moralistic response to specific criticism of the war in Iraq war
  • On both sides, mutual respect was necessary
  • The impact of 9/11: the US saw itself as a victim
  • Bush’s policies in his second term
  • The role of the UK: was there a specific Anglo-Saxon world?

5. Final round on the panel

Vernet: The UK and France had differed since the 1950s. UK politics were based on the belief that the British could play a significant role in world politics by backing the US. French politics were founded on the conviction that a significant French role was only feasible as long as France maintained maximum independence from the US.

Vannahme: In 2003, Blair had acted out of strong personal conviction, not out of cynicism. Nevertheless, the question of truth and lies could not be avoided, especially with respect to the weapons of mass destruction that had not been found in Iraq.

Mroziewicz: Europe and America are linked by the bonds of ‘Western civilisation’ which accounted for their being distinct from other civilisations. In a world that could well return to bipolarity (Washington and Peking), that would inevitably have an impact – especially where the genocidal potential of terrorism was concerned.

Markovits: 9/11 had not only bought about a shift in the debate, but it had also changed the perception of the world. 9/11 was the reason for the rift having deepened between the US and Europe. That could not be explained merely in terms of a conflict between ‘pragmatism’ (claimed as something specifically European) and ‘moralism’ (perceived as something typically American).

Haller: The United Kingdom was much more European than British politics might intimate – especially with regard to the relationship between the state and religion. As for the basic question whether in terms of that relationship the US or Europe was the exception to the rule, the jury was still out.

Anton Pelinka, April 30, 2005