Anti-Americanism is the disease du jour for a lot of the world's envious, beginning with the intellectuals, who are carriers of the virus, and including bloggers, washed-up politicians and whatever man (or woman) in the street a lazy reporter with a microphone, camera, pad or pencil can find who wants to put in his nickel's worth.
It's more consensus than conspiracy, the ganging up on the most powerful nation in the world. Uncle Sam, meet Gulliver. Much of the envy, of course, is that America is the most powerful nation in the world. Envy easily becomes animosity and, as Freud would say, a negative "projection" pushes the argument: "There but for the grace of God go I." Not!
No cure for this malady is in sight, but certain palliatives prescribed in unscientific trials are working their way through the bodies politic, easing the pain if not curing the disease. George Bush took leave of his domestic quagmire to visit Iraq, which shows signs of not being the quagmire many of his critics earnestly hope it is.
His visit eased the anxiety of Iraqis who foolishly pay attention to the cut-and-run caucus in Congress. The death of Abu Musab Zarqawi further exposed the vanity of the congressional quitters, whose advice, if taken earlier, would have saved the second most heinous villain in the world from whatever just desserts he may be suffering this morning in what passes for Islamist paradise.
The "Schadenfreudians," ever yearning for a round of pleasure in the misfortunes of others, had expected a treat from Patrick Fitzgerald, the Captain Ahab of special prosecutors, but got only frustration and disappointment when the dogged pursuit of Karl Rove finally ran aground. The virus of anti-Americanism weakens in other places, too. Noam Chomsky, the Dr. No of the hate-America crowd, is accused (by his own fans, of all people) of playing a little too fast and a little too loose with the facts in his latest screed, "Failed States." Peter Beaumont, foreign affairs editor for the London Guardian, writes that he wants to agree with Dr. No but can't find many reasons to in this latest book.
He laments that Dr. No no longer has rigor, but his arguments suffer rigor mortis, rendered with "exactly the same subtle textual biases, evasions and elisions of meaning" as used by those he hates. Dr. No places George W. Bush in the company of the world's worst monsters -- Hitler, Stalin, Tojo, Suharto, Saddam Hussein. No reasonable man, no matter how earnestly he hates George W. Bush, accepts "analysis" like this.
Such sentiments may reflect an honest reassessment by thinking people who are troubled by the lack of balance in the criticism of America and recognize the hypocrisy and contradictions in the hysterical stereotyping inherent in the anti-American arguments both here and in Europe. In "Uberpower: The Imperial Temptation of America," Josef Joffe, the publisher-editor of Die Zeit, the German weekly newspaper, suggests that the unthinking and repetitive cliches offered by European critics expose them as bores, chasing their tails, indulging circular arguments that go nowhere, peddling tedium and trivia as original thought.
He decries the "selectivity" of the anti-American criticism as emotion that has little if anything to do with specific policies and everything to do with pressing hot buttons to drive passion and sensation that ultimately reduces legitimate debate to demagogic sloganeering. "Imperialism" is "inbred" in the bad Americans because "look what they did to the Indians." American capitalism is bad, and "blood for oil" is just another manifestation of the American way of life.
Demonizing American leaders and everything they do becomes not only tiresome, but ineffectual when the United States is singled out for condemnation while the bad things other nations do are ignored or explained away. Where is the "anti-ism" for Russia's war in Chechnya? For China's brutal suppression of Tibet, the Arab genocide of Christians in Sudan (or the killing of Arabs by Arabs, for that matter)? Where is the condemnation of state-organized terror against white farmers in Zimbabwe?
"Anti-Americanism . . . is not criticism of American policies, nor even dislike of particular American leaders or features of American life, such as gas-guzzling SUV's or five hundred TV channels," concludes Joffe. "It is the obsessive stereotypization, denigration, and demonization of the country and the culture."
Paul Johnson, the British historian, describes anti-Americanism as a syndrome with a variety of symptoms, all rooted in the racist, crude, childish, self-defeating behavior of the decriers. We can't necessarily eliminate the symptoms in those who suffer from the disease du jour, but fresh minds are working on a more precise diagnosis. Even that much is a start.