Europeans have been struggling to come up with a unified response to the earthquake in Haiti. Although the European Union now has a president and foreign minister whose job it is to make Europe “speak with one voice” on the global stage, Europeans have been reduced to squabbling over the lofty question of why they allowed the United States to take command of the international relief efforts.
But even as sibling rivalry stymies the EU’s humanitarian aid response, Europeans have encountered no problems whatsoever in unifying around anti-Americanism, the time-tested elixir to European disunity. Across the continent, Europeans have been quick to lash out at the United States for a host of perceived wrong moves in Haiti, even as they secretly admit that the EU response can best be described as inept. (The new EU foreign minister, Baroness Catherine Ashton, initially responded to the earthquake in Haiti by conveying her “condolences” to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.)
A common theme parroted by much of the European mainstream media revolves around the alleged American “military occupation” of Haiti, as if war planners at the Pentagon viewed the earthquake disaster as an opportunity to turn the impoverished island nation into the 51st U.S. state.
Europeans have also spilled considerable ink on second-guessing U.S. motives for providing aid to Haiti, with the underlying idea being that Americans are somehow genetically incapable of altruism (even though empirical evidence shows that Europeans are far less charitable than are Americans).
But the most common European grievance faults the United States for “controlling” the Haiti relief operation. Indeed, envy over American power and global leadership appears to lie at the heart of European gall. The United States, by acting quickly and decisively in Haiti, has embarrassed the Europeans, who spend much of their time laying claim to being a “world superpower,” but whose dithering response to the crisis in Haiti has once again demonstrated that the EU is not an equal of the United States on the global stage.
Most of the criticism stems from the European left, which only one year ago worshipped Barack Obama as a messianic figure. The latest outburst of European anti-Americanism provides additional proof that Europeans have soured on Obama, who once promised that he alone could bring an end to the anti-American bigotry flowing from Europe and elsewhere.
Some of the most vocal criticism of the United States has come from European officials linked to governments that are normally friendly to America. For example, the head of Italy’s civil protection department, Guido Bertolaso, said that the U.S.-led efforts in Haiti were a “pathetic” failure that is turning a national tragedy into a “vanity show for the television cameras.” Bertolaso, who holds Cabinet rank in the center-right government of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, also said: “When confronted by a situation of chaos, they [the Americans] tend to confuse military intervention with what should be an emergency operation, which cannot be entrusted to the armed forces. We are missing a leader, a co-ordination capacity that goes beyond military discipline.” Bertolaso called for the appointment of an international civilian humanitarian coordinator, under the supervision of the United Nations, of course.