The global financial crisis is sparking a new wave of anti-Americanism in Europe, where the intensity of America-bashing in some countries is reaching levels not seen since the United States invaded Iraq in 2003.
The turmoil on Wall Street has been greeted with a smug chorus of ridicule emanating from nearly every European country, whether big or small, rich or poor. The overwhelming sentiment among many political and media elites in Europe has been one of unabashed Schadenfreude over what they hope will bring a final, ignominious end to the much-hated “Anglo-Saxon economic model.”
While much of the initial reaction emanating from Europe was self-congratulatory gloating to the effect that Europe’s “superior” economic model made it immune to the kind of problems plaguing the United States, the fact that this has now proved to be false has unleashed an entirely predictable populist reaction; European leaders of all ideological stripes are now busy blaming the United States for the financial problems in their home countries, as if anti-Americanism will somehow shield them from political fallout of the trouble that lies ahead. Many Europeans are calling for an end to American global economic dominance, with, of course, a correspondingly greater regulatory role for Europe.
Some of the most virulent anti-Americanism stems, as usual, from Germany, where media soothsayers have had a field day prophesying America’s imminent downfall. The weekly news magazine Der Spiegel, for example, has a cover showing the Statue of Liberty’s torch, extinguished, with the headline: “The Price of Arrogance.” The cover of the Die Zeit newspaper shows a Bald Eagle plunging to Earth, feathers flying, with a flag of the European Union clutched in one of its talons. Another Die Zeit article titled “USA: Can the Superpower Learn to Step Down?” asks: “How can the land of victory and optimism adapt to life after the imperial moment?” And so on.
German politicians have joined in the America-bashing too. Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück predicts that “the U.S. will lose its superpower status in the world financial system.” (He also said “the financial crisis [is] above all an American problem,” words he ended up eating a few days later while trying, unsuccessfully, to rescue Germany’s Hypo Real Estate banking group.) Meanwhile, Joschka Fischer, the former foreign minister, says: “In a few weeks, we will mark the 19th anniversary of the night that the [Berlin] Wall came down and the Cold War came to an end. In the following years, the United States stood alone at the summit of global power. Today, just 19 years later, we are witnessing the decline of American power. This decline can be traced essentially to a mixture of arrogance and blindness.” He then goes on to blame the neoconservatives for a broad litany of global problems. Fischer’s solution: Europe should take over.