November 30, 2002


To my knowledge I was the only American participating. This was an occasion for Europeans–Germans especially–to talk frankly to other Europeans. The panel on which I spoke was chaired by Reiner Pommerin, a professor at the University of Dresden, colonel in the German air force reserves, and advisor to the German Ministry of Defense. My fellow speakers included Germany’s former ambassador to the U.K., the current German ambassador to Poland, a DaimlerChrysler managing director, and a professor from Britain. We were to focus on transatlantic relations.

Throughout the two days, Pommerin set the tone with an aggressively antagonistic attitude toward all things American. “Thank God we had the 11th of September,” he declared–for this showed the U.S. how it feels to be humbled. Herr professor-colonel went on to suggest that Americans often feel nostalgic for the “good old days of slavery in the nineteenth century.” He told ludicrous stories about seeing empty bottles and litter piled “one meter deep” along roadsides in America, illustrating our environmental slovenliness. He insisted the seemingly mighty U.S. military was now a hollow force, all flash and no substance. . . .

This simple reality needs to be faced squarely by Americans: In a great variety of areas–foreign policy, demography, religion, economics–Americans and Europeans are growing apart. While the September 11 attacks deepened American sobriety, patriotic feeling, and national resolution, in Europe they merely created one more flashpoint for division. European elites, already worried they won’t be able to keep up with America over the next generation, are now approaching panic as the U.S. coalesces, during its September 11 recovery, into an even steelier and more determined colossus.

Some Europeans complain that the U.S. is more and more heading off on its own without them. They are right. America’s psychic link with Europe, I suggest, is fading extremely rapidly. Keep in mind that there are currently 32 million people living in the U.S. who were born abroad, and very few of these new Americans are from Europe. For two generations now, the new blood flowing into the U.S. has come primarily from Asia, Central and South America, the Near East, and the Caribbean. America is becoming a cosmic nation, comprised of all peoples, rather than just an offshoot of Europe.

I think this may be true — though if the United States breaks with Europe it will be more a result of a European push than an immigrant pull.

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