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Anti-Americanism

Anti-Americanism is strong disapproval or even hatred for the United States of America, its government, people, or its "way of life". A number of different attitudes may underlie such sentiment, such as political (anti-imperialism), economic (anti-capitalism), religious (anti-Christian, or anti-secular), cultural (anti-Hollywood), or ethical (anti-"Western decadence"). It can be harbored by Americans themselves or by non-Americans.

Mere opposition to American policies and attitudes in any or all of these categories, is not sufficient to constitute anti-Americanism. They become anti-Americanism when the individuals or peoples affected see them as so pervasive and unremitting as to threaten indigenous values.

Anti-Americanism can vary from mere dislike and disapproval of America, such as has been at times exhibited by many Europeans, to extreme violence, such as that shown by some terrorists. The causes of anti-Americanism vary widely, indeed anti-Americanism can be motivated by completely opposed points of view: for example, dislike of America because it is "overly religious", or because it is "overly secular and irreligious".

Ultimately, the many disparate phenomena that have been labelled 'anti-Americanism' have little in common other than some degree of opposition to the US. It is misleading to place together under one label all people, ideologies, and attitudes opposed to various US policies or habits, particulary since America's people themselves hold very diverse values.

Some people believe anti-Americanism is rooted in envy as much as in any legitimate grievance. They note that similar feelings have been held towards every other nation that has gained prominence over its contemporaries. Example include Spain (Black Legend), Great Britain, Imperial China, and the Roman Empire.

"It's quite easy to explain why America is unpopular in Europe. It's because you are rich, powerful and unbeatable. Everyone hates you if you are rich, powerful and unbeatable. A hundred years ago everyone hated the British Empire because it ruled the world. Now it is the turn of the Americans. It comes with the job. The only difference is that we British seemed to quite enjoy being disliked, whereas you Americans don't like it at all." (Malcolm Muggeridge[?], circa 1958)

Many critics of the United States, however, have many very specific criticisms, listed below. Legitimate criticism of America should never be confused with xenophobia, as all countries are criticised at certain times.

A survey conducted in 2003 on behalf of journalists in 10 countries explored anti-Americanism, and revealed a huge gap between how Americans view themselves, and how they are viewed by others. This gap has widened dramatically during the presidency of George W. Bush. 96% of Americans believe that people in other countries want to live in the United States. By contrast, an average of 19% of people in other countries said that they would move to the United States if they had the opportunity. Details of this study are available at http://www.cbc.ca/news/america/ .

Table of contents

Possible causes of Anti-American feelings:

American economic philosophy

America has always been a capitalist nation with a strong focus on self-sufficiency, competitive markets, and individualism. Some countries and people do not share these philosophies, and believe American capitalism is a deeply flawed system that creates massive inequalities. They accuse America of perpetuating and promoting this flawed economic system across the globe, and fighting against the forces of socialism, marxism, and communism. During the Cold War this was often the primary criticism of the United States, especially in countries with Communist, or pro-Communist regimes.

American domestic policy

In some countries, particularly in Europe, American retention of capital punishment contributes to the general view that the United States continues to engage in barbarous practices. All European countries except Belarus have abolished capital punishment. Europeans often profess being shocked by the widespread popular support it continues to have in the United States. Especially in Europe, people perceive a contradiction between America's insistence on human rights around the world and refusing to abolish the death penalty domestically.

There is also a widespread belief outside America, that American society is obsessed by violence. Foreigners, especially Europeans, are often perplexed by America's liberal laws on gun ownership, and interpret this, along with the relatively high rates of murder and violent crime, plus the often violent content of American films and TV programmes, as meaning that American society has widespread tolerance and acceptance of violence.

The War on Drugs is also considered an oppressive activity by many who are socially liberal, both within and outside of the United States. It has resulted in an enormous prison population, much of it composed of nonviolent and lower-class drug offenders. A significant minority of the American population views the War on Drugs as a second Prohibition. It has also resulted in damaging international pressure and intervention directed against other countries involved in the drug trade, such as Colombia.

Americans have the highest per-capita consumption of resources and energy in the world, and the fact that the U.S. government does not take decisive action to curb this use creates hostility.

American foreign policy

One of the major reasons for anti-Americanism is American foreign policy. Both before and after it became the most powerful nation in the world, America has often opposed or attacked governments and countries, while sometimes changing its position towards a country or government over time. While the interference with foreign countries itself has angered many, apparent inconsistency in the policies - seemingly to fit American political or economic interests - has angered many more. Often cited is the United States support of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein during his war against Iran. When the Senate passed a bill to condemn the Iraqi use of poison gas then president Ronald Reagan threatened to veto the bill if it passed the House. They also remark that the United States supported the Afghan Mujahedeen during that country's occupation by the Soviet Union, and that it subsequently supported the Taliban until 1998. To exacerbate matters, George W. Bush's use of the word "crusade" to characterize his war on terrorism has not escaped the attention of many Muslims.

Another major cause of anti-American sentiment, especially in the Muslim world, is what many people around the world see as America's blind support for Israel. American intervention in the Arab-Israeli conflict is widely seen as being unfair and biased towards Israel and against the Palestinians. For instance, America is quick to criticise Palestinian terror attacks against Israeli civillians, but usually turns a blind eye towards attacks by the Israeli army against Palestinian civillians, and refuses to criticise Israeli wrongdoings. This issue causes huge anger and resentment against America throughout the Muslim world, who believe that America is, as they see it, propping up Israeli tyranny against muslims. There is also a widespread belief in the Arab world that America's support for Israel is motivated by a racist bias against Arabs.

Another cause of resentment against America in the Middle East is that America supports regimes in many Middle-Eastern countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan that are unpopular with many people in those countries, and are seen as oppressive and tyrannical.

America has frequently supported dictatorships, coups or insurgent movements in Latin America, and has on many occasions even invaded Latin American countries "for their own good" on the pretext of preventing the spread of Communism in the Americas or stemming the drug trade. This self-appointed status as saviour has roots that go back to the paternalistic Monroe Doctrine.

The American CIA provided significant support for the 1973 military coup in Chile by General Augusto Pinochet. Many of Pinochet's officers, some of whom were also informants for the CIA, were involved in systematic and widespread human rights abuses. This has caused considerable resentment of the United States particularly on the part of leftists who were fond of Salvador Allende, the elected Marxist president that Pinochet deposed.

The U.S. also provided support for the Contras, a guerilla force which attempted to overthrow Nicaragua's Sandinista government. U.S. President Ronald Reagan, after failing to achieve necessary Congressional support to legally fund the Contras, resorted to funding them through arms sales to Iran, in violation of U.S. law, resulting in the Iran Contra Affair. These incidents, again, have fueled resentment especially of American conservatives. Reagan and the Iran-Contra Affair have been seen as symbols of the evils of American conservatism.

The official (American government) view, which is shared by many Americans -- particularly more conservative Americans -- is that American influence (or interference) in Latin American countries was necessary to stop the spread of tyrannical Communism. Others, particularly American liberals, would argue that America's main primary interest was economic, and that it was willing to do anything, including supporting the overthrow of democratically-elected governments and assisting death squads in carrying out large scale murder, to further American corporations with interests in the region.

America's treatment and use of international institutions such as the United Nations is often seen as self-serving and hypocritical in other countries. Critics point to non-payment of UN dues and ignoring of International Court of Justice decisions against America on the one hand, and to enthusiastic embrace of international trials against foreign (but not alleged domestic) war criminals and UN sanction mechanisms against official enemies on the other. America's veto power in the United Nations Security Council has repeatedly been used to prevent censure of Israel, thereby angering Arab countries and those supporting them in the Israel-Arab conflict.

Some countries, such as France, also dislike very much the fact America has used the veto power in the United Nations Security Council more often than any other country, but consider it an offensive move that their allies could use the veto against an American proposition. They claim being allies does not necessary imply blindly accepting any American proposition they disagree with.

The political and financial ($4 billion annually) American support for Israel is another major source of anti-Americanism in the Arab world.

The continuing embargo against Cuba is seen by a broad range of people as vindictive - and hypocritical in the face of China retaining most-favoured-nation trading status. The 1996 Helms-Burton Act[?], an attempt to force all other countries to participate in the embargo by allowing American citizens and corporations to sue foreigners who do business with Cuba, was interpreted by American liberals as an offense against national sovereignty, and a violation of World Trade Organization rules. And while President Clinton suspended central portions of that act, and President Bush has continued its suspension, the act's mere existence is offensive to many.

The U.S. government annually certifies whether other countries cooperate in its War On Drugs; countries which do not cooperate are sanctioned economically and diplomatically. This annual review is seen as offensive by many foreign countries, most notably by Mexico.

Many small and poor countries -- which lack nuclear weapons -- consider America's efforts to prevent the further proliferation of nuclear weapons to be a thinly veiled attempt to maintain its military advantage. America and most Western countries counter that these efforts benefit all because proliferation would destabilize many conflict regions, most of them involving poor countries.

The Pentagon pledged in May 2003 that their Terrorist Information Awareness programme would include safeguards to protect the civil liberties of American Citizens. No such undertaking was made in respect of the rights of citizens of any other country. Such behaviour might be taken as supporting the view that Americans consider foreigners to be less worthy of respect than themselves.

Some countries, like China, dislike US to be involved in what it considered as its internal affairs. For example, US selling weapons to Taiwan and its deep involvement in the Taiwan issue has been seen as offensive by the Chinese government. China is also not happy that while the U.S. government always criticizes on China's human right status, it chooses to neglect human right problems in many other countries and also in the United States itself.

American Funding of paramilitary groups

America has a history of supplying funds for paramilitary groups which are called freedom fighters by the donors and their allies, but regarded as extremists[?] or terrorists by the victims and their allies. Such funding may be provided by the government, by private citizens, or by a combination of the two.

It has been widely alleged that the American government has been arming and training right-wing paramilitary groups in Colombia who have been accused of widespread human rights violations, to deal with left-wing rebels who control much of that country.

Even a close ally like the United Kingdom has been the target of such action: there is a long history of Americans openly raising funds for both the Provisional Irish Republican Army and the Real Irish Republican Army. Funds for these groups are commonly raised by Irish-Americans[?], such as (it has sometimes been alleged) members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians[?], who feel a patriotic sense of involvement in The Troubles in Northern Ireland. (It should be noted that no American government has ever approved of or supported this activity, and that, in general, America has tried to help resolve problems in Ireland, rather than add to them.)

Funds have also been raised for the far right-wing British National Party by the American Friends of the British National Party[?], in a manner denounced as illegal on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean by the Southern Poverty Law Center in America and by Labour MPs in the United Kingdom.

American religious attitudes

Religion, especially in its more conservative or fundamentalist forms, is stronger in America than in much of the rest of the Western world. People who fear or dislike religious extremism, conservatism, or religion in general are believed by American conservatives to have anti-American attitudes as a result.

Some countries resent very much hearing some americans stating America moral superiority over the rest of the world, and reject the vision of some American leaders seeing the role of America as being the nation responsible for preserving the world from what they see as "Evil". They are further pushed by American Congress adopting the resolution of a day of prayer to ensure the divine protection of America against terrorism and its soldiers, which lead them to see Bush as a illuminate leading a religious croisage. They question the official position of separation of church and state.

In contrast, people from cultures that have still stronger religious beliefs, Islamic cultures in particular, find offensive the vision of an America religious tolerance and diversity, and its official separation of church and state.

American hypocrisy

US politicians and industrial leaders are fond of citing principles such as free trade, free speech and democracy, which are held to be universally beneficial. However in practice their actions often do not support such principles. Free trade is perceived as being restricted to protecting uncompetitive industry, e.g., the imposition of tariffs on steel of up to 30% in March 2002, or earlier examples for agricultural products. Democracy is undermined by the American support for repressive regimes and other actions as described above.

American popular culture

Popular culture -- contemporary music, television, films, books, and more recently, web sites and other computer-based media -- is one of America's most successful and probably its most visible export. There is an enormous American "trade surplus" in cultural matters. In countries without strong cultural protection laws, American music, films, and television programs appear far more frequently than other countries' music, films, and television programs appear in the United States.

In many countries, such media carry a large body of material that embodies values considerably different from those of much of the viewing public. From a common European intellectual perspective, many American dramatic narratives are overly violent, schizophrenic about sex (combining prudery and exploitation), and portray simplistic attitudes to good and evil. In fairness, most of the American population agrees with them on at least some of such complaints. Also, there is some amount of ambivalence among Europeans on such issues.

Another concern is the sheer volume of American cultural export, irrespective of any specific concerns with content, which has profound homogonising effects on societies, limiting opportunities for diverse and original perspectives.

Meanwhile, other societies, notably Islamic societies see popular Western culture, and popular American culture above all, as propaganda for a secular, sexually and socially libertine society. As such, they also object to American values portrayed in popular culture, though the American values they perceive as present are almost precisely the opposite of those which European cultural critics dislike.

America's political, business, and diplomatic establishment largely views culture as a commodity to be freely traded just like any other, and heavily lobbies foreign governments to remove trade barriers erected to protect non-American cultures. American lack of understanding of foreign sensitivities to cultural imperialism is a source of great resentment.

At least in part because popular culture products have become such a significant export industry for the United States, the United States has been steadily increasing the restrictiveness of its copyright laws to help support its entertainment industry at the expense of several previously protected rights. Examples include enforcing the use of DVD region coding[?] to restrict the import of DVDs from foreign markets (permitted by "first sale" doctrine) or the use of "copy prevention" techniques on compact discs to prevent music from being converted to other formats for use by the CD's owner. This has led to significant pressures upon other nations to do likewise, to such an extent that in January 2002 the U.S. imposed punitive economic sanctions on Ukraine because they failed to pass stricter domestic copyright laws. China, on the other hand, continued to retain most-favored-nation trading status despite being widely recognized as the largest center of intellectual property violation in the world. See also: WIPO, Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act

The American way of life

Americans are well-known for their pride in their standard of living as well as their country's achievements, and for their allegiance to at least some of the ideals of the founders of the country, now often taken for granted in most of the industrialized world, such as freedom and equal justice under the law. It is not infrequently said that American patriotism is the first patriotism founded on a set of political ideals, rather than on nationalism or ethnicity. Patriotism in the U.S. often appears offensively arrogant to the rest of the world. For example, American politicians sometimes call America the "greatest nation that has ever existed on the face of the Earth". It is worth noting in this connection that patriotism and nationalism exist all throughout the world, but is moderated in most countries by extensive foreign media content (something that the US does not have), and that no other country has been as successful in the wholesale export of its view through the modern mass media.

The fact that girls in America are educated along with boys, that women can go out in public unescorted by male relatives, and that women have the same rights as men, including the right to vote and to serve in the armed forces, is also at odds with many religious or cultural traditions of some democratic and non-democratic countries. Such rights however are neither exclusive to, nor originated in, America but are common in much of the Western world, it is thus unlikely that such concerns are sufficient motivation for specifically anti-American sentiment.

America and the environment

The American way of life is seen by environmentalists everywhere as wasteful and environmentally irresponsible. There are significant bodies of research that support this conclusion. Some Americans defend themselves by claiming that this criticism stems more from envy than from a genuine concern for the environment; however, statistics indicate that the 4% of the worlds population within the United States does use a disproportionately massive amount of the world's resources; it also creates 25% of the world's pollution. In 1997, the U.S. Senate voted 95-0 that the United States should not become a party to the Kyoto Protocol unless developing nations are subject to scheduled limits or reductions of greenhouse gases. This refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol is often quoted as an example of America's irresponsibility in this area.

History of anti-Americanism in the United States

Modern Anti-Americanism abroad

See also:

References

  • Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire by Chalmers Johnson
  • Anti-americanism by Paul Hollander

External links



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