Department of huh?

by Chris Bertram on March 9, 2008

“Decent left” columnist Nick Cohen, writing for Pajamas Media , and explaining the alleged fact, that, unlike continental Europeans, the British are not keen on Obama:

A more convincing explanation to my mind is that European support for Obama is tied to levels of anti-Americanism, and despite all Bush has thrown at them, the British are not as anti-American as the continentals have become.

And the test of how anti-American people are? It is whether they support, retrospectively, Israel’s bombing of Saddam’s nuclear reactor:

At a recent meeting in London Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former CIA officer, elegantly calibrated attitudes to the US. He spoke all over North America and Europe and whenever the subject of an aggressive foreign policy came up he asked audiences whether Israel had been right to take out Saddam Hussein’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981. In America, virtually everyone was in favor. Whatever their politics, they reasoned that a totalitarian regime was about to get the bomb and, obviously the West should stop it. In Germany, virtually everyone was against — “even the hawks are pacifists,” he said. In France, audiences split 80 per cent against, 20 in favor — “which was good of the 20 per cent considering Chirac had built the reactor in the first place.” In Britain, people divided evenly.

[Hat tip DW and MT.]

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The War Party’s curious affinity for the War Party « Splintered Sunrise
03.11.08 at 4:53 pm

{ 35 comments }

1

SomeCallMeTim 03.09.08 at 6:29 pm

Cohen’s an ass who knows nothing about America. Of course his test of “anti-American” is going to be idiotic.

2

Dan 03.09.08 at 6:38 pm

There’s hardly a shortage of data on attitudes towards America (roughly: Britain is towards the pro-American end of the European spectrum, but not by a huge distance)

As for coolness toards Obama: I haven’t noticed it (I’m a Brit), but I doubt my friends are representative.

3

Naadir Jeewa 03.09.08 at 6:39 pm

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t support Obama. A friend of mine who migrated from East London to the sticks in Ohio convinced all his new rural friends to register as Democrats and vote for Obama too.

I agree with the previous commenter. Cohen is an ass.
Are you setting up dsquared for something?

4

Grand Moff Texan 03.09.08 at 7:12 pm

If Obama is elected, Saddam will be dancing in his nuclear reactor.

Or … something.
.

5

Michael Bérubé 03.09.08 at 7:26 pm

Well, wouldn’t you expect that anti-American continentals would support the most anti-American candidate? And there’s no way Obama would have bombed that reactor, since he was named after it by his father Saddam. So Cohen’s train of thought makes sense to me.

6

roger 03.09.08 at 7:35 pm

Is Cohen threatening America with a loss of his support (oh noes!) if we elect Obama?

My god. I was for Obama until this moment. How this country will ever get along without the militant solidarity of Comrade Cohen, Comrade Geras and the revolutionary crewe at Harry’s place is beyond me. There should be headlines!

Hey, and speaking of indecent decents, what was up with Michael Walzer’s incoherent post on the american terrorist group, Blackwater, suggesting that he might reluctantly support them going over to Darfur – I guess to stage some fun massacres.

Walzer’s long ago wandered into the dark bogs of liberal interventionism, but I thought that even he would hesitate before throwing his ‘moral’ weight behind Blackwater – which, in a show of real stupidity, he compares to the International Brigades in Spain.

The man seems to have lost it. I expect the merger of Telos, Dissent and the Euston Manifesto any day now.

7

leederick 03.09.08 at 7:43 pm

I think Obama seems very early Blair. Very charismatic and good at giving lots of speeches about hope and so on. If I were trying to explain British scepticism, I’d remember that they’ve been burnt by that sort of thing once before.

8

Demon 03.09.08 at 7:51 pm

When Israel struck Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981, the Reagan administration joined the other members of the UN Security Council in condemning the Israeli action.

Osirak Redux The American Conservative

Also in 1981, Israel bombed the Iraqi reactor at Osirak. Reagan was furious and the U.S. supported the UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel.

Reagan’s legacy on Israel Israel Insider

President Ronald Reagan qualifies as anti-American?

9

Tom Hurka 03.09.08 at 8:00 pm

Retrospectively, wasn’t the bombing of the Osirak reactor a pretty good thing? No one was hurt — as they would have been had the Israelis waited until the reactor was operational. And without the bombing, Saddam might well have had a nuclear weapon in 1991; as it was, he was only a couple of years away. That would have made the Gulf War a very different thing.

The opinion numbers are interesting. In 1990-91 British public opinion was more pro-Gulf War than US opinion, which was pretty evenly split. (Remember that close Senate vote.) Yet now, recalling an earlier event directly relevant to the Gulf War, British opinion is much less pro. I guess things change …

10

"Q" the Enchanter 03.09.08 at 8:10 pm

In the relevant idiolect, you are “American” if you are among the dwindling minority of Americans who support Bush, and “anti-American” if you are among those in the vast remainder.

Hope that clears things up some.

11

abb1 03.09.08 at 8:10 pm

Еlegantly calibrated? L-o-l.

12

Matthew 03.09.08 at 8:11 pm

“Retrospectively, wasn’t the bombing of the Osirak reactor a pretty good thing?”

Maybe, but is that the best test of whether someone is anti-American or not?

Also is it true no-one was hurt? I thought a number of Iraqi soldiers and a french worker were killed.

13

Pope Ratzo 03.09.08 at 8:16 pm

Is he really saying that supporting Obama is a measure of how “anti-American” someone is?

I hope I bump into Mr. Cohen sometime. I would like to give him some instruction in patriotism.

14

roger 03.09.08 at 8:43 pm

PS – Chriss, when you divulge the transitory lunacies of the decents, you should always end with a link to the Decentpedia – you after all introduced the decentpedia to CT readers. This is a good summary of the current state of play among this dwindling band.

15

luci 03.09.08 at 9:03 pm

“the test of how anti-American people are? It is whether they support, retrospectively, Israel’s bombing of Saddam’s nuclear reactor”

Maybe he just got “America” and “Israel” confused in his head.

But giving him the benefit of the doubt, he could be saying that whether or not a country generally supports an “aggressive foreign policy” (he means preemptive defensive attacks) is a good predictor of whether or not the country is generally anti-American. (Which could make sense, but you’d wanna know what attitudes were before the Iraq invasion too).

And this “support for an aggressive foreign policy” could be measured (elegantly, by serious, decent, honest people of good faith) by a country’s support for Israel’s bombing of Iraq.

He offers no evidence that Britain is any different than the continentals in level of support for Obama. Nor why voting for Obama is the more anti-American choice. I guess if you love your country, you believe, after much soul-searching and very serious thought, that all its preemptive invasions are for the good.

16

Dave Weeden 03.09.08 at 9:26 pm

While I’ve complained about Gordon Brown ducking a Labour Party election (I’ve less of a problem with his not being elected nationally, because British Prime Ministers aren’t), I don’t think anyone who can write as Nick Cohen did, “I won’t bore you with the details, just remind you that Britain is not a very democratic country” can lecture anyone about patriotism. Do we need invaded or something?

I’ll try not to bore Americans with the details of that election in 2000 or how Lee Harvey Oswald put LBJ in the White House.

17

Steve LaBonne 03.09.08 at 9:53 pm

Any foreigner who supports BushCo (and McSame) is objectively anti-American. (I’m only half-joking.)

18

Richard Laversuch 03.09.08 at 10:01 pm

Anti-Americanism is unconscious jealousy of the American way of life and the result of faulty understanding of geo-politics.
Europeans invented fascism and communism. The most immediate threat to the world now again comes from the most extreme of anti-Americans, Islamic jihadists. America will continue to spearhead the cause of freedom, democracy and social justice.

19

will u. 03.09.08 at 10:01 pm

And it’s not like Obama has said he would undertake similar unilateral military action in — oh, I don’t know, Pakistan or somewhere.

20

Matt McIrvin 03.09.08 at 10:39 pm

I’m getting the impression that there actually isn’t a pervasive British coolness toward Obama, but there is a pervasive British belief that there is a pervasive British coolness toward Obama.

21

abb1 03.09.08 at 11:07 pm

Anti-Americanism is unconscious jealousy of the American way of life

Actually, it’s not true. I find anti-American cultural stereotyping in Europe surprisingly well-natured and and definitely jealousy free. Believe it or not.

22

Flying Rodent 03.09.08 at 11:07 pm

Nick Cohen and Pajamas Media… It was only a matter of time, wasn’t it?

23

bigTom 03.09.08 at 11:37 pm

There is certainly no doubt, that Obama has experienced the dislike for American/British imperialistic policies, in a way that no member of the Washington/London foreign policy establishment has. For all those who think that recent US policy has been jolly on target, that would be considered to be an indicator of a potential traitor. For the rest of us, and most of the world, it would be a long awaited breath of fresh air.

24

nick s 03.10.08 at 12:24 am

I think Obama seems very early Blair.

It’s not a great analogy, those who remember 1997 may, like me, have a few déjà vu moments. The 2004 election certainly felt like Britain/1992, in the sense that whoever won was likely to suffer the consequences.

I think matt @20 is on the mark, though my friends back home tend to ask ‘where the heck did he come from?’, judging Obama’s rise by the false metric of British political careers.

As for Cohen? Phoning it in.

25

Matt McIrvin 03.10.08 at 2:32 am

How I managed to figure that out from all the way over here, I’ll never know.

26

jay bee 03.10.08 at 9:01 am

posted on Sunday, March 9th, 2008 at 6:23 pm ??

Surely not Chris? Wasn’t that you at the Memorial Ground “gesturing” to the BBC camera?

27

Alex 03.10.08 at 2:01 pm

There is an argument that Iraq shifted its nuclear efforts from the reactor->plutonium->gun-type route to the centrifuge->HEU->implosion device route after the Osirak raid and therefore made faster progress afterwards, but I don’t feel qualified to evaluate it.

28

Ginger Yellow 03.10.08 at 3:49 pm

The Obama/Blair comparison doesn’t really hold, if you ask me. Blair’s defining characteristic during his rise to power was his willingness, indeed his desperation, to pick fights with the “base” of the Labour party. Obama doesn’t do that. Yes, he reaches out to the other side, at least rhetorically, more than the base would like, but he hasn’t proposed anything like abolishing Clause 4. On the contrary, it’s Clinton who has gone out of her way to alienate diehard liberals, although she does that from the position of strong union and party establishment support.

29

Borwnie 03.10.08 at 5:22 pm

I think Obama seems very early Blair. Very charismatic and good at giving lots of speeches about hope and so on. If I were trying to explain British scepticism, I’d remember that they’ve been burnt by that sort of thing once before.

Three times, apparently. In succession.

Those crazy Brits…

30

abb1 03.10.08 at 6:11 pm

Retrospectively, wasn’t the bombing of the Osirak reactor a pretty good thing?

North Korea has shitload of plutonium and, presumably, nuclear weapons. So does Pakistan. It seems that all it means is that they are much more difficult to invade now. Is it a bad thing? Good thing? Pretty bad thing?

31

nick s 03.10.08 at 7:58 pm

ginger yellow@28: agreed that the lineage is different. But if there’s an equivalent to ‘Clause 4’, it might be ‘hawkishness’, and the idea that you can run a campaign without trying to out-hawk the GOP (see: 2004).

One irony, given the idiotic ‘Obama the Muslim’ shit flying around in email: Blair was pretty much a Catholic in pectore throughout his time as PM.

32

Dave 03.10.08 at 8:08 pm

Yeah, but unlike the monarchy, it’s not actually *illegal* for the PM to be RC. Just slightly nausea-inducing…

33

lemuel pitkin 03.10.08 at 8:54 pm

In all seriousness, I’m with abb1: the amin effect of a successful Iraqi nuclear program would have been no US invasion. Which everyone here, I think, agrees would be a better state of the world to be in.

Given that enormous destruction caused by US military interventions abroad, and the lack of international instituions capable of preventing them, it’s not only natural but quite desirable that “rogue nations” acquire nuclear deterrents. As an American I can honestly say that the more “outlaw” states have nuclear weapons the safer I’ll feel, because the fewer wars my country is likely to find itelf in.

34

Brownie 03.10.08 at 10:58 pm

Given that enormous destruction caused by US military interventions abroad, and the lack of international instituions capable of preventing them, it’s not only natural but quite desirable that “rogue nations” acquire nuclear deterrents. As an American I can honestly say that the more “outlaw” states have nuclear weapons the safer I’ll feel, because the fewer wars my country is likely to find itelf in.

I checked it 15 times, but yep, you did actually write that.

Sweet Jesus!

35

jj 03.11.08 at 3:38 am

It’s not just “the enormous destruction caused by US military interventions abroad” but the global destruction caused by European colonial interventions abroad, of which American military interventions are the current extension of five centuries of European policy, that motivate the rest of the (non-European) world to acquire their own deterrents. So yeah, I can see how the Mongol hordes (rogue nations) in Russia, China, Pakistan, India and Korea might feel marginally more secure with deterrence, given the record of its use and the rationale expressed to justify it.

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