Anti-anti-American chic

The excellent No Left Turns directed me to this piece from the New Yorker by Adam Gopnik about the ascent of the anti-anti-Americans in Paris. In Parisian terms, this “ascent” does not mean that anti-Americanism is not the prevalent view in France. It means only that anti-Americanism has become boring — “a routine of resentment, a passionless Pavlovianism. . .a muttered feeling [with] no life as an idea or an argument.” According to Gopnik:
“Far more lucid and arresting, and just as likely to sell books and get attention, are the views of the anti-anti-Americans — that small but loud bunch of philosophers and journalists who share the American conviction that September 11th was an epoch-making event and that how open societies react to it will help determine how open they get to remain. Though members of this group can be counted on the fingers of one hand (with room left over for a thumb and a pinkie) they are in a way the most potent of contemporary French thinkers.”
Naturally the anti-anti-Americans think that the Americans have gotten much of it wrong. Here is the renowned Bernard-Henri Levy:
“Iraq was a false target, a mistaken target. Saddam, yes, is a terrible butcher, and we can only be glad that he is gone. But he is a twentieth century butcher — an old-fashioned secular tyrant, who made an easy but irrelevant target. His boasting about having weapons of mass destruction and then being unable to really build them or keep them is typical — he is just a gangster, who lived by fear and for money. Saddam has almost nothing to do with the real threat. We [an abuse of the first-person plural, don’t you think] were attacking an Iraq that was already largely disarmed. Meanwhile, in some Pakistani bazaar, someone as we speak is trading a Russian miniaturized nuclear-weapon.”
And here is Andre Glucksmann:
“No completely defensible cause has ever been so poorly defended as this. The great mistake was to settle for the absurd argument about weapons of mass destruction. Had the appeal for war been made on straightforwrd humanitarian grounds — the case against Saddam, this guy is a killer, we can do something about him and we must — I know it would have worked in France.”
Dream on Andre. That case wouldn’t even have persuaded Levi (see above).
Still, this stuff is a helluva better than Jacques Derrida, especially when it comes time to talk about France. Here is Levi:
“The French opposition to the war was opportunist in part, rational in part, but mostly rooted in a desire not to know. What dominates France is not the presence of some anti-Americanism, but an enormous absence — the absence of any belief aside from a handful of corporatist reflexes.”
And Glucksmann: “In France, the problem, more than a will against America, is a will to hide — to hope not to be seen at all. But it is insane for the French to see all this as somehow apart from them. . . .To imagine that we are somehow immune is not only crazy in principle — it is the direct opposite of what we know to be the facts.”


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