August 25, 2007

I'd be walking away from a nutcase, too.

In the current issue of the New Yorker, Adam Gopnik has an interesting piece on the new French president, Nicolas Sarkozy and how France is changing under his presidency. Buried at the end of the article is what I'd argue is the most important part of Gopnik's whole piece—for those of us who live in the US, anyway:

The catastrophe in Iraq has had an unlooked-for effect: not to stoke anti-Americanism in a new generation but to make America seem almost marginal. For almost two hundred years, Americanization in Europe has been synonymous with modernizationóthatís why the Statue of Liberty stands in New York Harbor, as a gift of the Third French Republic, the fraught state that appeared after Louis-Napoleonís Second Empire failed. It was a gift not from a complacent old world to a nascent new one but from a newborn republic to one that, after its civil war, was firm and coherent. The point wasnít that Europe would not abandon us; it was that we would not abandon old Europe to the despots.

Now, for the first time, itís possible to imagine modernization as something independent of Americanization: when people in Paris talk about ambitious kids going to study abroad, they talk about London. (Americans have little idea of the damage done by the ordeal that a routine run through immigration at J.F.K. has become for Europeans, or by the suspicion and hostility that greet the most anodyne foreigners who come to study or teach at our scientific and educational institutions.) When people in Paris talk about manufacturing might, they talk about China; when they talk about tall buildings, they talk about Dubai; when they talk about troubling foreign takeovers, they talk about Gazprom. The Sarkozy-Gordon Brown-Merkel generation is not unsympathetic to America, but America is not so much the primary issue for them, as it was for Blair and Chirac, in the nineties, when America was powerful beyond words. To a new leadership class, it sometimes seems that America is no longer the human bomb you have to defuse but the nut you walk away from. [Emphasis added]

Yet another thing we have Dubya's administration to thank for: Going from being the so-called world's only superpower to a new life as the crazy guy on the international block in only six years.

Posted by Magpie at August 25, 2007 10:43 PM | War on Terrorism | TrackBack(1) | Technorati links |
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