Tuesday, March 23, 2004[posted by jaed at 2:07 PM]
The Great Divide (continued)
I've written before here about the submerged differences in fundamental assumptions between European and American political thinking, and how these tend to appear as unpleasant surprises in crisis situations, sometimes after a long period of both sides erroneously thinking they agreed with one another when, in reality, they were simply following the same path of action from completely different motives.
I've been thinking some more about this lately, and Mark Steyn has encapsulated one of this differences very neatly today:
When an American Jew stands at the gates of a former concentration camp and sees the inscription "Never again", he assumes it's a commitment never again to tolerate genocide. Alain Finkielkraut, a French thinker, says that those two words to a European mean this: never again the führers and duces who enabled such genocide. "Never again power politics. Never again nationalism. Never again Auschwitz" - a slightly different set of priorities. And over the years a revulsion against any kind of "power politics" has come to trump whatever revulsion post-Auschwitz Europe might feel about mass murder.Which sheds some light on the American indignation over European indifference to the bones in the mass graves of Saddam. As well as on the European indignation over American indifference to the differential of military, economic, and cultural power between America and Europe, and the European horror over Americans' open expression of patriotism.
The post-WWII alliance between western Europe and the US was thought by all concerned to rest on a fundamental philosophical accord, but - with these deep rifts in basic assumptions now popping up under the stress of circumstance - it seems to have been an alliance of convenience instead. With the USSR gone, Europe's dependence on the US went, and so did the relationship.