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Euro-Scorn in the Age of Obama

Charles Lane writes well of European criticism toward Obama in the wake of Bin Ladin's death in today's WaPo:

By ordering a covert raid on Pakistan that resulted in Osama bin Laden's death at the hands of Navy SEALs, Obama has earned the kind of condemnation Europe's cognoscenti once reserved for his predecessor, George W. Bush.

And nowhere is the chorus more moralistic than in Germany, where former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, a Social Democrat, has pronounced the action "clearly a violation of international law." The quality press is full of carping and quibbling. Handelsblatt called the raid "an act that violates both the international prohibition of force and humanitarian law." Der Spiegel, under the headline "Justice, American Style," reports an expert's view that it's "questionable whether the USA can still claim to be engaged in an armed conflict with al-Qaida." Elsewhere in the same journal, a reporter calls NewYork celebrations of bin Laden's death "reminiscent of Muslims celebrating in the Gaza Strip after the 9/11 attacks."

Lane comes close to identifying the cultural rift by noting:

It never occurs to [German critics] that Americans might not be celebrating bin Laden's death as such but the suddenly real chance that a long and costly struggle could end -- and end in victory, no less.

While some Americans reveled in the death itself, it is unmistakable that Bin Laden was the most symbolic personification of Islamic terrorism in the minds of most Americans. He was murderous, unrepentant and irritatingly beyond our ability to exterminate. His defeat, therefore, provides hope (as Obama smiles) to Americans that the greater evil can be overcome in the same manner as its emissary.

Europe will always stew in its taciturn brooding when America succeeds where they could not, and Obama was always wrongly confident that his post-American persona would alter this condition. Lane commends Obama's leadership and suggests that "he, like his predecessor, should wear [European scorn] as a badge of honor." This will not happen, not only because Obama is incapable of expressing any commonality with Bush, but because Obama likely sympathizes with his European critics.

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Discussions - 8 Comments

I think events suggest his sympathy with his Euro-critics might have certain boundaries. (N.B. Jimmy Carter couldn't abide Helmut Schmidt either).

Twice in a day . . . But A.D. Is right. Obama is not a European at heart. He is unmistakably American in his instincts here, even if he insists on being sheepish about it later. That's not un-American either, by the way. That instinct to question and compare ourselves to the old world is a constant theme in our history . . . even if it is often a lamentable one.

I think Obama is, in this instance, torn between two lovers. But only one of those lovers has the power to re-elect him and he's not insensible to that. He can buy the other one flowers of apology later.

Folks always accuse Obama of being proffesorial, and then overreact. I wonder what the reaction would have been if Hilary Clinton and Leon Panetta hadn't kept him from giving his actual speech.

Seems to me that if we Americans ever want to truly learn how to kill those we deem our foes with ruthless,soulless, and emotionless efficiency, then, yes, I think we should look to the Germans for advice. Until then, I don't mind saying "good riddance to bad rubbish", with now and then an extra little helping of gusto thrown in on the side.

Because, you see, in America we were figure out that there actually is a middle ground between trying to conquer the entire world and being a doormat to anyone with an eye towards treating people like doormats. Hopefully one day Europe will too. I bet the Eastern half already has.

Please add an "able to" between " were" and "figure": i.e., "in America we were able to figure out"

To be clear, in my original, since I don't think I was, upon looking at it--I was trying to refer to the German comments about our celebrating publicly.

To which I say I will gladly yield to Germany any pride of place in being able to kill without being overly affected by it one way or the other--to kill with mechanized efficiency. Whether today's Germany chooses to accept the honor is another thing entirely.

The Germans are an odd class of people, but they have very good beer.

Condoleezza Rice said that bin Laden's death should be seen as the continuity between the two presidencies which I think is a right way of look at the issue. But above all it should be regarded as a kind of satisfaction for the families who lost their relatives on that terrible day.

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