Pavlovian anti-Americanism

Joséphine Baker in Pantheon

          Like the reflex of the same qualifier, Pavlovian anti-Americanism is always present. Against the backdrop of war in Ukraine, where the future of the European continent is at stake, some people prefer to turn their darts in the direction of the «US control over Europe» as the ultimate outcome of an «old dream of domination».

Anti-Americanism is not new in France. It is partly a phenomena of amnesia on the part of the oldest ally in a common history rooted in the independence of the American colonies and magnified by the liberation of 1945. It may have been nourished, though not its purpose, by a certain Gaullist discourse of extreme susceptibility about independence. The French who, at the same time, dreamed of the American civilization popularized in particular by the cinema finally loved a country that they really discovered thanks to increasingly accessible travel.

This has not prevented powerful relapses of a condition that has never completely disappeared. And it cannot be otherwise in the sense that the powerful “protector” within NATO is an empire whose interests can only be selfish: the Bretton Woods institutions and even the Marshall Plan had this purpose; Closer to us in the summer of 2021, the withdrawal without concertation, and even consultation, from Afghanistan confirmed this recurring behaviour of a country acting lone . 

France, for its part, has had its share of disappointments. Australia’s cancellation of the “Of the Century” submarine contract – providing for the manufacture of 12 Barracuda submarines by Naval Group – was felt as an affront by the most militarily present European power in the Indo-Pacific region, not to mention 1,600,000 French living in the region. The establishment of the AUKUS alliance under the impetus of the United States, between the latter country, Australia and the United Kingdom, has reduced in the field to ashes the strategic partnership between France and Australia marked by the visit of the President of the French Republic in May 2018 and many agreements in the security and economic field.

On the international level in general, a “Suez syndrome” may never have been completely overcome and some analysts consider that it is the residue of such trauma that still fuels orientations such as the objective of a European “strategic autonomy”. But we should also talk about economic competition where the term “allies” no longer makes sense. Everyone has in mind the extra-territorial application of American laws, as in the case of the BNP bank sentenced to pay $9 billion in penalties for transactions in dollars in Iran, which were perfectly legal under European regulations. Equally shocking, in another area, for the opinion was the revelation in 2016 of the listening, over a long period, by the American Security Agency (NSA) of the French leaders, a part of the political class or diplomats and other officials, with the assistance of the intelligence services of a European country reputed friendly and close to France.

But the transatlantic relationship remains intangible despite so many grievances and recriminations. The cultural differences between Europe and the French are often even deluded about the proximity of their French-speaking “cousins” in Canada, who in reality are first and foremost North Americans. But the concept of the Euro-Atlantic «community» is not an empty word and the emergence of great autocratic powers helps to recall such proximity. It is on this basis that the disturbances experienced by American democracy, the risks of a regression of the right, are felt in Europe. if necessary, by a Supreme Court that has become more conservative because of the appointments made under the Trump presidency or the tragedies caused by the liberalization of the arms trade, not to mention the death penalty still in force in some States of the Federation.

General de Gaulle, who was extremely concerned about France’s independence and who probably never overcame the difficult relationship he had with President Roosevelt throughout the Second World War, was often characterized by his anti-Americanism. In reality, everyone knows that he was always the first to side with the United States in major crises, such as those in Berlin or Cuba. He greatly respected President Eisenhower, was fascinated like everyone else by the Kennedy couple and appreciated Richard Nixon whom he tried to advise on the settlement of the Vietnamese affair. 

The context is no longer the same and it is not certain that the war in Ukraine will give rise in the long term to a “resurrection” of NATO and a lasting “return” of the United States to Europe, whose priority, until obsession, remains China. It is therefore desirable that the crisis be resolved as quickly as possible so that a new “iron curtain” is not erected on the European continent. It is clear that between American selfishness and the risk of hegemony of a powerful dictatorship the choice will always be made in the same direction. But we must look further into the long-term interest of a European geostrategic entity whose limits to the East could one day turn out to be Asian.

(Published on on 27.05.2022)


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