Anti-Americanism – House of Lords Debate

// October 10th, 2007 // Blog

Just read an interesting speech by Lord Saatchi on Anti-Americanism, which i C&Ped below… the full debate can be found here.

My Lords, I am most grateful to the usual channels for arranging this debate, and I thank noble Lords who are here to speak today. I am looking forward to the contributions of distinguished speakers and, with great anticipation, to hearing the responses of my noble friend Lord Howell and the Minister. I also thank the House of Lords Library and the Politeia think tank for their help with preparatory research for this evening's debate.

Americans today may be perplexed and confused about the way in which America is perceived in the world. They may feel like Josef K in Kafka's The Trial. Noble Lords will recall the opening lines:

“Someone must have laid false accusations against Josef K because one morning he was arrested without having done anything wrong”.

Accusations against America have spread into a global phenomenon, crossing borders, classes, religions and generations. A Pew Trusts research poll in 2005 concluded that anti-Americanism is deeper and broader than at any time in modern history.

America's critics can be heard everywhere. This is how they make their points—I have heard every one of them myself. America is too in love with money, worshipping the god of the market place, the golden calf. It has too much money: seven of the top 10 banks, eight of the top 10 companies, and so on. It is too stingy, giving away less of its wealth to poor countries than others. It is vulgar, a rich barbarian. It has a lowly culture yet practises cultural imperialism. It makes people dread “Americanization”. It is arrogant and condescending to what were called the “little monkeys” from other cultures. It is too religious, saying “God Bless America” once too often. It has too much power, spending more on arms than the rest of the world put together. It is a hypocrite, disguising its wars of self-interest as humanitarian interventions and exporting democracy at the point of a bayonet. It is inconsistent, agitating for regime change in some undemocratic countries but to others giving arms, aid and trade.

So it goes on. America has an incoherent foreign policy. It abandoned the “no first strike” principle which kept the peace for decades; pre-emption replaced deterrence but has no basis in international law. It is too close to Israel. It resists multilateral solutions, preferring unilateralism, hegemony, a sheriff strategy—”In guns we trust”. It has aroused the envy of Europeans, causing them to want to form a rival power bloc. It has hit an ideological brick wall: the Great Wall of China, where state capitalism works. It has not solved the mystery of Islam. And it is not even a democracy, as a 44 per cent turnout in presidential elections proves.

The accusations against America are endless. I have heard them all, all over the world. Speaking up for America has become a lonely ordeal. Perhaps the accusations are all untrue. Josef K protested his innocence on the basis that he was a victim of false perceptions; perhaps America could do the same. Unfortunately for America, all of us know the power of perception over reality, which is why David Kilcullen, seated at his desk in the counterinsurgency section on the second floor of the State Department building in Washington, was right to point out that, like the IRA before them, America's enemies today are “armed propaganda organisations”.

The jury of world opinion is no different from the jury in a court of law: it seeks motive and intent. It wants to hear America's true motive, and it wants it to be something good in the moral sense. We recall Alexis de Tocqueville's conclusion at the end of his famous voyage around America:

“America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great”.

That was why President Reagan, when he addressed another place, asked Americans never to allow themselves to be placed in a position of moral inferiority.

Today, whether the American motive is pure or not, the one certainty is that, in recent times, America has proved unequal to the task of expressing it. Before globalisation it was possible—at least in theory—for America to be isolationist. It was possible to say of another nation, as Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain said about Czechoslovakia in 1938, that it was:

“a faraway country of which we know little”.

Now there are no faraway countries, and there never will be again. Each day, we have a clear, stark and often alarming view of our multi-ethnic planet. Americans once brilliantly transcended the inherent fragility and insecurity of their own multi-ethnic community. In George Washington's own words:

“The bosom of America is open … to the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations and Religions”.

Woodrow Wilson called it,

“the great melting-pot of America”,

and made it the prototype of a diverse society. E pluribus unum: one out of many. My main point is that it is to the new melting pot of the world that America can bring, if only it can find a way to express it, its unique message.

America, as we know, was born out of a desire for self-determination, a longing for the human dignity that only independence can bring. That is what the pilgrim fathers hoped when, inspired by the scriptures, they announced their aim to create,

“a City upon a Hill”,

their new Jerusalem. Americans of all national origins, religions, creeds and colours would hold in common the ideals of the essential equality of all human beings, of inalienable rights to freedom, justice and opportunity. America would embrace meritocracy before hierarchy. Its frontier spirit would mean anyone could do well if they were determined. In America, nothing would be impossible. Americans would breathe free, with freedom of speech and thought for all men and women. These were the motives that made America the inspiration for so many millions of people: not its wealth, but its intense belief in its moral purpose.

Does the Minister agree with me that to disarm its enemies and defeat its rivals, America has only to focus its intellectual energy and vast economic resources on the policies which would help the world follow its lead; to find the language to project its founding ideology beyond its own shores; and to remind the world of its ultimate belief in self-determination, individuality and independence, and in democracy only as a means to that great end? To do that will require a marching tune that people can respond to, so that Americans can once again, as the pilgrim fathers intended, show the world the American way.

The outcome of the battle of ideas between Americanism and anti-Americanism will set the tone of the 21st century. It will be the decisive ideological struggle of our times. America has a fine ideology, but it has forgotten either what it is or how to express it. America today is a sleeping beauty. It is time to wake her up.

2 Responses to “Anti-Americanism – House of Lords Debate”

  1. iMuslim says:

    I don’t have any deep, thoughtful comments to make, but i do find it fascinating that a country, a set of borders, can be transformed into a supposedly unique array of ideas and principles, so that one can be “anti-said-country” or “pro-said-country”. I don’t think that’s very fair to the critics, just because one can be “anti-democratic” or “anti-imperialist” or “anti-theocracy” etc, and yet remain morally neutral (to some degree), but to be “anti-american” makes you a racist, pure and simple… at least, it makes you sound like a racist; so in the war of words and public opinion, you’ve already lost the first battle! I think anyone who has anything against US policy, foreign or domestic, should avoid the term “anti-americanism” like the plague…

  2. Manas says:

    Only if the words of the lord and the US government’s policies were coherent!

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