Saturday, July 26, 2008

He's baaack

It's good to see former Outpost columnist Rob Natelson in the blogosphere over at Electric City Weblog. I like and respect Rob and his opinions, and I usually disagree with him.

Same this time. Lord knows, I'm no expert, but I do try to keep up a bit with the news in Germany, especially during the school year, and antipathy toward Bush certainly seems like a real phenomenon to me. It's especially striking if you compare the enormous outpouring of sympathy and solidarity with America that flowed out of the German press immediately after Sept. 11, 2001, with the attitudes that are commonly expressed today.

One example: Remember the "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech? Right after Sept. 11, a major German paper ran a long sequence of photos and quotes of ordinary Germans, each completing the statement, "Today I am an American because ..." The answers were extraordinary and wide-ranging, from our defeat of Hitler to the humanity of our post-war occupation, from the bulwark we provided against the Soviet Union to the lamp we left out for immigrants, from our lively culture to our history of standing up for what's right in the world. A couple of years later, this sentiment had just about entirely dissipated.

And, yes, I think Bush bears a fair share of the blame. Germans in particular were sympathetic to the war in Afghanistan but thought the war in Iraq was a really dumb idea (they have some serious expertise in starting dumb wars), and they see Bush as an especially brazen example of the worst in America: arrogant, uninformed, indifferent to the opinions of allies.

None of that is to suggest that Germans now hate Americans. When I lived there, I found a enormous reservoir of good will toward Americans, and I can't believe that reservoir has been drained. But I do suspect that Germans welcome Obama as a candidate who may show considerably more deference and respect to the views of a country that we really do need to have on our side.

UPDATE: Here's a more nuanced view, well worth reading.

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