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Wary Criticisms

Unpopularity with America and its policies, anti-Bush feelings and anti-US sentiment at large has been a widespread problem for that country globally for some time now
And yet, ironically, it is a problem that a sizeable chunk of that very same country’s population is seemingly largely unconcerned about.

Reflected here is a nation that has become arguably more polarized and isolationist post 9-11 in what some would describe as a response based upon building even higher and taller walls to protect itself rather then dismantling the ones currently in existence with a view to reaching out.

Worrying then is not just the validity of much of the criticism aimed at the current US administration for its management of a situation that seems to be growing increasingly messy and volatile, but also it has to be said, the growing chasm of misunderstanding that has developed in particular between Americans and Europeans.

In this regard, it is quite likely that both sides are as bad as each other and just as much to blame.

As someone who (like many others) expressed concern over the war in Iraq, I have also, by the same token, being struck at times with the almost palpable lack of understanding that I get from discussion with Europeans on what the American population at large is going through and has been over the last two years.

Often aired from the Left politically is the notion that to understand the roots of terrorism one has to, in turn, understand the roots of an allegedly abusive US foreign policy and perhaps even Imperialism at large too and its effects. Whilst that may well be a valid point, I cannot help but wonder where has the same degree of understanding gone to about American society in their post 9-11 world.

As someone who was in New York City on September 11th, it became all too clear to me afterwards that Europeans simply did not understand the extraordinarily shocking effect that day had upon in citizens.

And whilst that is in no way to attempt to appease what I have been vocal in my criticism of – namely a policy to respond to the problem that has been incompetent on a good day and downright untruthful on a bad one – it is to say that one of the few things I do agree with Tony Blair on is that the need for Europe and the US to work together in unison is far greater then our need to be at odds with each other.

The last two years have been a disturbing time for Americans with knocks and shocks coming at them from all sides – first a presidential election that was possibly the most divisive the nation has seen, then the worst attack the mainland has suffered since Pearl Harbor, followed by a war overseas in Iraq which the public are now increasingly wondering if they should ever have bothered with (a recent Newsweek survey shows 48% polled said they should leave and 60% said cut back on spending), and whilst this is going on and their government is coughing up an estimated $4 billion a week to sustain efforts in Iraq, the economy went into recession and spiraled into such enormous deficit that the US Federal government has been warned about it by a concerned IMF.

The last thing that an already far too culturally isolated nation needs is to feel that it is under assault from all sides causing it to regress inward even further.

Critics of a specific politician or policy should not end up being so vitriolic and general in their attacks as to make it sound as if they are commenting upon an entire people, as to do so will only make them give you the finger and not care anyway about what you think.

The problem exists on both sides of the pond too however.

Equally disturbing was to witness and American population who simply could not get their heads around any degree of comprehension for why European countries like France and Germany were so hell bent of on obstructing what they then deemed was their right to protect themselves against a regime in Iraq that was supporting the same terrorists that had just slaughtered 3000 of their compatriots – at least that was what if felt like at that time anyway.

History has shown us clearly that US foreign policy is by no means something that the rest of the world can trust but at that moment in time, the depth of feeling within America was so great that their was no ability whatsoever to understand the quite reasonable worries that Europeans had about a US military campaign in Iraq.

By the same token, the irony of the fact that both of its opponents since then were ones that it armed and trained itself was one that was largely lost.

An impasse had been created in terms of two entire continents understanding each other.
Places that have traditionally stood side by side do not quite do so anymore and it is hard to see how that benefits either of us.

In time of course, economic needs will probably prevail as they often do. Things will be patched up and all will revert back to normal fortunately.

Until then, what is perhaps not so fortunate is that we have to leave it to commercial concerns to save the day here.

In the meantime however, for our part as citizens of wherever, we could at least contribute by setting aside the pre-conceived notions and negative stereotypes and making an effort to understand where each one is coming from a little better. George Bush is not Hitler no matter how many t-shirts we print it on and the French are not cowards no matter how often we rename it Freedom Fries rather than French ones.

We needed each other in the past and most likely we will need each other again in the future.

John Bourke

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