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« Jenkins On Space | Main | The Need For Bureaucratic Agility »

A Divider, Not A Uniter

Such is the low esteem of George Bush's America in the rest of the world that Britain and France are fighting over which of them is our closest ally.

After decades of Anglo-French rivalry, in which France has vehemently deplored the global influence America and Britain have attained and what every president of France since Charles de Gaulle has described as "Anglo-Saxon culture," Mr. Sarkozy claimed during his visit to Washington last week that France, not Britain, is now America's best friend and partner.

Mr. Brown, who has been portrayed on both sides of the Atlantic as having distanced himself from America to avoid the charge against his predecessor, Tony Blair, that he was Mr. Bush's "poodle," fought back last night, claiming in a speech at a banquet thrown by the lord mayor of the city of London that the French president's bid to usurp Britain's traditional place alongside America would not succeed.

I hear the Democrat candidates bloviate on the campaign trail about how they're going to "repair our relations" with the rest of the world, and wonder on what planet they're living. Hilarious.

Posted by Rand Simberg at January 02, 2008 11:34 AM
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Been wondering that myself for some time, and finally decided I don't want to know.

Posted by RebeccaH at January 2, 2008 02:43 PM

Come on, you got to be kidding me! If pre Bush U.S. had a "favorable view or better" in England of 80 and in France of 60 (I'm making up the numbers) and today the "favorable view or better" is 20 and 30, it would both be true that France would be a better ally of US than England (assuming policy and sentiment align) and that US relations with these two countries need repair.

Posted by dimitri at January 2, 2008 02:52 PM

Don't fight boys, our #1 ally is Australia.

Posted by John Davies at January 2, 2008 02:56 PM

Mr Simberg: FYI, your trackback URL is giving a 404 error when my blog tries to send a trackback to yours.

Also, I just got an error prohibiting me from putting my blog URL in the URL field for this comment because it contains "[dot]info". Oh well, yeah, my URL sucks :(


Posted by Michael Williams at January 2, 2008 02:58 PM

Dimitri has a very valid point. Surely that was quite obvious. I'd like to see right arm spinner Rand respond.

Posted by Toast_n_Tea at January 2, 2008 03:08 PM

Dmitri (and Toast_n_Tea),

RTFS (S=Statement)

M. Sarkozy didn't say "better". He said "best".
Nice try, though.

Posted by DFEyres at January 2, 2008 03:16 PM

If Dimitri's numbers were accurate, that exchange between Messrs. Sarkozy and Brown would never have happened. There's your response.

Posted by Floyd at January 2, 2008 03:17 PM

If pre Bush U.S. had a "favorable view or better" in England of 80 and in France of 60 (I'm making up the numbers) and today the "favorable view or better" is 20 and 30, it would both be true that France would be a better ally of US than England (assuming policy and sentiment align) and that US relations with these two countries need repair.

If those were the real numbers, Sarkozi and Brown wouldn't be fighting over the honor.

I repeat: hilarious.

Posted by Rand Simberg at January 2, 2008 03:17 PM

The response, toast, is that if the US were so unpopular in France and Britain, the heads of government in those countries wouldn't be going out of their way to proclaim their closeness to us. Dmitri's statement is correct, but misses the point completely.

Posted by bgates at January 2, 2008 03:22 PM


LOL! When you make up the numbers, almost anything could be true. Alas, how quickly we forget! Clinton spent years cozying up to Chirac and telling folks pretty much whatever they wanted to hear, and he still got bad press in France. According to Democrats though, the whole world was flying kites till GWB took office -- and in my experience on the web, that's about as close to a discussion of Clinton foreign policy as they're willing to get.

Posted by JM Hanes at January 2, 2008 03:28 PM


Now would that be our "good friend" France that wouldn't allow us to fly over their air space in 1986 to get Quadaffi after he fire bombed a few German discos? In doing so, our "ally" France jeopardized the mission and endangered American naval pilots. Those good friends?

Now I'm not sure Dimitri, but I don't believe Bush was on national radar back then. Sounds like you've contracted a fatal case of BDS...

Posted by B. Taylor at January 2, 2008 03:56 PM

"According to Democrats though, the whole world was flying kites till GWB took office"

What alternate universe were these people living in back then? Doesn't anyone remember the 2000 Sydney Olympics? Clinton was still president. Our athletes and national anthem were booed mercilessly. Heck, even our female athletes were booed by our good friends the Aussies. This idea that 'the world' (whatever that means) doesn't like us because of Bush is just insane. Wake up, people!

Posted by G Wiz at January 2, 2008 04:14 PM

I was living abroad during most of the Clinton years, and can attest that anti-Americanism was pretty much a fact of life years before W came to office. This was especially true after Clinton bombed Kosovo -- a decision that was almost universally deplored in Europe (but that was because most of while Europe hates the Albanians and didn't see anything wrong with the Serbs wiping them off the map).

Don't forget seeing American dead being dragged through the streets in Mogadishu, Operation Desert Fox, and the aspirin factory in Sudan that Clinton bombed because his administration concluded that Saddam and Bin Laden were working on chemical and biological weapons, together.

But of course, all of that went down the memory hole, long ago.

P.S. Hi, Rand. Hope you and your lovely wife had a nice Holiday season.

Posted by SWLiP at January 2, 2008 04:24 PM

"Our athletes and national anthem were booed mercilessly."

Well OBVIOUSLY that's because they followed the campaign news and were anticipating that George Bush would soon steal the election from Al Gore. THAT's what they were booing in summer 2000.

Posted by Kevin at January 2, 2008 04:26 PM

It's nice to see the vile French competing for our affections. Though, one wonders what it is they're after. It was de Gaulle, after all, who showed France still had teeth by dining almost exclusively on the hand that fed him.

As for Gordon Browne, well, it's been the fate of pretty much every PM since about the middle of WWII to be called America's poodle. The slur is never true, but there it is nonetheless.

Given a choice, I'd put more faith in the Brits than the French, and more in the Australians than either of them.

Posted by Patrick Carroll at January 2, 2008 04:27 PM


You don't understand. The Democrats are going to "repair our relationships" with their real global allies. You know, Cuba, Venezuala, the Palastinian Authority, etc...

Posted by Eric at January 2, 2008 04:41 PM

Most of you seem to be very confused.

RTFR carefully:

and PLEASE don't confuse being pro-American with being pro-American-right-wing.

That pro-Americanism that tickles, so hilarious! is a plea for an America that isn't what Rand seems to want it to be. Sorry to be a wet blanket and all that, but you really have to give up some sheer illusions.

Er, for example it's not a cheer for Global Warming denial, or the war in Iraq, or any of the other confusions that seem to inhabit many of the posters here.

Sarkozy and Brown are simply waiting for America, the one they like that is, to come back. That might start early 2009.

I personally find this post RF hilarious!

Posted by Toast_n_Tea at January 2, 2008 04:59 PM

Dmitri makes up numbers which are an approximate impression of what many people think was the reality of anti-Americanism pre-GWB. That they have no basis in reality doesn't stop TNT from declaring it an excellent point.

TNT makes the fair point that many people in European countries generally disapprove of America, and also attribute this to GWB, showing that their memory is is as bad as ours. He then adds mind-reading of what Brown and Sarkozy must really mean, and that what support we have abroad must be only for the Americans that he likes. The elections of the European candidates most identified with America - and even with Bush - TNT does not mention.

Under GWB, the US has a far worse relationship with the UN. That does not distress me. It is in no way a proxy for the actions individual nations have taken in relation to us. The US has a far better relationship with India. That's a billion people right there.

Posted by Assistant Village Idiot at January 2, 2008 05:15 PM

The elections of the European candidates most identified with America - and even with Bush - TNT does not mention.

Who, Mr.A.V.Idiot, run well to the left of the Democrats in America!!

Or just maybe in this fantasy post, Sarkozy and Brown are actually anti-Kyoto and pro-disbanding nationalized health care in their respective countries.

As I said earlier, this is a RF hilarious! post.

Posted by Toast_n_Tea at January 2, 2008 05:26 PM

Or just maybe in this fantasy post, Sarkozy and Brown are actually anti-Kyoto and pro-disbanding nationalized health care in their respective countries.

Funny. You write that as though it has non-zero significance to the subject at hand.

Posted by Rand Simberg at January 2, 2008 05:43 PM

I have lived abroad since 1992, and the worst anti-American incidents I have experienced was when we were bombing Serbia. Two Greeks at a trade show (!) came up and berated me.

I was in Indonesia during Gulf War I and did see anti-American graffiti...the next day, someone had painted pro-American graffiti next to it, though. The whole country considered that war as a soccer match - taking sides and rooting for them. Weird.

Posted by Aaron at January 2, 2008 06:07 PM

Rand, I love it when you wind up cheering European leaders who are to the left of the Democrats.

Or wind up cheering the opinions or for that matter thoughts or reflections of European leaders who are to the far far left of you, on say, global warming, socialized medicine and gun control!

The mere fact that their socialist opinions count is a breath of fresh air. We really need to coin a term for the ability to view opinions geographically.

And this also means, to me anyway, that if you looked hard and calm, you would probably find things to cheer about in Harry-Nancy.

Posted by Toast_n_Tea at January 2, 2008 06:10 PM

Toast_n_Tea wrote, "Sarkozy and Brown are simply waiting for America, the one they like that is, to come back...I personally find this post RF hilarious!"

They obviously aren't waiting. Consequently, I assume TnT also finds the non-existent flying monkeys in his padded room hilarious.

Posted by Jim C. at January 2, 2008 06:19 PM

The simple trouble with this Sarkozy/Brown spat is, they forgot Poland.

Posted by Thomas F. at January 2, 2008 06:36 PM

Rand, I love it when you wind up cheering European leaders who are to the left of the Democrats.

Well, then apparently you love living in a fantasy world (like the Democrats on the campaign trail), since I did nothing of the kind.

Posted by Rand Simberg at January 2, 2008 06:37 PM

It's not even close...

France may love us, but the UK is our bookie. Bad times for them is just the viggerish, good times are when we lose our shirt.

Posted by paul at January 2, 2008 07:14 PM

Ah, I see how it is. When one makes a point, TNT switches to a tangent. Rather like Whack-a-mole.

The energy is clearly going into cleverness of response rather than examination of the question.

Posted by Assistant Village Idiot at January 2, 2008 07:18 PM


The Pew poll is endlessly fascinating, of course, but the picture they paint is more complex -- and far more interesting -- than you seem to realize. I note your attempt to innoculate your argument with the distinction between the U.S. and Americans, but I think you could afford to spend more time with the actual data sets.

"Majorities or pluralities in most countries surveyed say they dislike American ideas about democracy and this sentiment has increased in most regions since 2002."

That sentiment may have increased since 2002, but the numbers were already on the high side starting out. Do you suppose we can count on the Democrats to fix that? There are a lot of things that folks don't like about the U.S. that even you would probably be loathe to alter; there are also a lot things that much of the world thinks we could control or change if we wanted to which, in truth, we can't. Not to mention the fact that the E.U.'s own popularity is not exactly surging. They look pretty good in parts of Africa -- but then, so do we.

Despite the popularity of "Change" in political campaigns, real agents of change are every bit as likely to excite outrage and anxiety as approval. Those who follow them can pretend to be repairing "the damage" when in reality their unpopular predecessors have left them a whole new set of building blocks. Poll driven foreign policy may be your ideal, but it sure isn't mine.

There are a lot folks who don't like us, and then there's the barefoot guy on a dusty road to nowhere holding up a sign that says: "Save me George Bush." Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words.

Posted by JM Hanes at January 2, 2008 07:35 PM

The linked article is dated November 13. The text of Brown's speech can be found here:

Posted by Steve at January 2, 2008 08:04 PM

HEY, you can't be Steve, I'm Steve!!

Posted by Original Steve at January 2, 2008 08:49 PM

TnT: The worst opinions of the U.S. seem to be, predominantly, in Muslim nations. You know, the ones where riots start whenever some Teddy Bear dons inappropriate attire, or when some Dane trots out insensitive cartoons.

So am I to understand that the Dems prioritize the mollifying of lunatics, and that the rest of us are to be sobered when considering the dire necessity of this?

Insanely, the abyssmal rating in the Palestinian territories is a 1300% improvement. Wait a sec -- that's happened during a time when the domestic opposition in the U.S. has ranted at how very worse our policies with respect to Palestine have become? Seems either the Palestinians are idiots, or the locals here are.

Trends in Europe may also be influenced by Muslim immigration. The report doesn't expose its methods, but if its methods are consistent with prior years' results, there could easily be more Muslims represented in the data. This would be because birth rates in Europe have fallen precipitously, while Muslim immigration has increased during the years at issue for comparison and trend analysis.

The report is anything but a validation of a simplistic BDS-inspired view of the world.

Posted by rasqual at January 2, 2008 10:00 PM

Anyone who consistantly lives overseas or travels to multiple countries regularly, soon finds out that the media input being poured down the throats of foreigners on a daily basis is the slanted Anti-Bush/Anti-Conservative propaganda of CNN and the BBC. In any discussion of which particular Americans foreigners loathe and why they loathe them, the influence of those 2 mega-mouthpiece organs must be considered. Simply sit in any hotel room on planet Earth for a couple days over the last decade and you will immediately realize that the international world population has been and is being fed a daily diet of the simplistic B.S. that all American conservatives are intrinsically evil, greedy and stupid, and that therefore their liberal opponents, though not always as perfect as the wonderful Clinton's, are the side that must be rooted for. If I was fed that media poison and only that media poison 24/7, I'd hate America too. At least stateside I can change the channels, but no such luck in the 20 or so countries I regularly hang out in. Thank God for the Internet.

Posted by Daddy at January 2, 2008 10:57 PM

I've given this much thought and concluded I'm having a very difficult time caring.

Posted by bour3 at January 2, 2008 11:32 PM

I find the propeller on my tinfoil hat hilarious!

Posted by Sam_S at January 3, 2008 01:20 AM

Totally agree with Daddy. BBC World and CNN seem to vie with each other to pour scorn and disdain on Bush, Republicans, right wing views and often on America itself. As someone who works in the media, I can tell you that the BBC is populated with hard-left America- haters who often get in trouble with the rest of the media here in Britain because of their deep prejudices. Best thing would be to close down the BBC tomorrow- it is a socialist monolith from the early 20th century, and shares many of the flaws of the other institutions being created about that time- like the Soviet Union.

Posted by Andrew Lale at January 3, 2008 03:36 AM

TNT - yes, the data is fascinating, and thank you for noting that the situation is complex. That being the case, I wonder that you should start your discussion in response to a simple statement of fact - that the leaders of two major European allies are in seeming competition to position themselves as closer to America than the others - by declaring how stupid everyone here is and how we have misinterpreted. You did not introduce complexity to the argument, but insult and mere contradiction, rather like the Monty Python sketch.

The overall sense of the original post is that despite the unending chorus of how strongly disapproved of the US is during the Bush administration, when one examines the actions of major players in Europe, a different picture emerges. That seems a rather limited claim and sufficiently nuanced as it is. You sneered. You were presented with opposing arguments which you did not refute. When cornered, you put in the energy to finally say "Oh, it's all very complex."

I became a conservative because I got tired of losing arguments to people who weren't as smart as I was but seemed to somehow make better cases anyway. If you are quite sure you are that clever, you might wonder why you haven't dazzled us yet.

Posted by Assistant Village Idiot at January 3, 2008 05:52 AM

But all the lefty blogs and the NYT say that it'll take a terror appeasing socialist to repair our relations - good luck with that!

Posted by bandit at January 3, 2008 06:10 AM

Did the poll ask how whether those not-Americans wanted to move to the US?

As to "American popularity", why is it important?

Countries act in their perceived self interest.

If popularity is important, we'd have examples where countries acted consistent with popularity and against perceived self interest.

Let's see the examples - when did a country act against its perceived self-interest because it liked the US? When did a country act against its perceived self-interest because it disliked the US?

What? No examples? Then why is popularity thought to be important?

Posted by Andy Freeman at January 3, 2008 08:09 AM

Andy Freeman has it exactly correct. Countries, like most individuals, will act in self-interest. It is not selfishness, just survival. So you find those countries that share your interests and values and ally with them, those that don't share your interests you don't ally with. Likeability is a byproduct, not an means to an end as progressives seem to want to beleive, but when emotion is your most valued trait, it is hard to see the nuance of reality.

Posted by doubled at January 3, 2008 08:56 AM

Andy Freeman and doubled - agreed.

A tech central station article on the self-interest of some less-reported nations here:

Posted by Assistant Village Idiot at January 3, 2008 07:34 PM

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