America’s friends across the pond

Although there is a perception that the US is a member of the “West” (or west of Mesopotamia, if that can be called a definition, given the exclusion of Latin America and Africa), it has a far more complex relationship with its “partners”, or vassals to be more precise, on the European continent. While it does have a majority “Caucasian” (which again, has been arbitrarily defined through history) population, its history and political institutions distinguish it from much of Europe.

The relations with Europe largely depend on region. While the relations with the the Eastern half are largely exaggerated by neoconservatives, there was a muted response from the US. The “Soviet bloc” has had a disappointing relationship with the US, given the continued false promises, like the failure to back Hungarysupporting Ceauceascu’s dicatorship in Romania, and the expansion of Nato onto Russian borders, a violation of the promise of “not one inch” to the East.

The Western half of Europe has largely positive, if submissive, relations with the US, especially the UK’s obedient representation of the interests of the former colony. While on the subject of the UK, the so-called “special relationship” between the US and the UK is largely wartime propaganda initiated by then prime minister Winston Churchill to encourage the US to join the war effort due to the dire situation of the Allies. It’s more flattery on the part of nostalgic British imperialists in the modern day than a real influence on policy, especially given the US’s interests in Germany during Cold War reconstruction and reunification. More interesting than the overhyped British relationship is the relationship with France and Spain. Spain and the US have had a long and contentious history given Spain’s imperialist ambitions and the US’s militantly expansionist “Manifest Destiny”. However, the relations between these two powers were largely replaced by more localized hemispheric conflicts after the Latin American revolutions of the nineteenth century.

Then, of course, there is France, the country that, along with the US ushered in the age of revolutions. In the early days of the American Revolution, the Founding Fathers were heavily influenced by French philosophers. The Founders also held strong relationships with Frenchmen, especially the Marquis de La Fayette, who helped design the tactics that would lead General George Washington to victory. In fact, La Fayette would later be granted honorary citizenship for his role in the revolution. In later years, presidents continued to be amiable to the French and the citizens adopted Parisian science and culture. The perfect symbol of this relationship can be seen today in the Statue of Liberty, which was donated by the French in 1885. However, by the end of WWII, Charles de Gaulle’s comments on American influence in Europe and the conflict in Vietnam turned Franco-American relations sour. While the modern neoconservatives retain strong anti-French sentiment, it is more politically motivated by opposition to French social welfare programs than historical diplomatic disputes.

Historically, the US exaggerated its associations to European culture and philosophy, largely as propaganda to justify imperialist aggression abroad. This only worked because the electoral politics were dominated by wealthy elites. However, as of late, in a stunning twist, the conservatives mock the efforts to implement European social democracy as being elitist and quasi-imperialist. This new faux populist narrative lacks historical basis, as did its predecessor, given the party’s historical ideology and association with centers of finance and wealth (the North and large cities were the historical centers of Republican support prior to Nixon). Yet, the narrative is noticeably different than its predecessor in its irrational appeal, and, frankly, the appeal is far more convincing, because it is based on legitimate grievances against an established political class. Euro-American relations can be restored, but, ironically, it will take recognition of the enormous responsibilities that America has at home to its own people.


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