Thursday, July 06, 2006
Why Americans Think They are at War and we Don't
An American writing in our press today exhorts us to exercise our democratic rights or see them wither. To be sure that million plus demo against the war back on 15 February 2003 did not stop the invasion but its impact is still being felt, mostly by Tony Blair, who's authority has been so sapped by his wilful rejection of that message. There is still every reason, when the need arises, to chalk up placards and make your views known out on the street. In the US ant-war sentiment was less widespread and, indeed, as the superb Timothy Garton-Ash today tells us has been usurped by the official US pro-war rhetoric into which only Blair seems to buy on this side of the Atlantic.
His main observation is that the American attitude is redolent of the 'honour', 'patriotism' and 'heroism' which can be found in Europe only pre 1914. 'Why is it' he asks, that the United States, which has not suffered a major terrorist attack at home for more than four years, thinks it's at war, while the United Kingdom, which was hit by a major terrorist attack just a year ago, does not?' He goes on to describe US bookstores' special offers entitled: 'Salute our heroes: 20% off Patriotic Titles' and how Bush talks, amazingly still, of 'accepting nothing less than complete victory'. Along with his compatriots, Bush has a long wait for that to arrive.
Why should there be such a difference in attitude? TGA suggests it's in the political culture. 'Unlike many continental Europeans, most of us do not rule out war as a means of last resort. We think you sometimes need to defend your way of life, but that you should fight clever, keeping a cool head, a strong sense of proportion. We've lived with terrorism for years and know you can lick it, especially if you don't overreact and and make unnecessary sacrifices of liberty in the name of security- for freedom is its own best defence. Between cheese eating surrender monkeys and fire-eating war junkies, we look for a middle way.'
What TGA doesn't quite acknowledge is that it's the same cloth-eared Blair who has somehow managed to preside over the survival of this more realistic and discriminating approach. I feel sure that that demo, and others like it, four years ago has helped substantially in that process.