There is a global popularity contest going on, and we are losing. Like many Americans, I used to fret about this. Now I don’t. In order to save my countrymen untold hours of anguish and insomnia, I propose they stop worrying too. For what we confront has long since transmogrified into a self-sustaining monster called anti-Americanism. It’s not going away in any near century; in fact, it will only grow worse. Blaming ourselves for the tempests of anti-Americanism is no more sensible than blaming ourselves for the tempests of Florida.
Anti-Americanism, like anti-Semitism, owes its continent-ranging prosperity to its utility: it can explain rapid and dislocating changes in a society, which many feel powerless to resist; it can shift blame, foisting personal, communal or national shortcomings onto others in an act of collective unburdening; or, most of all, it can serve as an outlet for accumulated fears, envies and resentments. It is but a short leap from observing that America is responsible for a lot to observing that America is responsible for everything. But once the leap is made, the untidy workings of a complex world become miraculously coherent, and you know: ‘America did this.’ The passionate anti-American crowd – the one that execrates our culture as a “virus,” holds us accountable for Third World poverty, or, like Osama bin Laden, seeks our epic humiliation – will never change as a result of anything we do. They need anti-Americanism for the same reason people have always needed ideologies to make sense of the swirling and unpredictable tumult of life.