WASHINGTON – In Italy, Alessandro Di Battista, a member of parliament who belongs to the opposition 5 Stelle, (5 Stars), party, openly declared that Islamic terrorism is a logical –and quite understandable– response to American aggressive policies in the Middle East.
A response to US aggression
From his perspective, the poor Arabs, perennial victims of American bombs, have no choice. They have to use terrorism, because they cannot respond in any other way.
For example, according to Di Battista, the ISIL phenomenon –with its amiable corollary of forced conversions to Islam, beheadings, crucifixions and mass killings– is very simply the child of Abu Ghraib, the prison in which at the beginning of the US occupation many Iraqi detainees were subjected by American troops to all sorts of indignities, some of them closely resembling torture.
Anyway, you get the picture.
America is an open society
Of course, it is easy to point out and highlight American real misdeeds. And for these fair minded critics it does not matter that in America there are rules and a system that holds people accountable.
For these impartial observers it does not matter that then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (who had in no way ordered or condoned what happened at the Abu Ghraib prison) offered his resignation on that matter.
It does not matter that there were several investigations, open congressional hearings on the horrible Abu Ghraib matter, and plenty of media coverage that revealed and exposed who did what.
In other words, America does screw up. But it also has an open and transparent system that pursues and punishes wrongdoing.
Last but not least, none of these critics would admit that, while what went on was horrible and inexcusable, nobody got killed at Abu Ghraib. In other words, there are varying degrees of wrongdoing.
Therefore, in a truly fair-minded world the idea that what ISIL does today is pretty much equivalent to what America has done to the Arabs should have no standing.
And yet it does.
For many Europeans there is moral equivalence. America does this. The Arabs respond with that. It is normal. What else would you expect?
The Germans are upset
Likewise, the Germans are up in arms because the US spied on them. (By the way, it turns out that they do exactly the same thing to America). This “discovery” unleashed a wave of indignation that left a mark. Opinion polls now indicate that only 35% of all Germans consider America a trustworthy partner.
And this is the opinion about America emerging from a country whose very survival in the dark years of the Cold War depended on an American pledge to defend it.
These are just recent examples that highlight a broader reality.
End of the Grand Alliance
NATO, the Grand Alliance between Western (and now also Eastern) Europe and North America, was in fact only a marriage of convenience.
Back in the 1950s, America would not allow the Soviet Union to dominate Western Europe, while the perennially weak Europeans were happy to have the protection of American troops and nuclear weapons.
With the end of the Cold War, we are back to normal. And normal means a relationship which is at best semi-friendly, and at times openly hostile.
Europe’s moral superiority
The pacifist and “truly moral” Europeans are happy to condemn American over reach and heavy-handed policies. They are also happy to condemn America’s barbaric use of the death penalty, its persistent racism, and appalling economic inequalities.
In other words, in their view, America is a primitive society in which the strong prey on the weak. The bloody minded American elites do this at home and abroad. Civilized Europeans should express their revulsion, while distancing themselves from this abominable country.
Obama did not improve any of this
And, incidentally, it looks as if Obama’s “let’s be nice to all approach” did not improve anything. Sadly the Edward Snowden ample disclosures about all the NSA alleged misdeeds happened under Obama’s watch.
End of the NATO spirit
From all this we can only draw one simple conclusion. While we still have and probably will continue to have a NATO Alliance, its “spirit” –and therefore its essence– vanished long ago. There is no longer any notion of “shared values”, let alone “shared destiny”, linking Europe to America.
Sure enough, there are still innumerable economic and cultural ties linking America to Europe. And they do matter, a lot.
But these ties do not extend to the notion of an Atlantic Community of like-minded Western Nations united by a shared desire to uphold and protect deeply felt Western values.
I suspect that the Atlantic Community was always more an aspiration than a reality, even in the bad old days of the Cold War, when Soviet armored divisions were stationed literally a few miles away from Hamburg, in what used to be called the German Democratic Republic, (East Germany).
These are “the Allies”
Well, now we know for sure that there is no such thing. Therefore, when US policy-makers talk about our “European Allies”, we should all understand that these Allies are at best fair-weather friends, while deep down they pity us for our moral backwardness, or worse yet, they despise us because of it.