English Pages, 20. 6. 2003
To have a serious dialogue between Europe and America is of extraordinary importance. Especially now, the Beaver Creek World Forum is almost indispensable. It is our mutual task to destroy various myths and misunderstandings, both old and new ones, created by our predecessors or by us, based on fair or unfair valuations of events, on words or deeds, on authentic or only assumed positions, etc.
As someone from Europe, I have the feeling that Europe is historically a less homogeneous entity than America. It is, therefore, more ambiguous to make generalizations about Europe than about America. There are differences in Europe but I have problems with the currently stressed distinction between old and new Europe and I will try to say why.
We are here, this morning, speakers from four different parts of Europe. We came here with our own genuine interests. We have our priorities, our loyalties, our historical experiences, memories and fears. Our geographical positions are different as well as to some respect our minds and thoughts.
1. Having mentioned historical experiences - some of us have more than enough reasons not to take freedom for granted. We are aware of its fragility and of its enemies. We know that freedom is neither a gift nor an export commodity. We are sensitive to the slightest signs of its violations. We, therefore, stress the right to have views and to stand by them.
Our communist past was an important lesson. To talk about freedom and its implications at that time was not a free academic discourse without consequences. We understood that to have freedom and to be free meant many things. It requires the courage to express unorthodox and nonconformist views, the ability to listen to unpleasant opinions and the willingness to engage in an open dialogue. This experience may be one of the relevant European differences but it has no connection with geography, with “the age of countries” or with the EU membership.
2. Having mentioned loyalties - we know something about the relative importance of external pressures (as compared to domestic factors) in bringing about a systemic change, in our case in dismantling communism. We know that the break-down of the Berlin Wall as well as the outbreak of our Velvet Revolution were not made possible by German Ostpolitik or by détente but because of strong stances of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. And we know who was really instrumental in our entry into NATO that we value so highly. This feeling of loyalty gives us a clearly defined corridor for our walking. It does not turn us into rope-walkers who have absolutely no degree of freedom for choosing our behavior in individual cases.
3. Having mentioned interests - in the past some of us - as individuals and as countries - were frustrated by being forced to neglect our national interests and instead of it to promote the interests of “the world proletariat” or of the Soviet Union Communist Party Politburo. Now we would like to be able to defend our own interests (something that is - I suppose - in the best traditions of the American foreign policy doctrine). We would prefer doing it without being labeled “old” or “new” while doing it. I believe it is a fair request. We are aware of the importance of keeping the transatlantic ties strong, we value the significance of NATO in the post-Cold war era, and we know that individual freedoms and liberties as well as national and cultural identities must be actively defended. However, our national interests should remain being defined by us and we should follow them.
It was easier to be united against the threat of Soviet Union than now, in the era of less transparent and less tangible dangers. Once the constraints of the Cold war were lifted,the interests of individual countries in what we call the West have started to break up and will continue to do so.
What about the so-called anti-Americanism? I usually warn against labeling because it dangerously simplifies issues. In spite of this, the term “New Anti-Americanism” seems to be quite inspiring because it automatically revokes the idea of an Old Anti-Americanism. I have been one of the strongest critics of what we now call an old European anti-Americanism. I have always admired American political, social and economic systems. I have always disagreed with the unfair trivializations of American culture. I was a diligent student of American economic and social sciences. I appreciated the American convictions, mode of life, individualist and rationalist culture, pragmatism, working habits, efficiency, simplicity of behavior, optimism, etc. In addition to this, I opposed those European intellectuals who tried to explain September 11 as a reaction to American capitalism and to the spread of McDonaldization to the rest of the world, which would - without it - live in a Rousseau-like innocent paradise.
However, I have to admit that I don’t know exactly what the adjective “new” refers to. The various doubts about the Iraqi war and only conditional or partial participation in the war itself must not be regarded as an anti-Americanism - neither old, nor new. Would it not be un-American to look at it in such a way? We have to carefully distinguish between friendly and constructive criticism and explicit and planned hostility. Even now, I see in Europe much more of the first than of the second. Our American friends should know it. Not recognizing this important distinction leads sometimes to what I call not New, but New-New Anti-Americanism which appears in Europe these days among the former active opponents of an old Anti-Americanism. This is - I believe - something we must not accept.
World Forum, The American Enterprise Institute, Beaver Creek, Colorado, 20.6.2003
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