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The Nexus of Religion and Foreign Policy Series: Anti-Semitism and Anti-Americanism [Raw Transcript; Federal News Service, Inc.]

Speaker: Josef Joffe, Editor, Die Zeit, and Adjunct Professor of Political Science, Stanford University
Presider: Luis Lugo, Director, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
May 5, 2006
Council on Foreign Relations The Washington Club
Washington, DC

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LUIS LUGO:  Well, "Guten Morgen."  "Buenos dias."  And welcome to all of you.

We would ask at this time that you would please turn off your cell phones, BlackBerries -- the list keeps growing here -- wireless -- anything that beeps, in other words.  If you can just turn it off, we would appreciate it.

We want to remind you that this meeting is on the record.  So please be aware of that.  I'm Luis Lugo, the director of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life here in Washington, and a council member, I think about six months now.  Right, Nancy?  

In his introduction to his magisterial work "John Quincy Adams and the Foundations of American Foreign Policy," Samuel Flagg Bemis states this about arguably our best secretary of state ever.  "In one lifetime, John Quincy Adams had two notable careers, separated by an interlude as President of the United States."

Our speaker this morning, Josef Joffe -- or Joe Joffe, for his American friends -- has had two notable careers, uninterrupted by any undistinguished interlude.

JOSEF JOFFE:  Like the presidency of the United States.

LUGO :  (Laughs.)  Well, that was not John Quincy Adams' highlight of his career, according to most historians.

Josef Joffe has been a journalist for many, many years.  He is the publisher/editor of the Germany weekly Die Zeit.  Prior to that, for about 15 years, he was columnist and editorial page editor of Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

To that he adds an illustrious academic career as a scholar.  He is currently the distinguished fellow in international relations at the Hoover Institution and adjunct professor in political science at Stanford University.

Among other places, he has taught at Harvard, down the street at SAIS and at the University of Munich.

He is the author of many articles and several books, including, "Ueberpower:  The Imperial Temptation in American Foreign Policy," on which there is a very nice review by Walter Russell Mead in the May-June issue of Foreign Affairs.

Have you read it yet?  Okay.

He calls you the most -- 

JOFFE:  I'm impressed.

LUGO :  -- you're impressed?  Okay.  (Laughter.)  Well -- well, he calls you, among other things, "The most important strategic thinker in Germany today," so that's fairly complimentary.

JOFFE:  It cost me quite a lot, too, so --

LUGO :  (Laughs, laughter.)

Well, the topic for this morning is "Anti-Semitism and Anti- Americanism."  Joe, you have written that classical anti-Semitism is a fire that has burned out in the West, but that a new anti-Semitism, a neo-anti-Semitism, has taken its place.  Could you comment on the difference between the paleo- and the neo-anti-Semitism in the West?

JOFFE:  Well, what's the neo-anti-Semitism?  We're starting out in a very complicated front.  Can we warm up for a little bit?

LUGO :  Absolutely.

JOFFE:  Why do we even get into this topic?  It struck me in January of 2003 in the snowy whites of Davos at the World Economic Forum.  And there I saw this -- there's a regular Saturday afternoon demonstration, and this one had a nice little tableau.  You see a golden calf being pulled through the street by a guy with a Rumsfeld mask, who also has a kind of six-pointed Star of David on his chest that says "Sheriff," and he is being whipped along by a cudgel- wielding Ariel Sharon.

So I thought, "This is a very striking conjunction of images which brings up a lot of tropes of classical anti-Semitism."  First of all, there's a false god, the golden calf of Mammon.  Then the Jews, which have always been vested with an inordinate amount of power, now actually having gained real power by having enslaved the United States    as the most powerful nation on Earth.  And so you have almost everything there.  It's about power, it's about subversion, it's about conspiracy and it's about capitalism.

And here are these -- I think these elements that are always present in contemporary anti-Semitism, but the interesting thing is that some of these images that were used to be anti-Semitic images also are now imposed in the United States.

So that's a lengthy answer to what's the new anti-Semitism.  It is that you take all anti-Semitic tropes, you apply them to Israel, and you apply them to the United States.

LUGO :  We're going to explore that Israel-U.S. connection in a minute.

You do say, however, in the West this classical anti-Semitism has burned out, but that classical anti-Semitism has migrated from the West to the Islamic world.

So what are new twists that we're seeing on the old anti-Semitism in the Muslim world?

JOFFE:  Well, the topics in the Muslim world are our topics. They will be -- we, I mean the West, invented them, and they have been taken over lock, stock and barrel in the Arab and Islamic world.  What are these?  Well, there are inordinate power, demonization, subversion, greed, betrayal, conspiracy.

And the best way of looking at it is cartoons are a very nice way to the subconscious.  So I recently looked through a number of about 300 cartoons in the Arab press, and most recently -- and of course, in Iranian press, where, as you know, they have a little contest there -- Holocaust cartoons.  But the way the Israelis retaliate is a bunch of Israeli journalists who call upon with their own contest for anti- Semitic cartoons.  So that -- it -- a call went out:  Please give us the best anti-Semitic cartoon that you can make.  So if the Jews are getting -- (inaudible) -- I think we'll get some real fun cartoons. (Laughter.)

But that was just an aside.  No, you have -- and if you want to use cartoons, again, I may be jumping the gun, but it's the -- you mix both the anti-American and the anti-Semitism.  A classic cartoon is a cannibalistic one.  So you have Uncle Sam and a Jewish figure sitting at the table eating Palestinians.  You have -- another classic motif is the kraken that holds the road in its tentacles.  It's a Jewish or an American kraken, either looks like Bush or like Sharon.  Anyway, but the point is that we shouldn't give the Islamic world pride of authorship.  These are tropes invented and imported from Europe, as some of the contemporary ideologies in the Arab world can be traced very nicely to Fascism and Nazism and/or Communism.  They didn't invent anything, just reinvented this stuff.

LUGO :  What about -- there is the question of Muslim populations in  Europe, about which we've been reading a lot. Is that the more classical anti-Semitism that surfaces there, or have they acculturated enough to have a neo-anti-Semitism?

JOFFE:  When you talk about Europe, you have to distinguish very clearly between societies and immigrant groups.  The largest chunk -- the second-largest chunk or group is Turks in Germany, politically relatively inactive, some dysfunctionality, in the sense that you have a very high rate of high school dropouts and unemployed, but otherwise it's a quiescent group.

You get to France, the opposite, where you have North African immigration.  And I think there, given the kind of burgeoning number of anti-Semitic incidents, you could say that this is the kind of soil from which it grows.  My point is, distinguish between various groups. But when you come to France, I mean so you have a tax on people who look Jewish, tax on people who wear yarmulkes and stuff like that, to the point where the French government, after first ignoring it, came out very strongly against it in public.

LUGO :  You've alluded to this a couple of times.  I want to quote here a very memorable phrase in your writings when you say that anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism travel together these days and that the U.S. is an anti-Semitic fantasy come true, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in living color.  What is going on there?  Why this strong connection that has emerged between anti-Americanism and anti- Semitism?

JOFFE:  First of all, that's where I started off, but I jumped the gun on you.

LUGO :  That's all right.

JOFFE:  I started out, but I started out with this cartoon -- I mean not the cartoon, this tableau in the streets of Davos.  There you have the, first of all the conjunction.  And the themes that have -- the classic anti-Semitic themes that have traveled across the Atlantic, so to speak, are -- it always look -- when you have anti- Semitism or any kind of anti-ism, whatever -- you know, anti-blackism, anti-greenism, anti-yellowism -- you always have the same four or five elements.  

One is negative stereotypes:  This is the way they are.  And that's usually negative.  

Then you move from what they are to what they do, which is they try to subvert and conspire.  You know, in the racist imagination, blacks try to sully white bloodlines.  In the anti-Semitic imagination it's sullying the Volk.

You move from there to the conspiratorial element, which is: With their excessive power they're trying to rule the world.  This is the political -- (off mike).  And there's a kind of obsessive element where that kind of conspiratorial demonological theme springs to the mind right away when you try to explain something in the world -- "Oh, it's the Jews," "It's the Americans," "It's the Freemasons."  It springs to mind first and expands to leave no room for alternative explanations.

So what of the United States?  Why is it an anti-Semitic dream -- (inaudible)?  Well, it is endowed with great and excessive power, and it is responsible for a lot, if not all of the evil in the world, among which is capitalism, globalization, which is also something that was always attributed to the Jews as being blood-sucking capitalists. And so you have power, conspiracy, plus force of unwanted change -- in this case capitalism and globalization.  So that's how the topics have migrated. 

LUGO:  And the exact connection between the two -- and here I'm getting to recent discussions -- in fact, I think you have written on the piece that John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, on the Jewish lobby.  There has to be some connection in that mindset that, in a    sense causes the U.S. to march in lockstep with Israeli or Jewish interests. 

And isn't that, according to that mindset, the Jewish lobby, the Jewish -- the neocon influence on American foreign policy?  Is that part of the connection that's drawn there in that --

JOFFE:  The conjunction -- I mean, in their mind, the way that they craft the argument is that they take classic anti-Semitic tropes, topics:  excessive power, subversion, dual loyalty, treason. That's the progression.  And they apply it to the American body politics, so to speak, which is a classic anti-Semitic way of thinking.  I mean, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" are like that.  Here's a bunch of Jews there, the excess of power, they work in the dark, they conspire to overwhelm good people and good thinking.

So I don't know whether this really fits my point because they use classic anti-Semitic categories to explain what they think is an outcome in American foreign policy.  So that's traditional, as it were.  And put the quotes in there, "anti-Semitism," because I don't think these guys are anti-Semitic.  I know them.  I mean, I certainly didn't -- I've worked with them and so on.  But the topics they use, the categories they use is excessive power, subversion, conspiracy, betrayal.  And I think any anti-ism -- you have an obsessive element here that says, "Well, this is the only explanation.  We don't like the way American foreign policy is going.  They can only be that particular explanation."  That's the obsessive part.

So you know, I correct -- with one of the henchman, I had a discussion.  I said, so what about all these other guys, Condi Rice and Rumsfeld and Bush and et cetera, et cetera?   Are these secret Jews?  Are they Marranos?

You know what Marranos are?

LUGO :  Yeah.

JOFFE:  They practice their faith in hiding?  What about these guys? 

That's where these theories begin to falter, to fall, because they're trying -- they're using too little a variable to explain too big another variable.  You can't -- you know, so -- an anti-ism -- and I'm deliberate about America -- anti-Semitism or anti-Israel -- anti- ism is not about facts, it's about filters.

So you only accept -- (audio break from source) -- the theory.  

And if I were sitting here with Walt and Mearsheimer, I said: Look, how do you account for this?  How do you account for that?  Your model can't explain the enormous intimacy between every American administration since Roosevelt and the Saudis.  How do you explain this very intimate relationship with Egypt, with Jordan?  What about oil?  Are the Jews responsible for American oil interests?  What kind of foreign policy's Exxon conducting?  

So I would say:  You guys are academics.  You have to admit contrary evidence, and you have to deal with the contrary evidence. And that's my gripe with these guys.

LUGO :  Yeah.  One interesting wrinkle that's been added on this of late, certainly during the Bush administration and that great prominence that evangelicals have achieved, you know, is that -- that that's the other component here, that it's not just Jews, but the crusader evangelicals who are part of this -- strong influence on the Bush administration.  

I can tell you from our polling that next to Jews, no one in this country is more supportive of Israel.

JOFFE:  The evangelical --

LUGO :  So you know, that conjunction -- have you picked that up as well, the evangelical role in all this?

JOFFE:  Yeah, yeah, I don't -- I can't -- you know, if you kind of grow up with European Christianity, as I did, one of the hardest things for the Euroweenies -- (chuckles) -- as they're sometimes called here, to understand is American Protestantism, because it's a very alien -- it doesn't exist in a -- you know, Protestantism in Europe is essentially Lutheranism.  

LUGO :  Right.

JOFFE:  And -- 

LUGO :  Although the term is -- (cell phone rings) --

JOFFE:  It's me.   

LUGO :  Joe, did you not listen to my instructions? (Laughter.)  All right.  We'll forgive you this once.  

JOFFE:  I will turn this off.  I'm sorry.  I'm sorry.

LUGO :  It's Angela Merkel, I think, isn't it?  

JOFFE:  Sure.  (Inaudible.)   So --

LUGO :  Yeah.

JOFFE:  American Protestantism is very hard to understand for people who grow up in what is essentially a dominant Lutheran tradition, after -- 

LUGO :  "Evangelische" in German.

JOFFE:  Yeah, but after, you know, we wiped out the Jan Huses on the stake and all competing Protestantisms in Europe were either literally extinguished or pushed back.

So this revivalist tradition, this millenarian tradition -- very hard to understand, the Second Coming and all that, because we said, "Wait a minute.  What do you mean, the Second Coming?"  For the Christians, the "Messias" has already arrived.  There was Jesus.  What about the Second Coming?  

So it's very hard to understand and it's a very powerful force, as you know, in American politics.  It is a force that has been growing more powerful.  But why do the evangelicals latch onto Israel?  I don't know.  Can you explain that to me?

LUGO :  (Laughs, laughter.)  Well, that's a topic of another discussion --

JOFFE:  Well --

LUGO:  And actually we had an event here not long ago with with Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention on precisely this question -- evangelicals and Israel and how, you know, the theological, biblical, prophetic world view of evangelicals incline them towards a strong pro-Jewish, pro-Israeli position.  So we've -- that should be in the record here somewhere.  It's a very interesting conjunction.

JOFFE:  You might -- I mean, I understand why American Protestantism in general, the Puritan strain, is very different from European Christianity in the sense that the Puritan strain was not only not anti-Semitic, it was kind of pro-Semitic.  It was --

LUGO :  Right, right.

JOFFE:  It was these characters who reenacted the Exodus by going across the ocean.  They named their children Abraham and Sarah and Isaiah and stuff.  They actually saw themselves as the new Jews, and they built the new Jerusalem and all that.  So it's a very different strain from European Catholicism --

LUGO :  That's right.

JOFFE:  -- earlier which were strictly anti-Semitic.  I mean, Luther turned into a vicious anti-Semite.  After he realized the Jews wouldn't convert, he was very, very friendly and said nice things about them.  When he realized they wouldn't be converted, he wanted to kind of extinguish -- elimination -- this mode.  And that part was never -- I mean, anti-Semitism in this country had different sources than religion, and it has very powerful religious sources in Europe.

LUGO :  Incidentally, when I mentioned the high support for Israel among evangelicals, that tends to be in the case generally among Americans.  And when we ask -- you may be interested in this,    Joe -- on favorability ratings for various American religious groups, Jews, in fact, get the highest favorability rating of any religious group in this country, which is really quite interesting.  So philosemitism would --

JOFFE:  The general populous likes the Jews --

LUGO :  Precisely.  When he ask in our general surveys, you know, which of these religious groups --

JOFFE:  Aren't they going overboard a bit here?

LUGO :  Well, it's -- evangelicals don't rate very highly, actually.  I mean, they're still -- the majority's -- (chuckles) -- you know, of favorables, but not nearly as high as American Jews, which is quite interesting.

JOFFE:  So there's a kind of philosemitic conspiracy here?

LUGO :  Well, if there is a conspiracy, it's been very successful with the general populations.  That one could say.

Now, turning to the question of policies, you know, one often hears the concern that -- you know, the charge of being anti-Semitic or anti-American can be used as a convenient club to shield criticisms of policies. So a couple of questions.

Is anti-Israelism the same as anti-Semitism?  Or to put it more pointedly, can't one disagree, even profoundly, with Israeli policy, and for that matter with American policy, without falling into either anti-Semitism or anti-Americanism?  Where is the line there?

JOFFE:  It's the classic counterclub, you know.  And it's an issue which is very easy to take care of.

If I say to you, "Your tie doesn't go with your suit" --

QUESTIONER:  My wife told me the same thing this morning, actually, so thanks for reminding me, Joe.  (Laughter.)

JOFFE:  -- I'm criticizing your taste.

QUESTIONER:  Yeah.

JOFFE:  But if you say -- if I say to you, "This tie, being about as distasteful as can be, shows what a distasteful character you are," then it's no longer a critique.  Then it's something else.

So, you know, when I say Israeli occupation polices is stupid or bad, or, you know, the wall is stupid or bad -- "They should do this, they should do that" -- that's policy creating, just when I say, "I think the United States should have signed on to the Kyoto Protocol, or I think that's stupid to not to join the International Criminal Court, whatever -- or Iraq was a major mistake -- that is not anti- Americanism, in the same way that if I tried or criticized Israelis for a particular -- it's not anti --

But if I say -- if I run through the gamut, which was kind of a very favorite tool, you know -- not signing on to the ICG, not signing on to Kyoto, not signing on to the complete test ban, biological weapons -- (inaudible) -- and turn that into four proofs of irredeemable American evil, then I'm anti-American, okay?

If I begin -- if I move from items and critiques to general characteristics, I start stereotyping, hostile stereotyping, I start demonizing, I start ascribing conspiratorial behavior to whoever my target is, that is anti-ism.

So I think it's very easy to distinguish between critique and anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism.  It -- anti-ism is not really   about what the target does.  It's what the target is.  And so the European litany about the catalogue of sins that describes the Bush administration, the kind of obsessive repetition of this litany really meant, you know, you as a country are bad, and not your president, or your Congress is stupid.

I mean, it depends on the language you use.  When you say it is stupid on the part of the Israelis to build this fence in these places because it does certain things to the Palestinians, that is policy critique.  But if I say this proves once more that it's a religious- based imperialism that seeks to subjugate the neighborhood, then it's anti-Israeli.  Does that make sense to you?

LUGO :  Well, more importantly, we'll see whether it makes sense to the audience here.  We'll turn to them shortly.

Let me ask you here, because my time is running short, are there any practical real-world consequence for U.S. foreign policy of this widespread anti-Americanism?

JOFFE:  Well, yes and no.  Let me tell you, when people like -- outfits like Pew or the German Marshall Fund of the United States, they keep running endless opinion surveys around the world about America.  Pew is a particularly interesting example, I mean the polls I've seen.  What they call anti-Americanism, when they say, "We have measured the depth of anti-Americanism," is actually something else. They measure policy anti-Americanism.  I would call it policy anti- Americanism.  It's really opposition to specific policies of the United States -- Kyoto or global warming or arms control or this or that.  

That is not anti-Americanism.  Anti-Americanism is always targeted at what the country is rather than what it does -- capitalist, evangelical, too religious, imperialist, blah-blah.  So we have to distinguish those two components.  There's anti-Americanism, but the way I define it, there's very little one can do about it.  But on the policy anti-Americanism, there's lots you can do.  What is the issue?  Where do the two connect?  Where does the real anti- Americanism and the policy anti-Americanism connect?  

I think the common variable is American power. It's huge American power.  It is no longer balanced by another super-power, the Soviet Union.  And so that has obviously increased American tendencies to use their power more liberally than during the Cold War, when you always ran up against the deterrent wall of 10,000 Soviet strategic warheads. So I think up to a point, America can modify its behavior, conduct a different foreign policy, maybe a foreign policy which restrains American power more, which maybe is more sensitive to the needs and wishes of other nations.    That can reduce the policy anti-Americanism.

But the real anti-Americanism, again, has to do with what the United States is -- it's the most modern society.  It's a steamroller of modernity.  It keeps overturning ancient dispensations and traditional power structures.  I mean, what is a large part of European anti- American is:  What is this steamroller of modernity doing here?  It's forcing us to compete, it's forcing to -- Goldman Sachs is coming in here and discombobulating the capital markets.  It's -- as one German politico recently called it -- the locust that eat everything up that we have built here.

That is very hard to deal with because it has to do with what America is.  And America, since its beginning, has always been in that respect a threat to the world because it was a steamroller of modernity.

If you look at history of anti-Americanism, you'll see the same topics crop up from, you know -- even from the very early days of the Republic to now.  It starts out -- my favorite -- there was this dude called Talleyrand, a somewhat important figure in French history.  And he had to disappear from France for a while, and he lived in Philadelphia for a while.  Probably very few people know.  And the first thing he said after was, "What a weird country this is.  Thirty religions and only one dish to eat."  (Laughter.)  That is the most modern trope, if you wish.  

What are Europeans saying to the United States?  America is uncultured; they don't have anything to eat, they just do burgers. That's all they can do.  And they're this weird religious animals. They believe in God, for Christ's sake.  (Laughter.)  Pardon -- pardon the expression.

So Talleyrand is such a good example to kind of illustrate the continuity of anti-American categories of thought.  It really is -- it's uncultured, it's an agent for change, and it's a religious country.  And that, I'm sure Pew is obviously is studying that, and correctly so, because one of the biggest divides across the Atlantic is the religion gap.

LUGO :  No question.  Right.

JOFFE:  I'll never forget, I was sitting next to a very highly placed German political leader one day, and he waxed very eloquent on a very important American political leader and said, "The guy hears voices in his head.  He's like Joan of Arc; he prays every morning in the White House."    And I said to him, "Mr. Blah-blah, look, you're secular, I'm secular, but why don't we respect people who believe in God?"  And he blew up at me almost.  He rose from the table and the only -- and I was lucky, I had a Cuban cigar in my pocket, and I gave it to him.

I said, "Here.  Have a cigar."  (Laughter.)  He looked at it.  It was a Partagas; it was okay.  He sat down.

LUGO :  That's funny.

JOFFE:  So religion -- we're finally beginning to study in this country, beginning to study this guy, and you're at the forefront.  I think it's very important.

LUGO :  Well, I appreciate that.

Yeah, being Cuban I can appreciate the sacramental value of a cigar too, Joe, so a good move on your part.  (Laughter.)

JOFFE:  Over there they don't --

LUGO :  (Laughs.)

JOFFE:  I have discarded them.  They're illegal.

LUGO :  Well, I do want to turn to the audience.

But just in your last set of comments, it just -- it strikes me that you're putting us on the horns of a dilemma here, Joe, because you say, well, look, anti-Americanism is being driven by people's negative attitudes towards the polity, who we are, as well as the policy, what we do.

JOFFE:  Yeah, who we are.  You're right.  Yeah.  Both.

LUGO :  But it seems to that the things you're recommending for the U.S. to do to seek to counter the criticism of the policy side would only pump up the United States as an agent of modernity, and thereby generate even more anti-Americanism on the polity side.

You see the dilemma there?  I think Walter brings this up in his book as well.  I mean, to the --

JOFFE:  Who did?  He -- Walter did?

LUGO :  Yeah.  I think that's --

JOFFE:  But wait a minute.  Did I sense that if, yeah, we as Americans were nicer to the world -- 

LUGO :  Right.

JOFFE:  -- it would pump up the real anti-Americanism?

LUGO :  Well, he -- you know, he's referring to --

JOFFE:  My point is, you know, there is two kinds of, quote, unquote anti -- there's policy anti --

LUGO :  Right.

JOFFE:  -- and it's what the policy is and what the polity is.  Okay?  So if the policies would change, then the resentment against the polity itself would grow.  Is that how it is in your question?

LUGO:  Well, because if it's -- if the polity is defined as the -- people see it as the agent of modernity, to the extent the United States takes an even more prominent role in the world by, you know, bonding like Bismarck and you know the terminology -- you balancing, like Britain and so and so.  I mean, it would just enhance its international profile, which will make it an even greater target, it seems to me, for those who have problems with it as, you know, as the agent of modernity.  And that's the dilemma that I see here for this country.

But you can ponder on that --

JOFFE:  No, let me just -- may I contradict you on this?

LUGO :  Okay.

JOFFE:  I've been following the, you know, the data, which is yours.  Since what I call policy anti-Americanism kind of reached a frenzied hysterical peak in 2002 and early 2003, the run-up to the Iraq war and during the Iraq war, one of the reasons -- and this is something polls can't fathom; I mean, not because you are stupid, but because polls are --

LUGO :  It's hard to get at some facts.  We concur.

JOFFE:  You had -- in Europe, let me talk about Europe.  You had policy anti-Americanism legitimated at the highest level.  For the first time in post-war German history, for instance, did a chancellor say nasty things about the United States; so did the French.  When it came down from high heaven, so to speak, from above, there's a very important connection, I think, which I can't prove:  it's that once you legitimate that kind of anti-Americanism, it then shows up on the poll level.

Now, to the extent to which, you know, new leaders -- like Angela Merkel and the French have now moderated some of their opposition and    hostility to the United States -- to the point at which that moderation takes place and to the point at which the war has come and not quite gone but, you know, the American muscle player -- fear of American power plus being -- it was okay.

You know, you look at my Chirac or you look at my Schroeder, it's okay to be -- to hate America, (inaudible) which both of these factors have been muted, measured policy anti-Americanism has come down.

So that's what I mean, to come back to your issue -- behavior matters on the level of policy anti-Americanism, but not on the level of, you know -- a distinction again that I want to make is it's not so much what the United States does as what it is.  And the same is true for Israel.  It is what Israel is in its neighborhood, you know.  The most successful economy, the most successful army, as it were, just a thorn in the side of Arab societies -- that is too independent of whether they are stupid or wise on this or that policy.  And so I want you to keep distinguishing those two levels.

LUGO :  Very good.

Okay, well, we want to invite you into the discussion.  We would remind you to please wait for the microphone and speak directly into it.  If you could state your name and affiliation and please keep your questions concise.

The gentleman back there was first.

QUESTIONER:  Okay.  My name is Dov Zakheim.

It's fascinating, Joe, to hear you talking about people like me.

A little anecdote for you, and a theory which I'd you to comment on -- when I was undersecretary of Defense -- and I funded the Iraq war -- I would go over to Europe.  And I was fascinated when they would blame everything on the neocons.  And of course, they thought I was a neocon -- the fact that I'd never been a liberal didn't matter. The fact that I'd clashed with the Israelis didn't matter.  

JOFFE:  You're just a con-con!  (Laughs.) 

QUESTIONER:  What mattered was that I was Jewish, Orthodox, in the Pentagon, in the Bush administration.

But one of the things I noticed -- and this is really what I want you to comment on -- was that most of the people who were saying these things were people of your generation and mine, Joe, the people who, when I studied in Europe in the late '60s and early '70s, were anti- American and anti-Israel, had grown up, had become leaders, and were now echoing the same stuff I had heard in Europe 30 years before, but doing it in a more refined way.  You didn't talk about that.  Do you think I'm on to something?

JOFFE:  What -- what's the question?  Do you want me to explain the continuity or the origins?

QUESTIONER:  The question is, do you sense that so much of this is actually a carryover from, you know, the opposition to the Israeli victory in '67, the opposition to Vietnam?  It's kind of been dormant, and now it's just surfaced again.  Because on its face, it's really quite off the wall.

LUGO :  So it is the continuity question.

JOFFE:  Well, the continuity is easy.  It goes back to 1787, or even 1776, or even before that, to 1620.  I mean, after all, what did you guys do when you left Europe in 1620?  You told these guys, "You guys are creeps, you're worthless, we don't want anything to do with you guys anymore, we're going to build our own Jerusalem here, the city on the Hill. So they never forgave you for that, for leaving -- and then feeling superior about it.  And it's even harder to forgive you when you keep winning wars and saving their behinds in three world wars, including the Cold war. 

The thing about Israel has similar but not quite the same origins.  There was some Israeli psychiatrist by the name of Zvi Rex. It's always attributed to him.  It's a great line.  I wish I'd come up with it myself.  He said, "The Germans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz."  What does that mean?  

America is a constant reminder of where Europe went wrong, and how they saved them -- reluctantly, by the way, if you think about how late it took Wilson to get into the war in 1917.  The Americans always save them from their own weaknesses or inability to maintain a stable balance of power in Europe.  And the Israelis keep reminding them, as heirs of the victims, of what Europe did and did not do.  And I think that's not just a German issue, it's a European issue, because Europeans, in one way or another either actively collaborated with the Holocaust or at least didn't do anything about it; the only exception being the British, who were lucky enough to escape German occupation.

So as soon as the Israelis, as heirs of the victims -- victims cannot -- emerged from their victim role in the '60s, the Six-Day War, the first great, brilliant victory.  Something cracked.  And suddenly you saw things coming up in the public discourse as, "You Jews are just like our fathers or forefathers were.  You behave like Nazis. You're doing the same thing to them."  And so if you want to be really crude and Freudian on his anniversary, a Freudian says, you know, it's a nice way of projection, projecting guilt, et cetera, et cetera.  

But we're now moving into some real -- you know, we're moving into kind of Freudian psychology, which makes nice cocktail party conversation, but very hard to grasp.  I'm sure sometimes you have to use discoveries of the subconscious to explain certain events which you can't explain with even the most refined tools of public opinion surveying.  So, yes, your observation is correct.

LUGO :  The gentleman in the back here was next, I believe. Yeah?

QUESTIONER:  Mike Getler from PBS. Joe, in terms of the difference between policy and what America is, didn't the substantial reelection of the president change things? In other words, it was not just American policy, but the election perhaps showed what America is in a much larger fashion.  And has this --

JOFFE:  Well, what half of America is.

QUESTIONER:  Well, a majority!  (Laughs.)  And has this had an impact that goes well beyond policy but, rather, reflects what the country is, how it thinks, how a majority thinks and what it stands for?

JOFFE:  Look, I'll give you a very crude and simple answer. No president in my memory has ever -- and I'm just reporting, not saying it was -- has attracted more anger, more contempt than George W., for reasons which I cannot understand.  You know, he doesn't have cloven hoofs and he doesn't have horns growing out of his forehead. He seems like an okay guy when you first see him.  Nothing evil about him.  But you mention the name "Bush" at a European dinner party conversation and you will have ruined the evening, at least for yourself, not for them!  (Laughter.)

So there's an irrational aspect there which I cannot understand.

Back to your question.  Yes, I mean, you know, as I said, anti- Americanism or anti-Semitism, anti-greenism, anti-blueism is about what people perceive you are, about your essence, and that that essence is evil, inferior morally, socially, economic.  

Has it increased or decreased anti-Americanism?  Again, go back to the distinction between what I call the real thing and the policy anti-Americanism.  I think the fact that the United States has been bogged down in Iraq, that its initial brilliant victory on the actual battlefield has been followed by a protracted, non-winning -- at least non-winning, maybe it's even losing -- war in Iraq has kind of cut the United States down to size.  Its power is not that overwhelming as we, the anti-Americans, have thought.  And so that has lowered the level of contempt, dislike, fear, whatever -- to have the United States power revealed as less fearsome as was originally thought.  

That would be my interpretation.

LUGO :  The lady here was next, and then, sir, over there. 

QUESTIONER:  Avis Bohlen, Georgetown University.  I have a sort of double question.  First of all, aren't you being too -- making too sharp a distinction between the anti-policy anti-Americanism and the sort of stereotypical anti-Americanism?  It seems to me that what has happened over the past five years is that the policy anti-Americanism has in fact increased the -- well, not just the stereotypical --

JOFFE:  The essential Americanism --

QUESTIONER:  -- but has created a doubt in many people's minds about whether not just such things as Kyoto and the International Criminal Court, but Iraq and, in particular the prisoner abuse and the Guantanamo, --

JOFFE:  Yeah.

QUESTIONER:  -- about which you yourself have written as being something that is contrary to American traditions, and so that even our supporters are wondering whether the America that had a certain moral authority for many years is not sort of morphing into something different.

My second question was just about -- you said that classic anti- Semitism in Europe has morphed into something else.  And leaving aside the Muslim communities, are we talking in French or German society as a whole about anti-Semitism or anti-Israeli policy?

JOFFE:  Yeah.  Yeah.  Look, anti-Semitism is about the most -- if you think about social taboos or cultural taboos, I think anti- Semitism probably attracts THE most powerful societal taboo, post- Holocaust, not before.  Before the Holocaust, it was perfectly respectable if you were anti-Semitic.  It was okay.  

So if something is that -- has so powerful taboo on it, you would expect it to come out elsewhere.  And so that's why I would say the classic has morphed into anti-Israelism when it latches on to tropes which are classic anti-ism, rather than anti-policy.  And so the kind of -- I'm talking about the demonization of Israel, its irredeemably evil nature.  These are the kind of -- and the predictability and consistency of these reactions.  That, to me, leads me to at least the hypothesis that one thing has been sublimated, sublimated into another.

But to your earlier point, you know, if Europeans were attacking the United States in terms of its great constitutional tradition, when it comes to torture in Abu Ghraib, that would be one thing, but they don't do that.  They say this once more proved how evil they are, and that makes all the difference.

QUESTIONER:  It is possible to do both.

JOFFE:  Yeah.  It's not -- believe me, it's not, you know, that -- people weren't invoking a great constitutional -- there's the sense, you know, Americans -- America is a torture state, it's a torture state.

LUGO :  Well, there was already suspicion about that, given our policy views on capital punishment, already.

JOFFE:  Oh, yeah.  Capital punishment is a very, very important thing.

LUGO :  Which seems to have a unique position in Europeans' thinking concerning the moral status of the United States.

JOFFE:  Yeah.  

LUGO :  This is -- yeah.  

JOFFE:  Well, the capital punishment is a very, very big item.

But again, you have to look at how it's being used.  You know, I can sit here and make a threefold argument of why capital punishment is stupid, immoral and doesn't even deter, et cetera, et cetera.  That would be a rational discussion.  But when it gets to Europe, is, again, the U.S. is proof of irredeemable evil and moral retrogradeness.

So you always have to look at how the argument is framed and what the context is.  You can make a perfectly powerful case against capital punishment.  I could do that here in the next five minutes. But that's not the context.  It is:  Look, we, the Europeans, we have seen the light, we are better than these retrogrades.

And this is what I keep harping on.  This is the difference between anti-ism, and critique and criticism.

LUGO :  The gentleman in the middle, and then you were next.

Good, I finally see a hand over there.  I will get to you momentarily, ma'am.

QUESTIONER:  I'm Gerry Livingston from the German Historical Institute. Let me just try to rephrase Avis's point and then make one quick question.  

It just seems to me that this distinction you make, Joe, is hard to maintain between what we do and what we are.  I mean, with accumulation of policy do's, leads, then, inevitability to an essentiality of what we are, if there are enough of those do's.  And I guess as Avis pointed out, you know, the accumulation of do's over the last three or four years has been rather considerable.  That's my point.

And my question is, if there's one country besides the United States that's a strong backer of Israel, that is -- of course is Germany --

JOFFE:  Is what?

QUESTIONER:  Is Germany, as you probably heard yesterday.

JOFFE:  The first half of the sentence I didn't get.

QUESTIONER:  If there's one country next to the United States that's a strong backer of Israel, it's Germany, as you probably heard last   night with Frau Merkel, who gave a very strong declaration of support for Israel.

So my question, Joe, is do you anticipate -- or maybe it's already developed -- a similar correlation between anti-Germany and anti-Semitism, because Germany is now such a strong supporter of Israel?

JOFFE:  Oh.  That's an interesting question.  I tell you, I just don't think your analysis is totally correct.  I mean just because you give some very powerful -- which Angela Merkel has done -- speech of support, doesn't yet turn into kind of American surrogate. I mean, the American connection to Israel is a much more powerful one, for instance in terms of arms deliveries.  America is an ally, Germany is not.  I mean, if it came to the very worst, America would defend Israel.  Germany, others would not.  So I wouldn't put them in the same boat, though you're right, Germany is within Europe the strongest supporter for Israel, and for obvious historical reasons.

But what was the question?  Oh, the -- you see, you fall into the same trap of -- you know, the anti-American trap.  You say a series of "do's" adds up to one big "be."  So are you saying America is evil, it's bad?  Are you saying that?  I don't think America is an evil country.  I think America makes mistakes.  I think -- we can -- I can run through a litany of 10 over the past five years which I thought were either not very smart, if not quite stupid.  But even if I run through the list of stupidities or even grievous mistakes, to me that doesn't add up in the irremediable evil nature of the United States.

As -- and you know exactly what the difference is.  We can criticize our friends, you know, for bad ties or sloppy table manners or what have you, and that doesn't mean we hate them yet.  Hating them is something else.

LUGO :  Lady in front.

QUESTIONER:  I'll be very brief to the challenge because I teach.  My name is Juliana Pilon at the Institute of World Politics.  We can't talk in less than 50-minute segments.  Very briefly, my question to you is, what advice would you give, if any -- sorry -- all right, what impression do you have, if any, of the way America presents what it does?  Because it -- having actually spent a lot of my life in democracy building, about which very few people know much of anything, including within our own State Department, to say nothing of the humanitarian assistance at both public and private levels -- does the world know who we are, really?

JOFFE:  Does what?  Does --

LUGO :  Does anybody know who we are?

QUESTIONER:  Does the world know who we are?

LUGO :  It's an excellent question, and there --

JOFFE:  Yeah, I want to answer it.

LUGO:  Well, I guess -- if I may rephrase it, even if the United States undertakes certain policy changes, you know, which you're recommending in terms of its role in the world, for the U.S. to turn the anti-Americanism directed at our policy around, is it sufficient just to change policy, or do we have to do a much better job of public diplomacy?  I mean, in other words, conveying to the broader public who the United States is and our look, basically?

JOFFE:  The problem is you can't convey what the United States is.  The United States is the most overwhelming cultural, economic, strategic, political presence in the world, and that's -- I mean, for me it made perfect sense for the State Department to close down all these America houses because we don't need this stuff.  The Germans may need their Goethe Institutes and the British Council and so the -- our stuff doesn't need any gun to travel.  It travels -- it doesn't need institution.  It travels around the world in almost real time.  But what I'm struck by is that -- you know, look, in my lifetime, the world has become so much more American than 30 or 40 years ago. It's an American world in which we live out there.  You know, the folks out there eat, drink, watch, listen, dance, dress, American.  I mean -- something -- somewhere in the ghetto, something -- some clothes -- some outfit is being invented, and you know, two months later they're wearing it in China -- hip hop; you know, all this kind of stuff.  The pervasiveness of America is absolutely unbelievable.

However, it doesn't make a difference.

Just because a goy kid wears a Yankee -- you know, a New York Yankees baseball cap does not mean he either knows about the Yankees or about New York or let alone that he wears this to identify with either the team or the city or America, whether he wears it sideways or front or back, doesn't matter.

Way back in the olden days, there was -- during the Vietnam days, a bunch of Frankfurt students marched on the America house, throwing rocks and tomatoes.  And while they were doing it, they were playing a Jimi Hendrix version -- a distorted Jimi Hendrix version of the American national anthem, while they were throwing -- so the point I'm trying to make is this enormous presence in the world does not -- at best, it's neutral.  It has no effect.  And at worst, it has a negative effect in the sense that people will act against this enormous soft power of the United States.

So soft power is its own curse.  You look skeptical.

LUGO :  Karen Hughes, close your ears.

QUESTIONER:  (Off mike.)

JOFFE:  Oh, go ahead.

LUGO :  Very quickly here, because we have a couple more questions.

JOFFE:  Oh, no.  I want to hear how --

LUGO :  Yeah.  Okay.

JOFFE:  I want to hear --

QUESTIONER:  Okay.  The world may wear our caps, but they don't really know who we are.

JOFFE:  I know.  That's what I said.

QUESTIONER:  And that's what you just said.

JOFFE:  Well, America is -- listen, America is --

QUESTIONER:  But there are ways to find out -- I --   J

JOFFE:  It's a canvas.  America is a canvas, from its very beginning.  America was never real --

QUESTIONER:  When individuals meet individuals -- and it happens all the time -- it's amazing how much is out there that is not captured on radar screens such as polls.

JOFFE:  Yeah.  Sure.  And I'd say some of my best friends are Americans.  (Laughter.)

LUGO :  Okay.  The lady in the back row.

JOFFE:  It was a crack.  This was a crack.

QUESTIONER:  Thank you.  Jill Schuker.  How central, in your view, is the role of oil -- I'm sorry --

LUGO :  No, go ahead.  Please, continue.

QUESTIONER:  How central, in your view, is the role of oil to both anti- Semitism and anti-Americanism?  I.e., if indeed Israel did not exist, there would not be the issue of -- as profoundly the concern about access to oil and energy in that part of the world.

JOFFE:  I don't think oil and Israel has any connection in that -- at least in the way you framed it.

At 75 bucks a barrel of oil, oil is very important, because it bespeaks an almost structural imbalance between supply and demand. We have a very powerful demand problem.  There's too much demand for oil.  And so oil becomes an obsession and preoccupation for everybody. Did the United States go to war -- maybe that's the question -- did the United States go to war in Iraq for oil?  I think it would have been cheaper not to go to war.  I think we should have just cuddled up to Saddam and did what the French did, get a special price.

But anyway, that was not your question.  I don't quite understand your question, let's put it this way.

QUESTIONER:  (Off mike.)

JOFFE:  Oh, I'm sorry.  You're saying that it's the close connection with Israel that is trouble for the United States.

QUESTIONER:  Yes.

JOFFE:  Well, it's an interesting what-if question.  I think it's deeper than that, because the West, or whoever the intruder was, was regularly hated in the Arab Middle East.  It used to be the Brits, it used to be the French, even before there was an Israel.  And the United States, I think, is being hated for the classic reasons.  It's an enormous intrusion, enormous power.  And don't forget, probably the biggest hatred is because it supports certain Arab regimes which are not greatly cherished by the masses.  

And then we get to a real interesting point.  Those regimes are the ones -- Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, the three regimes most dependent on American power, are also the most anti-Semitic and anti- American cultures in the Middle East.  So you might speculate about the connection between having the Americans as a regime support and unleashing in my own society these kind of forces against my protector.

LUGO :  We have two minutes left.  So please keep your last question.  This will be the last question right here, the gentleman in the middle.  This will be the last one.

QUESTIONER:  Thank you.  I'm Chuck Lane, work for The Washington Post. I would like to ask you about the outburst of pro-Americanism in Western Europe after 9/11, the huge demonstrations in favor of the United States in all the major capitals, especially Berlin, and the fact that Gerhard Schroeder raced to Washington to be seen with George Bush.  Was that in some way an embrace of the United States because it was a victim, or was there something potentially more durable there that was lost because of our behavior afterwards?

JOFFE:  Very good point.  The editor of the Le Monde, Colombani, wrote that famous piece, "Nous sommes tous Americains," We're all Americans now.  But three days later this disappeared, and a few weeks later he had written a little book that says, "Nous somme tous Americains?" -- question mark.  (Laughter.)  So there was nothing enduring there.

But I think -- and again, when we talk about this phenomenon, we're talking usually about elite phenomenon here.  We're talking about the people you and I hang out with -- or at least I hang out with.  (Laughter.)  I don't know who you hang out with.  I don't pretend to speak about the hoi polloi, as they're called.

Now, you're right, there was this moment where America appeared as victim, and that's a very normal response; you do sympathize with a victim.  But then America -- the real America came back, not the victim, but this huge hulk, this ueber-power, this hyper-power, as the French call it, which then proceeded to inflict its vast power on Afghanistan.  And so then things were "okay" again -- quote, unquote. We established the proper relationships again.  It was not the victim, it was the aggressor.  And so the universe of anti-Americanism was intact again.  And that's why you have Colombani say, "Tous Americans?"  People don't like power.  

If you want me to bring it down to one sentence what we have talked about this morning, it's power, it's enormous power.  And this America is not only the most enormous strategic power, it's also the most enormous economic and cultural power.  People don't like unbalanced power.  That's my concluding sentence.

LUGO :  Very well done.  

Thank you so much for coming.  

And thank you, Josef Joffe.  (Applause.) 


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