From the Yale Israel Journal. A brilliant dissection of the divergence of America [& Israel] from Europe described as the failure of European nationalism & religion as Old World unifying structures and how this translates to antiamericanism and antisemitism.
Europe's Lost Vision
By Ted R. Bromund
The author is Associate Director of International Security Studies at Yale University.
A visitor doubts whether the United States are, so far as the things of the mind are concerned, â€œa new country.â€ The people have the hopefulness of youth. But their institutions are old, though many have been remodelled or new faced; their religion is old; their views of morality and conduct are old; their sentiments . . . have not greatly diverged from those of the parent stock. . . . A transplanted tree may bear fruit of a slightly different flavor, but the apple remains an apple and the pear a pear.
--James Bryce, The American Commonwealth, Vol. II (1888)
Viscount Bryce ended his study of America with the observation that the United States was still recognizably European. Though proud of their republican institutions, and enjoying a fuller measure of prosperity and social equality than any other nation, Americans had not yet developed a civilization separate from that of Europe. It would, he believed, be another generation before the American fruit so acclimated to its new environment that it became a separate species.
To Bryce, the United States was young in spirit but old in mind. The Enlightenment beliefs on which the United States was founded gave it the optimism of youth that, paradoxically, had preserved institutions and convictions that were older than many that survived in Europe. Having escaped the tumult of the French Revolution, which tested the faith of Europeans in the â€œascent of man,â€ Americans retained their measured optimism. They looked forward to continuing to strive towards their ideals, and to the creation of a civilization that was better not for the favored few, as in Europe, but for â€œthe whole body of the people.â€
Many today accept that Bryceâ€™s prediction of an American divergence from Europe has been born out by events. The US and Western European governments disagreed regularly during the Cold War: the fact that they have continued to do so during the past decade is not, in itself, significant. But since the early 1990s, observers have described a divorce between American and European civilizations. The phrase that has gained the most currency is â€œAmerican unilateralism.â€ It echoes and endorses Bryceâ€™s forecast: it is the United States that has diverged from Europe.
Yet in reality it is Europe, not the United States, that has changed. Bryce believed that as America evolved, it would naturally become less like Europe. His error was to suppose that after 1789, Europe had outgrown the revolution. But for Europe, the twentieth century was an age of revolutions. Instead of American progress taking the New World gradually further afield from the Old, it was the Old World that was wrenched violently away from the New. In the process, America and Europe lost their previously shared vision of how the world should be ordered. America retained what Europe rejected.
This European divergence from the principles it used to share with America is not at the root of every disagreement between the United States and the European Union; differences between democracies are inevitable. Nor is either union monolithic. But the divergence is real and dangerous: it causes some trans-Atlantic differences, and it aligns them all. It makes every incident part of the story of the American falling-away from European civilization and gives renewed strength to anti-Semitism, anti-Americanismâ€™s historical twin. Every aspect of this divide is thus of great consequence for Israel. By staking its place as the modern, liberal opponent of the United States, Europe is rejecting not only the premises of the modern world order, but also the means by which the liberal values of that order must be defended.