Menaced by its growing economic power and status in the world, and troubled by a changing American character, Europe fears that America has turned racist — an America that now lives in a time of ignorance and fear. The debate in the United States these days sounds eerily similar. Is America “an outrage” — to quote Bernard Lewis’s 1984 book Europe and the American Unraveling — or “an American problem” — to quote George Orwell’s 1984?
Europe and America’s recent history is, of course, not perfectly compatible. The United States has been abusive, frequently racist, and has provided enormous economic benefits to Europe and its citizens in return. Yet America remains, at its heart, a moral society, and its country is still the one mankind turns to for truth, justice and the Rule of Law. Europe, much like America, has a conflicted relationship with power. The superpower, accustomed to a dominant foreign policy and to wielding American intervention as a lever for power and freedom, has found itself reduced to backing plodding NATO nations and battle-hardened warlords. Today, Europe is ill-advised to assume that the United States is now a world leader merely because it happens to be a superpower. America is first and foremost a great civilization. It is, therefore, an American problem. The world, the idea, the body of humanity, the idea of liberalism and progress is more important than America and its outcome.