US: The rift betwen America and Europe

Istvan Simon replies to John Heelan's dismissing his praise of Churchill: My information on World War II comes from a  variety of sources. I will read the critique of Mr. Churchill's books that you suggest and make up my own mind, as I always do,  but I would contend that the Prime Minister was in a unique and better position to write about that history than any of his critics, and in my opinion,  the Prime Minister was a much greater man than  any of his critics will ever be.   I have read dozens of books about World War II, including Harold MacMillan's, William Shirer's and Churchill's.  I consider myself extremely well informed about that conflict, as I have had a long and enduring interest in it. In any case, my earlier remark about Mr. Churchill  does not involve any dispute about historical facts, thus your remark in answering it is doubly inappropriate.  It has to do with insight into people and motivations, not a dispute about details of history.

When one talks about what France and Europe owe the United States, one is talking about moral values, and appreciation for  what  America has done for Europe. Every year in June  the President of France and an American President commemorate D-day. Important as those celebrations are,  France cannot ever repay America with them. It is important to understand that those that died on the beaches of Normandy did not ask for repayment. Neither did  President  Roosevelt nor  General Eisenhower who sent them there. Neither does the American people today,   including me, who simply note with  sadness the anti-American policies of France and some other  parts of Europe.  It is inappropriate for you, as you have done in this argument repeatedly, to say that, because Americans like myself recognize that France, Germany and Europe owe much to America, this somehow diminishes the altruism with which those lives were sacrificed for the freedom of Europe that you enjoy today.  It is inappropriate on many grounds. First, because the way I feel  about it  today  has nothing to do with those that actually made the sacrifice. It is inappropriate, because I am not asking for repayment either, but simply noting that it has not occurred. And it is inappropriate, because we are not here engaged in some sort of big debate for someone else to decide who is right or wrong about this issue, but much more simply communicating the way that we feel about it --  something which therefore is not subject to debate at all.   I contend that the way I feel about it is representative of what millions of other Americans also feel and express in various ways. I believe that not paying attention to it, or dismissing it with cheap shots is  not wise nor prudent for Europeans to do.

Istvan Simon wrote:  The crosses in Normandy show what the United States has done for France. I would like to hear, what France did for the United Statts of similar magnitude.  It cannot be said of Germany, which should be reminded of the siege of Berlin, and how the United States kept Berlin alive, when the Soviet Russia decided to blockade it. That's what we did for them, among many many other things. Now I would like to hear what they have done for us.

From the UK John Heelan replies: What did European countries do for the US?    They acted as proxy killing-fields for the US mainland- as did Vietnam-, a strategic policy adhered to by both US administrations of both political persuasions for most of the last century and continues today.  Cheney stated in the recent vice-presidential debate; "I'm saying specifically that I don't believe that he (Kerry) has the qualities we need in a commander in chief because I don't think, based on his record, that he would pursue the kind of aggressive policies that need to be pursued if we are going to defeat these terrorists.  *We need to battle them overseas, so that we don't have to battle them here at home*.

 The primary objective of any government is to protect its people.  I do not criticise this strategy which that Randy Black described as "throughout history, the US has preferred "away games."™ [Trials at Guantánamo, GITMO- 9/19/2004], but let us not confuse it with altruism "Look what I have done for *you*!" when really you are doing it for yourself.    This is exemplified by John Wonder stating "Americans might be less eager to rush to the help of Europe next time" after quoting General Michael Sullivan who wrote: "If it weren't for us, they would be speaking German" [Re: Dana Lindaman and Kyle Ward, HISTORY LESSONS, 9/19/2004]

By coincidence, Cheney's statement "We need to battle them overseas, so that we don't have to battle them here at home" comes at the same time at that of an (anonymous) Iraqi politician quoted in an article by Ramón Lobo, El Pais Special Correspondent in Baghdad, entitled "Iraq peers into the abyss" [El País 4 October 2004 p.3-4].

The Iraqi politician states (my translation): "After the tragedy of 9/11, the US felt vulnerable on its own territory.  Bush believes that the war in Iraq will serve as a bait, a battle field for the radical groups that hate the United States, and he is prepared to pay the price in soldiers.  Thus he keeps the war far from his frontiers.  I fear that this will be the constant that will dominate the 21st century".

The US benefited from the sacrifices made by its troops in Normandy as much as France did.

Your comments are invited. Read the home page of the World Association of International Studies (WAIS) by simply double-clicking on: Mail to Ronald Hilton, Hoover Institution, Stanford, CA 94305-6010. Please inform us of any change of e-mail address.

Ronald Hilton 2004


last updated: November 24, 2004