Are We Big, Ugly Americans Again?

"Immediately following Sept. 11 there was a genuine sense of unity, solidarity, and humanity with the United States. Europeans saw it as an attack on all right-thinking people," agrees Steven Everts, a research fellow at the Center for European Reform in London.

In the weeks after Sept. 11, Europe rallied to the American cause. Nearly three-quarters of the British public supported using British troops against the terrorists responsible for the attacks, according to one poll, and 70 percent approved of the way President Bush was handling the U.S. response. The fact that Sept. 11 victims came from 26 countries also increased the sense that the attacks had reached around the globe.

"I think there was so much sympathy here," says Natasha Walters, a columnist for the Independent in London. "It was almost as though it had happened here."

Emotions Fade, Differences Appear

But as time passed and the anti-terrorism campaign took new turns, that feeling was tempered by growing unease with U.S. policy and shock at the American military's sheer might in the assault on Afghanistan.

"None of that feeling [of post-Sept. 11 support] has soured among my immediate family and friends who remain supportive of the U.S., but in the U.K., there is a groundswell of dissent [about U.S. policy]," says Charles Elder, a Kansas native who has lived in England for the past 20 years.

Bill Martel, a professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College, thinks the fact that the attacks occurred on American — not European — soil meant that different reactions were inevitable.

"They didn't suffer what we suffered. They didn't see 3,000 Europeans killed on Sept. 11," he says.

Anger Over Camp X-Ray and the ‘Axis of Evil’

As the war in Afghanistan progressed, U.S. foreign policy alarmed a broad cross-section of European politicians and public figures. They complained that the United States was directing its anti-terror campaign without consulting its European partners.

In late December, support for widening the conflict beyond Afghanistan was slim, with just 32 percent of Europeans polled saying they supported attacking Iraq and Somalia if those countries supported terrorism.

Many European policymakers had expected American foreign policy would become much more multilateral after Sept. 11. Now, they fear that the clear superiority of the American military would make other nations irrelevant in U.S. policymakers' eyes.

"There's almost a sense of betrayal," Alberta Sbragia, director of the European Union Center at the University of Pittsburgh, says of the European reaction.

The U.S. treatment of Afghan detainees at Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo, Cuba, also drew outcries from around Europe.

The Camp X-Ray controversy prompted Rosa Montero, a columnist for Spain's El Pais, to write: "One of the most harmful aspects of American society is its Calvinist notion of vengeance … the primitive 'eye for an eye' of frontier law, the moral intolerance."

"Everybody from left to right — were talking about it in shocked tones," says Walters, the Independent columnist. "I thought that was a turning point."

Decrying ‘American Arrogance’

Bush's "axis of evil" remark in his State of the Union address likewise drew widespread condemnation overseas. Only British lawmakers came out strongly in support of Bush's speech, and even there, politicians were openly skeptical of Bush's rhetoric.

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