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Jonathan Schell Introduction AS THIS CONFERENCE, “THEIR AMERICA,” TOOK PLACE IN OCTOBER 2 0 0 4 , that year’s presidential election was not much more than two weeks away. A feeling was widespread—not only within the country but around the world—that the United States was about to make a decision of uncommon importance. The impetus for the conference stemmed from a recognition that the election’s outcome would be almost as crucial for the nonvoting 6 billion people outside America’s borders as for the roughly 290 million people within them. Though the focus of the discussion was not the election itself, the New School had in a sense given a dozen or so of the billions a chance to vote. The Bush administration had not been shy about asserting a global importance for American policies. The National Security Strategy of the United States ofAmerica, the seminal document of the administra­ tion’s foreign policy, had stated that “The great struggles of the twenti­ eth centuiy between liberty and totalitarianism ended with a decisive victory for the forces of freedom, and a single, sustainable model for national success. Freedom, democracy, and free enterprise.” The one model was the American model. The means for spreading it around the world had not gone unmentioned, either. “America has an intent to keep military strengths beyond challenge,” the president had said, “thereby making the destabilizing arms races of other eras pointless and limiting rivalries to trade and other pursuits of peace.” Thus did he graciously allow a role for other countries: “trade and other pursuits of peace.” They could go shopping, surf the Internet, go to the movies, and so forth but the war business would henceforth be reserved for the social research Vol 72 : No 4 : Winter 2005 787 United States. The United States and the United States alone would rule the entire military sphere of existence. The presentations at our session reflected agreement with at least one aspect of the American self-appraisal: American power in the world was unprecedented. For example, John Eatwell spoke of “the fact of America’s total dominance in so many dimensions of modem life,” including the military, the economic, and even the academic. Michael Naumann likened the United States—“the empire of goodness of the United States”—to imperial Rome, expressing appreciation that the provinces now are at least allowed to see their fates decided on tele­ vision. (The presidential election debates, widely watched around the world, had just concluded.) The appraisal appeared to be unanimously accepted by the panelists. Jacques Rupnik, whose presentation, unfor­ tunately, is not included in this volume, told us that in places where the United States retained a measure of popularity, namely among Eastern European elites, past demonstrations of American power in driving Soviet communism into the grave now rendered it welcome. And Claudio Lomnitz, in a variation on the theme—also not repre­ sented here—took aim at Samuel Huntington’s nativist assertion that within the United States, it was the Anglo-Saxon Protestant tribe—not Hispanic or Asian or other immigrants—that ruled and should rule the culture. On November fourth, the results of the voting in the United States and the public opinion polls in the world at large were opposed. The American electorate, of course, narrowly preferred Bush, while the people of the world reportedly had preferred Massachusetts Senator John Kerry by a large margin. Naumann likened German public response to Bush policies (though not to Americans generally) to “the anti-Republicanism of American Democrats.” Eatwell offered a much bitterer taste of the global climate of opinion. After September 11, as Jacques Rupnik reminded us, the French had been ready to say nous sommes tonsAméricains, as the famous headline in LeMonde had put it. But now Eatwell described the international view of the United States as a compound of “incomprehension, alienation and fear”—though he did 788 social research add that in the case of the British, “affection, attraction, and empathy” were also present. Now more than a year has passed, and a revolution in American opinion has come with it. The Iraq War is almost as unpopular in the United States as it...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-768X
Print ISSN
0037-783X
Pages
pp. 787-789
Launched on MUSE
2014-04-30
Open Access
No
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