Paris: They don't like the U.S. here. It's not personal. Except for an occasional rude snot, the French are friendly to individual Americans. They're not xenophobes. They just don't like our government. Regard George Bush as an obnoxious paysan.
Why should we care what the French think? One obvious reason is that we want them to buy our products. France, with 60 million people, is a big market: the number one tourist destination in the world. Where we're losing market share. Compared to the situation five years ago, there are demonstrably fewer American products here: We drove across France on l'autoroute and saw no American cars. Listened to the radio and rarely heard an American group. Sure, there are still U.S. movies and computer products, but go into the typical super marche and most of the household products are either non-American or those made by huge multinationals, like Proctor and Gamble, which have factories in the EU. The market presence of the U.S. is diminishing.
The same phenomenon is happening in other EU countries. While America played king of the world, the EU and developed countries such as China moved on. Decided they can compete with us economically and culturally. As a result, the U.S. is no longer numero uno.
Unfortunately, most Americans don't get this. Still believe that because we can kick ass whenever we feel like it, our global supremacy is assured: That American empire rolls on. That the party's not over.
George Bush and his cronies have saddled America with a national policy that doesn't work. Rather than assure supremacy, it's produced decay.
The Bush Administration is still fighting the cold war. Acting as if we're engaged in an arms race with the Soviet Union. Substituted "terrorists" for "Soviets." Painted the world as white and black: us against them. Encouraged the Fox-fed masses to hunker down in fortress America. But the Soviet Union is gone. And, there isn't an arms race anymore. Terrorist groups, such as Al Qaeda, are competing with us primarily for hearts and minds, not weapons.
The game the developed world is playing has changed. And the U.S. hasn't adapted. We're still playing checkers while most everyone else is playing chess. The impact becomes clear when you compare the United States and France.
The U.S. is a much bigger country: 296 million people versus 61 million. Still, France's budget expenditures, $1.14 trillion, are almost half of ours, $2.47 trillion. What's different is how the two countries spend their money. Last year, the U.S. devoted $518.1 billion to the military. France, which has the number three military budget, spent $45 billion. The U.S. spent 21 percent of its budget on the military; France spent 4 percent.
This difference in the way the two countries spend their money affects not only the quality of life of their citizens, but also their competitiveness in the world marketplace. France has the world's number one health care system; the U.S. is number 37. The French offer free pre-school beginning at age 3 and a free college education. The French transportation infrastructure is vastly superior to that in the U.S. And on and on. France leads the U.S. in planning for the future. They're building intellectual capital. We're building guns.
That's not to say France is a perfect country. It's not. Many of the social problems that plague the U.S.-immigration, racism, and classism, among others-also beset France. The difference is that France is preparing for the global economy. And the U.S. is not.
Xenophobia may be a great word for Scrabble. But it's not the basis of a viable foreign policy.