Europeanism vs. Americanism—A New Global Philosophical Divide? | Opinion

The United States is founded on an ideological bedrock of Americanism: Freedom, particularity, faith and nationalism. The Constitution, pledge of allegiance, flag and national anthem are all symbols of a solid ideology that allows America to safely weather intensely polarized times, such as the ones it endured in 2020.

Europe on the other hand, now champions the values of post-nationalism, universalism, counter-particularity and secularism. This new philosophical packaging of Europeanism is preached both domestically and abroad. The European Union even established an office called "Promoting our European way of life," and has been spending millions of Euros to spread Europeanism to the world.

The shift from the classic European liberalism of the late 19th century to that of today is, to a large extent, a reaction to the atrocities of 20th-century European wars. A view emerged in Europe that wars are caused by nationalism, ideology and religion. Hence if we can sedate those elements, long-term peace would prevail. Indeed, European Union officials often refer to the 75 years without a major intra-European war as evidence of the success of contemporary Europeanism.

Illustrating the contrast between Europeanism and Americanism, French president Emmanuel Macron stated in President Donald Trump's presence: "Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism."

Europeanism's philosophical rift with Americanism does not get much attention since Europe and United States are staunch allies with shared interests on key strategic issues such as the war on terrorism, non-proliferation and cybersecurity. But one can no longer ignore the growing philosophical divide.

The European-American divide has deep emotional roots and triggers the sensitive issue of European honor—itself a cause of past European wars. The United States was born through a revolution against old European dogmas. Ideologically, America was an exodus from Europe. Since then, and especially during the 20th century, Europe was forced to give up its overseas colonies and accept the American-imposed concept of self-determination. The shift of global power from Europe to one of its former colonies—the United States—came as a blow to European honor.

The European fall from grace happened without the preparation of Europeans' hearts and minds. While Europe physically decolonized, it never went through a process of mental decolonization. This is evident in the sense of European superiority, reflected in its efforts to "enlighten" its immigrant population, force its narrative abroad and exert its influence through multinational organizations such as the United Nations, NGOs and the International Criminal Court. For example, the ICC is now investigating the United States for potential war crimes in Afghanistan. The audacity for Europe to indirectly back an investigation of U.S. soldiers, officials and perhaps even presidents is an indication that Europe has yet to come to terms with its new global stature.

Indeed, Europe has increasingly been positioning itself as a counter-force to the United States. Europe clashes with America on policy issues such as the environment and human rights as well as geopolitical issues such as Iran. Europe has been escalating its counter-American stance while its leaders, including Macron, now call for the establishment of a European army to defend itself, including against the United States.

Trump Macron
US President Donald Trump (L) and French President Emmanuel Macron give a joint press conference in Biarritz, south-west France on August 26, 2019, on the third day of the annual G7 Summit attended by the leaders of the world's seven richest democracies, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States. Nicholas Kamm / AFP/Getty

But the European-American divide has even deeper emotional roots that go to the core of Americanism: Faith.

In his victory speech, president-elect Joe Biden demonstrated just how much Americanism is intertwined with religion. "On eagle's wings, we embark on the work that God and history have called upon us to do," he said. He discussed his family's faith and in the last sentence of his speech mentioned God twice.

Indeed, notwithstanding the separation of Church and state, the American ideology is rooted in religion. The U.S. dollar states it clearly: "In God We Trust." But right at the same time that Americanism was taking shape, Europe went through an astonishing process of secularization. Europeanism now represents what some would call radical secular fundamentalism.

The religious divide between Europeanism and Americanism is widening further thanks to Muslim migration to Europe. Europe's counter-Islam efforts are masked as counter-religion ones, including arguments that religiosity has no room in Europe's public square.

The divide is also manifested in the epicenter of religion: Jerusalem. European countries have passionately objected to the United States' move of its embassy to Jerusalem, have supported or abstained from multiple UNESCO resolutions suggesting that Jerusalem has no Jewish and Christian ties and have attempted to take Jerusalem away from Jews, Muslims and Christians alike and turn it into a "corpus separatum" (code name for European colony). Such disrespect towards Jerusalem and religion in general was on display early in 2020, when Macron chose the Church of St. Anne in Jerusalem—one of Christianity's sacred sites—to stage a rant against Israeli security. He kicked them out of the church, suggesting it belongs to France due to a colonial-era promise by the Ottoman Empire in gratitude for French support of the Ottomans' colonialist wars.

The Europeanism-Americanism chasm is even more pronounced in the quest for peace in the Middle East. For decades it was dominated by the Eurocentric assumption that peace is made through concessions, narrative compromises and counter-particularism. This did not work. The U.S.-led Abraham Accords succeeded by applying the exact opposite principles. The peace accords—so far between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco—represent a full embrace of Zionism and Arab particularity. As cooperation, trade, travel and friendship between Israelis and their Arab neighbors rapidly mushroom, it is now obvious that Europeanism failed at peace, while Americanism succeeded.

Every century has its global philosophical divide. In the 19th century, it was monarchy vs. republic. In the 20th century it was communism vs. capitalism. It is possible that this era's philosophical divide is Europeanism vs. Americanism.

Gol Kalev analyzes long-term trends in Zionism, Europe and Global Affairs. For more of his commentary:

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.