Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Here's the first paragraph of a piece by Miguel Ángel Aguilar from today's Vanguardia. Aguilar is not an idiotarian, though I've never found him too interesting in general. Anyway, check out what he's got to say.

Some American journalists are running around Europe digging into the environmental level of anti-Americanism. This search in Spain is completely useless. Here anti-American feeling died fifteen years ago. During decades it fed on two sources. The first, the defeat of 1898 in a war touched off by the falsehood of (American accusations of Spanish guilt in the sinking of) the Maine, which was perpetrated through the newspapers of William Randolph Hearst, a true man-before-his-time. Since then, all wars have been preceded by the necessary media preparation, destined to promote warlike ardor, spread hate, and foster antagonism. The second, the support provided by the United States to General Franco. The Americans say because of the necessities of the Cold War. But there is a contrast: in so many European countries the Americans were liberators from the Nazi-Fascist yoke, while here they appeared as a support for a dictatorship that without them and the agreement of the Holy See would have lacked the necessary oxygen to survive.

Aguilar's point about the Spanish-American War is dead on. That was, realistically, a naked American power grab; the only possible excuses are the fact that other countries at the time were even more rapacious in their search for colonies and influence and by the fact that the Americans treated their colonized peoples better than anyone except the British. Aguilar, I think, is mistaken about the Americans and Franco. Franco had been in power by 1953 for fourteen years and he had no serious opposition within Spain. The Americans had tried being unfriendly to Franco between 1945 and 1953--Truman hated Franco and America refused to have anything to do with the Spanish government during that time. For example, America vetoed Spain's application to join the UN in 1946. Spain was not admitted to the original Marshall Plan. But a civil war was raging in Greece between the Communists and the Western-backed anti-Communists, and the Russians had just finished their own power grab in Eastern Europe, culminating in the 1948 coup in democratic Czechoslovakia and the Berlin Airlift. Then the Russians tested an atomic bomb and Franco began looking not so awful. When Eisenhower became President in 1953, replacing Truman, the last obstacle to a Hispano-American rapprochement was gone; Churchill had become British Prime Minister again the year before and he, too, was in favor of an aperture to Franco. The deal was made that same year: America would get bases in Spain and Spain would get American economic aid.

The international acceptance of Spain coincided, probably not randomly, with the softening of the Franco regime. In 1950 Spain was desperately poor, internationally isolated, brutally governed, and dependent upon Argentina's Perón for food shipments. In 1960 things were clearly looking up. Spain was more prosperous than before, in touch with the modern world, and Spaniards could pretty much do what they wanted except express themselves politically in public. Not a great situation, but better than before, and by 1970 democracy was clearly on the horizon. Anyway, Franco would not have been overthrown by the Spaniards themselves, and American aid didn't change that; Franco had already been in power for fourteen years in 1953 with no serious attempts at removing him, and the choices for America were 1) hold your nose and use Franco as an ally against the Russians, or 2) maintain Franco as an enemy and hold the moral high ground. There are good arguments for both possible choices, but everybody needs to accept that choice 3) get rid of Franco was not on the menu, unless the Spaniards did it themselves. And that they didn't do. Many Spaniards, like Aguilar, blame America for Franco's long dictatorship; they might do better to look in the mirror.

Paul Hollander says that there are four causes of European anti-Americanism: historical grievances, Marxism, fear of the cultural threat, and nationalism. Aguilar is correct when he says that Spain's historical grievances against America are mostly forgotten in Spain today. That's largely true. If they're not completely forgotten, they're no longer deeply felt. As far as historical grievances go, the Spaniard-on-the-street is more likely to be anti-British (over Gibraltar) than anti-American. He is, however, obviously wrong on the other three counts, as our recent series of translations and dissections should demonstrate.

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