From Publishers Weekly
It's as old as the country itself, argue Barry Rubin, editor of Middle East Review of International Affairs
, and journalist Colp Rubin, whose last joint book project for Oxford was Yasir Arafat: A Political Biography
. Their nine-chapter chronological tour of the U.S. as hated republic can sometimes feel like little more than a compendium of quotations with filler descriptions—and IDs like "the kindly British novelist Charles Dickens, least snobbish of his nation and defender of the downtrodden in his great novels." But the figures they choose as hostile observers of America and Americans, and the things those observers say, make for a multifaceted national portrait. To take just one example, 19th-century British historian Thomas Carlyle asks a correspondent, "Could you banish yourself from all that is interesting to your mind, forget history, the glorious institutions, the novel principles of old Scotland that you might eat a better dinner, perhaps?" The book starts to feel especially speedy as it tries to represent the 20th and 21st centuries: Islamist Sayyid Qutb; the Eisenhower-era U.S. Information Agency director, George Allen; The Protocols of the Elders of Zion
; Baader-Meinhof; Foucault; "a left-wing British journalist"; and Arthur Koestler all make cameos. Long on sound bites and short on in-depth analysis, this book provides entertaining glimpses of a nation that may have invented public relations to combat its own image problem.
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The current animus directed at the U.S. as imperialist power and capitalist world dominator is nothing new. The Rubins, one a researcher of international affairs and the other an independent journalist, insightfully recount the long and troubled history of animosity directed at the U.S. They identify five stages in the evolution of anti-Americanism. In the eighteenth century, the American territory was considered wild and barbaric. In the early to mid-nineteenth century, the American experiment in social equality was seen as a failed society. With its growing strength and presence at the end of the nineteenth century leading up to World War II, U.S. democracy was feared as a threat to less democratic nations. From the end of WWII through the end of the cold war, criticism of the U.S. shifted from its potential to its actual domination in world affairs. The latest stage, notwithstanding the sympathy generated by the 9/11 attacks, encompasses a visceral reaction to American assertion of its politics, economics, and culture at the expense of the development of other nations. Vernon FordCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved