My Question for you is this:
Are Europeans afraid of or concerned with America in general or are their concerns more focused on George W. Bush and his administration? If the former; how long has Europe felt this way and in either case why?
Quite a question ;-).
First of all 'Europe' is a container of contradictions. Poland, Germany, Holland and the UK are different worlds
when it comes to attitudes towards the war in Iraq, and towards the US in general. Especially between the current EU members and the new member nations in Eastern Europe differences are big.
But also around here. A German friend was visiting me last week, and said that everybody she knew was against this war. Here in Holland, opinions are much more mixed, nuanced. Now that the war has started, 40% supports it, more than before. On the Q who they consider to have the greatest responsibility for the current crisis, opinion is evenly divided over Hussein, Bush and both. Only the argument that troops will be welcomed is not bought (Q: "Do you think the Iraqi population is glad about the start of this war, A: Yes, 29%, No, 52%).
Dutch TV is in fact leaning towards the supportive. On the day the war started, for example, the current affairs programme after the news immediately focused on one thing only: what dangers could Iraqi retaliation, in the form of terrorism with biological or chemical weapons, pose to the US? Note: the news of the day was that the US army had just opened the attack on Iraq, but instead of highlighting what forms this attack could take and what risks could be involved for the Iraqis, the focus was immediately shifted to the speculative dangers of future retaliation. America as victim.
Still, anti-Americanism is clearly present and on the increase, and is more widely felt in the population (according to the polls) than is represented by politicians and the media. Is it new or a tradition? Both.
There is a tradition of anti-Americanism here, of course. In the eighties, resistance against NATO's cruise missiles wasn't dubbed "Hollanditis" for nothing. Almost a million people demonstrated in 1983, four million people (one in four Dutchmen) signed a petition two years later. Compared to that, present resistance is limited - only 50,000 people demonstrated last month.
There is also a very strong Atlantic tradition, however. Even Labour PMs have always steadfastly supported NATO and the US. In that sense we've always leaned more towards the Brits than towards the French. The balance between these two traditions shifts depending on who's in the White House. Clinton was very popular here. Bush was distrusted from the start. His behavior in international politics has increased that distrust exponentially.
You've got to remember: only one and a half years ago, after 9/11, sympathy with the US was complete. There was a minute of silence at noon, and on the streets people stopped, cars stopped, and it was
silent. Nothing like that had ever been done for war or terror victims abroad before. (In France, the left-wing paper Le Monde ran the headline: "We are all Americans now".)
All that has been almost completely destroyed by the Bush administration's behaviour. Things like Kyoto, or the International Criminal Court, may have been trivial to most Americans, but had an important impact here. The US resistance to the ICC was particularly disturbing, since it's established here. One official US statement in the heat of that debate declared that the US would storm The Hague to free US soldiers if they were ever held there. You can imagine the reaction to that: US officials talking, in however speculative way, about a miliitary intervention in Holland, the trusted NATO ally?
The Dutch are very loyal to the institutions of international order. NATO remained popular among the silent majority even in the eighties, EU integration has cause hardly a ripple in public debate, but the UN, too, is almost collectively respected. It is both the UN itself and the principle of multilateral decision-making that is held dear. The way Bush has passed by the UN last week, blatantly ignoring what the majoiry opinion in the SC would be, has greatly weakened his case.
Other countries, other issues, altogether. Perhaps we should invite some people from elsewhere in Europe to contribute.
In Spain and Italy, turnout at the demonstrations was massive (over a million each) where in the 80s it had been relatively small. This must partly be because their governments go so drastically against public opinion. A government, which - in Italy - is already notoriously controversial, really hated by a 40% minority, because of the PM's proven corruption, suspected Mafia links, government coalition with the former neo-fascists and the 'Northern League' separatists, and personal ownership of the main commercial TV stations (in a country where the public stations are controlled by the government in any case). In Britain, the demonstrations against Bush are also demonstrations against Blair, with all the bottled up dissapointment about "New Labour" coming out. Et cetera.
But that is not to say that the anger, fear and distrust against/about the US of George Bush in these demonstrations is not sincere. These demos mobilse the protestors of the 80s, but also a wholly new generation. After the apathy of the 90s, here an entire new generation of high school and university students is schooled on the street in expressions of anti-Americanism. The communist parties are dead and buried, but I've never seen so many Che flags and T-shirts. That will work through in the years to come, way after Bush has dissapeared again. The whole Cold War unease about America had gradually eroded in the Clinton era of multilateral action and humanitarian interventions; now it's bigger than ever.