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In Europe, as in nearly everywhere else in the world, the image of the United States has taken a severe battering during the Bush years. Survey after survey shows that negative feelings toward America and U.S. policies have soared. Only 36 percent of Europeans, for example, view U.S. leadership in world affairs as desirable, according to a 2007 German Marshall Fund poll. Markedly lower is their approval of the Bush administration: a dismal 17 percent. In Harris polls since 2003, the majority of Europeans have even cited the United States as the greatest threat to international security -- more so than Iran, North Korea or Russia.
But distinguishing between an all-encompassing animus toward the country and its people, and legitimate criticism of U.S. government policies, has proven extremely difficult. Only the former is anti-Americanism -- an irrational, deeply embedded cultural aversion to a presumed American “national character.” A standard distinction between America-bashing and rational critique is between disapproval of what America is and what America does.