A favorite shibboleth of the left is that after 9/11 the whole world was with us. Anne Applebaum has a somewhat clearer memory of European reaction in the days immediately following.
But it's also true that this initial wave of goodwill hardly outlasted the news cycle. Within a couple of days a Guardian columnist wrote of the "unabashed national egotism and arrogance that drives anti-Americanism among swaths of the world's population". A Daily Mail columnist denounced the "self-sought imperial role" of the United States, which he said had "made it enemies of every sort across the globe".
That week's edition of Question Time featured a sustained attack on Phil Lader, the former US ambassador to Britain – and a man who had lost colleagues in the World Trade Centre – who seemed near to tears as he was asked questions about the "millions and millions of people around the world despising the American nation". At least some Britons, like many other Europeans, were already secretly or openly pleased by the 9/11 attacks.
And all of this was before Afghanistan, before Tony Blair was tainted by his friendship with George Bush, and before anyone knew the word "neo-con", let alone felt the need to claim not to be one.
The dislike of America, the hatred for what it was believed to stand for – capitalism, globalisation, militarism, Zionism, Hollywood or McDonald's, depending on your point of view – was well entrenched. To put it differently, the scorn now widely felt in Britain and across Europe for America's "war on terrorism" actually preceded the "war on terrorism" itself. It was already there on September 12 and 13, right out in the open for everyone to see.
Truth be known, that attitude was fairly widespread right here at home, too.
[UPDATE:] Jonathan Alter's memory is, as usual, cloudy.
By staying "humble," as he promised in 2000, he preserved much of the post-9/11 good feeling abroad, which paid dividends when it came time to pull together a coalition to handle North Korea and Iran.
By the way, read the rest of this piece by Alter for a good laugh. It's his vision of what Bush could have accomplished if only he were a Nancy Pelosi Democrat. Here's a sample.
At home, some aides suggested that Bush simply tell the nation to "go shopping." But the president knew he had a precious opportunity to ask Americans for real sacrifice. He took John McCain's suggestion and pushed through Congress an ambitious national-service program that bolstered communities and helped train citizens as first responders.
And here I always thought that lefties don't have a sense of humor.