(Icon Books, £7.99)

Why Do People Hate America?, by Ziauddin Sardar and Merryl Wyn Davies

High words and low deeds

One of the high (or low) points of black comedy in the liberation of Afghanistan came on 14 October, a week after the start of the American bombing campaign. The exalted CNN anchorman Wolf Blitzer cheerfully asked a correspondent in Peshawar about a poll to determine whether the locals supported the Taliban or the US. The outcome was 81 per cent to 3... in favour of the bad guys. For once, Wolf was speechless.

Three days earlier, George Bush had whimpered in a press conference: "I'm amazed that there is such misunderstanding of what our country is about that people would hate us... I just can't believe it, because I know how good we are." Both incidents point to a long-term niggle for the War on Terrorism. No matter how often the mantra of "freedom" is chanted, no matter how many security alerts are sounded, there seem to be many who retain an animosity towards the American Way.

While the US government and its supporters examine "Why do people hate America?" by characterising those people as crazed Islamic fundamentalists or naive "left" accomplices, Ziauddin Sardar and Merryl Wyn Davies focus on "America". In this concise study, the authors make telling observations about the contradictions between values and policy: "American freedom to act on a global stage has left many trampled in [its] wake." Their conclusion challenges the rhetoric and actions of the War on Terrorism: "Pure evil has no solution. It can only be eradicated, and attempts to eradicate evil generate as many problems as they solve."

The book's best passages are on the culture that underpins American power. Its careful dissection of The West Wing should be required reading for devotees who believe the series offers a "liberal" alternative to Bush's crusades. In the end, its kinder, gentler America still has to fight wars and sanction covert action. The anti-communist liberalism of the 1950s has evolved into the anti-terrorist liberalism of the new millennium.

I fear, however, that Sardar and Davies are preaching to the converted. Precious few outside the dissenters' congregation will bother to listen. I found my own sympathy doubly limited. They portray an American cultural imperialism, equated to the Aids virus, that eradicates indigenous cultures. But the embrace of some American products – say the internet's best "newspaper", The Onion – can bolster the challenge to Americanism and its foreign policy. What's more, the global sweep of pax Americana is not omnipotent. The Yanks can't replace local beer and they can't yet take the World Cup.

More seriously, the authors' cultural critiques, and even their depiction of America's economic position, are too detached from the hyperpower of the US state. I can stand a culture where George Bush runs a bad baseball team; I get worried when he heads a state that believes it can dictate who can be elected to run a country.

Yet this remains a valuable book. At its heart is the necessary assertion that "America" is an impressive but dangerous combination of innocence and arrogance, of ideology and power, of high words and low deeds. Happy Fourth of July, everyone.

The reviewer is Professor of American and Canadian Studies at the University of Birmingham

Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week