Maybe I should declare a bias. I like Americans. Always have. Always will. Some readers will already be disgusted. In recent weeks while I was researching a Radio 4 series on Britain's relationships with Europe and with the United States, I have come across plenty of British haters of America: those, such as the anti-war protesters demonstrating outside the Commons, who view George Bush's policy towards Iraq as "genocide," as if Mr Bush were no better than another Hitler and the country that elected him were some kind of Nazi nation.
But I grew up with American friends, lived in the US for years, visit North America as often as I can and am the father of two small American passport-holders. I cannot think of one American friend who wants to create an American empire, who thirsts for Iraqi oil, who is obsessed with gun culture, who is grotesquely fat and lazy, who is arrogant and loud or who is seeking to dominate the world.
Yet every day in British newspapers, on television and on the radio, I hear the same tedious stereotypes about loud and stupid American gunslinging bullies. For weeks, radio phone-in shows have been full of people describing George Bush and the US military as being morally as bad as Saddam Hussein. Others suggest that the United States government - after the disputed election of November 2000 - is itself a tinpot dictatorship, again not much better than Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
Racial stereotypes about black or Irish or Jewish people are unacceptable in Britain today, yet white Americans remain a legitimate target, modern- day Nazis with cowboy boots instead of jackboots.
Americans, apparently, either do nothing about the world's problems, in which case they are ignorant and isolationist, selfish and gutless, or they try to do something about the world's problems, in which case they are arrogant and naive, greedy and bullying.
From the Prime Minister to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the top elements of the British bureaucracy are very worried by this trend. George Robertson, the Nato Secretary General, told me that anti-American rage in Britain and Europe has moved far beyond being "criticism of individual policies or even an individual president".
Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, says that he is worried by something he described as "trite anti-Americanism in this country", which has become fashionable and which promotes "a convenient parody" of the real America.
While such attitudes rise and fall depending on the vagaries of politics, the pollster Bob Worcester of Mori suggests that from last year to the middle of the Iraq crisis in March, the number of British people who view the United States positively halved from 75 per cent to 37 per cent.
Now - before my own views are caricatured -- let me insist that it is, of course, perfectly reasonable to oppose the policies of George Bush or any American president. Many of my American friends are Democrats and would say it is even imperative to oppose the policies of George Bush. But what is not reasonable is to allow creeping anti-Americanism to increase, coupled with a profound British ignorance and intellectual arrogance towards the United States. There is a common British delusion that we "understand" America. We don't. Watching Friends listening to Bruce Springsteen, eating at McDonald's and visiting Disneyland does not do it.
Some British journalists, politicians, commentators and diplomats, and many British people, often completely misunderstand the phenomenon of George W Bush. When there is a Democrat in the White House - someone like Bill Clinton, who could so easily be a British politician - we do understand America well enough. …