When I was back in the States, I complained about the Bush administration all the time. I knew that Western Europe was further to the left in general, and I mostly agreed with their criticisms. Now that I'm actually in Western Europe, however, I've found that the US-bashing makes me somewhat uncomfortable. It makes me feel defensive, and I don't want to feel defensive of the US gov't, especially when the Bush administration is in power! :P
One problem is that when people complain about the US, I get the sense that they're not just complaining about the Bush administration. Back home, I enjoyed "American jokes" about how Americans are arrogant, ignorant buffoons and so forth, so I was rather surprised to find myself feeling a bit offended here. I luckily haven't experienced much anti-Chinese discrimination back home, but that's kind of what it feels like here... I feel like I'm being prejudged based on my American accent. I guess I should actually be grateful, in a sense, that I've experienced so little discrimination in my life that this little bit disturbs me. :)
Part of it is that the British aren't into political correctness and all that in general. "That sounds wonderful!" you might say, but I'm telling you.. You don't miss it till it's gone... When I got on the wrong bus at a bus depot here, the employees started making fun of me!
"Are you a student?"
"I knew it! Ha ha! Are you studying English? It says 'Heathrow' right on the front of that bus, you know."
"Uh... no, I'm not studying English.."
Of course, if I complain about something like that here, people will just think I'm an overly sensitive wimp. Personally, I don't care what they're thinking underneath.. it's just more pleasant when people are polite! :P
Back on topic, another issue is that it's just so easy to whine about the US. There are some valid things to complain about, sure, but I feel like that's not the only reason for the whining. Much of it is almost like a bonding thing, I feel. It's sort of just the "in" thing to do to complain about "the big kid on the block" (as Alice put it). It's also easier to complain about another country whose policies you have no control over than to complain about your own government. Like I said, though, there are plenty of valid complaints as well, and it's hard to separate the causes. The end result, though, is that, while the US gov't does deserve criticism, it gets a somewhat disproportionate about of grief compared to what it does.
Also, it's easier to complain about someone you're similar to. It's more fun to criticize US policy than to criticize the policies of, say, the Nigerian gov't.
Here's an interesting observation I made in the wake of 9-11: When it floods in India, when there's a famine in Africa, or when there's an economic crisis in South American, no one gives a damn, for the most part. If you ask people, most feel a bit guilty for not caring more, but they don't. That's not necessarily a bad thing.. I think it's perfectly reasonable for people to want to get on with their own lives and not think about death and destruction all the time.
But when 9-11 happened, people all over the world held vigils and all that. These are the same people who spent all their time complaining about the US before. They're also ordinary people who didn't have anything to gain by being in Bush's good graces or anything like that. (One might say something different for Blair, for instance.) Yes, that's partly an encouraging sign that people do know the difference between the people and the government after all, but why did people care so much? A few thousand deaths is far lower a body count than the body counts of a lot of other disasters.
Here's my hypothesis: For all the complaining, when the US was actually being threatened, people suddenly realized that there are far worse countries that could be holding the title of "most powerful country in the world". Even with Bush in power, the US gov't really does exercise quite a bit of restraint. The problem is that you never notice restraint; you only notice when something annoys you.
Of course, if we had a different President, he might not have squandered in record time that opportunity to forge more cooperative relationships with the world. :P
Anyway, that bit about how it's easier to complain than to appreciate applies to me, as well, of course. I'm complaining a lot, but that's only because I don't feel as much of a need to rant about what I appreciate. It takes effort to notice that I generally don't have to worry about offending religious sensibilities here, for instance, or to appreciate the generally more liberal governments, whereeven "extreme right" candidates can be supportive of gay rights. It's much easier for me to bitch and moan about anti-American sentiment and lack of chicken broth. :P
In the end, though, I'm writing this not just because I think anti-American sentiment is partially unjustified... On an intellectual level, I knew that already. As Paul would say, "In other news, the sky is blue." No, I'm writing this because US-bashing unfortunately affects me on an emotional level, something I didn't expect, and I felt the need the vent a little. Besides, surely the anti-PC British can take some criticism in return! :)