Are Europeans being sarcastic when they talk about "Old Europe"?

I first heard of the Old Europe/New Europe designation during the lead-up to the war in Iraq. I thought it was just an insult cooked up by Rummy to imply that believing war was peace is progress, and those who didn’t back it were stuck in the past.

Recently, though, in talking to my professors and friends here in Paris (mostly about the French education system ), they often say something about France being a part of “vieille Europe.” But they say it with a chuckle, so I never know if they’re referencing the recent Old/New Europe debate, or if it’s something that actually goes deeper than Iraq.

Just curious…

I first heard of “Old Europe” from the work of Marija Gimbutas. Though she was talking about 30,000 years BC.

As a Brit, this phrase doesn’t mean anything much to me.

I class it with other US phrases designed to denigrate anynoe who didn’t think Iraq should be invaded.

Europeans may well use the term sarcastically, because the phrase “Old Europe” was populazrized by people like Donald Rumsfeld. To Rumsfeld, countries like France (which is not generally pro-American) represent “Old Europe,” while nations like Poland (which is usually pro-American) represent “New Europe.”

To pay respects to the OP:

I just saw it as a bit of propaganda that never extended beyond right-wing American rhetoric. Did the Poles go for it (non-ironically)?

Yes, it’s ironic, in a “we’re quite happy to stick with our Old Europe values, thank you very much, Donald”.

I think there is quite an old view of Europe by highly placed Americans which views Europe as being coloninalist, prone to war and prone to internicene warfare, constantly squabbling among themselves and finding new and inventive excuses and technologies to kill each other.

This view was certainly around prior to WWI, probably as a response to the wars in the Balkans, France/Gremany etc and even with a view of Napoleonic wars.

I’m also reasonably sure that this was the view of some Americans prior to WWII. and was used as an argument not to get involved in that conflict.

I would guess that this is the way Rumsfeld is attempting to portray, but its a view that is reflected at a certain level of American society, and was given a fresh perspective with the wars in the Balkans.

Given the way the US has behaved over the last 40 years in exactly the same manner that high society Americans have accused European nations of behaving, I would not be at all surprised that this is also used in a sarcatic way by Europeans.