What was President Trump’s speech in Poland really saying?
Even though anyone listening to the speech might think that Trump pushed back hard against Putin in the speech, it was a stunning victory for Putin:
The initial reaction to the speech was far more positive than to his previous attempt at NATO. After all, the president seemed to challenge Russia, acknowledge the importance of the alliance’s commitment to mutual defense, and mount a defense of Western democracies and values.
But this assessment missed the forest for the trees—and the fact that its intended audience was Russia, not Europe. In reality, Trump attacked NATO and the EU, the twin pillars of the post-World War II transatlantic architecture, again demonstrating he has no interest in being the leader of the free world, but rather its critic in chief …
Trump did not defend Western democracies: In fact, he did not once mention democracy in his speech. As for values, he mentions them seven times: first, in the negative—immigrants who are against them—and second, in the context of traditionalism.
Trump’s challenge to Russia came with an olive branch, offering it a place in a “community of responsible nations in our fight against common enemies and in defense of civilization itself.”
This signal to Putin that there is a common “civilization” to which the U.S., European nations and Russia all belong—absent the usual rhetoric of democracy or shared Western values—is a critical gesture. Previous U.S. presidents have said that Russia has a place in the community of democracies if it chooses to, but Trump’s approach was more in line with Putin’s own thinking, steeped in traditionalism and history and a narrative of a clash of civilizations.
I have posted a comment. This interesting analysis misses the rather obvious point that when Presidents Trump and Putin met, Russia got no joy on Ukraine-related sanctions. That’s the key negotiation.
Next? This rather graceless moan:
If his foreign policy has had one theme since January 2017, it has precisely been to smash the unity of the Western alliance. The spinal column of the Western alliance is the U.S.-Germany relationship, and Trump has undermined it since Day One.
This speech itself amounts to one more such blow against unity: Trump traveled to Warsaw to praise and reward a Polish government that all America’s other leading allies in Europe have been reproving for its suppression of free media and politicization of its legal system. Trump’s speech in praise of the unity of the West predictably and perversely ended up being an attack on the unity of the West.
Then there’s paranoia!
The most shocking sentence in Trump’s speech—perhaps the most shocking sentence in any presidential speech delivered on foreign soil in my lifetime—was his claim that “The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive.”
On its face, that’s absurd. Jihadist terrorists can kill people in the West, but unlike Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union, they cannot topple even the weakest European government. Jihadists control no great armies. Their ideologies have limited appeal even among the Muslims they target with their propaganda. ISIS has all but lost Mosul and could lose Raqqa later this year.
Well, true. But that’s because Russia and the USA are variously annihilating ISIS forces.
Trump’s sentence only makes sense as a statement of racial and religious paranoia. The “south” and “east” only threaten the West’s “survival” if you see non-white, non-Christian immigrants as invaders. They only threaten the West’s “survival” if by “West” you mean white, Christian hegemony. A direct line connects Trump’s assault on Barack Obama’s citizenship to his speech in Poland. In Trump and Bannon’s view, America is at its core Western: meaning white and Christian (or at least Judeo-Christian). The implication is that anyone in the United States who is not white and Christian may not truly be American but rather than an imposter and a threat.
This is ludicrous (of course), but there’s a point here. When President Trump noisily proclaims these closing words, what does he mean?
Just as Poland could not be broken, I declare today for the world to hear that the West will never, ever be broken.
Our values will prevail. Our people will thrive. And our civilization will triumph (applause.)
If ‘our’ civilization (whatever that exactly might be) ‘triumphs’, whose civilization loses out?
The point in all this is that a huge Leftist industry now jeers at ‘the West’ and our ‘civilization’ as somehow bad/white/evil/violent/oppressive and so on. It’s not in fact difficult to work out what Western ‘civilization’ both means and is. Checks and balances. Democracy. Some separation of Church and State. Individualism. A sense of fair play. Free markets. Limited state power. Consent of the governed. And so on.
It’s also not difficult to spot civilizations and beliefs that disagree with some or all of those ideas as ideas. For example, hundreds of millions of people in the ‘Muslim World’ and the ‘Chinese World’ and maybe too the ‘African World’ each might offer a different list of things that they think civilization should mean in theory and practice.
Thus the issue of our times. If globalization means mass migration, on what basis might those who simply don’t accept our vision of civilization be allowed to come and settle in ‘our’ space? On what terms might we Westerners expect to go and live in their civilizations? Maybe gulp there really is some sort of Clash of Civilizations actually happening even though Donald Trump says there is?!
These issues are on the global table, however it might not suit anti-Western Western Leftisms to deny it. Where are you more likely to be blown up or run over by a crazed jihadist? London or Brussels or Berlin, or Warsaw? Why exactly might that be? What if almost every Pole wants to keep it that way? Does ‘Polish civilization’ count for nothing? Who decides? Who decides who decides?
Thus Spengler, who takes all the reasons to denounce that Trump speech as reasons to love it:
President Trump’s speech yesterday in Warsaw was better than inspiring. It was calculating and subtle, and sent strong messages to both our friends and adversaries. The crowd of cavilers who abhor Trump as an ignoramus should hang their heads in shame.
That is tough, but realistic. Trump is willing to negotiate with the Russians, but from a position of strength, in solidarity with our allies who have suffered historically from Russian aggression, and with unambiguous lines in the sand. It was a brilliantly crafted speech, the slickest as well as the most inspiring foreign policy address of any American president since Ronald Reagan.
But as usual he points out the bleak long-term trends:
With a total fertility rate of just 1.3 children per female, Poland is headed for demographic disaster. Poland today has one retiree for every four working-age citizens. By 2045 there will be one retiree for every two working-age citizens, and the burden of elderly dependence will crush the Polish economy. In a century, the Polish population will shrink to insignificance…
Europe, sadly, is a case not for cure, but for palliative care. Germany’s strong economy makes it a magnet for immigrants. The average age of German citizens fell in 2016 for the first time in four decades mainly due to immigration from the rest of Europe. Germany is short about 50,000 engineers per year, and enterprising and educated Spaniards, Italians and Greeks are making their way to the Elbe and Rhine, along with Eastern Europeans. But that simply hollows out Germany’s neighbors even faster…
The future of any civilization? It belongs to those of its members who show up.