Stranger things have happened. With storm clouds gathering speed over Russia, China, Iran and North Korea President Trump not only conducted himself like a grown-up, he delivered a speech in Poland that sounded positively Reaganesque. He delivered a much-needed affirmation of Western Liberalism and not
just in matters of economics. He touched on the importance of the West’s Judeo-Christian culture to its well-being; re-asserted the primacy of individuals as free agents, and put faith and family at the center of people’s lives rather than governments and bureaucracies. He said:
“We reward brilliance. We strive for excellence, and cherish inspiring works of art that honor God. We treasure the rule of law and protect the right to free speech and free expression.
We empower women as pillars of our society and of our success. We put faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, at the center of our lives. And we debate everything. We challenge everything. We seek to know everything so that we can better know ourselves.
And above all, we value the dignity of every human life, protect the rights of every person, and share the hope of every soul to live in freedom. That is who we are. Those are the priceless ties that bind us together as nations, as allies, and as a civilization.”
Most importantly he posed the question that James Burnham explored when he wrote “Suicide of the West”, which was re-issued in 1965 on the 50th anniversary of its initial publication. Burnham, a former Trotskyite turned Conservative and an early editor of William F Buckley’s National Review, was pessimistic about the West in its competition with the Soviets. It was his fear that the defeatism and relativism that permeated liberalism would lead ultimately lead to the triumph of Socialism and the demise of freedom. But that was shortly after Goldwater’s 1964 defeat and 15 years before Ronald Reagan would take the reins and work with a Polish Pope to successfully bring down what he correctly called “the evil empire”.
Fast forward to 2017. President Trump (the same one who sneered at the idea of American exceptionalism in the campaign) echoed Reagan, Churchill and Pope John Paul II in his speech in Poland. He said:
“We have to remember that our defense is not just a commitment of money, it is a commitment of will. Because as the Polish experience reminds us, the defense of the West ultimately rests not only on means but also on the will of its people to prevail and be successful and get what you have to have. The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive.”
In his speech President Trump asked the big, important questions. And he provided the right answers to those questions. Having done that, he now has to put away his Twitter account and start acting like he means it.