Last week on his way to the G-20 Summit of world leaders in Germany, President Trump first landed in Poland where he arguably delivered his most powerful and defining speech ever. Welcomed by thousands of cheering Poles, Trump gave his best statement yet of his foreign policy, in which he showed his realistic recognition of threats from Russia and terrorism while also promising continued U.S. support for our NATO allies and offering a sweeping, unapologetic defense of Western civilization and its achievements. He presented a stark contrast to President Obama’s trying to buy goodwill from Russia in 2009 by reneging on America’s promise to Poland to install an anti-missile defense system.
Trump’s speech was similar in tone to President Reagan’s defense of Western civilization values in the 1980s. Not only did he speak clearly about an ideological menace that threatens the world with terrorism, but he also denounced the threat of an aggressive Russia toward Central Europe. Trump citied Russia’s history of brutally dominating the region and suppressing its people.
Trump’s speech went beyond prosperity and free markets to emphasize the rule of law, free speech, religious tolerance, and a wide range of cultural achievements. He referred to the West as “our community of nations.”
Trump’s robust statements of Western achievements and why they are worth defending were awe-inspiring. Among them were: “We celebrate our ancient heroes, embrace our timeless traditions and customs; we cherish inspiring works of art that honor God; we cherish the rule of law and protect the right to free speech; 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.” Trump noted that these achievements are now under attack by religious radicals, by tyrants in Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea, and by radical critics in the U.S. who think Western history is mainly defined by oppression, exploitation, slavery, sexism, racism, inequality, and colonialism.
Trump was more tactful than in the past, but he still accurately scolded European nations for not spending enough toward their own defense, and relying too much on the U.S. Although he didn’t scuttle his “America First” rhetoric, Trump made clear that Western nations must adhere to a “one for all and all for one” defense strategy.
Trump’s speech transcended just the usual pointed and welcomed foreign policy statements by offering the core of what is likely to become his governing philosophy: i.e., a robust and positive defense of the Western tradition. It couldn’t be more diametrically opposite to Obama’s apologetic, guilt-ridden, globalist, redistribution of America’s wealth to other countries through climate change orthodoxy, and being a “citizen of the world” as the former president gloated when he first ran in 2008. Trump implicitly chastised globalism and multiculturalism represented by Obama and most contemporary Western intellectuals who cave to critics of the West’s traditions.
Trump’s most powerful argument was about our way of life. He described how a million Poles stood with Pope John Paul II in Warsaw in 1979 to resist Soviet rule by chanting, “We want God!” In this vein, Trump warned the West and called its nations to action. But his call for mutual defense also included Saudi Arabia and other moderate Muslim countries as well.
Love him or hate him, for better or worse (and hopefully, for better) – Trump is changing things in the U.S. and in the world.
Acknowledgement is given to “Trump’s Defining Speech” in the Wall Street Journal, July 6 and “Trump’s Powerful Speech in Poland” in Real Clear Politics, July 7 for information in this column.