Mark Steyn

Steyn on Europe

The Will of the West

President Trump's speech in Warsaw was a remarkable statement from a western leader in the 21st century - which is why the enforcers of our public discourse have gone bananas over it and denounced it as "blood and soil" "nativism" (The New Republic), "racial and religious paranoia" (The Atlantic), and "tinpot dictator sh*t" (some comedian having a meltdown on Twitter). Much of the speech was just the usual boosterish boilerplate that one foreign leader sloughs off while visiting the capital of another. But that wasn't what caused the mass pearl-clutching. This was the offending passage:

There is nothing like our community of nations. The world has never known anything like our community of nations.

We write symphonies. We pursue innovation. We celebrate our ancient heroes, embrace our timeless traditions and customs, and always seek to explore and discover brand-new frontiers.

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.

I'm not certain we do put "faith and family" ahead of "government and bureaucracy", not in Germany or even Ireland, but we did once upon a time. Nor am I sure we still "write symphonies", or at any rate good ones. But Trump's right: "The world has never known anything like our community of nations" - and great symphonies are a part of that. I'm not sure what's "nativist" or "racial" about such a statement of the obvious, but I note it's confirmed by the traffic, which is all one way: There are plenty of Somalis who've moved to Minnesota, but you can count on one hand Minnesotans who've moved to Somalia. As an old-school imperialist, I make exceptions for sundry places from Barbados to Singapore, which I regard as part of the community of the greater west, and for India, which is somewhat more ambiguously so, but let's face it, 90 per cent of everything in the country that works derives from England.

But otherwise Trump's statement that "the world has never known anything like our community of nations" ought to be unexceptional. It's certainly more robust than Theresa May's and David Cameron's vague appeals to "our values" or "our way of life", which can never quite be spelled out - shopping, telly, pop songs, a bit of Shakespeare if you have to mention a dead bloke, whatever... For his part, The Atlantic's Peter Beinart preferred the way Trump's predecessor expressed it:

To grasp how different that rhetoric was from Trump's, look at how the last Republican President, George W. Bush, spoke when he visited Poland. In his first presidential visit, in 2001, Bush never referred to "the West." He did tell Poles that "We share a civilization." But in the next sentence he insisted that "Its values are universal."

I wish that were true. It would be easier if it were. But it's not. These values are not "universal": They arise from a relatively narrow political and cultural tradition, and insofar as they took root elsewhere across the globe it was as part of (stand well back, Peter Beinart!) the west's - gulp - "civilizing mission". Alas, left to fend for themselves, those supposedly universal values have minimal purchase on millions upon millions of people around the planet - including those who live in the heart of the west. Bush's bromide is easier to swallow because it's a delusion - as we should surely know by now, after a decade and a half of encouraging Pushtun warlords to adopt Take Your Child Bride To Work Day. In contrast to Bush's happy talk, Trump concluded his laundry list of western achievement on a sobering note:

What we have, what we inherited from our — and you know this better than anybody, and you see it today with this incredible group of people — what we've inherited from our ancestors has never existed to this extent before. And if we fail to preserve it, it will never, ever exist again. So we cannot fail.

That, I think, is also true. Were a catastrophe to befall our world - an EMP strike or a widespread nuclear exchange, a sudden devastating virus or a zombie apocalypse - we could not rebuild the modern world in anything like the time-frame in which we originally constructed it. The technological reason is obvious: The industrial revolution was powered by comparatively easily extractable coal and oil. We extracted it and used it to develop the skills to get at the less easily extractable stuff. A global calamity would put us back to Square One, but with resources we could only reach at Square Twelve. That goes for more basic human resources, too: We have lost a lot of the skills of our ancestors, because we assumed they were no longer required. And in a less quantifiable way it applies to artistic achievement, too. So, in a fairly routine stop on a foreign tour, Trump has introduced a rather profound warning:

What we've inherited from our ancestors has never existed to this extent before. And if we fail to preserve it, it will never, ever exist again.

It will never come again. Is there a "racial and religious paranoia" to this? Even the Globalist Kingpin himself, Klaus Schwab, founder of Davos, sees it as basic demographic arithmetic:

"Look how many countries in Africa, for example, depend on the income from oil exports," Schwab said in an interview ahead of the WEF's 46th annual meeting, in the Swiss resort of Davos. "Now imagine one billion inhabitants, imagine they all move north."

As I commented at the time:

A billion man march, eh? The population of the developed world - North America, the European Union, Japan, Oz, NZ - is about a billion. Of the remaining six billion people around the planet, is it really so absurd to think that one-sixth of them would "move north" if they could? Or if they chanced to see a YouTube video of "refugees" in Sweden and Germany demonstrating how easy it is?

The population of Africa is projected to grow from one to four billion in the course of this century - to about two-fifths of the planet's people. Is it remotely likely that 40 per cent of humanity will choose to stay in the most dysfunctional continent on earth when it can't support a population a quarter that size?

And if a billion people move to the west what chance those "universal values"? Even the crappy Cameronian ones like lousy pop concerts, which in Sweden are already being canceled and boycotted because of the, um, lively interaction between vibrantly diverse non-universal values. As Trump continued:

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.

Indeed. In Sweden, the most "enlightened" and "progressive" social democracy on earth, under a self-proclaimed "feminist government", cannot muster the will to defend the right of its women to enjoy an evening of music in the park unmolested. It's a small pleasure, but illustrative, as Trump grasped, of an existential question:

The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?

For some people this all rang a vague bell. As David Smith observed of Trump's speech:

It reads like a Mark Steyn column from 2002.

And he didn't mean it as a compliment. World Net Daily drew the same comparison:

Mark Steyn, in his book "America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It," warned that amid the shrinking of the European family, one of the fastest demographic evolutions in history already was making traditional views of European culture outdated.

He predicted Europe "will be semi-Islamic in its politico-culture character within a generation."

While it takes a fertility rate of at least 2.1 for a nation to replenish itself, countries known for big families, such as Greece and Spain, had fertility rates of 1.2 and 1.1 respectively at the time. The current rate in Greece may be as low as 1.1.

By 2050, Steyn wrote in September 2006, 60 percent of Italians, for example, will have no brothers, no sisters, cousins, no aunts, no uncles.

"The big Italian family, with papa pouring vino and mama spooning out the pasta down an endless table of grandparents and nieces and nephews, will be gone, no more, dead as the dinosaurs," he wrote.

America Alone is not just about demography - a youthful Islam versus a geriatric west - but about whether that demographic inertia derives from a civilizational ennui; from a lack of will, to use Trump's word. As I write in the book's prologue:

Islam has youth and will, Europe has age and welfare... In a short war, put your money on tanks and bombs - our strengths. In a long war, the better bet is will and manpower - their strengths. Even a loser can win when he's up against a defeatist.

Hence those young men walking into Sweden and watching the government respond by simply surrendering the country's summer social traditions. None of this has anything to do with driving Isis out of Mosul or the Taliban out of Helmand. America Alone page 156:

The object of war is not to destroy the enemy's tanks but to destroy his will. As Liddell Hart put it: 'Our goal in war can only be attained by the subjugation of the opposing will...'

Trump in Warsaw:

We can have the largest economies and the most lethal weapons anywhere on Earth, but if we do not have strong families and strong values, then we will be weak and we will not survive. If anyone forgets the critical importance of these things, let them come to one country that never has. Let them come to Poland...

Our own fight for the West does not begin on the battlefield — it begins with our minds, our wills, and our souls. Today, the ties that unite our civilization are no less vital, and demand no less defense, than that bare shred of land on which the hope of Poland once totally rested. Our freedom, our civilization, and our survival depend on these bonds of history, culture, and memory.

As I said, a remarkable speech. Of course, at the press conference afterwards, the A-list hacks, like CNN's drama queen Jim Acosta, were all obsessed with the "Russia investigation", but in fairness The New York Times at least reported the story under the headline "Trump, in Poland, Asks if West Has the 'Will to Survive'".

That's the question - the one that matters. Angela Merkel won't ask it, nor M Macron or Mrs May or M Trudeau. But Donald Trump did - and then answered it:

PRESIDENT TRUMP: 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.)

AUDIENCE: Donald Trump! Donald Trump! Donald Trump!

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you. So, together, let us all fight like the Poles — for family, for freedom, for country, and for God.

I am nowhere near as confident of that answer. But he raised the question at a time when no other western leader will. It is a measure of our decay and decadence that the question is necessary, but in an age of cultural relativism a statement of the obvious is daring and courageous: Ours is the civilization that built the modern world - as even the west's cultural relativists implicitly accept, if only because they have no desire to emigrate and try to make a living as a cultural relativist in Yemen or Niger. We built it, and, if we do not maintain it, and defend it, then, as Donald Trump says, it will never come again.

~Membership in The Mark Steyn Club is not for everyone, but it does ensure that our content remains out there for everyone - in print, audio and video, around the world and perhaps even changing a mind or two here and there, as America Alone has done in the years since publication. If you'd like to sign up, you can find more information here. And join us for a brand new Club feature over the weekend.

One other benefit of membership is that you get to have your say in our comments section. So, if you disagree with Trump's speech, feel free to weigh in below.

from Steyn on Europe, July 7, 2017


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