Europe has never fully recovered from the two world wars that ravaged the continent in the 20th Century.
And so it falls to the United States to become the last, best defender of the Western Civilization.
Donald Trump, who won the Presidency with the campaign theme “Make America Great Again”, talked about the ravages of the Second World War in a speech in Poland this morning.
He promised not only to make America great but also to make the West great again.
The Polish people have always been in between a rock and hard place geographically, the westernmost part of the East more than the easternmost part of the West.
As the President said, it was tough being stuck between Communist Russia and Nazi Germany.
The Nazis perverted Western culture into a twisted racial search for Aryan purity. The Communists in Moscow took a philosophy first developed by Karl Marx in Germany and used it to first seize power and then subjugate as many people as possible.
The wars started by the Germans and then the Russians killed hundreds of millions of Europeans and were only ended when the Yanks blundered through Berlin in 1945.
Thanks to American generosity and the smart strategic planning of George Marshall, we funded the reconstruction of Europe. And that helped Europe to recover faster than it would have otherwise.
But the Cold War meant that only the truly western part of the west got the splendid benefits of the Marshall Plan.
American benevolence helped to feed the Western Europeans and American military might kept the Russians at bay for the second half of the 20th Century.
But Europe would never truly recover, politically, economically, militarily, and demographically, from the global wars started by the Germans and ended by the Americans.
The Europeans devolved into a secular, pacifist, older society. It’s economic growth rate outdistanced its population growth rate. It slowly but surely turned away from its Christian heritage.
Politically, it created bureaucracies based in Brussels, meant to talk conflicts to death rather than have them spin out of control and create true death and destruction. As a result, Europe is the most regulated place on earth.
The white Christian populations in places like Germany, Italy, France and England grew so slowly that it became necessary to import labor from other places, including Algeria and Turkey. And it became fashionable to eschew borders in the furtherance of further European integration.
When the Cold War finally ended, there was a rush to embrace those from the East, those who had been left behind the Iron Curtain.
Germany became one again. The Latvians, Estonians and Lithuanians become strongly pro-American, much to their consternation of their Russian cousins.
And the Polish reasserted itself as a Catholic nation dedicated to free-market economics.
The ride wasn’t always easy for those in the East. The transition from Communism to capitalism can be harsh.
But those in the East had a greater appreciation for the benefits of Christianity (which was banned in the Soviet bloc), democracy (which was forbidden in the Soviet bloc), for free expression (disallowed) and free markets (no way) than those who lived in the West and were used to material luxury.
Poland went all in on the American model when it had the chance after the Berlin Wall fell, and as a result, it’s doing very well.
The Polish people don’t want a return to the bad old days of the Soviet Union. They don’t like the Putin regime. They don’t want to happen to them what happened to the Ukrainians.
And when they hear Donald Trump talk about defending Western values, they are not ambivalent in their admiration for the American President and for America.
The West faces a crisis on confidence, especially Western Europe.
Low population growth necessarily leads to low economic growth. Pacifism in the face of Islamic fascism is not an adequate defense. And Russia still lurks, sometimes as an important trading and security partner, but more often as a Mafia-inspired gangster state, seeking influence and respect in inappropriate ways.
Trump promised to make America great in his campaign for President and he has now promised to make Western Civilization great in his speech in Poland.
He is not talking about resurrecting the ghosts of Kant or Sartre, nor is he promising better opera or symphonies. He is promising American muscle to stick up for those European nation-states that helped to create the modern world that we live in today.
Unlike his predecessor, Donald Trump is not ambivalent about the positive impact of the west on the rest of the world. His vision might not be as nuanced as Mr. Obama’s vision and it might not play as well in the faculty lounges of most Western Universities. But with normal folks, strength plays pretty well, and sticking up for western values plays pretty well too. Especially if you live in Poland.
(Note: A critic questioned my history in this post when I said that hundreds of millions of people died in the wars started by the Germans and Russians. I included in my mind the pograms and the Great Famine inflicted by Joseph Stalin during his repressive and murderous years as the leader of the Soviet Union, which some estimate to be about 60 million people. World War I was responsible for the deaths of about 20 million and World War II was responsible for the deaths of about 60 million. Perhaps I did overstate it a bit, but not by much. The same critic pointed out that it was the Soviet Union, not the Americans who captured Berlin at the end of the Second World War. I didn’t mean to imply that America did capture Berlin. I was taking a poetic license, based loosely on the quote from the Claude Rains character in Casablanca, when he said that he was with the Americans when the blundered into Berlin at the conclusion of the First World War. And undoubtedly, the Americans did occupy a section of the Berlin at the conclusion of the Second World War in such a way that some could conclude that they blundered into it.)
John Feehery is President of Communications and Director of Government Affairs for Quinn Gillespie and Associates, Washington, D.C.’s top public affairs firm. He is also a frequent commentator on the political landscape, widely quoted around the country and often seen on such television programs as CNN’s The Situation Room, MSNBC’s Hardball, and Bloomberg Television’s Money and Politics. He is also a columnist for The Hill. His writing appears regularly on Political Storm.