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In Defense of the West

Donald Trump recently delivered one of the better speeches of his young presidency in Warsaw, where he called on the West “to summon the courage and the will to defend our civilization.” Surprisingly, the speech was roundly criticized by some as offensive. One commentator called it “an alt-right manifesto.” Another claimed that by referring to “the West” and to “our civilization” Trump was pandering to “white nationalism” because “the West is a racial and religious term.”

Of course, what Trump said differs not at all from what previous presidents, Democrat or Republican, have said. In 1952, Harry Truman praised the United States for saving “Western civilization from enslavement by a godless creed.” In West Germany in 1963, John F. Kennedy spoke of “preserving Western culture, and Western religion, and Western civilization” and defending “our common heritage from those who would divide and destroy it.” In 1966, Lyndon B. Johnson, warned of “ideologies . . . that threaten the very roots of our common Western civilization.”

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