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Commentary & Opinion

Herbert London: The Trump Doctrine

In his July 6 speech in Warsaw, President Trump pledged America to the “defense of civilization itself.” Here in simple terms is the emergence of a Trump doctrine: “the bonds of culture, faith and tradition that make us who we are.” By referring to the spiritual foundations of western civilization, the President echoes our collective civilized humanity: the laws and culture that undergird western civilization.

During World War II Winston Churchill declared that we were fighting to defend “Christian civilization.” When this statement was criticized by detractors as narrowly ethnographic, he defended his position by noting what separates our civilization from others is the protection of individual rights, the rule of law, free markets and freedom of conscience. President Trump has taken up its mantle just as so many in the West and elsewhere reject it. He asks in Churchillian language whether the West has the will to survive.

Admittedly the core of liberalism Trump represents has undergone progressive debasement. Trump’s assertions are certainly welcome since they are a needed antidote to the cynicism now afflicting parts of the West. But the progressive left bristles at the talk of God and country and any positive references to Western civilization.

Peter Beinart writing in the Atlantic said the “West is a racial and religious term.” James Fallows is reminded of Nazi propaganda. Richard Cohen declared that on the plane to Warsaw, “President Trump opened the door and threw out American values.” Jeet Heer contends that Trump’s rhetoric “is meant to conjure blood-soil-nationalism. Lawrence Summers concurs with “the fears” of those who believe that the president’s conduct in Europe is currently the greatest threat to American national security.”

This overheated rhetoric belies a hostility to Trump and, perhaps more significantly, to the ethical tradition of the West. However, notwithstanding the herd of critics, this civilization spread its culture throughout the world, and where it has gained traction, contributed to the advancement of liberty and prosperity.

Professional detractors like Howard Zinn resent the idea of advancing liberty since for them the West is besotted with slavery and exploitation. Why should one defend the evil of the West? The post-modernist trained in the fever swamp of anti-Americanism, cannot accept nationalistic impulses. For them, globalism prevails, a tribute to the influence of bureaucracy and One World psychology.

What is the real threat to Constitutional democracy? It lies in the soul of the anti-Christian, anti-nationalist movement that rages as a contagion in the West. If Trump struck a responsive chord, it is because the globalist position has not been challenged till now.

Whether this Trump doctrine manifests itself in policy decisions remains to be seen, but there is little doubt this stance is a significant departure from Obama’s rhetoric and a version of a patriotic sentiment interred by the panjandrums of a brave new world.

President Trump will not silence the progressive Left eager to delegitimize his presidency, but he has certainly thrown down the challenge that the West is best and the U.S. will defend the interest of God and country against the barbarians at the gate.

Herbert London is President of the London Center for Policy Research, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of the book The Transformational Decade (University Press of America). You can read all of Herb London’s commentaries at www.londoncenter.org

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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