Donald Trump has absurdly claimed Western civilization is at stake in the fight against Islamic terrorism, telling Poles, “The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive.”
In a speech in Warsaw, the American president held up Poland as an example of a country that is ready to defend Western values:
As the Polish experience reminds us, the defence of the West ultimately rests not only on means but also on the will of its people to prevail.
Poland’s ruling nationalist party shares Trump’s alarmism about Islam, which is hard to distinguish from xenophobia.
But comparing the country’s historical resistance to Nazism and communism to the present-day War on Terror is misguided.
No mass appeal
Peter Beinart has written in The Atlantic that totalitarian ideology was seen as credible alternative to liberal democracy in the 1930s. People around the world sincerely believed communism or fascism could produce higher living standards than democratic capitalism.
They couldn’t, of course, and there is virtually nobody who believes the same about the ideology of Al Qaeda and the self-proclaimed Islamic State. Its appeal is much narrower.
Which is why we shouldn’t freak out. The threat is real. People are dying. But the West is not.