On a trip to Warsaw, Poland last week, President Donald Trump posed one of those doom-and-gloom questions that he is famous for, asking his audience if Western civilization “had the will to survive.”
It’s a serious question, no matter which politician is asking it. Throughout thousands of years of history, civilizations have lost their will and simply perished from within.
Our gloomy answer to the gloomy question is “yes” and “no.”
The will to survive nations? Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Moldavia, Belarus, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Switzerland, Austria and Ireland.
The lack of will ones? The United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, The Netherlands, Norway and Greece.
Clearly, there is a regional divide here. Eastern and Central European nations display a toughness forged in experience. In the 20th century, such nations got hit on all sides: Hitler from the west, Stalin from the east. Occupation and defeat can concentrate the mind wonderfully on issues of mere survival. The Western European and North American nations, meanwhile, have lived under the American defense umbrella for the past 70 years, even in the quarter of a century since the end of the Cold War. With generous welfare states, they have grown soft and flabby, unfit for struggle of any kind.
The regional divide may grow in the decades ahead. Eastern European nations, similar to, say, Japan and China, define themselves in terms of religion and ethnicity. Western European and North American nations view Western culture as an ideal to be achieved: Democracy, equality and individualism.
Recently, the European Union (EU) threatened to fine both Poland and Hungary for not taking in even a minuscule amount of migrants. The Polish government essentially said: Fine us all you want, we’re not taking them in.
The “no” nations can change. In Europe, at least, there is a political opposition to Western suicide. For now, the “death of the West” scenario—low fertility and chaos at the border—is real. If it’s Western civ you care about, then all roads, until further notice, lead to Eastern Europe.