Watchmen of the West

'Trump may not be the ideal leader of the free world. But he understands what is at stake, he knows what must be done and he has the willpower to see it through'

Trump: Judge his actions not his words (Photo: Michael Vadon CC BY-SA 4.0)

Last month’s joint operation in Syria was not only “perfectly executed”, as Donald Trump modestly put it, but reunited the core members of the Atlantic alliance. The chorus of vituperation from Assad’s patrons, Khamenei and Putin, tells its own story. The ghoul of Tehran and the spectre of Moscow did their utmost to delay and if possible prevent retribution for the chemical carnage at Douma. But the schemes of pandemonium failed.

This could be a turning point in the fortunes of the West. If they are willing to be led by America, Britain and France, the democracies could now cease to turn a blind eye to subversion, abandon appeasement and refuse to be blackmailed. The sponsorship of terrorism and assassination, the proliferation of propaganda and intensification of cyberwarfare, the lobbying and corrupting of Western elites, aimed at lifting sanctions and creating energy dependency: these are just some of the methods deployed by Russia, Iran and other enemies of the open society. They should have been stopped long ago. They still need to be stopped. And now they can be stopped.

President Trump may not be the ideal leader of the free world. But he understands what is at stake, he knows what must be done and he has the willpower to see it through. It is time for the high-minded to set aside their low expectations and judge Mr Trump by his actions rather than his words. There is method in his “madman diplomacy”. And it seems to be working. North Korea is negotiating with him on denuclearisation. Iran may soon be forced to follow suit. China is negotiating on trade. And Russia is no longer under any illusions that America will give it a free hand, either in the Middle East or in Eastern Europe. For the first time in a decade, a US administration is taking the lead, not “leading from behind”. Western leaders of very different political views, such as Emmanuel Macron and Justin Trudeau, are eager to work with Mr Trump. The transatlantic establishments have underestimated this president, just as they underestimated Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush — but overestimated Barack Obama. A little humility from the great and good, who took it for granted that they had a better grasp of reality than a reality TV star, would not go amiss.

Airstrikes, however, are not enough to save Western civilisation. We need to win the battle for hearts and minds, as John Ware explains. In British debates about intervention in Syria of recent weeks, the Labour leadership, plus assorted Greens, Scottish Nationalists and Islamists, have been dancing to the tunes of the Russian, Iranian and Syrian regimes. It suits the world’s most depraved despots to sow panic and inhibit punitive action. The awkward fact remains that Assad has used chemical weapons at least 50 times. “They are,” in Mr Trump’s words, “the crimes of a monster.” And monsters never lack for useful idiots.

Yet all of them will be brought to justice — if not in this world, then in the next. The Catholic Church teaches that Hell exists and the soul is eternal. (Pope Francis is most unlikely to have denied these doctrines in conversation with a nonagenarian journalist, knowing as he must that in The Inferno Dante encounters one of the Pope’s predecessors in torment.) A special circle of Tartarus should be reserved for the anti-Semites, and especially those hypocrites who take refuge in the specious subterfuge “anti-Zionism”, denying Jews alone the right of self-determination, yet attributing to them inordinate power.

One such is Jeremy Corbyn’s close ally, the overrated film director Ken Loach, whose profile by David Herman appears elsewhere in this issue. Mr Loach recently told a meeting of Labour Party faithful that the 30 MPs who took part in a demonstration against anti-Semitism should be “kicked out”. Such accusations came from “the Israeli government”, which was “infiltrating and undermining the Labour Left”. He asked another Labour gathering: “Why aren’t the Board of Deputies demonstrating outside of Tory party headquarters? We know why.” If the Labour Party were to take power, he claimed, “you [would] have the full range of international capital against us”.

With friends like that, it was no surprise that Mr Corbyn decided to attend a private Seder last month with Jewdas, a group that like Mr Loach denies Labour anti-Semitism as “cynical manipulation”, yet describes Israel as “a steaming pile of sewage which needs to be properly disposed of”. Maureen Lipman reminds us that she first sounded the alarm about anti-Semitism five years ago, much to the annoyance of the then Labour leader, Ed Miliband. Where did she do so? In Standpoint, of course.

In his superb new book about Rupert Murdoch, The Murdoch Method, Irwin Stelzer quotes the great media mogul addressing his executives in 1995: “We have made some bad mistakes along the way. We have had our share of one-issue magazines . . . But we’re still here.” Ten years later Standpoint, too, is still here.

Our leitmotif has always been the defence of the West. We pay attention to the morphology of civilisations and the shape-shifting manifestations of barbarism. There must surely be room for one magazine dedicated to all that is civilised, past and present, and read by those of inquiring minds. Standpoint survives only thanks to you, the readers. We, like you, are burdened by anxiety about the future of Western civilisation just as the prophet Isaiah tells us the people of Edom were at the prospect of the fall of Babylon. “He calleth to me out of Seir: Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night? The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night: if ye will enquire, enquire ye: return, come.”        

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