the national interest

Why the Most Important Phrase in Trump’s Speech Might be ‘Civilized World’

A journalist holds a placard with portraits of Russian President Vladimir Putin, French National Front leader Marine Le Pen, and U.S. President Donald Trump. Photo: Sergei Fadeichev/TASS via Getty Images

“We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate from the face of the Earth,” promised Donald Trump in his inauguration speech. This may turn out to be the most significant line in his speech, signifying the entry of the Trump-led United States into an anti-Islamic international alliance based in white Christian identity.

The key word in the passage above is “civilized” as a modifier for “world,” as opposed to the traditional “free.” The alt-right in the United States, and right-wing populist parties in Europe, frame the conflict against Islamic terrorism in civilizational terms, broadening rather than narrowing the scope of the conflict. Rather than defining their own side as democracies, they include Putin’s Russia, and Putin has held himself forward as a leader of the Christian forces against Islamic terrorists. Marine Le Pen has openly proposed an alliance led by the troika of Putin, Trump, and herself. Putin has aided La Pen’s campaign, just as he intervened to help Trump defeat Clinton.

As Josh Rogin reported recently, Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon is “interested in connecting the Trump apparatus to leaders of populist movements around the world, especially in Europe.” Whether this comes to pass, of course, remains to be seen. If it does, Trump’s inauguration speech will have given us a clear signal.

This Is the Most Important Phrase in Trump’s Speech