Not every American understands the absolutely
vital role that Germany and its honorable Chancellor,
are playing in defense of the idea and the conscience of the West. But
all of us who do, let me say thank you.
My friends: In the four day -- four decades I have attended
conference, I cannot recall a year where its purpose was more necessary
or more important.
The -- This next panel is going to ask us to consider whether the West
will survive. In recent years, this question would invite accusations of
hyperbole and alarmism. Not this year. If ever there was a time to treat
this question with a deadly seriousness, it is now.
This question was real half a century ago [for]
Ewald von Kleist and the
founders of this conference. Indeed, itís why they first started coming
to Munich. They did not assume the West would survive because they had
seen its near annihilation. They saw open markets give way to
beggar-thy-neighbor protectionism, and the poverty that imposed. They
saw a world order fracture into clashing ethnic and nationalist
passions, and the...misery that brought. They saw the rise of
hostile great powers, and the failure of deterrence, and the wars that
From the ashes of the most awful calamity in human history was born what
we call the West -- a new and different and better kind of world order,
one based not on blood-and-soil nationalism, or spheres of influence, or
conquest of the weak by the strong, but rather on universal values, rule
of law, open commerce, and respect for the national sovereignty and
independence. Indeed, the entire idea of the West is that it is open to
any person or any nation that honors and upholds these values.
The unprecedented period of security and prosperity that we have enjoyed
for the past seven decades didnít happen by accident. It happened not
only because of the appeal of our values, but because we backed them up
with our power and persevered in their defense. Our predecessors did not
believe in the end of history, or that it bends inevitably towards
justice. Thatís up to us. That requires our persistent, painstaking
effort, and thatís why we come to Munich year after year after year.
What would von Kleistís generation say if they saw our world today? I
fear that much about it would be all-too-familiar for them, and they
would be alarmed by it.
They would be alarmed by an increasing turn away from universal values
and toward old ties of blood and race and sectarianism.
They would be alarmed by the hardening resentment we see towards
immigrants and refugees and minority groups, especially Muslims.
They would be alarmed by the growing inability, and even unwillingness,
to separate truth from lies.
They would be alarmed that more and more of our fellow citizens seem to
be flirting with authoritarianism and romanticizing it as our moral
But what would alarm them most, I think, is a sense that many of our
peoples, including in my own country, are giving up on the West; that
they see it as a bad deal that we may be better off without; and that
while Western nations still have the power to maintain our world order,
itís unclear whether we have the will.
All of us must accept our share of blame for this turn of events. We
grew complacent. We made mistakes. At times we tried to do too much, and
at others we failed to do enough. We lost touch with many of our people.
Weíve been too slow to recognize and respond to their hardships. We need
to face up to these realities, but this does not mean losing hope and
retreating. That we must not do.
I know -- I know there is profound concern across Europe and the world
that America is laying down the mantle of global leadership. I can only
speak for myself, but I do not believe that that is the message you will
hear from all of the American leaders who cared enough to travel here to
Munich this weekend.
Thatís the not -- not the message you heard today
from Secretary of
Defense Jim Mattis.
Thatís not the message you will hear today
from Vice President Mike
Thatís not the message you will hear from Secretary of Homeland Security
And that is certainly not the message you will hear tomorrow from our
bipartisan congressional delegation.
Make no mistake, my friends: These are dangerous times, but you should
not count America out, and we should not -- and we should not count each
other out. We must be prudent but we cannot wring our hands and wallow
in self-doubt. We must appreciate the limits of our power, but we cannot
allow ourselves to question the rightness and goodness of the West. We
must understand and learn from our mistakes, but we cannot be paralyzed
by fear. We cannot give up on ourselves and on each other. That is the
definition of decadence. And thatís how world orders really do decline
This is exactly what our adversaries want. This is their goal. They have
no meaningful allies, so they seek to sow dissent among us and divide us
from each other. They know that their power and influence are inferior
to ours, so they seek to subvert us, and erode our resolve to resist,
and terrorize us into passivity. They know they have little to offer the
world beyond selfishness and fear, so they seek to undermine our
confidence in ourselves and our belief in our own values.
We must take our own side in this fight. We must be vigilant. We must
persevere. And through all -- it all, we must never, never cease to
believe in the moral superiority of our own values: that we stand for
truth against falsehood, freedom against tyranny, right against
injustice, hope against despair -- and that even though we will
inevitably take losses and suffer setbacks, through it all, as long as
people of goodwill and courage refuse to lose faith in the West, it will
Thatís why we come to Munich.
Thatís why we come to Munich, year in and year out -- to revitalize our
common moral purpose, our belief that our values are worth the fighting
for. Because in the final analysis, the survival of the West is not just
a material struggle; it is now, and itís always been a moral struggle.
Now more than ever we must not forget this.
During one of the darkest days of the early Cold War, the great American
novelist, William Faulkner,
delivered a short speech in -- in Stockholm
upon receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature. ďI decline to accept the
end of man,Ē Faulkner said.
I believe that man
will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because
he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he
has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and
Even now, when the temptation to despair is greatest, I refuse to accept
the end of the West.
I refuse to accept the demise of our world order.
I refuse to accept that our greatest triumphs cannot once again spring
from our moments of greatest peril, as they have so many times before.
I refuse to accept that our values are morally equivalent to those of
I am a proud, unapologetic believer in the West.
I believe we must always, always stand up for it.
For if we do not, who will?