In the end, Mr. Trump ended up delivering both of these imagined speeches — combined as one. And it worked. Central Europe appreciated the president’s speech. It resonated with the very real fears of societies traumatized by the refugee crisis and the equally real prospect of a two-tiered European Union. (The irony, of course, is that Poles accept a vision of a planet wrecked by terrorists and sullied by migrants when not a single terrorist act has taken place in Poland for decades and there are almost no refugees within the country’s borders.)
What stands out most in Mr. Trump’s speech is not its oft-quoted illiberalism but its stark pessimism about the future of the West. He was elected on a promise of restoring American triumphalism, but he appears preoccupied by the fear of defeat. What he promised his listeners was not the West’s “victory” but that the West shall never be broken. In this way it was a very Polish speech. More than anybody else, Poles are deeply conscious of their own history, which is replete with noble and heroic defeats rather than glorious victories.