The most telling feature of Daniel Foster’s response to my article on Donald Trump’s Warsaw speech is that, while he dislikes my definition of “the West,” he never offers one of his own. I argued that, in the United States today, the best predictor of whether a country is considered “Western” is whether it is primarily white and primarily Christian. (With Protestant and Catholic countries considered more Western than Orthodox ones, and Israel tossed in to buttress the “Judeo” part of “Judeo-Christian.”) I noted that non-white or non-Christian countries aren’t generally considered Western even when they are further west geographically than Christian, white ones (Morocco v. Poland, Haiti v. France, Egypt v. Australia). And that non-white, non-Christian countries aren’t generally considered Western even when they are economically developed (Japan) or robustly democratic (India).
Foster responds that “Morocco was jostled about by Spanish and French empires for a few hundred years” and that “Western ideals were kind of a big thing in the Haiti of Toussaint Louverture” and that “Japan enjoys the sponsorship of a demure American empire” and that “India’s in the frigging British Commonwealth.” Sure. Countries that Americans today consider Western and countries that they consider non-Western have interacted for a long time, and shaped each other in profound ways. So have white and black Americans. Yet Americans still distinguish between the two.