I actually remember my first experience of the radical Schengen arrangement. I crossed the Austrian-Hungarian border by train and ended up in Budapest’s Keleti station — a large, old-fashioned railway hub in a part of the city that can’t have changed much from the days of Communism. (Keleti station was, you might recall, recently one of the epicenters of the migrant crisis.) I stepped off the train amazed that I had actually crossed into a different country without anyone caring. No bureaucrat had any idea where I was. No one had asked me any questions. It felt good, but it also felt contrived and unnatural. I remember thinking to myself, “this can’t last.”
There is still much to be thankful for. The Anglosphere remains the freest set of nations in human history. Can that last?
At PJ Media, I take issue with Rand Paul’s assertion that the rise of ISIS is due to U.S. policy in the Middle East:
ISIS is so potently barbaric that to speak of a cause other than its members’ own depravity is distasteful. Even if it’s true that the war in Iraq created a “vacuum” for the group’s rise, to speak only in the most vague, mechanistic terms—as if the US and ISIS were mere billiard balls, to use the old “realist” analogy—ignores the essence of why ISIS is a problem for the civilized world: it is a destructive gang that runs on its own twisted logic. In this sense it operates outside our notions of cause and effect; its actions stand so far beyond moral norms that their only cause is the perpetrators themselves. If you have it in you to burn people alive, you will do so eventually, regardless of what the United States does.
In a new piece for PJ Media, I comment on a 1965 interview with Mao Zedong that The New Republic has just republished as part of the magazine’s centennial celebration. Conducted by Edgar Snow, the interview touched mainly on military and strategic matters, but in my opinion one must consider Mao’s private life and habits in order to understand how he manipulated others into following him:
…one is reminded of the way serial killers draw in their prey, affecting a charming and alluring personality, which only conceals their desire to use and dominate others. They care nothing for anyone and are concerned only with their immediate needs; the sole purpose of interacting with others is to manipulate them. Even Mao’s swimming was intended to show his power and dominance, specifically his ability to conquer nature in the form of the rivers’ currents. People are drawn to these kinds of primal displays, and unfortunately this attraction is always behind history’s most brutal moments.
In my latest piece for PJ Media, I talk about the recent death of Jean-Claude Duvalier, known as “Baby Doc,” who ruled Haiti as brutally as his father (“Papa Doc” Francois Duvalier) did before him. I consider why we are intrigued by evil dictators, who are almost always sexually depraved and intellectually dull men:
Some dictators, like Baby Doc, are beneficiaries of inherited power. They aren’t nearly as interesting as those who achieve power on their own. His father, for example, rose through Haitian politics and was elected as president. To get a crowd to follow and worship you is a mystery that no amount of sociology can explain to our satisfaction. It’s one part of our eternal obsession with evil men.