MP David Amess was assassinated in a church while conducting what the British call a “constituent surgery,” something like a professor’s “office hours” but for an elected leader. Political assassins and mass killers (who may or may not have a political agenda) weaponize the public space, turning the locus of shared community into the locus of fear and domination. Terrorists operate in the same way. So do the neo-Maoist bullies chasing around Senator Kyrsten Sinema. So do the imbeciles chanting “Fu** Joe Biden!” at sporting events. On the personal level as on the global level, to be alive in our time is to be connected — like it or not. One of the things to which we are connected is a vast technological apparatus that amplifies the reach, range, voice, and power of individuals and small groups of people, from philanthropists to mass murderers.
Leonard and his colleagues at the ECFR are engaged in trying to work out how nation-states (and multinational confederations such as the European Union) go about existing in that connected world, achieving genuine peace or, short of that, keeping the casualties of unpeace to a minimum. But because foreign policy is generally a hostage of domestic politics (this is especially true in the United States), those macro considerations are very much bound up with events and personalities at the micro level. The weaponization of immigrants and refugees that Leonard writes about is part of a single complex phenomenon that includes everyone from Anders Behring Breivik to Steve Bannon, who is on his way to criminal charges for refusing to comply with subpoenas in Congress’s investigation of the events of January 6. The forces that warp the minds and souls of figures such as Breivik — and, it may turn out, the assassin of David Amess — also warp the minds and souls of nations.
They can flip elections, too.