Ann Marlowe

Ann Marlowe is a writer and businesswoman based in New York City. Since 2012 she has specialized in anti-kleptocracy writing and research. In 2011, she made four trips to Libya to cover the revolution and war and returned twice in 2012. Between 2002 and 2011 she traveled regularly to Afghanistan and published often on Afghanistan's politics, economy, culture and the U.S. counterinsurgency there. Her articles have appeared in the op –ed pages of the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post and New York Post, and in the Weekly Standard, Daily Beast, Forbes.com, TNR.com,and many other publications. She tweets regularly (@annmarlowe) and blogs on Libya, the Arab Spring, the links between war and art and the cultural aspects of counterinsurgency for World Affairs at: http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/new/blogs/marlowe

Her monograph on the life and intellectual context of David Galula was published by the Strategic Studies Institute of the Army War College in summer 2010. Ms. Marlowe has also published two memoirs and is one of the contributors to A New Literary History of America (Harvard University Press, 2009).

Ms. Marlowe is a regular guest on the John Batchelor radio show discussing Libya, Afghanistan and counterinsurgency. She has also appeared on Fox's "Happening Now", PBS’s “Ideas in Action” with Jim Glassman, VOA, RTTV, BloggingHeadsTV.com and other television programs. She has spoken at U.S. Army bases, the Army War College, U.S. State Department, the Institut d'Histoire du Temps Present in Paris, and American colleges. In 2009, she was a Media Fellow at the Hoover Institution and returned there for a research fellowship in 2010.

Ms. Marlowe was born in Suffern, New York in 1958 and educated at public schools in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. She received her B.A. in philosophy magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1979 and studied classical philosophy there in the Ph.D. program in 1979-80. In 1984, she received an MBA in finance from Columbia University's Graduate School of Business.


An Interview with Two Afghan Mayors

April 23rd, 2021

originally published in The Bulwark, 4/20/21 https://thebulwark.com/an-interview-with-two-afghan-mayors-about-the-u-s-withdrawal-from-afghanistan/

The mayors of Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif explain what the American pullout means for Afghans.

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“We have been your laboratory to fight terrorism. But Afghanistan has changed tremendously in the last 20 years. The Taliban cannot expect to walk in and rule this country. People have moved on. This is one of the freest countries in the region in terms of freedom of speech and media. No force can govern Afghanistan without the consent of the people.”

That was Daoud Sultanzoy speaking. He’s been the mayor of Kabul since April 2020, and a friend for about 15 years. We were talking over WhatsApp, discussing the impact of President Biden’s decision to unconditionally remove all American troops from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021.

The next day I spoke with another friend of long standing who is now mayor of Mazar-i-Sharif, Tawfiq Amini. And in general, both spoke of the time coming for Afghans to stand up for themselves.

What Americans may not fully appreciate is that, for Afghans, our withdrawal isn’t about us.

What follows are interviews with two of the most important politicians in Afghanistan.

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PODCAST · APRIL 20 2021
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I met Daoud Sultanzoy, 65, in Kabul when he was a member of the Wolesi Jirga—the lower House of Parliament—around 2006, during one of the reporting trips I made to Afghanistan. He’s Kabul-born and raised, from an aristocratic Pashtun family who have historically been landholders in nearby Ghazni province.

While Pashtuns are generally the most conservative ethnic group in Afghanistan (and the group from which the Taliban draw their most fervent support) Daoud is a liberal. He’s a Kabul University-educated engineer and former United Airlines pilot nicknamed “Captain Daoud”—and also a former American citizen who lived for many years in California.

Brilliant and articulate, Sultanzoy was always good for a pithy quote and sparkling conversation at one of the many gatherings of Kabul’s international. After leaving parliament in 2010, he did a stint as a talk radio host. He also ran for president in 2014 and in so doing gave up his American citizenship. (“I could be living in Malibu. But a human being needs to be useful. Afghanistan is where I can be most useful,” he explained.)

The war continues—in 2020 about 1,900 Afghan civilians were killed by anti-government forces. There are 2,500 American troops in Afghanistan currently, plus about 7,000 NATO forces. Afghanistan is currently protected by the 350,000 members of the Afghan Army and Air Force and 125,000 local police.

Sultanzoy seems unworried about the dangers of his job and only when I asked directly about assassination attempts did he mention that a few months ago his security detail discovered a bomb in his car.

Ann Marlowe: Daoud, I don’t think many Americans know how you become a mayor in Afghanistan? And what’s the best estimate of the population of Kabul?

Daoud Sultanzoy: Afghan mayors are supposed to be elected, but along with the District Council system, mayoral elections have not yet been set up. The mayor of Kabul is appointed by the president and sits in the cabinet. The mayors of all the other cities are appointed by the Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG).

I have no fixed term limit. It depends on the president. I have received a lot of support from the president and the two vice presidents.

The best estimate is that Kabul has a daytime population of about 6,000,000 people, of whom 1,000,000 commute into the center every day from the outskirts or other provinces. We have 8,500 municipal employees.

Marlowe: Can you say something about the economic effect of the whittling away of the international community in Kabul? Is the aid money still there? Is there a sustainable economy?

Sultanzoy: Actually we are the only municipality that generates its own budget through fees. We do not depend on international aid, although we do receive some through the World Bank which comes with strings attached. It is not a significant part of our budget which is about 13 billion afghanis or $168 million at 77 afghanis per dollar.

There is a lot of economic activity here that has nothing to do with the foreign community and a lot of problems that are local problems. For example there are thousands of unregistered unlicensed pushcarts selling goods. This has been a big problem because it is not usually a question of one person owning one cart, it is a mafia of one person owning 800 or 1,000 carts which block the streets and pay no fees or taxes. [The cart operators pay fees to the mafia rather than the city.] We have registered 25,000 people who claimed to be owners of carts.

Marlowe: Is there still a huge problem in Kabul with informal housing settlements without water or electricity? As in other places in the developing world, people who live in these settlements do not have titles to their property which they have often paid significant amounts for . . .

Sultanzoy: Yes, this is a big problem, although we have made some progress since I took office. About 70 percent of the new construction in the last 20 years is unplanned and unregistered and because it is also untaxed we’re losing a lot of revenue. Depending on the size of the house, an average house would pay about 1,000 afghanis ($13) per year in taxes.

UN-Habitat undertook certain parts of this registration and there they have not produced good results. The government is not very happy about it. I’m not privy to what they have done because they took these projects before I became the mayor. One part was done in Kabul and it’s still not complete. What we are doing now is through the Afghan government. Land registration is done by the Ministry of Urban Development, unfortunately. I would have preferred it to have been done by the municipality.

I went head-to-head with warlords who have grabbed millions of square meters of land, including parkland and green space, and I received a lot of support from First Vice President Amanarullah Salah.

Marlowe: You became mayor right in the middle of the pandemic. What kind of impact has COVID-19 had in Kabul? From what I have heard and read, the situation has not been as catastrophic in Afghanistan as in the United States or other developed countries. There certainly isn’t testing going on, but I read that there are fewer than 3,000 deaths so far.

Do people take the pandemic seriously?

Sultanzoy: We prepared for many sick, but they did not materialize. We have a young population. For 40 days, during a lockdown, our municipality distributed 120,000,000 pieces of bread to 3.1 million households at a cost of $68.8 million.

Due to the economic situation, it is not possible for most people to wear masks. But they are aware of social distancing. As far as vaccinations, we have begun with the security forces here. We are waiting for supplies from ÇOVAX [which provides free vaccines to poor countries].

Marlowe: What kind of security situation did you inherit from your predecessor? My impression from talking to Afghan friends is that Kabul is more dangerous than it was the last time I was there in 2011. Is there anything you can do about this as mayor or is it outside your sphere?

Sultanzoy: I do not have control over the police in Kabul, even the traffic police. They report to the minister of the interior.

Marlowe: How well are the Afghan national security forces (ANSF) doing in your opinion? How well has the United States done at training the ANSF after spending $88 billion?

Sultanzoy: No meaningful territory has been lost by ANSF, although government forces have withdrawn from some places. There is a very small footprint of those who create insecurity.

Marlowe: What do you think Afghans are hoping for from Americans in the future?

Sultanzoy: We are hoping for more clarity about the civilian role of the United States after the military withdrawal. The United States has not mentioned what they will do beyond saying that financial support will continue, but this is very vague. When the international community is not clear about its intentions, insecurity grows.

This nation has to become a nation of the 21st century. We need education and healthcare—these are not western things, they are human things. America was not made from within alone. It was also made from Europe. Afghanistan should be supported as America was supported.

Marlowe: What do you think Americans don’t understand about Afghans? Why has the American mission in Afghanistan had so many problems?

Sultanzoy: This is a very complicated country both in terrain and people and the ways we interpret things are very different. We Afghans are not direct people. When Americans speak to us very directly we try to interpret what they’re “really” saying.

Marlowe: What are some of the other initiatives you’ve started since you took office?

Sultanzoy: Just three weeks ago we started a public bus system with five buses. We hope that by the middle of the year we will have more than 100 buses in service.

We are also trying to increase the number of women among municipal employees. There have been very few and we’re focusing on getting to 30 percent, but we have only added dozens so far out of our 8,500 employees.

Marlowe: Can you say something about some depressing numbers the World Bank has published on education:

Education spending has declined over recent years, especially on basic education. Education’s share of the budget has declined from 17 percent in 1390 to just 12 percent in 1397. Real per capita spending on education has decreased by around 13 percent over the past five years.

Sultanzoy: Part of the reason for this is systematic corruption in the past in the Ministry of Education (including fictitious teachers). Also in some areas the schools are not functioning due to insecurity.

Marlowe: In the ongoing negotiations, do you trust the Taliban?

Sultanzoy: Trust should be built and trust is measured by deeds, so in generic terms I should say any two parties that want to negotiate they have to embark on a path that will build trust and that path in our case is to prevent war. In the 21st century people shouldn’t be shedding blood in order to resolve disputes.

If we want to have a future together we have to put our arms on the side and sit down like our forefathers have done and talk about our differences and iron it out. There’s nothing that cannot be ironed out.

Marlowe: So do you think that there is anything valuable that the Taliban can contribute to Afghanistan?

Sultanzoy: Of course, of course! No one party is the only perfect party to monopolize governing this country. Every group of people who live in this country have something to contribute and we have to listen to all of them and we have to bring them all to the same table and and give them the proportionate role. . . . Their precondition was for American troops to withdraw. I think they should also cut their ties with foreign interference, then there’s nothing that we cannot iron out.

Marlowe: In conclusion, where do you expect that Afghanistan will be in another 20 years? A lot of Americans are pessimistic but you seem more optimistic.

Sultanzoy: If we embark on a durable peace that is just and that is equitable and that will uphold certain principles for a country that needs to be embarking on a path of development—then Afghanistan will develop very quickly because the ingredients are there. The manpower, the capital, the appetite for business and for entrepreneurship in the country, natural resources, agriculture, water resources and the availability of tools not only nationally, but internationally, that can speed up development.

I first visited Mazar-i-Sharif in fall of 2002 when there were only a few blocks of shops with glass windows, no buildings taller than the venerated Blue Mosque, and no commercial Internet providers. I stayed at the home of two very kind people, now deceased: Naser Amini and his wife Maryam. They shared a “roushan fekr” attitude, which in Farsi means “enlightened thinking.” The family were ethnic Uzbek landowners originally from Maimana in Faryab province, but more recently they had fled the Taliban takeover of Kabul. I spent a lot of time with their five children who were then teens or young adults.

The oldest son, Ahmad Tawfiq Amini, now 43 and known as Tawfiq, became the mayor of Mazar-i Sharif on March 2. Trained as a civil engineer, Amini is a burly, confident man with a sly sense of humor who looks like the contractor he was for many years. His wife is a teacher and he has supported his sisters’ efforts to graduate from university, and has sent his daughters to private school and university.

Mazar has always been a safer place than Kabul—the Taliban has little local backing in this multiethnic city, where Dari-speaking Tajiks are the single largest group and there are significant numbers of Uzbeks, Turkmen, and Hazaras. The last 20 years have brought many positive changes. The long-term provincial strongman, Atta Muhammed, has presided over a corrupt but efficient and business- friendly administration. Mazar is just 34 miles from the Uzbek border crossing of Termez, which is a source of abundant customs revenue. Now the population is around 1,000,000 and the city has tall buildings and an international airport—and most middle-class residents have smart phones with Internet access.

But the area also has more violence. For some years it has no longer been possible for government officials or foreigners to drive safely between Kabul and Mazar, something I probably did a dozen times in the past. While the Afghan government controls both cities, the Taliban has a presence in between.

Amini has also had a brush with danger since becoming mayor. On April 10, his oldest daughter called, telling me that the handcart mafia had burned his car.

Amini and I spoke on WhatsApp after I sent him questions—he reads and understands English better than he speaks it. As a result, this transcript has been edited slightly for clarity.

Ann Marlowe: So how did you become mayor of Mazar?

Tawfiq Amini: I am not elected by people. It’s a different system: This job was announced on the government website for everyone to apply. I applied and I was selected for the interview; when I passed the interview I was asked to give a presentation. As an engineer, I had enough experience working in the city that I was able to explain about my plans for the future of this city. Luckily within 24 hours I confirmed that I got the job. My term is two years.

Marlowe: And your responsibilities as mayor?

Amini: As a mayor, my responsibility is to keep the infrastructure safe and clean, I also try to create job opportunities for people who do not have jobs. We have about 100 jobs reserved for poor people and these jobs pay 5,000 afghanis per month (about $64). My goals are to help people and hear their stories and their needs. There are poor people whose land was taken away from them illegally. I am helping them to get their land back and also working on reducing the corruption in the city.

Marlowe: Does the United States provide any financial support to the city?

Amini: Since I started working as mayor I have not received any help from the United States government.

Marlowe: How about NGOs?

Amini: UN-Habitat has been working here for about four years registering houses [establishing a land titling system that enables the collection of taxes]. Maybe 60 percent or 65 percent of houses are now registered. An average house maybe pays 1,500 afghanis ($19) a year in taxes.

Marlowe: What is the amount of the annual budget of Mazar city?

Amini: It is about 100,000,000 afghanis ($1.28 million) per year depending on how many taxes we get.The money comes from taxes (including customs duties).

Marlowe: Do you think it is better that the Americans go or that the Americans stay?

Amini: It is better to stay. The economic situation might be bad after they leave. But we Afghans have to stand up and build our country. I know America has been great support during the last 20 years, but now it’s time for all Afghan ethnic groups to come together to be united and fight for their rights and bring peace to their country, and take responsibility. I believe that Afghans are the only ones who can solve their problems.

I hope that Afghanistan does not fall back to the hands of the Taliban. People are already so tired of war, they are so thirsty for peace and stability.

Marlowe: Do you think there is a high chance of the Taliban taking over Mazar?

Amini: No, only about a 10 percent chance. The people in the city are not liking the Taliban. The Taliban are in the villages.

Marlowe: Are there any American or other foreign troops stationed near Mazar?

Amini: Yes, at Marmul camp in Mazar, near the airport. They do not come into the city.

Marlowe: What changes will happen in Mazar when the Americans leave?

Amini: Well the American troops have already decreased. I don’t think there will be a major change as we are aware that the Afghan National Army is getting ready to take responsibility for the security of the city and country. We are hoping and expecting that government will come up with a plan to keep the people safe.

Marlowe: What do you think Americans don’t understand about Afghans? Why has the American mission in Afghanistan had so many problems? Why could they not defeat the Taliban?

Amini: Great questions. Ann, what Americans did not understand about Afghans is the history and culture of Afghanistan. Afghanistan has a complex history and also is a country where religion is a powerful social force. Americans did not understand the culture of Afghans, the values that they hold. If the country is profoundly rooted in tradition and religion, it’s hard to introduce the idea of democracy.

Also Afghanistan is a multiethnic and predominantly tribal country. Every tribe has its leader, and people listen to their leader more than the government. There are always conflicts between different tribes, which can be one reason why the American mission in Afghanistan had so many problems because it is hard to understand the cultural concept of each ethnic group.

Also, lack of education: The literacy rate in Afghanistan is the lowest in the world. [Afghanistan, with an adult literacy rate of 43 percent, is one of the handful of least literate countries in the world according to the World Bank. The literacy rate is now about double what it was in 1980.] That puts the country in a different danger. Afghanistan is one country that depends on foreign aid, and America has played a significant role in helping Afghanistan.

About why could they not defeat the Taliban: Geographically Afghanistan is located in central Asia where some neighbors of Afghanistan are interfering with Afghan policy, such as Pakistan, Iran, and their relationship with them.

Marlowe: What does Afghanistan need for the future?

Amini: I have seven children—five daughters and two sons, and I am very proud of them. My oldest daughter is studying medicine. My son is studying engineering.

This is what my country needs: more young people to study and help their country.

Time for a Free Public Registry of Corporate Beneficial Ownership in the U.S.

January 26th, 2021

Originally published by OCCRP, January 26, 2021

https://www.occrp.org/en/37-ccblog/ccblog/13722-opinion-time-for-a-free-public-registry-of-corporate-beneficial-ownership-in-the-u-s

In the tumult of recent weeks, a major legislative milestone in the American fight against kleptocracy has sneaked by almost unnoticed. It demands our attention, especially because its work is only half done.
On Jan. 1, the Corporate Transparency Act (CTA) was signed into law, when Congress overrode then-President Donald Trump’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act, to which it was attached.

The CTA mandates that the incorporators of new corporations or limited liability partnerships will have to file annually to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network of the Department of the Treasury (FinCEN), listing the names, dates of birth, addresses, and official identification numbers of the beneficial owners of such entities.

But the CTA is a half measure, because the new legislation doesn’t include the formation of a central, searchable database to help get this crucial information out into the open. The public has the right to know the names behind these corporations, which have the same legal privileges as humans. The public in this case includes individuals who may have been defrauded, the divorcing spouse who suspects a partner is concealing assets, and journalists investigating possible criminality.

Those of us who have researched companies in the U.K. know just how far the CTA falls short, and how much better things could be if the U.S. copied the British model.

One night in November 2011, sitting at home in New York, I went to the U.K.’s Companies House website and typed in the name of a company I suspected was a criminal enterprise. I was doing this in my capacity as an investigative journalist, but the information I sought was accessible to anyone, and it was inexpensive.

Companies House is a self-financing U.K. government agency staffed by civil servants, its primary purpose being to enable British citizens to register companies and file annual returns. Currently, every one of the 4.3 million companies spanning England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, be they private or public, big or small, must file information on their directors and controlling shareholders annually with Companies House, in addition to their annual account filings.

Because of this comprehensiveness, Companies House also serves a secondary function: It allows citizens to research companies they are suspicious of. As a result, Companies House is the first stop for any journalistic investigation involving U.K. entities.

As I searched that night in New York, I soon found not only the address of the company I was looking into — a private house — but also the names of the company directors. Within an hour I knew that these directors had between them started more than 40 companies from the same house. After one particular name piqued my interest, a private banker was immediately able to tell me it belonged to the former infrastructure czar of an Arab country.

This was the first step in the discovery of a giant transnational kickback and money laundering ring later detailed in the international press, but it would not have been possible without Companies House.* To this day it would not be possible at all in the U.S., where no equivalent database exists.

In the U.S. there is no central national registry of companies; this function is instead handled by the secretaries of state of the 50 separate states. Many states, like Delaware, offer no public information about these companies, other than their incorporation dates and registered agents. More than 1 million corporations are registered in Delaware, partly because tax is not collected on the portion of Delaware corporations’ income that is generated out of state.

Five companies related to the scandal-plagued consulting firm Cambridge Analytica LLC were registered in Delaware, but it was only after a leak to the New York Times that it became apparent that the hedge fund manager Robert Mercer was among its main investors. We still don’t know the other shareholders, but we know that former Trump adviser Steve Bannon was a director, because he had to file White House disclosure forms.

Most state registries are cumbersome to use and low on information. They are also often expensive: Delaware charges $10 or $20 for a corporation’s status or history. Commercial aggregators are available to the public, but they, too, are pricey. The closest thing we have to a free, transnational registry is the excellent opencorporates.com, but it offers no more information than the original reporting jurisdictions. Another great resource is the website of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, but again there are limitations on what can be found in a single place.

In comparison, it’s hard to overestimate just how useful Companies House is. Each director’s birth month and year is noted. Changes of company name or address are also tracked, which can be extremely helpful when it comes to tracing criminal companies, which often change addresses and names. In addition, Companies House maintains a list of disqualified directors, and persons who have declared bankruptcy. A few years ago, all Companies House filings were made available to download free of charge.

The U.S. has long had the best enforcement capabilities in the world. But to end the concealment of the fruits of kleptocracy, you need information, plus enforcement, plus political will. An American version of Companies House could be phased in gradually, starting with newly formed companies. Ideally, ownership information from individual state registries could be scraped and folded into this central database, offering the public a vital resource.

The U.S. effort could begin with a requirement to file details on beneficial ownership, before moving on to the annual filing of accounts, to reduce the initial regulatory burden. Ultimately, the database could be integrated with federal-level taxation, to ensure that accounts filed by companies to the Internal Revenue Service tally with those being reported to America’s Companies House.

With a new focus on information gathering, a central public registry, and the backing of a Biden administration truly committed to cleaning house, consequential change is possible. It’s time the U.S. stopped being an attractive home for dubious companies.

*Disclosure: I worked on this matter as a paid consultant.

Ann Marlowe is a writer and businesswoman in New York. She has worked on stolen asset recovery using Companies House.

The Narcissists’ Coup

January 24th, 2021

Originally published in The Bulwark January 6 2021

https://thebulwark.com/the-narcissists-coup/

Afew days ago, a Libyan friend asked me, “Will Joe Biden really become President of the United States?”

Until recent years, I would have been a bit arrogant in responding. I would have felt it was like asking an Italian if they have good pasta. You’re suggesting a weakness in our democracy? It’s our best-known product. But by January 1st, this had become a question it was at least conceivable to ask. We had become a lot more like Libya than we were before Trump.

And that was before the Trumpist putsch today.

From 2002 to 2012, I spent a lot of time visiting Afghanistan and Libya. People in both countries love to vote. So, they would seem to accept the philosophical basis of democracy. However, they are less keen on accepting the results if the opposition wins. They like the action of voting but don’t understand the culture behind voting.

Libya has been engulfed in a civil war since 2014 for this reason. For much of this time they have had two establishments, each claiming to be the legitimate government. They have what I call “democracy until the other side wins.” Afghanistan has “democracy until my cousin asks a favor.” Neither is the same as the rule of law.

On an individual level, almost no Libyan official will accept his dismissal until he is physically blocked from entering his office or they change the locks. That is why there have been as many as three men at the same time claiming to be head of the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), and often two men (yes, it’s always men) claiming to be Libyan diplomats in the same posting. These officials always have an excuse for why they should stay, and usually it’s pretty convoluted, but that doesn’t bother them.

The issue in Libya is confusing legalism with the rule of law. It is what philosophers call a category mistake, like walking around Oxford’s campus, looking at individual buildings, and asking, “but where is the university?” The answer is that Oxford University is the sum total of colleges, administrative buildings, laboratories, libraries, sports facilities, and so on.

The rule of law is a way of life. Libyans have had hardly any experience of this way of life. As a result, what they’re doing is understandable, to an extent.

What’s America’s excuse?

Podcast episode cover image
PODCAST · JANUARY 22 2021
Bill Kristol: The GOP Has Learned Nothing
On today’s Bulwark podcast, Bill Kristol joins Charlie Sykes to discuss why the GOP has learned nothing during the Trump…
As many have pointed out, the problem is not Donald Trump, it’s much of the Republican Party and the 74 million Americans who voted for Trump, almost all of whom still seem to stand by him today. Those 74 million people had might as well be living in what is called an emerging democracy where you put your cockamamie ideology or your family loyalties above the rule of law.

For almost two-and-a-half centuries, American identity included living under the restraints of our Constitution—not as a burden but as a badge of honor. So how did we become a country where half our citizens don’t understand the glory of living under the rule of law?

We lost our pride in living under the rule of law, just as we have lost our acceptance of living under other restraints. This pride eroded, along with trust in government, but also with many other conventions. It’s been some time since our culture valued any sort of deference, including to scientific expertise or to the vulnerable. (You see both in the right-wing response to the pandemic, which has cast doubt on the work of scientists while also suggesting a few hundred thousand people dying is merely the cost of doing business.)

Enacting one’s narcissism became the only rule, and, as Stuart Schneiderman said, narcissism is always enacted at someone else’s expense. We elected a president who acts like a big baby. Those who voted for him said things like “it was time to shake things up” and “I’m tired of political correctness” and “I’m tired of being told what to do.” They wanted to let their id out. They were tired of hypocrisy.

But Trumpism is not the opposite of political correctness; both are aspects of the same illness. The collective sickness we’re suffering from is an inability to see oneself as one person among others with no larger or smaller claim on the universe’s attention. The desire to force one’s opinions and preferences on the rest of the world is just the mirror image of the desire to burn it all down. Neither one shows a respect for freedom. Polarization is not the problem in the United States right now so much as the selfishness that generates it. Freedom is only possible when both sides realize that it’s possible for others to disagree with them—and occasionally you’re going to be on the losing side of that disagreement. A respect for the feelings of others makes freedom possible. Sometimes it looks like what adolescents call hypocrisy.

The putschists in their infantile cosplay getups are devotees of narcissistic self-expression. When some of them referred to Congress as “our house” they didn’t mean that metaphorically; they literally put their feet up on the desks. That’s something only children and boors do. It is too soon to really absorb the events of today, but the corrective to the riot in the Capitol will include a return to the civility of classic liberalism. Let’s hear it for restraint, mutual respect, and pride in following rules.

And let us hope for justice under the law for those who perpetrated the events of today.