Mauren: Evil men did not go extinct


Courtesy of Bob Renner via Flickr

Columnist Jacob Mauren warns of our modern evil figures, such as Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. 

Jacob Mauren

We all know the dark names of history.

Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, Joseph Stalin — all men who caused great suffering to push their ideologies. The world seems to have a sense that these types of figures are things of the past, but these men have only been suppressed in recent history.

There is no reason the next evil figure of history isn’t already born, and we may be watching them create their legacies in real-time.

Following the Second World War, our world has seen an imperfect yet unprecedented peace. International organizations such as the United Nations and NATO have provided a stabilizing force that has limited conventional warfare and made it difficult for strongmen to rise to prominence. 

There have been some outliers, though. Individuals such as Muammar Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein have shown that the cruel rulers of the past can still make appearances, but the relative power of their nations limited the impact they could have on the world. 

Today, we see a different situation. Authoritarian strongmen are not emerging in an average developing country but in an industrial powerhouse and a nuclear power. I am talking about Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping.

Putin is currently dedicating headlines because of the Russian move to invade contested regions of Eastern Ukraine. But I worry that his goals could move beyond territorial gains but to revenge on the state of Ukraine and its people.

In his address to Russia on Monday evening, Putin not only recognized the separatist governments battling Ukraine but expressed hatred towards the very idea of the bordering state.

The actions of Putin are ominously similar to the actions of Hitler prior to the invasion of Poland in 1939. Both accused the states they invaded of genocide against their own people. Both claimed a foreign alliance was trying to surround and harm them. Both staged false attacks against themselves.

This is not to say that Putin will go on to commit the crimes of the Nazi regime, but to acknowledge the worrying signs and to say that there is little keeping such a monster from existing in our modern world.

Similar things can be said about the chair of the Chinese Communist Party and functional ruler of China, Xi Jinping. Jinping already faces accusations of ethnic genocide, wants to take Taiwan by any means necessary and has been consolidating power within his party. His aspirations threaten to destabilize the globe. 

So as the Western world navigates a possibly turbulent future, it must not underestimate its foes.

There is little to no reason to think that these actors will behave in a reasonable or respectable manner. Evil men did not magically disappear in the twentieth century, and we must realize we may be meeting the next historical villains.