Mark Lilla is a writer whose work is always interesting and yet increasingly frustrating. The topics he chooses to engage are unerringly the right ones, but his writing now seems hasty. The Shipwrecked Mind: On Political Reaction follows upon his The Reckless Mind and, one can presume from this effort, will be followed by The Scuttled Mind or some such. He has hit on a formula and is working it as best he can. This is a great shame, given how original and insightful he can be when honest with his readers and himself.
In the month after the November terrorist attacks that killed 130 people in Paris, the French government launched airstrikes against ISIS targets in the Middle East—responding with all the ferocity of an irritated sleeper slapping at the alarm clock to get it to shut up.
The alarm had rung before: in the March 2004 Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people; in the July 2005 London attack that killed 56; in the January 2015 assault on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo that killed 17. Europe has swiped at the snooze button several times in recent years—but why, really, should the Continent wake up? Why should the Island of the Lotus-Eaters ever rouse itself from dreams?