Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Michael Ignatieff

Is it time to weigh in on Michael Ignatieff, torturer of Ukrainian wars in Iraq? I think so. Will he be our next Prime Minister? Seems likely. After more than a hundred years of every Liberal leader becoming PM, it's unlikely that there would be two in a row to miss out.

I have an odd relationship with Michael Ignatieff. As an undergrad I read some of his work, and was quite impressed. If you have any questions about what he thinks Canada can be, please read The Rights Revolution, his Massey Lecture from 2000, the year he took the post of Director of the Carr Centre for Human Rights.

I remember reading his piece in the New York Times advocating for the American invasion in Iraq and thinking something like: "Doesn't he see what we all can see, that this is a sham?" It had little to do with American values, and there were never going to beWMD found. For him it was about saving the Kurds and the Iraqi people, a position I can understand. I'm a big fan of the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, but in practical terms it's a big ol' mess. Read: Iraq.

And then he came back to Canada. In his nomination and election campaign he faced criticism about his views on nations and nationalism (patently ridiculous to anyone who actually read his books), his support for the Iraq war and his misinterpreted position on the use of torture in a democracy.

Just so it's all on the table: I was hoping he would win the Liberal leadership race in 2006. We all know how Stephane Dion turned out, and my friends and I warned everyone. Of course he wasn't experienced enough. Of course he had baggage. And the wait probably did him some good: he has proven to be a competent parliamentarian in the interregnum.

And now he's the leader and presumptive Prime Minister of Canada. (I say this even though he has clearly stated that he isn't presuming to be the next Prime Minister of Canada.) Care for some recent media pieces about the man who would be king?

What he would do if he were PM, as told to Macleans in 2006.
A great piece by Terry Glavin at the Georgia Straight, 2006.
George Strombo interviews him on the Hour: Part 1. Part 2.
A blog post at Macleans that has many links to recent interviews and commentary.
at the Star weighs in again. (More later.)

If you want real background on the man, read his books. Read The Lesser Evil if you want to know his position on torture, don't read a few quoted lines on the interweb and presume to understand an entire book.

Edit: Or try a search for Ignatieff at the NYT. Their catalog from 1851 is available online, and there are 2340 results, many referring to Russian Counts and Generals and dating from the 19th century.

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