Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Michael Ignatieff and Iraq, in his own words

The Liberal Quandary Over Iraq - NYT, December 8, 2002:
''This one's really difficult,'' said Michael Ignatieff, the Canadian-born writer and thinker who has written a biography of the liberal philosopher Isaiah Berlin along with numerous books and articles on human rights. No one in recent years has supported humanitarian intervention more vocally than Ignatieff, but he says he believes that Iraq represents something different. ''I am having real trouble with this because it's not clear to me that containment has failed,'' Ignatieff told me.

The American Burden; The Empire - NYT, January, 2003
(This is the big one, folks.):
The impending operation in Iraq is thus a defining moment in America's long debate with itself about whether its overseas role as an empire threatens or strengthens its existence as a republic. The American electorate, while still supporting the president, wonders whether his proclamation of a war without end against terrorists and tyrants may only increase its vulnerability while endangering its liberties and its economic health at home. A nation that rarely counts the cost of what it really values now must ask what the ''liberation'' of Iraq is worth...

Iraq may claim to have ceased manufacturing these weapons after 1991, but these claims remain unconvincing, because inspectors found evidence of activity after that date. So what to do? Efforts to embargo and sanction the regime have hurt only the Iraqi people. What is left? An inspections program, even a permanent one, might slow the dictator's weapons programs down, but inspections are easily evaded. That leaves us, but only as a reluctant last resort, with regime change.

I Am Iraq - NYT, March 23, 2003
This time, over Iraq, I don't like the company I am keeping, but I think they're right on the issue. I much prefer the company on the other side, but I believe they're mistaken.

Why Are We In Iraq? - NYT, September 7, 2003:
Now the line seems to be that the war wasn't much of an act of pre-emption at all, but rather a crusade to get rid of an odious regime. But this then makes it a war of choice -- and the Bush administration came to power vowing not to fight those. At the moment, the United States is fighting wars in two countries with no clear policy of intervention, no clear end in sight and no clear understanding among Americans of what their nation has gotten itself into.

The Year of Living Dangerously - NYT, March 14, 2004:
A year ago, I was a reluctant yet convinced supporter of the war in Iraq. A year later, the weapons of mass destruction haven't turned up, Iraqis are being blown up on their way to the mosque, democracy is postponed till next year and my friends are all asking me if I have second thoughts. Who wouldn't have?

Democratic Providentialism - NYT, December 12, 2004:
Unless Iraq gets semilegitimate institutions next year, and a constitution that allocates resources and powers to each of Iraq's constituent peoples, the U.S. invasion will have traded a dangerous dictatorship for a failed state and terrorist enclave.

The Uncommitted - NYT, January 30, 2005:
Just as depressing as the violence in Iraq is the indifference to it abroad. Americans and Europeans who have never lifted a finger to defend their own right to vote seem not to care that Iraqis are dying for the right to choose their own leaders. Why do so few people feel even a tremor of indignation when they see poll workers gunned down in a Baghdad street? Why isn't there a trickle of applause in the press for the more than 6,000 Iraqis actually standing for political office at the risk of their lives? Have we all become so disenchanted that we need Iraqis to remind us what a free election can actually be worth?

Who Are Americans to Think That Freedom Is Theirs to Spread? - NYT, June 26, 2005:
If democracy plants itself in Iraq and spreads throughout the Middle East, Bush will be remembered as a plain-speaking visionary. If Iraq fails, it will be his Vietnam, and nothing else will matter much about his time in office.

Getting Iraq Wrong - NYT, August 5, 2007:
I made some of these mistakes and then a few of my own. The lesson I draw for the future is to be less influenced by the passions of people I admire — Iraqi exiles, for example — and to be less swayed by my emotions. I went to northern Iraq in 1992. I saw what Saddam Hussein did to the Kurds. From that moment forward, I believed he had to go. My convictions had all the authority of personal experience, but for that very reason, I let emotion carry me past the hard questions, like: Can Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites hold together in peace what Saddam Hussein held together by terror? I should have known that emotions in politics, as in life, tend to be self-justifying and in matters of ultimate political judgment, nothing, not even your own feelings, should be held immune from the burden of justification through cross-examination and argument.

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