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Michael Ignatieff: Master of Self-Delusion, or Simply Corrupt?

posted by dru Topics: media, Iraq war

August 5, 2007

Michael Ignatieff: Master of Self-Delusion, or Simply Corrupt?

Michael Ignatieff has published an apology for his apologia for the US invaston of Iraq.

But he makes sure to tell us who really had good judgment about the Iraq war by making up an argument and then refuting it.

We might test judgment by asking, on the issue of Iraq, who best anticipated how events turned out. But many of those who correctly anticipated catastrophe did so not by exercising judgment but by indulging in ideology. They opposed the invasion because they believed the president was only after the oil or because they believed America is always and in every situation wrong.

What Iggy still hasn't figured out is... well, first of all, how to actually portray his intellectual opponents as they are in reality, rather than in his fantasy--a feat made easier by the fact that he has a column in the NY Times Magazine, and they do not.

It's really hard to imagine how he can say what he says, even today. He knows that when he experienced the suffering of the Kurds, that most of that suffering was visited while the US was providing arms, funding, and CIA-generated lists of dissidents, but he still doesn't see fit to mention it.

Iggy explains who has the real good judgement:

The people who truly showed good judgment on Iraq predicted the consequences that actually ensued but also rightly evaluated the motives that led to the action. They did not necessarily possess more knowledge than the rest of us. They labored, as everyone did, with the same faulty intelligence and lack of knowledge of Iraq’s fissured sectarian history. What they didn’t do was take wishes for reality. They didn’t suppose, as President Bush did, that because they believed in the integrity of their own motives everyone else in the region would believe in it, too. They didn’t suppose that a free state could arise on the foundations of 35 years of police terror. They didn’t suppose that America had the power to shape political outcomes in a faraway country of which most Americans knew little. They didn’t believe that because America defended human rights and freedom in Bosnia and Kosovo it had to be doing so in Iraq. They avoided all these mistakes.

This reveals Ignatieff's fundamental problem. If he were not corrupt, I have to imagine that he would be smart enough to observe that America "defended human rights" in Kosovo and Bosnia.

He accomplishes this intellectually, by an incredible shortening of historical vision. The more one limits one's historical understanding of the instigation, sanctions, funding, arms and diplomacy that played a definitively central role in the leadup to the war in Yugoslavia, the more it looks like bombing Serbia and destroying its basic infrastructure was "defending rights." Even then, it's pretty difficult.

The less you look at the US role in the creation of Saddam Hussein, the more (ignoring, for the moment, oil) it looks like the US is justified in invading.

The more you look at billions in funding for Islamic extremists in Afghanistan in the 70s and 80s...

The obvious response to these facts is to consider the more fundamental problems with having an empire: that its interests don't coincide with those of its subjects. That its interests in fact mean death or misery for a great many, and that this isn't a result of a minor strategic miscalculation.

But to say this is to consider only one weapon in Ignatieff's arsenal of intellectual self-delusion.

That he can speak, with any tone of seriousness, of the architects of the war believing in the "integrity of their own motives" speaks to a far more extensive psychosis.

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Iggy's CIA form was very obvious in all his appearances on British TV in the 1970's. He ran a Human Rights department at Harvard while advocating military invasion and torture. In 1970's he was all for increasing nuclear arsenals. He keeps this under a hand-wringing Liberal pretense.

Iggy was definately a lizard

Iggy was definately a lizard in his past life.


Having read quite a bit of his scholarship, I would come down on the side of "corrupt." The guy is an American imperialist. I'm not real big on conspiracy theories, but it wouldn't surprise me to learn that his decision to return to Canada and Canadian politics after all those years wasn't an idea that originated with him. What future would we have, had he won the Liberal leadership, what with most Canadians thinking (like Americans) that there are only two parties to choose from? Although I was relieved to see Dion win, I am still made uncomfortable when I see Iggy there beside him. I thought for sure he'd be long gone back to Harvard by now. But I guess he's waiting around for Dion to lose the next election, as it might result in another leadership race. The guy creeps me out.