[Marxism] The torture of being Iggy

Richard Fidler rfidler_8 at sympatico.ca
Thu Aug 9 06:08:19 MDT 2007


Those of you on this list who have enjoyed following the career of
cruise-missile liberal Michael Ignatieff might be amused by this column by
Globe & Mail columnist Margaret Wente, herself no slouch when it comes to
aping conventional wisdom. -- RF

The torture of being Iggy 

MARGARET WENTE 

August 9, 2007 

I was for the invasion of Iraq, once upon a time. I thought it was a good
idea, on humanitarian grounds, to knock out one of the worst bad guys in the
world. Then I got mugged by reality. 

Today, battered, bruised and wiser, I am keenly interested in what my fellow
liberal interventionists have to say now. After all, it was they - not the
ideologues in the White House - who made the most compelling case for war on
wider moral grounds. So you can imagine how eagerly I devoured Michael
Ignatieff's piece in Sunday's New York Times Magazine. It was called Getting
Iraq Wrong. 

Too bad it was all about him. 

In it, Iggy reveals his great discovery, which I now share with you. There's
a big difference between being a politician and a philosopher!
Intellectuals, he says, don't have to worry about the real-world
consequences of their ideas, while politicians do. This discovery has been a
chastening, yet enlightening, experience. It has made him humbler, yet
wiser, and even more qualified to be a leader. What a great prime minister
he'd be! 

Okay, so I added that last sentence myself. The piece is obviously crafted
for at least two audiences. At home, it's designed to get the millstone of
Iraq off his neck for good. He was wrong, he's sorry, now let's move on.
Internationally, it's designed to remind people that Michael Ignatieff the
public intellectual is still alive, even if he has unaccountably moved to
some backwater to dabble in local politics. 

Some people are criticizing Iggy for publishing his climbdown in The New
York Times. Personally, I think it's smart PR, on account of the Lorne
Greene effect. That is, you get 10 times more attention for anything you do
in the U.S. than anything you do in Canada. 

Iggy gives the impression that what he really aspires to be is a philosopher
king - a big thinker who also knows his way around the dark alleys of Kosovo
and Kurdish Iraq. He likes reminding us that the world's a tough place where
good men must make hard choices. He likes to agonize over these choices out
loud. He also wants to make certain that you don't confuse his Iraq mistake
with George Bush's Iraq mistake. His mistake flowed from his emotions ("I
saw what Saddam Hussein did to the Kurds"), while Mr. Bush's was the product
of his God-struck ideology. "It is an obstacle to clear thinking to believe
that America's foreign policy serves God's plan to expand human freedom," he
writes. 

In fact, the politician that Iggy most resembles is Tony Blair, the greatest
liberal interventionist of them all. Mr. Blair's mistake, as Roy Jenkins
pointed out, wasn't that he was amoral. It was that he was too moral. He
thought it was wicked to stand by while Saddam's sadists drilled nail guns
through people, and he believed that the suffering Iraqis, given half a
chance, would embrace freedom and democracy and generally behave just like
us. That was an obstacle to clear thinking, too. But Iggy doesn't mention
Tony Blair. Nor does he discuss the wider foreign policy lessons to be drawn
from this error, or how they might apply to the West's nation-building
efforts in Afghanistan. 

Iggy implies that he has sacrificed a lot to go into politics, because
politics is not much fun. It's awfully mean and phony. You have to watch
your every word. You have to pretend to have emotions you don't have. Charm,
stamina and money usually count for more than good ideas. People stab you in
the back. But it's a price that men of vision must be prepared to pay. He
ends on this extraordinary note: "Daring leaders can be trusted as long as
they give some inkling of knowing what it is to fail. They must be men of
sorrow acquainted with grief, as the prophet Isaiah says ... who know they
are in politics to make their country better." 

Michael Ignatieff as Jesus Christ? Yikes. The guy is more ambitious than I
thought.

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