9780143054641 / 0143054643

Lesser Evil, Must we fight terrorism with terror ...





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About the book:

The Lesser Evil, which comprises Michael Ignatieff's six essays based on his 2003 Gifford Lectures, is a useful introduction to and assessment of liberal political thought and behaviour in the face of opponents who don't play by the rules. The consequences to the state of engaging with its enemy outside the laws of war are perilously uncertain, Ignatieff admits, but they have to be faced and accepted. Ignatieff certainly tries to face them. If terrorists are not stopped, he argues, the living conditions inside the besieged state would become unrecognizable. Liberal regard for individual rights would disappear. The carnivore must overrule the herbivore, therefore, even in the liberal state and especially when that state is attacked. Ignatieff uses these shocking nouns to contrast realpolitik with civil libertarianism in this context. However, "If the automatic response to mass casualty terrorism is to strengthen secret government, it is the wrong response. The right one is to strengthen open government."

Ignatieff places his faith in the state ultimately in its citizens' duty to persuade, even more than in their armed force. Terror's every provocation is unique, though, and none can be reacted to solely according to precedent. Ignatieff was an apologist for the invasion of Iraq, until shortly before the Abu Ghraib revelations. He then reversed his stance, admitting that "intentions do shape consequences." The record of this distortion and correction of his political will is an excellent example of what he calls in The Lesser Evil the "enormous moral hazard" to which democracies and their citizens expose themselves when countering terrorists. --Ted Whittaker

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