Number 34 on the Top 100 Intellectual list of 2008... I figured I would make this one festive...

Michael Ignatieff

Michael Grant Ignatieff QPC (external - login to view) MP (external - login to view) (pronounced /ɪɡˈnŠti.ɛf/ (external - login to view); born May 12, 1947) is a Canadian (external - login to view) politician (external - login to view) who has been the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada (external - login to view) and Leader of the Official Opposition (external - login to view) in Canada since 2009. Known for his work as a historian (external - login to view), author, university professor and diplomat, Ignatieff held senior academic posts at the University of Cambridge (external - login to view), the University of Oxford (external - login to view), Harvard University (external - login to view) and the University of Toronto (external - login to view) before entering politics in 2006.

He was an assistant professor of history at the University of British Columbia (external - login to view) from 1976 to 1978. In 1978 he moved to the United Kingdom, where he held a senior research fellowship at King's College (external - login to view), Cambridge (external - login to view) until 1984. He then left Cambridge for London, where he began to focus on his career as a writer and journalist. During this time, he travelled extensively. He also continued to lecture at universities in Europe and North America, and held teaching posts at Oxford (external - login to view), the University of London (external - login to view), the London School of Economics (external - login to view), the University of California (external - login to view) and in France.

While living in the United Kingdom, Ignatieff became well-known as a broadcaster (external - login to view) on radio (external - login to view) and television (external - login to view). His best-known television work has been Voices on Channel 4 (external - login to view), the BBC 2 (external - login to view) discussion programme Thinking Aloud and BBC 2 (external - login to view)'s arts programme, The Late Show (external - login to view). His documentary series Blood and Belonging: Journeys into the New Nationalism aired on BBC (external - login to view) in 1993. He was also an editorial columnist for The Observer (external - login to view) from 1990 to 1993. In 1998 he was on the first panel of the long-running BBC Radio (external - login to view) discussion series In Our Time (external - login to view).

In 2000, Ignatieff accepted a position as the director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy (external - login to view) at the John F. Kennedy School of Government (external - login to view) at Harvard University (external - login to view).[6] (external - login to view) In 2005, Ignatieff left Harvard to become the Chancellor Jackman Professor in Human Rights Policy at the University of Toronto (external - login to view) and a senior fellow of the university's Munk Centre for International Studies (external - login to view).[7] (external - login to view) He was then publicly mentioned as a possible Liberal candidate for the next federal election.


Ignatieff has been described by the British Arts Council (external - login to view) as "an extraordinarily versatile writer," in both the style and the subjects he writes about.[16] (external - login to view) His fictional works, Asya, Scar Tissue, and Charlie Johnson in the Flames cover, respectively, the life and travels of a Russian girl, the disintegration of one's mother due to neurological disease, and the haunting memories of a journalist in Kosovo. In all three works, however, one sees elements of the author's own life coming through. For instance, Ignatieff travelled to the Balkans and Kurdistan (external - login to view) while working as a journalist, witnessing first hand the consequences of modern ethnic warfare. Similarly, his historical memoir, The Russian Album, traces his family's life in Russia and their troubles and subsequent emigration as a result of the Bolshevik Revolution (external - login to view). A historian by training, he wrote A Just Measure of Pain, a history of prisons during the Industrial Revolution (external - login to view). His biography of Isaiah Berlin (external - login to view) reveals the strong impression the celebrated philosopher made on Ignatieff.

Philosophical writings by Ignatieff include The Needs of Strangers and The Rights Revolution. The latter work explores social welfare and community, and shows Berlin's influence on Ignatieff. These tie closely to Ignatieff's political writings on national self-determination and the imperatives of democratic self-government. Ignatieff has also written extensively on international affairs.[16] (external - login to view)

Blood and Belonging
, a 1993 work, explores the duality of nationalism, from Yugoslavia (external - login to view) to Northern Ireland (external - login to view). It is the first of a trilogy of books that explore modern conflicts. The Warrior's Honour, published in 1998, deals with ethnically motivated conflicts, including the conflicts in Afghanistan and Rwanda. The final book, Virtual War, describes the problems of modern peacekeeping, with special reference to the NATO presence in Kosovo (external - login to view).

Canadian Culture and Human Rights

In The Rights Revolution, Ignatieff identifies three aspects of Canada's approach to human rights that give the country its distinctive culture: 1) On moral issues, Canadian law is secular and liberal, approximating European standards more closely than American ones; 2) Canadian political culture is socially democratic, and Canadians take it for granted that citizens have the right to free health care and public assistance; 3) Canadians place a particular emphasis on group rights, expressed in Quebec's language laws and in treaty agreements that recognize collective aboriginal rights. "Apart from New Zealand, no other country has given such recognition to the idea of group rights," he writes.[17] (external - login to view)

Ignatieff states that despite its admirable commitment to equality and group rights, Canadian society still places an unjust burden on women and gays and lesbians, and he says it is still difficult for newcomers of non-British or French descent to form an enduring sense of citizenship. Ignatieff attributes this to the "patch-work quilt of distinctive societies," emphasizing that civic bonds will only be easier when the understanding of Canada as a multinational community is more widely shared.

International affairs

Ignatieff has written extensively on international development, peacekeeping and the international responsibilities of Western nations. Critical of the limited-risk approach practiced by NATO (external - login to view) in conflicts like the Kosovo War (external - login to view) and the Rwandan Genocide (external - login to view), he says that there should be more active involvement and larger scale deployment of land forces by Western nations in future conflicts in the developing world (external - login to view). Ignatieff attempts to distinguish his approach from Neo-conservativism (external - login to view) because the motives of the foreign engagement (external - login to view) he advocates are essentially altruistic rather than selfserving.[18] (external - login to view)

In this vein, Ignatieff was originally a prominent supporter of the 2003 Invasion of Iraq (external - login to view).[19] (external - login to view) Ignatieff said that the United States established "an empire lite (external - login to view), a global hegemony whose grace notes are free markets, human rights and democracy, enforced by the most awesome military power the world has ever known." The burden of that empire, he says, obliged the United States to expend itself unseating Iraqi president Saddam Hussein (external - login to view) in the interests of international security and human rights. Ignatieff initially accepted the argument of George W. Bush (external - login to view) administration that containment through sanctions and threats would not prevent Hussein from selling weapons of mass destruction (external - login to view) to international terrorists (external - login to view). Ignatieff wrongly believed that those weapons were still being developed in Iraq (external - login to view).[20] (external - login to view) Moreover, according to Ignatieff, "what Saddam Hussein had done to the Kurds (external - login to view) and the Shia (external - login to view)" in Iraq was sufficient justification for the invasion.[21] (external - login to view)[22] (external - login to view)

The Lesser Evil approach

Ignatieff has argued that Western democracies may have to resort to "lesser evils (external - login to view)" like indefinite (external - login to view) detention (external - login to view) of suspects, coercive interrogations (external - login to view),[33] (external - login to view) assassinations, and pre-emptive wars (external - login to view) in order to combat the greater evil of terrorism.[34] (external - login to view) He states that as a result, societies should strengthen their democratic institutions to keep these necessary evils from becoming as offensive to freedom and democracy as the threats they are meant to prevent.[35] (external - login to view) The 'Lesser Evil' approach has been criticized by some prominent human rights (external - login to view) advocates, like Conor Gearty (external - login to view), for incorporating a problematic form of moral (external - login to view) language (external - login to view) that can be used to legitimize forms of torture.[36] (external - login to view) But other human rights advocates, like Human Rights Watch (external - login to view)'s Kenneth Roth, have defended Ignatieff, saying his work "cannot fairly be equated with support for torture or 'torture lite'."[37] (external - login to view) In the context of this "lesser evil" analysis, Ignatieff has discussed whether or not liberal democracies should employ coercive interrogation and torture (external - login to view). Ignatieff has adamantly maintained that he supports a complete ban on torture.[38] (external - login to view) His definition of torture, according to his 2004 Op-ed in The New York Times, does not include "forms of sleep deprivation (external - login to view) that do not result in lasting harm to mental or physical health, together with disinformation and disorientation (like keeping prisoners in hoods)."[39] (external - login to view)

Notable Political Stances

Extension of Canada's Afghanistan Mission
Since his election to Parliament, Ignatieff has been one of the few[71] (external - login to view) opposition members supporting the minority Conservative government's commitment to Canadian military activity in Afghanistan (external - login to view). Prime Minister Stephen Harper (external - login to view) called a vote in the House of Commons for May 17, 2006, on extending the Canadian Forces current deployment in Afghanistan (external - login to view) until February 2009. During the debate, Ignatieff expressed his "unequivocal support for the troops in Afghanistan, for the mission, and also for the renewal of the mission." He argued that the Afghanistan mission tests the success of Canada's shift from "the peacekeeping paradigm to the peace-enforcement paradigm," the latter combining "military, reconstruction and humanitarian efforts together."[72] (external - login to view)[73] (external - login to view)

The opposition Liberal caucus of 102 MPs was divided, with 24 MPs supporting the extension, 66 voting against, and 12 abstentions. Among Liberal leadership candidates, Ignatieff and Scott Brison (external - login to view) voted for the extension. Ignatieff led the largest Liberal contingent of votes in favour, with at least five of his caucus supporters voting along with him to extend the mission.[74] (external - login to view) The vote was 149–145 for extending the military deployment.[73] (external - login to view) Following the vote, Harper shook Ignatieff's hand.[75] (external - login to view)

In a subsequent campaign appearance, Ignatieff reiterated his view of the mission in Afghanistan. He stated: "the thing that Canadians have to understand about Afghanistan is that we are well past the era of Pearsonian (external - login to view) peacekeeping."[76] (external - login to view)

Climate Change Policy

During the Liberal leadership race in 2006, Ignatieff advocated strong measures, including measures to address climate change (external - login to view).[77] (external - login to view)

Following the 2008 election, he shifted his approach. In a speech to the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce in February 2009, he said: "You've got to work with the grain of Canadians and not against them. I think we learned a lesson in the last election."[78] (external - login to view)

Forming of a Potential Coalition Government

During the Spring 2011 federal election, Ignatieff clearly ruled out the formation of a coalition government with the NDP and Bloc parties. Contrary to the suggestion from the Conservative party that he was planning to form a government with the other opposition parties, Ignatieff issued a statement on March 26, 2011, stating that "[t]he party that wins the most seats on election day will form the government".[79] (external - login to view)[80] (external - login to view)

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Ignatieff (external - login to view)
Last edited by mentalfloss; Apr 19th, 2011 at 01:55 PM..