Well, he was supposed to be the savior of Canada. They, the liberal party dragged him out of Harvard and basically said it would be cake-walk to 24 Sussex Drive, a formality, get inside to Ignatieff’s ego and off they ran with this imported politician who hadn’t lived in the country in thirty odd years until he ran himself off the tracks, basically in Quebec and plunged into the St.Lawrence, thought never to be heard again. But its hard to keep an academic with that kind of pedigree down on the farm, they just can’t resist the bigger stage.
Quebec has always been much maligned in their voting patterns in Canada, but displayed a startling and exemplary intuition in turfing out Ignatieff as a sell out and man willing to shill for anyone. That impression seems to be confirmed in his latest piece in what should be his natural habitat, the New York Times, which as one might expect is conventional, and highly calculated and underlined with exactly the kind of rhetoric and banalization of the Enlightenment and humanism until you want to scream for Sondheim to break into “Send in the Clowns.”
Yes it is a stand-down between great powers in Syria, a kind of warm-up act over Iran. Russia may have helped build Iran’s nuclear program, and China could use Iranian oil as the basis for bilateral trade; and both are capable to support Iran’s Shias, and Syria’s Alawites, and America and Saudi are behind the Sunnis bench. This set the table for Ignatieff’s “lesser evil” monologue; everyone knew that Russia and China would allow market reforms but not political reforms. There is no surprise here. And China is China and will act on its own interests. The China bashing has become a bit tiresome; it’s a what have you done for us lately story. They inflated their economy, raised wages and expanded domestic demand, basically saving the world in 2008. Its an easy target for Ignatieff. If Germany had done the same instead of hoarding their surpluses and getting the trucks going from South to North with goods, the Euro may not be imploding and the Southern members cast adrift like Gericault’s raft of the medusa.
( see link at end) Ignatieff: …syria is the moment in which the West should see that the world has truly broken into two. A loose alliance of struggling capitalist democracies now finds itself face to face with two authoritarian despotisms—Russia and China—something new in the annals of political science: kleptocracies that mix the market economy and the police state. These regimes will support tyrannies like Syria wherever it is in their interest to do so.
In sixteen months, the situation in Syria has mutated from an uprising in a few outlying cities into a full-scale civil war. Now it has mutated again into a proxy war between the Great Powers. The Russians have been arming the regime—it was a Russian air defense system that shot down the Turkish F-4 Phantom jet—and the West is now arming the rebels. The Saudis and the Gulf states are funneling weapons straight to the Sunnis, especially to anyone with Salafist and Islamic radical credentials. Arms are trickling across the borders with Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, and Jordan; the CIA has been given the difficult task of ensuring that at least the Turkish weapons are channeled to the right people and away from al-Qaeda affiliates. Who the right people are is anybody’s guess. In a village war, not even the CIA can be sure. …
…The defections—of regime confidantes and senior generals—are becoming eloquent. The regime is losing its nerve and its capacity to instill terror. Conscripts are not reporting for duty. Sunni officers are staying at home, and the burden of defending the regime is falling on the minority Alawites. Both sides, the regime and its opponents, are now fighting with the special savagery of those who know the fate that awaits them if they lose. The flames of the conflict are now flickering around the edges of Damascus. The war for Syria is likely to end only when the flames engulf Assad’s palace.
While the rebels are gaining momentum inside Syria, the exile leadership of the Syrian opposition is frittering it away outside. When opposition leaders were placed in hotel rooms in Cairo and told, by the Arab League and other foreign diplomats, to get their act together, the meeting degenerated into chaos. The Syrian Kurds, for example, emboldened by the successes of their Iraqi cousins, sought recognition of their national identity in a post-Assad Syria, but other opposition groups weren’t ready to grant it. Divisions of clan, tribe, ethnicity, and religion would make a united front difficult at the best of times. But it’s become clear that the Assads, father and son, were more skillful than Libya’s Qaddafi at keeping their outside opposition weak and divided. …
…What makes Syria a hinge-moment is that Russia and China are proving that they have no strategic interest in transitions beyond dictatorship, not just in Syria but anywhere else. Both Russia and China see Syria not through the prism of international peace and security or human rights, but through the logic of their own despotism. For Putin, Syria is Chechnya; for China it is Tibet. They understand Assad perfectly. He is doing what they have done many times and they want the world to understand that they will support any dictator facing similar challenges. …
…A vast swathe of the globe, from the Russian border to the Pacific, including the tributary states of the Russian near-abroad, is now in the hands of venal, ruthless, deeply corrupt, single-party elites. These elites—Russian and Chinese—will draw closer together, as they understand that they have made the same strategic choice. Both are using capitalism to consolidate political despotism. They both see the world as a battle between elites like themselves with unlimited power and Western elites whose power is limited by democratic liberty….
…The idea that the “international community” should shoulder together the responsibility to protect people from murderous regimes made sense only on the assumption that we all wanted people to live in tolerably decent ones. Neither Russia nor China takes this view. They are perfectly content with a world of Mugabes and Assads and they suspect, with more than just cynicism, that the West, for all its protestations, is too. For we are tired and worried about our economies back home and responsibility for other people’s freedom has turned out to be a costly and dirty business. …Read More:http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2012/jul/11/syria-proxy-war-russia-china/
In any event, China has been around for over two thousand years, and democracy has never been part of that fabric; even Mao found out that tradition, imperial tradition ran deep and was, under Communism simply transferred to new Authority figures, emperors by another name. In their own Marxist manner, both China and Russia adopt the Veblen view that democracy is easily dispensed with, and ultimately unnecessary….
( see link at end) ….Ignatieff is not the only writer to have drawn analogies between Al-Qaeda and 19th-century anarchism, but in his case there is an ironic personal connection that in fact undermines his own platitudinous history of nihilism. After Czar Alexander II was assassinated, it was Ignatieff’s own great-grandfather, the vicious anti-Semite Nicholas, who as Minister of the Interior imposed a sweeping series of repressive “Extraordinary and Temporary Measures.” In The Russian Album, the great-grandson explains that these laws
gave provincial governors the power to suspend normal legal procedure and individual civil rights wherever a strike, an attack or a riot required it. The decree also empowered the government to hand suspects over to summary court martial, to order house arrests and domestic searches, and to outlaw any meetings, close any institution, or suspend any newspaper as it saw fit. Until 1917, these measures were to remain the key statutes of the autocracy, its chief legal weapon in its losing struggle for survival. It was from their heavy hand that the young Lenin and Stalin were to acquire their contempt for legality and due process….
In other words, Ignatieff himself asserts that communism — in its Russian variant, at least — can be understood with reference to the actual history which conditioned its development. His explanation posits an incipient authoritarianism in Russian socialism born not of the Bolsheviks’ amorality but rather of the immorality of the retrograde measures imposed by his own ancestor. Setting aside Ignatieff’s speculative personal psychological explanations, there’s a lesson here that militates against the dichotomy at the dark heart of his “lesser evil” framework. The evils of two contending systems exist in a complex relationship, sometimes causal, sometimes symbiotic — but rarely if ever in easily qualitatively differentiated “greater” and “lesser.”
The fact that Ignatieff’s sketch of the “continuity” of apocalyptic nihilism begins with the regicidal Russian bomb-throwers betrays his solipsistic tendencies. It’s worth noting that Nicholas Ignatieff’s “extraordinary measures” were justified by Jew-hatred and exacerbated its prevalence in the Russian Empire. Though certainly not on the same scale as the mass emigrations, ethnic cleansing, and pogroms of 19th-century Russia, the “extraordinary” measures that Michael Ignatieff would endorse post-9/11 were as intrinsically linked to Islamophobia as his great-grandfather’s were to anti-Semitism. Read More:http://rabble.ca/books/reviews/2011/10/michael-ignatieff-lesser-evil