Monday, March 27, 2006

Kinsella on Ignatieff

Kinsella links to an essay by Michael Ignatieff in the latest edition of Prospect Magazine, claiming that it contains the "corpse" of his "vaulting ambition".

In a word, I don't think so. Given the hyperbole behind Kinsella's claims ("not very often that one gets to witness a "leadership frontrunner" immolate his own candidacy so blithely, so recklessly"), I expected at least to find something controversial on the moral acceptability of torture. Hardly. In fact, the inneundo of Kinsella's post (March 27th) completly mischaracterizes Ignatieff's clearly set out position.

But don't take my word for it - go read 'em for yourself. I responded to Warren directly because - hey - he called for responses arguing where he went wrong. He got back to me immediately and will probably post it. Also, just because the blogosphere is so crazily immediate (who caught Atrios on the West Wing last night?), I forwarded the link to Andrew Sullivan who has been on the torture debate from the beginning. Even money says Sullivan posts his own thoughts within a few days.

None of this is to say that Ignatieff doesn't have plenty of hurdles to overcome in this race, of course. It just strikes me that the issue of torture is as important as it is complicated these days. We are much better served by a sophisticated discussion that engages the nuance beyond the "Torture is Bad" v. "Torture is Necessary" absolutionist positions.

UPDATE - Kinsella posted a few reactions... Here's the gist of what I sent, for what it's worth:

"You certainly have every right to say whatever you want about anyone and everything. But today's comments regarding Ignatieff on torture are simply bizarre.

I fully anticipated, from your post-mortem on his ambitions, to read an essay justifying some forms of torture. Yet the epitaph of the article isconclusively not "I am willing to get my hands dirty", but rather that "We cannot torture, in other words, because of who we are."

His argument is simply that as citizens we should notremain blind to the consequences of banning torture, or the unpopularity of such a stance.

It is hard to miss this point. Three quarters of the way through, he says the following: "So I end up supporting an absolute and unconditional ban on both torture and those forms of coercive interrogation that involve stress and duress, and I believe that enforcement of such a ban should be up to the military justice system plus the federal courts."

How much clearer do you want him to get?

You claim that you should not be criticized for takinghis words out of context, because they are - and I loved this - "his words". That's a simpleton's answer, not a lawyer's. You have completely mischaracterized his position, and done so with an almost gleeful intent. Surely as a political commentator you have a responsibility to do better."


Blogger The Tiger said...

Substance or style in the debate, that's the question.

Will Ignatieff's views be taken seriously, or treated demagogically?

10:36 PM  

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