Michael Ignatieff's The Lesser Evil Commentary

3216 words - 13 pages

The book, The Lesser Evil, is a chilling realization focused at the policy makers that respond to terrorism. The ultimate question Michael Ignatieff attempts to ask is whether democracies are strong enough to handle the dangers that threaten these institutions and whether or not they are absolutely committed to defend them. Ignatieff begins his book by telling the readers that democracy’s answer to defeating terrorism not only requires violence, but may also require coercion, deception, secrecy, and violation of rights. He then asks how can democracies resort to these conclusions without destroying those values, which that nation stands for.
The first section of this book attempts to ...view middle of the document...

He also argues, for the weak nations to defeat this threat the burdened state must have peaceful political means of compensation.
The final two chapters examine the temptations of a nation’s reaction and the possibility of resorting into a nihilism state, directing violence attacks against the receipt of violence and the possibility of a terrorist group obtaining some form of Weapon of Mass Destruction. In the scenarios involving WMDs, the author shows the reader a new world where terrorism changes from a manageable enemy of the state into a potential lethal adversary with the possibility of the fate of that democratic nation resting in the hands of a possible private entity.
This book commentary will examine and analyze the three major concepts described in this book including the lesser evil reaction of a democratic state, altering the rights and rule of law during a terroristic period, and finally overreacting to the threat of a terrorist attack. This paper will also argue that many states tend to overreact to the threat of terrorism and chose the greater evil, however several states using examples from history, ultimately have no choice but to alter their framework in order to defeat the threat.
The first main argument Ignatieff makes is the question of the choice of a lesser evil. In a terrorist emergency period, the people have no choice but to trust the instinct of the leaders of that nation to act and respond quickly and efficiently. This is evident after the 9/11 catastrophes and the reaction to invade Iraq based off suspicion of Iraqi’s leader having connections with terrorist organizations. This is also evident in the United State’s construction of the Patriot Act under the pretense of “Uniting and strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstructs Terrorism”. The introduction of the Patriot Act was a short-term fix to the immediate threat of terrorism, which 10 years later as become the subject of major controversy.
As Ignatieff argues it’s wrong to trust our leaders on how to balance liberty and security over a long-term basis. This is an excellent point as we look as the U.S. example and the continuation of the Patriot Act. Once a leader has implemented a decision, it is difficult to reverse that decision once the threat has been subdued. Politicians have several motivating factors when making policy, unfortunately retracting a policy that gives the public opinion the appeal of being safe does not favor a politician’s perception in the voting box. Several sections of the Patriot Act have required revisions or those sections would expire. Approximately 16 sections would expire four years after the completion. A few sections that would expire on December 31, 2005 included section 201 and 202, which added certain terrorism crimes to the predicate list, 293 sharing Title III information with foreign intelligence officers, and 204 clarifying the foreign intelligence exception to...

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