Friday, November 10, 2006

Rob Fairley writes in a letter published in today's Toronto Star that Michael Ignatieff "hung out with the neo-con gang, in the U.S., for many years" and that his "embrace of neo-con ideology is a matter of historical record."

First of all and most importantly, I don't think Fairley has any idea what the word means. Repeatedly using the word (7 times in a 214-word letter) without any synonym or adjective and ascribing to it only the quality of being an "extremist clique that has caused death and destruction" proves it. If I repeatedly use the word mendacious and its inflections and only those words, it would be clear that I had no idea what the word actually meant. Indeed, it appears that Fairley repeatedly uses the word neo-conservative over and over for its emotional power, namely its connection to George Bush, without actually having an idea what it means.

Ignatieff, unfortunately, is very much a liberal. That he is running for the leadership of the Liberal party is, believe it or not, a good first indication Probing deeper into those beliefs of his which are not rabidly anti-American, this is plain. Ignatieff is someone who believes in the progression of humans, in the value of freedom and, above all, rights. Ignatieff is obsessed with rights: rights for gays, rights for the Quebecois, rights for First Nations, rights for Afghans. Neo-conservativsm, insofar as it remains a meaningful term (think emo), is hardly concerned with rights, liberty and all that gobbledygook. The concern instead is for what ought to be done rather than what can be done. Ignatieff's thinking is influenced by Isaiah Berlin, not Leo Strauss. If Ignatieff is controversial in his beliefs on Iraq and on torture, it is out of his love of liberal democracy and internationalism.

I agree with Ignatieff on many issues and disagree with him on many, but he is thoroughly a liberal. It is absurd to claim, as Fairley does, that Ignatieff's prominence in Canada means that "their [neo-conservatives] project north of the border still has legs." Instead, it is much more likely that Fairley uses neo-conservative as a pejorative term for someone whose politics disagree with his own, much like "liberal", shorthand for "terrorist sympathizer", in parts of the United States.

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