I've never quite understood the bullish US market for Canadian wingnuts. It's not like there's no homegrown crop. But you've got Mark Steyn, David Frum, Rachel Marsden, Adam Yoshida, and a man I'm sure would be proud to count himself amongst such august company, the frickin' deputy leader of the Liberal Party of Canada and all-around wanker Michael Ignatieff, who's got some nonsense up in the NY Times Magazine about how he only supported the Iraq war because he's much smarter, more serious, and more intellectually rigorous than you are. So even though he was wrong, he was wrong in all the right ways.
The philosopher Isaiah Berlin once said that the trouble with academics and commentators is that they care more about whether ideas are interesting than whether they are true. Politicians live by ideas just as much as professional thinkers do, but they can’t afford the luxury of entertaining ideas that are merely interesting. They have to work with the small number of ideas that happen to be true and the even smaller number that happen to be applicable to real life. In academic life, false ideas are merely false and useless ones can be fun to play with. In political life, false ideas can ruin the lives of millions and useless ones can waste precious resources. An intellectual’s responsibility for his ideas is to follow their consequences wherever they may lead. A politician’s responsibility is to master those consequences and prevent them from doing harm.
This is, not to put too fine a point on it, transparently self-serving bullshit. In fact, as Matt Yglesias points out, "People with relevant academic expertise -- notably people who weren't really on the left politically -- were massively opposed to the war."
Despite seeming to promise a mea culpa, Ignatieff shows absolutely no self-awareness of how he came to make such a massive blunder. David Rees (of Get Your War On) gives the pretentious twit (and Prime Ministerial hopeful) an immensely satisfying pantsing:
Ignatieff's latest essay is what Latin people call a "mea culpa," which is Greek for "Attention publishers: I am ready to write a book about the huge colossal mistake I made." I imagine the book will be about a man struggling to do the right thing-- a man who thinks with his heart and dares, with a dream in each fist, to reach for the stars. It's about a journey: a journey from idealistic, starry-eyed academic to wizened, war-weary politician. (Ignatieff used to work at Harvard's Kennedy School; now he's Prime Chancellor of Canada's Liberal Delegate or whatever kind of wack-ass, kumbaya government they've got up there.)
In a way, it's a story much like Cormac McCarthy's recent best-selling "The Road." Both follow a hero's long march through thankless environments-- in Ignatieff's case, from the theory-throttled, dusty tower of academia to the burned-out hell-hole of representative politics. Danger lurks. Grime abounds. The narrative tension is: Can the hero be wrong about everything, survive, and still convince people he's smarter than everyone in Moveon.org?
I was excited when I first saw this new essay: At last, Ignatieff was going to come clean about his super-duper-double-dipper errors. I expected a no-holds barred, personal excoriation. In fact, I assumed the first, last, and only sentence of the essay would be: "Please, for the love of God, don't ever listen to me again."
HOWEVER. . .
The first nine-tenths of Ignatieff's essay, far from being an honest self-examination, is a collection of vague aphorisms and bong-poster koans. It hums with the comforting murmur of lobotomy. I refuse to believe this section was actually written by a member of the Canadian government, because that would mean Canada is even more "fuxxor3d" than America. (A little hacker-speak, that. There will be more; I finally bought the B3rlitz tapes.)