#10 - Foot, meet mouth.

It seems only responsible to read some small literary offering of the man wants to be prime minister. So thinking, I embarked on "The Lesser Evil" with a sense of reserved judgement and curiosity. I think the reading itself would have gone a lot faster if I hadn't had to periodically stop and argue out loud with the book (crazy behaviour, I know). The seductiveness of a well-argued position is that it sounds compelling even when it is wrong. That's not to say that I didn't find much of value in his arguments, but I certainly disagreed on occasion with his interpretation of international events. I, of course, have the considerable benefit of hindsight (after all, he was writing in 2004).

In order to make his argument he relies on the reader's acceptance of a number of qualities that distinguish both the collective identity of a democracy and the behaviour of organised resistance within that system. In both cases I found his assumptions to be overly simplified for the sake of making a good argument. While this is an admirable debating strategy, it falls short of recognising the more nuanced (and even contradictory) positions held by real human beings.

This invocation of "real people" is vital in an argument that hinges on public opinion and purports to speak for a rational middle-ground approach. If the competing ideologies are excessively polarised, the range of the middle-ground solution expands well beyond the bounds of comfortable compromise. In other words, once two highly undesirable extremes are established, anything in the middle looks like a better choice by comparison. This allows less extreme but still unsettling "solutions" to be offered that are more likely to be accepted by a moderating general public.

Ignatieff's proposal of the guidelines for how to fight an ethical war on terror, positioned between two theoretical polarities, ends up sounding like the best solution by virtue of it's well-considered and non-reactionary position. The logical extension of this position, though, needs a closer evaluation. The practical application of an ethic of "the lesser evil" has been put into practise both domestically and internationally - providing ample opportunity for reflection. It is the thinking person's responsibility to evaluate for themselves both the empty space and the common ground between the theory and the practise.

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