Michael Ignatieff

(Michael Grant Ignatieff)

Michael Ignatieff
Michael Ignatieff
  • Born: May 12, 1947
  • Nationality: Canadian
  • Profession: Politician

102

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14

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87

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Quotes
Quote Topics Cited
… new authoritarians are conducting an epoch-making historical experiment as to whether regimes that allow private freedoms can endure when they deny their citizens public freedom. Freedom & Liberty ;Dictators, Despots, Autocrats, Autocracies & Dictatorships
A liberal society cannot be defended by herbivores. We need carnivores to save us, but we had better make sure the meat-eaters hunt only on our orders. Defense & National Security
All that a truth commission can achieve is to reduce the number of lies that can be circulated unchallenged in public discourse. Oratory, Discussion & Debate
Being an American is not easy. It is hard. We are required to keep some serious promises. We are judged by a high standard, ones we crafted for ourselves in the founding documents of the republic, the ones that talk about the equality of all people, the ones that tell us that government is of the people, by the people and for the people. We need to live by this, at home and abroad, and it is just about the only thing we can do to face the hatred of those who want to destroy us. Our best defense is to stay true to who we are. Our best defense is to refuse to live in fear, of them, of ourselves, of anyone. Nationalism & Treason ;Citizenship & Patriotism
For the tidal wave of new immigrants Canada is more a land for the realization of private dreams than for maintaining a ... compact between founding races. No common identity was provided for the millions of new Canadian immigrants other than a week vision of mutual multi-cultural indifference. Immigration & Emigration
From the very beginning, the American republic has never shrunk from foreign wars …. There has scarcely been a year since its founding that American soldiers haven’t been overseas … American foreign policy largely consists of doctrines about when and where to intervene in other people’s countries. Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
I’m in politics to speak up for a Canada that takes risks, that stands up for what’s right. A Canada that leads. States. Nations & Nationhood
Never fight someone who is more willing to die than you are. War & Peace
Some voices are calling on America to circle the wagons. Some are even saying that our enemies do worse, so we should respond in kind. The problem here is that this is America. This is a constitutional republic based on the rule of law and equal respect for all persons. We can’t pretend that we can bend the rules any which way. We made the rules for ourselves. We have to live by them Corruption
The Only cure for nihilism is for liberal democratic societies - their electorates, their judiciary, and their political leadership- to insist that force is legitimate only to the degree that it serves defensible political goals. Thus implies a constant exercise of due diligence... War & Peace
The small elite of federal civil servants and politicians made Confederation work by acting as if the whole country was as virtuous and as they. Miscellaneous
To defeat evil, we may have to traffic in evils: indefinite detention of suspects, coercive interrogations, targeted assassinations, even pre-emptive war. War & Peace
We need to think the worst in order to avoid it. Miscellaneous
We want to put power to the test of adversarial review. Power
A good journalist is modest; his only job is simple: to decide what counts as news.
A society is not a market. It is a political community. Society
Affirming belief that America is an exceptional nation has become a test of patriotism in American politics. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising ;Citizenship & Patriotism
After spending the 1980s building up Saddam's Iraq as a counterweight to Iran, U.S. policy abruptly reversed course with his invasion of Kuwait and has since tried to cut him down to size. The policy is called 'containment,' but the question is, containment of what?
All the best reasons for going into politics never really change: the desire for glory and fame and the chance to do something that really matters, that will make life better for a lot of people. Life
All war aims for impunity. War & Peace
America is exceptional in combining standard great-power realism with extravagant idealism about the country's redemptive role in creating international order.
America owed its military renaissance in the 1980s and 1990s to Vietnam. Veterans like Norman Schwartzkopf, Colin Powell, Alfred Grey, Charles Krulak, and Wesley Clark returned home angry and ashamed at their defeat and rebuilt all-volunteer, professional armed forces from the ground up.
An intellectual may be interested in ideas and policies for their own sake, but a politician's interest is exclusively in the question of whether an idea's time has come. Time
Belief in liberal freedom and democracy is always belief in it in a particular place, in a national home with histories that only those who are born in a place or who adopt its citizenship can hope to understand. Hope ;Freedom & Liberty
Both Iraq and Syria are a fissile mixture of ethnicities and religions thrown together after Versailles by departing French and British imperialists and only kept together by Baathist tyranny and violence.
Commerce has changed the ethics of citizenship and the incentives for national service. America now buys private contractors - we used to call them mercenaries - to do the country's fighting.
Communism may be over as an economic system, but as a model of state domination, it is very much alive in the People's Republic of China and in Putin's police state.
Conservatives believe that international institutions such as the United Nations are anti-American and anti-Israeli cabals. Progressives do not like the economic medicine that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank force down the throats of developing countries.
Democratic constitutions do allow some suspension of rights in states of emergency. Thus rights are not always trumps. But neither is necessity. Even in times of real danger, political authorities have to prove the case that abridgments of rights are justified.
Desert Storm created the pattern for the American way of war that eventually prevailed in Kosovo. America learned from Vietnam that unilateral use of force eventually forfeits international legitimacy and domestic support. Desert Storm demonstrated the political necessity of coalition warfare. War & Peace
Desert Storm was seen by the military establishment and by some politicians as avenging Vietnam, but it left behind dangerous illusions. The victory was so decisive, and information about it so carefully managed, that the American public was never clearly informed that it was purchased at the price of approximately 100,000 Iraqi lives.
For every African state, like Ghana, where democratic institutions seem secure, there is a Mali, a Cote d'Ivoire, and a Zimbabwe, where democracy is in trouble.
For someone like me who, as a kid, walked to school muttering little political speeches to myself, it was irresistible to finally get a chance at political life for real. When the people of Etobicoke-Lakeshore elected me their MP, it changed me forever. Life
Free societies, which allow differences to speak and be heard, and live by intermarriage, commerce, and free migration, and democratic societies, which convert enemies into adversaries and reconcile differences without resort to violence, are societies in which the genocidal temptation is unlikely and even inconceivable.
Genocide is not just a murderous madness; it is, more deeply, a politics that promises a utopia beyond politics - one people, one land, one truth, the end of difference. Since genocide is a form of political utopia, it remains an enduring temptation in any multiethnic and multicultural society in crisis. Truth ;Society ;Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
How do you keep war accountable to the American people when war becomes invisible and virtual? War & Peace
I am an English-speaking Canadian, but my entire family - Russian exiles and the Canadians they married - is buried in Quebec, and if Quebec were to separate, I would feel I had been cut in two. Families, Children & Parenting
I can't think of this country without Quebec. Je parle francais. And when I think about being a Canadian, speaking French is part of it.
I distinguish, between nationalism and patriotism. Citizenship & Patriotism
I don't want to be someone sitting in my rocking chair at the end saying, 'Well, I passed.' My mum used to say life isn't for sissies. Life
I had a lot of hubris going into politics, but I didn't think I was Pierre Trudeau. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
I had no inkling of how crazy the political life would turn out to be. You shuttle between your constituency and Ottawa, you try to make every barbecue, festival, parade and charity run, but sometimes you feel pulled in 14 directions at once. Life
I had the vocation for politics. What I didn't have was any aptitude for political combat. I took the attacks personally, which is a great mistake. It's never personal: It's just business. It was ever thus. Business, Commerce & Finance ;Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
I have been a journalist, off and on, since I was 17. I was a copy boy for the 'New York Times,' when it had an edition in Paris, in 1963. I sold the paper in the streets by day and tore wire copy off the tele-printer for the editors making up the edition by night.
I may have come into politics with an unacknowledged condescension toward the game and the people who played it, but I left with more respect for politicians than when I went in. The worst of them - the careerists and predators - you find in all professions. The best of them were a credit to democracy. Respect ;Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
I teach students that what people say about failure in politics is mostly wrong. People always told me, 'They'll praise you on your way up and kick you on your way down.' That wasn't my experience. I can't walk down the street in Toronto without someone coming up and saying hello. Failure
I think no one could have made peace in Bosnia besides Holbrooke. War & Peace
I was with the U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali on the day that Srebrenica fell, which happened to be a huge historical turning point in the Bosnian war. War & Peace
I went into politics thinking that, if I made arguments in good faith, I'd get a hearing. It's a reasonable assumption, but it's wrong. In five and a half years in politics up north, no one really bothered to criticize my ideas, such as they were. It was never my message that was the issue. It was always the messenger. Religion & God ;Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
I'd always admired the intellectuals who had made the transition into politics - Mario Vargas Llosa in Peru, Vaclav Havel in the Czech Republic, Carlos Fuentes in Mexico - but I knew that many of them had failed, and in any event, I wasn't exactly in their league. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
If the history of the western moral imagination is the story of an enduring and unending revolt against human cruelty, there are few more consequential figures than Raphael Lemkin - and few whose achievements have been more ignored by the general public. It was he who coined the word 'genocide.' He was also its victim. History
If the only people who can succeed in politics are people who go in at 25, that'd be too bad. That'd be a shame. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
I'm a Canadian. I've always been a Canadian.
I'm not tribal Labour. I'm a Liberal at heart. Different tradition, different language.
In academic life, false ideas are merely false, and useless ones can be fun to play with. Life
In politics, there's a kind of literal-mindedness. It's what you say, not what you mean, and you have to say only what you mean. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Intellectuals are good at seeing the big picture. But they are not so good at process.
It turns out that there is nothing so 'ex' as an ex-politician, especially a defeated one. Your phone goes dead.
It's good for people to believe in causes larger than themselves.
I've always thought Anne-Marie Slaughter would make a fantastic United States Senator or something. She's a real intellectual, but she's got enormous communicative skills and she's got government experience. The thing that drives me slightly crazy is the way we think about intellectuals as wooly, hopeless, arrogant, self-deceived, incapable. Government
I've been both a journalist and a politician, and I can tell you it is more fun to ask the questions than have to answer them.
Liberal democracy has endured because its institutions are designed for handling morally hazardous forms of coercive power. It puts the question of how far government should go to the cross fire of adversarial review. Power ;Government
Lincoln was not an intellectual, but no one in 200 years understood the language of the King James Bible or learned Blackstone's Laws of England, or Cicero, or the language of the Founding Fathers, better than he did.
Loving a country is an act of the imagination.
Not even a superpower can hold onto its economic sovereignty if it fails to get its fiscal house in order, and no one needs a well-regulated international economic order more than the United States.
Patriotism is strong nationalistic feeling for a country whose borders and whose legitimacy and whose ethnic composition is taken for granted. Citizenship & Patriotism
Patriotism is the secret resource of a successful society. Society ;Citizenship & Patriotism
Politics is a tough game. But would I change places with a trauma nurse in an emergency ward on a busy Saturday night? No way. There are lots of jobs in the world that are tougher than politics. And politicians and people who've done it need to remember that. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Politics is intensely physical: your hands touch, clasp and hold, and your eyes are always reaching for contact. None of this came naturally to me. I'd always put my trust in words and let the words do the work, but in politics, the real message is physical. Trust ;Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
Politics is like getting a really bad review: a stinker that you know all your friends are reading. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Politics isn't a reality show or a gong show. It's not show business for ugly people. It's the arena where we define our common life in a rough and ready contest that has winners and losers. Life ;Business, Commerce & Finance ;Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Relying exclusively on air power has limits: planes are effective against fixed strategic targets, like petroleum storage, bridges, and command bunkers; but even then, air power rarely succeeds by itself in destroying a regime's ability to command and control its forces. Power
'Scar Tissue' is the only book I've ever written when I've felt completely toxic, ill.
Secessionists, whether in Scotland, Catalonia, Quebec or anywhere else, invariably assume that a person must either be Scottish or British, Catalan or Spanish, Quebecois or Canadian. What about those who feel they are both?
Since Franklin Roosevelt's leadership in setting up the United Nations and the Nuremberg trials, the U.S. has promoted universal legal norms and the institutions to enforce them while seeking, by hook or by crook, to exempt American citizens, especially soldiers, from their actual application. Leaders & Leadership ;Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
Some of our finest leaders were not intellectuals at all, and I admire them enormously because they weren't. Harry Truman wasn't.
The core of human rights work is naming and shaming those who commit abuses, and pressuring governments to put the screws to abusing states. As a result, human rights conventions are unique among international law instruments in depending for their enforcement mostly on the activism of a global civil society movement. Society ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
The detention of Japanese Americans during World War II would qualify as an example of majoritarian tyranny and misuse of executive prerogative, driven by fear and racial bias. War & Peace
The disagreeable reality for those who believe in human rights is that there are some occasions - and Iraq may be one of them - when war is the only real remedy for regimes that live by terror. War & Peace
The legitimacy of coercive acts in a democracy arises from the process by which they are justified and by the degree to which we regard decisions as rational. If the justifications proceed properly, through recognized public institutions, and if they make sense to us, they are legitimate.
'The Prince's blunt candor has been a scandal for 500 years. The book was placed on the Papal Index of banned books in 1559, and its author was denounced on the Elizabethan stages of London as the 'Evil Machiavel.' The outrage has not dimmed with time. Time
The ultimate good in a liberal state is liberty.
The war waged against terror since September 11 puts a strain on democracy itself, because it is mostly waged in secret, using means that are at the edge of both law and morality. Yet democracies have shown themselves capable of keeping the secret exercise of power under control. Power ;War & Peace
The wars of the future will be fought by computer technicians and by lawyers and high-altitude specialists, and that may mean war will be increasingly abstract, hard to think about and hard to control. Future ;War & Peace
There are hundreds of thousands of Scots who acknowledge English, Irish or Welsh parts of their very being. Lives and destinies are similarly intertwined in Catalonia and Spain, in Ukraine and Russia.
There are lots of nations in the world or national peoples who don't yet have states. They're inside someone else's state and they want a state of their own.
There are no techniques in politics. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
There's a civic nationalism in Britain and dozens of other countries.
There's a financial cost, but the only costs that are ever real are the costs of our soldiers.
There's a way in which these guys all think absolutely media, day and night. Access is what it's all about, so they spin 24 hours a day and that's a problem.
There's intense national feeling in America that could be called patriotism. Citizenship & Patriotism
Thinkers too often disparage men of action in ways that do them no credit.
Those with a gift for action, for their part, often express contempt for those whose gifts are more reflective. Men of action like to say, 'Those who can, do, those who can't, teach,' forgetting that those who teach get to write the history books. History
Trouble is, we call politics a game, but it isn't one. There is no referee, and the teams make up the rules as they go along. You can't cry foul or offside in politics. Almost anything goes. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Ultimate authority in a global system remains with sovereigns. Governments will not have it any other way: politicians face instant rejection from their electorate if they allow transnational authorities to dictate terms.
We wanted this war and now we've got it, and I'm not sure that we know what to do with it. War & Peace
What everybody forgets is that when I was a journalist in Britain and in the United States, I was always a Canadian. And the price of expatriation does not go down, it goes up. I never felt part of the political common sense of Britain. I never felt it in the United States. I had no natural home in Britain and the U.S.
What makes the United Nations an appropriate source of legitimacy for intervention is that it is the only place where the claims of the strong are put through the test of justification in front of the weak.
What we want is to become masters in our own house.
What's distinctively shocking about Machiavelli is that he didn't care. He believed not only that politicians must do evil in the name of the public good, but also that they shouldn't worry about it. He was unconcerned, in other words, with what modern thinkers call 'the problem of dirty hands.'
When we say, even in a global village, that all politics is local, we mean that national sovereignties are the only reliable source of political authority. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Your generation and mine have had very little real experience; we've been severed from the direct experience of war by some very good things. By the end of the draft, and by the defeat in Vietnam. War & Peace