Steelcitygrit [in exile]

Ruminating on all things Canadian and political.


Friday, March 03, 2006

Ignatieff and the false moral equivalent

I looked for some column to link to that would give this piece relevance (beyond my finding myself repeatedly and frustratingly mired in this debate.) If nothing else, it's demonstrative of Michael Ignatieff's ability to challenge the liberal-left orthodoxy and raise our collective IQ.

On defining terrorism:

"Can we define terrorism when one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist? There is no moral relativity on this at all: A terrorist targets non-combatant civilians to achieve a political goal. Those who undertake political actions that target civilians are terrorists... Human rights claims do not justify the targeting of civilians under any circumstances. Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands does not justify terrorist attacks on civilians under any circumstances. The Palestinian people have a just cause. The end of military occupation of territory acquired after the 1967 war in Gaza and the occupied territories is a just cause. But a just cause does not ever justify the targeting of civilians. "

Simple, yes. He isn't reinventing the wheel. But this sort of argument generates a startling response on campus.

It is beyond me that peace loving individuals would seek to narrow the definition of terrorism -and thus, of ethically illegitimate violence. This is a time to broaden our understanding of such things. This is no time to tolerate a fundamental violation of human society.

A terrorist is someone who targets civilian non-combatants to achieve political gains. This is where the definition begins and ends. For as long as we've waged war, we've been able to distinguish between innocent and participant. Any time this understanding has been breached, it has been justified in terms of protecting greater numbers of civilians. These instances have, for the most part, been regretted immediately. The justness of cause has never entered into the discussion.

Why, now, do some seek to obliterate this notion? Why drive for this astonishing step backwards?

Ignatieff makes an important point here - one that holds considerable policy implications.

Let the NDP don its relativist straightjacket. Let the NDP confuse a refusal to affirm some basic human rights with progressiveness. Let the NDP follow a faulty philosophy that they themselves fail to apply consistently.

It's not for me.


Blogger Steve said...

It is essential that we choose to exercise reason on issues like this. I agree that this relativism is not as supposed a condemnation of violence but a justification for it. I think what's important here is that we do assert the stand we are taking (and that Ignatieff does), not in the terms defined by others but in our own. And in this way what I admire here is challenging the supposedly just on the grounds they claim to represent.

11:24 PM  

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