In that 2005 essay, you’ll recall, Ignatieff said the reason the American public wanted to invade Iraq was to spread “The Ultimate Task of Thomas Jefferson’s Dream.” (I am not making a joke. This is for real.) And, he implied, anyone who opposed the invasion of Iraq did so because they hated Thomas Jefferson– and they didn’t believe in the Ultimate Tasks of Dreams!
So far, so GREAT, right?
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. . .