The book, The Lesser Evil, is a chilling realization focused at the policy makers that respond to terrorism. The ultimate question Michael Ignatieff attempts to ask is whether democracies are strong enough to handle the dangers that threaten these institutions and whether or not they are absolutely committed to defend them. Ignatieff begins his book by telling the readers that democracy’s answer to defeating terrorism not only requires violence, but may also require coercion, deception, secrecy, and violation of rights. He then asks how can democracies resort to these conclusions without destroying those values, which that nation stands for.
The first section of this book attempts to draw a line between a wholesome libertarian position maintaining that the abuses of human rights can never be justified and a solely pragmatic perspective that judges antiterrorist measures by their efficiency. Through this middle line he argues that violating these actions by either torture, targeted killing, or illegal detention could push that nation from acting upon the lesser evil reaction then slowly becoming the greater evil.
He then takes the issue of whether emergency derogation of rights reserve or threaten the rule of law and what role human rights should play in deciding a policy during a terrorist emergency. The main argument here introduces the theme of changing laws during a terrorist emergency and the effect these changes have during non-threatening periods or surviving after the decision and dealing with aftermath examining the status of human rights.
In the third and fourth chapter, Ignatieff displays why liberal democracies tend to overreact to terrorist threats and how a nation shifts to terrorism. He mentions that ...
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...aw and Policy,” (Edge Hill University July 2010), 17.
McGovern, “Countering Terror or Counter-Productive?” 23.
David Bonner, “The United Kingdom Response to Terrorism,” Terrorism and Political Violence, 4: 4, 1992, 180.
Ignatieff, The Lesser Evil, 54.
Robert Shapiro and Lawrence Jacobs, “Who Leads and Who Follows? U.S. Presidents, Public Opinion, and Foreign Policy,” in Brigitte Nacos et al., Decision-making in a Glass House (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000), 225.
Public Priorities: Deficit Rising, Terrorism Slipping, Pew Research Center Publications, January 23, 2012, http://pewresearch.org/pubs/2178/state-of-the-union-economy-jobs-iran-military-spending-social-security-medicare-immigration-tax-fairness-environment.
Daniel Byman, The Five Front War. The Better Way to Fight Global Jihad, 153.
Byman, The Five Front War, 143.