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The Lesser Evil

Michael Ignatieff


Must we fight terrorism with terror and torture with torture? Must we sacrifice civil liberty to protect public safety?

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1. Political Ethics in an Age of Terror
2. The Strength of the Weak
3. The Weakness of the Strong
4. The Ethics of Emergency
5. The Temptations of Nihilism
6. The Usefulness of Ethics.

About the Author

Michael Ignatieff is Carr Professor and Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at The Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.


Ignatieff is a rarity among modern thinkers and ethicists for his ability to communicate to a wide audience with lucidity, intellectual clarity and power. All these were to the fore in his 2000 analysis Virtual War, focussed on the Balkan conflicts, and they are present to the highest degree in The Lesser Evil ... Profound and powerful and a book that no thinking person should fail to read.
Michael Ignatieff has written a sober yet chilling account of the issues facing liberal democracies in the face of modern international terrorism. In a surgical analysis he describes the challenges facing their leaders and citizens. His warning of the critical dangers of under- and over-reaction in combating terrorism could not be more timely.
- Justice Richard Goldstone, Constitutional Court of South Africa
The strength of Igniatieff’s thoughtful book is that it avoids reflexive answers and ideological certainties and insists on weighing choices carefully with respect to concrete human consequences.