2013 - 2014: Michael Ignatieff

Michael Ignatieff is a Canadian writer, teacher, and former politician. He holds a doctorate in history from Harvard University and has held academic posts at King's College, Cambridge and at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. He served in the Parliament of Canada and was Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.

His books include: The Needs of Strangers (1984), Scar Tissue (1992), Blood and Belonging (1993), The Warrior's Honour (1997), Isaiah Berlin (1998), The Rights Revolution (2000), Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry (2001), The Lesser Evil: Political Ethics in an Age of Terror (2004), and Fire and Ashes: Success and Failure in Politics (2013).

He holds a joint professorial appointment at the Munk School of Global Affairs, Univeristy of Toronto and at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. He also holds the Centennial Chair at the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs in New York.

Michael Ignatieff gave the inaugural lecture of Washington and Lee's Roger Mudd Center for Ethics on October 31st, 2013. In this lecture, he posed the question: "What role should democratic deliberation play in decisions about whether or not to engage in human-rights interventions?"

Ignatieff began saying, "We all know that interventions can turn out very badly, but after Syria, we know that doing nothing turns out badly, too. There is an important difference. When we intervene, at least some of the consequences are borne by us, whereas when we don't, the consequences are borne exclusively by those we failed to assist."

In discussing the recent controversy raised by the debate over United States involvement in Syria, Ignatieff said that he and others like him who believe in "the responsibility of states to protect citizens in other nations when their own state is unwilling or unable to do so" have arrived at a moment of truth. They must determine how far to push "the priority of responsibility over the requirement of democratic consent," he said.