In the age of terrorism, the temptations of ruthlessness can be overwhelming. But there is also the anxiety that a violent response to violence makes us morally indistinguishable from our enemies.
There is perhaps no greater political challenge today than trying to win the war against terrorism without losing our democratic souls. Michael Ignatieff confronts this challenge head-on with a combination of pragmatic idealism, historical sensitivity, and astute political judgment.
Ignatieff traces the modern history of terrorism and counter-terrorism from the nihilists of Czarist Russia and the militias of Weimar Germany to the IRA and Al Qaeda. He shows how the most potent response to terror has been force, decisive and direct, but—just as important—restrained. Restraint also gives democracy its strongest weapon: the moral power to endure when the furies of vengeance and hatred are spent.