Michael Ignatieff is President of Central European University in Budapest. His books include Isaiah Berlin: A Life and The Ordinary Virtues: Moral Order in a Divided World. (February 2018)

Follow Michael Ignatieff on Twitter: @M_Ignatieff.


Who Killed Frank Olson?

Eric Olson with his father, Frank Olson, Frederick, Maryland, late 1940s; from Errol Morris’s Wormwood


a six-part Netflix series directed by Errol Morris
“Wormwood, wormwood,” Hamlet mutters as he absorbs the realization that his mother was complicit in the murder of his father. Eric Olson uses Hamlet’s word when, at the end of Errol Morris’s devastating Wormwood, he sums up what it means, finally, to know that his own father, a biochemist employed …

Which Way Are We Going?

Pankaj Mishra, London, November 2014

Age of Anger: A History of the Present

by Pankaj Mishra
In Pankaj Mishra’s portrait of our age, most people are angry: the white working class of the American rust belt betrayed by the metropolitan elites, the young high school and college graduates clinging to part-time jobs in Europe, and the terrorists who lived in the Paris banlieues. All of these …

The Forever War?

Mark Danner, New York City, November 2007

Spiral: Trapped in the Forever War

by Mark Danner
The battle against terrorism has become America’s forever war. The original congressional authorization for the war—the Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Terrorists (AUMF) of September 2001—has now been bent and enlarged to embrace enemies that it did not mention or envisage when it was written. The commander …

Stalin’s Man in Mayfair

Ivan Maisky (second from left), the Soviet ambassador to London between 1932 and 1943, with Winston Churchill at the Allied ambassadors’ lunch at the Soviet embassy, September 1941. General Władysław Sikorski, prime minister of the Polish government in exile, is second from right.

The Maisky Diaries: Red Ambassador to the Court of St James’s, 1932–1943

edited by Gabriel Gorodetsky and translated from the Russian by Tatiana Sorokina and Oliver Ready
Could World War II have been avoided? Or if not avoided, since Hitler was Hitler, could it have been postponed until the Western democracies were better prepared to defeat him? A credible threat in 1938 from the Soviets, backed by the British and French, to come to the aid of …


Fukushima: The Price of Nuclear Power

Police searching for victims' remains at the site of Namie Elementary School, Fukushima, Japan, June 11, 2014

Four years ago, the Japanese fishing town of Namie lived through an experience of malediction biblical in scope. It was struck by an earthquake measuring nine on the Richter scale, a fifteen-meter tsunami, and finally, a blanket of radioactivity from the nearby Fukushima reactor. As Japan resumes nuclear power this week, Namie is a reminder of the price we must be prepared to pay.

How to Save the Syrians

A man helping a boy through the rubble of a damaged house near Hama, Syria, September 13, 2013

We may be at a turning point in the Syrian agony, when diplomatic action combined with the threat of force moves the Syrian regime toward putting its chemical weapons under international control. If this happens it will be a victory for international law, for the authority of the UN Security Council, and for peace. But it is only too obvious that thus far the peoples of the democratic states have failed in our responsibility to protect the people of Syria.

How Syria Divided the World

US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G20 Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, June 18, 2012

The Syrian conflict has triggered something more fundamental than a difference of opinion over intervention, something more than an argument about whether the Security Council should authorize the use of force. Syria is the moment in which the West should see that the world has truly broken into two. A loose alliance of struggling capitalist democracies now finds itself face to face with two authoritarian despotisms—Russia and China—something new in the annals of political science: kleptocracies that mix the market economy and the police state. These regimes will support tyrannies like Syria wherever it is in their interest to do so.