Although Ignatieff plainly wants to see freedom spread, one of the sources of his unease is the role of God, or something like it, in the missionary endeavor. How much better it would be, he seems to ask, if any claims to universality or transcendence could be kept out it.
A commentator notes that Ignatieff’s Canadian background may lead him to misunderstand American history and the vision of the early Americans. Central was an assumption about the universality of human nature and a desire for freedom; it underlies the arguments, concessions, and finally agreements that made up our early laws and built our early identity. Most believed in a Providential order and liberty – however varied their sectarian allegiances (and doubts). (Of course, this misunderstanding is not unknown in American classrooms.)
The Belmont Club comments are extensive and often thoughtful. Ignatieff clearly understands that Americans are idealistic about ends he respects. He recognizes (if not perhaps understands) the power these old ideas still have for Americans:
As it turned out, the American electorate seemed to know only too well how high the price was in Iraq, and it still chose the gambler over the realist. In 2004, the Jefferson dream won decisively over American prudence.
Does he think people take great risks for paltry ends? And prudence prompts some of us (impetuous & perhaps border types) to think of Chamberlain and Vichy. He may consider this criticism but we are less likely to take it that way.