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The Teeth to Defeat Genocide
Romeo Dallaire and Hugh Segal
Global Brief
13 October 2010
Changes in law, capabilities and posture – at home and internationally – will inform the new century’s responsible interventions (…)
(…) While the words “never again” rang out internationally after the discovery in 1945 of the extent of the crimes against humanity committed during the Holocaust, since that time, the world has witnessed further mass murder in East Pakistan (Bangladesh), East Timor, Cambodia, Guatemala, Bosnia, Rwanda, Zaire (the Democratic Republic of the Congo), Uganda, Kenya, Zimbabwe and in Sudan’s Darfur region. This is merely a sampling of modern cases in which violence was unleashed against civilians with genocidal intent on ethnic, religious or national grounds. According to the NGO Genocide Watch, there are 79 countries guilty of genocide and related crimes against humanity, killing hundreds, thousands or millions in order to eradicate a group or those simply deemed a problem because of their very existence (…)
(…) Yet, since 1945, history has shown that the domestic political will to act preventatively is lacking among individual political leaders. The sensitivities about one sovereign state interfering in the affairs of another sovereign state lead to the inevitable response of inaction when the worst occurs. It seems that it is deemed to be diplomatically odious for democratic nations to be proactive on this issue, as it offends the sensibilities of the cautious civil servants who are monitoring the affairs of foreign nations – civil servants who might well be the first to recognize the signs of impending genocide. Often, geopolitical interests, such as oil or regional stability, get in the way of firm prophylactic action before bodies are attacked like cordwood. Sometimes, however, the absence of natural resources or other strategic interests is a comfortable reason to look the other way, as appeared to be the case during the Rwandan genocide (…)
(…) NATO’s New Strategic Concept Committee has been chaired by former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. She is experienced and respected world-wide, and was an excellent choice to provide a balanced and fair report on the many security challenges that NATO must face in this new century. Albright is, as well, a passionate proponent of the prevention of genocide. In December 2008, she and former US Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, as co-chairs of the Genocide Prevention Task Force, released the report entitled Preventing Genocide: A Blueprint for US Policymakers (…)
(…) The problems that the international community faces in preventing future genocides are not insurmountable. However, they must first be identified. First and foremost, the requirement that authorization from the UN Security Council and consent from its permanent five (P5) members are necessary prior to taking any coercive action is a delay that has, and will continue, to cost lives. There is rarely agreement on action of any kind when the current mindset disallows action that is ‘perceived’ as violating state sovereignty. The ‘respect of sovereignty’ requirement has resulted in the UN seldom authorizing operations, even in such cases when a state is effectively killing its own civilians en masse. And, of course, it is self-evident that the requirement for consent is difficult to obtain and impedes possible peace operations when a government itself is complicit in the violence, or has an economic interest in looking the other way – as in the case of Sudan relative to oil, and the Chinese position in the country and on the P5 (…)
(…) The policy recommendations listed in the Albright-Cohen Report and Will to Intervene Report have brought structural changes to the US Departments of State and Defense, with senior officials of rank and reach now formally designated to be on genocide watch, linking defence, diplomacy and intelligence agencies and the White House. This is very much to President Obama’s credit in recognizing that preventing genocide is more than a humanitarian issue. It is also in the national interest of the US to do so, given the security and economic threats that mass atrocities generate (…)
(…) Legitimacy in international politics is about more than sterile definitions of sovereignty. It comes also by clearly indicating those events and actions that are explicitly not to be tolerated – ever! Moreover, those who preach genocidal options, or call for the eradication of UN member states, need to be targeted with intense, proactive international initiatives, sanctions, isolation and pressure, including the threat of military action, if others who stand by idly are not to be responsible for the insanity that transpires. Because when genocide is not confronted, insanity soon follows. And with the unthinkable come the knock-on effects from the commission of mass atrocities in distant lands, to which we are closely connected in a globalized world: pandemics, terrorism, piracy, organized crime, human trafficking, uncontrolled migration, diminished access to strategic raw materials, and the eventual erosion of social cohesion at home when expatriate or diaspora populations seek action that is not forthcoming from their own host governments. The transnational chaos that genocides produce renders it imperative that we put this item higher on our list of foreign policy priorities.
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