Of failure was foreign international ignorance and

Of the many issues still
surrounding genocide prevention, one of most important is the cavalier, and
sometimes incompetent action of the international community towards prevention
in the first place. When a genocide is detected by the UN, it often falls on
powerful and influential countries with the manpower and resources to take the
helm and assist in defusing the situation in that country. However, in many
cases, these countries often refuse to assist in an effective manner, either
through ignorance of the genocide to further their own political interests, or
using the happenstance of a genocide to further their own agendas; this act is
detrimental to the entirety of genocide prevention, and in in cases such as
Rwanda and Srebrenica, actually increase the magnitude of the genocide
happening there. The role of foreign countries in genocide is of great importance,
and countries involved in genocide convention must handle this responsibility
properly: if they allow a genocide to happen, ignore it, or even help
participate in it, it allows future genocides of similar or increased magnitude
to happen around the world; however, many countries fail to properly contribute
to genocide prevention, for a multitude of reasons, which is likewise
detrimental to genocide prevention.

It is not new for the international
community to fail in genocide prevention. In 1994, the plane of president Juvenal
Habyarimana was shot down, breaking a fragile and temporary armistice between
the already fragile dissonance between Hutu and Tutsi. The genocide prevention
effort, spearheaded by the United States, France, Belgium and other permanent
member states committed a veritable fallout of failures, from the weakness of
the engagement protocol entrusted in the United Nations Assistance Mission for
Rwanda (UNAMIR), disallowing them to eve raise arms against genocide-committers
in self-defense, to the ignorance of signs of a brewing genocide even before
the start of the genocide in 1994, such as the western influence that even
inspired the Hutu and Tutsi hate in the first place. However, at the root of
the issue, and effectively the most important component of UNAMIR’s and the
UN’s failure was foreign international ignorance and incompetence. Countries
that could have helped prevent the spread and magnitude of the genocide such as
the United States and France did not, for a variety of reasons: they had a host
of their own political agendas to meet within their individual domains. The
United States, for

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example,
had recently lost their own men in a Somalian skirmish in 1993, and were therefore
hesitant to put forth their men into another peacekeeping operation, especially
one in a similar African country. As a result, the country itself began to grow
individualistic, still uncertain of its losses of soldiers in Rwanda. As Senator
Bob Dale put it, “we must stop placing the agenda of the United Nations before
the interests of the United States.”1 (Rework: split the US involvement into its own paragraph.)

            France, another involved party in the
genocide, evidently also chose to ignore, and was perhaps even complicit in the
upstart of the conflict. In a 2017 report entitled “Report to the Government of Rwanda on the Role of French Officials in
the Genocide against Tutsi,” officials discovered that French officials had
invested funds into the violent Hutu government, eventually growing in the
1970s to supply the government with weapons, “even as French officials were
aware of massacres of Tutsi that took place in the 1960s and 1970s.” French leader
Francois Mitterand and his officials provided Hutu genocide perpetrators with “strategic
and organizational assistance, hundreds (if not thousands) of soldiers, and
millions of dollars’ worth of war-fighting equipment,” all in order of course,
for the government to continue their propagated genocide of the Tutsi.2
This perpetration of genocide has never been formally viewed or internationally
punished, which is disconcerting for the future of genocide prevention; a
country that is not punished for involvement in genocide clearly goes against
the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide,
which influences countries to hold government members or persons accountable on
trial.

            In
cases such as the French involvement in Rwanda, foreign countries actually
instigate overseas genocides, or even directly contribute to classification,
symbolization, or other pre-extermination stages of a genocide. French influence
was highly relevant to the organization and persecution of the genocide, with
Hutu infrastructure, weapons, and organization being gifted to a genocidal
entity by France, ultimately leading to a more organized genocidal regime in
France, and the loss of more Tutsi life in a quicker fashion.

 

            In
1995, a similar international failure occurred in Srebrenica, Bosnia, with a
group of Bosnian Serbs smashing through the defenses of the United Nations and
murdering the men and children of the so-called Muslim “safe-zone” of
Srebrenica. The fall of Srebrenica was another disaster for UN peacekeeping
image and agenda, and was similarly a result of national failures as well as
international. Srebrenica, then under the guard of around 100 Dutch soldiers.
However, the original call for defense in the area also affected the
jurisdiction of Zepa, Goradze, Tuzla, Saravejo, and Bihac. The Dutch Defense Ministry
however, failed to report on the magnitude of the breach and murder of the
Muslim minority, even going so far as to destroy a crucial list of victims and
destroy a tape in which “Bosnian Serb soldiers engaged in extrajudicial
executions as Dutch U.N. troops looked on.”3

            The
fact that these major countries, in this case both involved in Rwanda or Bosnia,
either denied, ignored, or even helped to propagate a genocide, inflicts a
severity of pressure on the naturally bipartisan United Nations. The United
States and France are both permanent members of the UN, and therefore exert
amounts of pressure not just on the topic of genocide prevention but on other
matters of international relevance such as economy, war, and trade. To punish a
major country’s leaders for their ignorance would be just short of public
denouncement by the international community, which would ruin diplomatic
situations with the international community and the denounced country. In many
cases such as Rwanda, the tribunals and trials that do punish propagators of the genocide only happen years later, and
do not come close to trying or punishing all involved members of the genocide.

The act of genocide can also be
used to attack or rectify relations with other countries. Effectively,
important members of the United Nations therefore have the power to define genocide itself, if not in theory
than in practice. In 1954, for example, the United States began their campaign
in Vietnam, in an apparent effort to remove signs of communism in the country.
In the town of My Lai, US troops committed mass slaughter of over 500
Vietnamese civilians. The government then attempted to cover up the event, launching
their own private investigations and recommending only 28 to be charged at
trial.

The events that transpired at My
Lai certainly match with the definitions of genocide: the deliberate killings
of a racial group, and yet this massacre is not considered genocide by either
the United Nations, or the US. If a country is unwilling to claim
responsibility of genocide such as in this scenario, yet denounces genocides
committed by their rivals, it is evident that they are using genocide as
name-calling to attack their political enemies.  

The effect that national ignorance
or disagreement on genocide has a negative profound effect on future prevention
and peacekeeping in genocide afflicted areas. An array of political red-tape
must first be crossed when genocide is first detected, such as the alarming of
independent genocide prevention organizations and the mustering of peacekeeping
forces; this level of unity in the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention
cannot be achieved without instant cooperation from the members of the United Nations
all working free of political goals or agenda. If a country does not wish to
work with its fellow members to even acknowledge the occurrence of genocide, or
help combat it before it begins, such as in the case of Rwanda, it risks growth
in magnitude of the genocide, as according the United Nations itself,
“prevention options should always be exhausted before intervention is
contemplated, and more commitment and resources must be devoted to it.”4
In a recent example, such as the rule of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, in which
over 400 000 civilians died, the dissonance between key countries such as Russia
and the United States continue to prolong the conflict in the area. The
countries, long enemies since the days of the Cold War, lie at an impasse in
the Middle East over the deciding over Syria’s current ruler, causing the
continuation of Assad’s rule and the murders under his regime. In this case,
maneuvering a case like this is essentially choosing sides in a conflict: with
two massive world powers at a disagreement in this fashion, choosing to
intervene and help stop the genocide risks making that country another player
in the Middle-Eastern conflict. A country wanting to intervene in the Syrian
conflict risks a series of choices, in which the wrong one may risk the ire of
Russia or the United States there. In cases like this, genocide and politics
are deftly interwoven between world powers, and can be difficult for countries
willing to intervene in a genocide to navigate.

Another
example of the use of genocide in a strenuous, ambiguous, and political manner
is the worldwide reflection of the Armenian genocide. In the United States;
while it has declared the events of Armenia in 1915 as a genocide in the past,
they have recently shied away from doing so, due to fear of strenuous relations
with Turkey. In 2007, President George Bush stated that acknowledgment of the
genocide “would do great harm to our relations with a key ally in NATO and in
the global war on terror.”5 The shaky line that many countries seem
to hold when viewing genocide is worrisome, as consistency is highly relevant
to combating genocide. If countries like the United States are willing to
change their perception on genocide within separate political contexts such as
this example, it detracts from the overall prevention of genocide, as no
consistent definition or action on genocide is taken.

The entire point of a genocide
prevention organization, even larger ones, such as the United Nations Office on
Genocide, is to prevent genocide. The organization is already beset by a
variety of political red tape that slows down both the detection and the actual
prevention of genocide in the first place. After this, the smaller private
genocide prevention organizations must be alerted, then funds raised in both
parties, and only then are troops deployed, if of course, the international
community agrees to intervene in that area at all. If even one of the countries
does not wish to do anything concerning that genocide, the entire process is
slowed down, which effectively makes genocide prevention in that area even
harder than it usually is.

Then there is the ethical dimension
to consider. A country’s policymakers have little incentive to provide
meaningful aid to a genocide prevention effort if there is little public
interest within their countries. The United States, for example feared even
calling the genocide a genocide, fearing that “this word would generate public
opinion which would demand some sort of action and they didn’t want to act.”6
However, in the event of a genocide, the choice of ethics may rise into
the equation; on one hand, the country has an obligation to protect its own
well-being such as by conserving its forces; on the other hand, a genocide
deals with the deaths of many and is outright denounced by the entirety of the
United Nations. In a similar ethical vein is the juxtaposition between a
country and a

country’s
political leaders. The politician wants to stay in office and therefore is
unwilling to risk the irk of the public in interfering in external matters,
such as genocides occurring in other countries. However, a misperception arises
within policymakers in politics that essentially views the public as dissenters
to intervention. As Steven Kull writes, “with policy makers throughout all
branches of government and journalists, and we found about three quarters had
this view that the public wanted basically to disengage from the world, did not
like the UN, did not want to contribute to peacekeeping operations unless they
were closely related to a narrowly-defined national interest—none of which
actually show up in the polls.”7 However, in a recent 2017 poll
conducted by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 69% of 1,000
Americans thought the US should prevent or stop genocide or mass atrocities
from occurring in another part of the world, while 78% supported the US taking
military action to stop genocide or mass atrocities.8 This is
clearly a massive disconnect between policymakers and the public, and could
explain the reason of hesitancy in genocide prevention such as in cases like
Rwanda.

The entirety of national
interference in genocide, whether it be through ignorance, complicities, or
half-hearted prevention, is overall detrimental towards the eradication of
genocide. The United Nations is the overshadow of genocide prevention, the main
organ of the international community that is synonymous with the destruction,
ceasing and removal of atrocity crimes. Therefore, the organization, and as a
result, the major countries involved in the UN, must exhibit responsibility and
competence in stopping genocide, a skill that it has been inconsistent with in
the past due to nationalistic tendencies to prevent genocide in favor of
pursuing their own interests. The organization must also elevate and refine its
genocide prevention system for this reason; if genocide prevention is to be
taken seriously and awareness raised for the victims of these atrocity crimes
and its prevention, it is important that the lead organ operate smoothly and
efficiently.

            In the event that a country is found
guilty for complicities in genocide, it is often difficult, if not impossible
to try important members and propagators of the genocide. Even in an
international community such as the United Nations, which does hold its own
courts and tribunals, trying important

members
of countries for their involvement in genocides is rarely heard of. In cases
such as the My Lai incident, in which a cover-up was executed by the higher ups
in the United States, the exact prosecutors are rarely even discovered, at the
risk of trial. Furthermore, there are the diplomatic and political ramifications
of essentially condemning leaders of important countries such as the US for its
involvement in genocide: trying world leaders would cause a diplomatic hell and
offense may be taken by countries, making working to prevent genocide even more
difficult than it is now. How then can an international law be enforced on
countries that fail to respond adequately to genocide? The current way of
international enforcement relies on individual countries to punish their own
genocide propagators: “there is no over-arching compulsory judicial system or
coercive penal system to address breaches of the provisions set out in treaties
or to settle disputes.”9 However, this system leads to an
understandable amount of bias: a country will surely not punish its own propagators
if they are important ranking members of government. In the My Lai incident,
one Lieutenant William Calley was punished for his role in the pre-mediated
murder of the villagers, having been sentenced in a court-martial in 1971.
However, nameless higher-up in commands, who had initiated the policies of the
US army in the first place were not convicted, with Calley the only one. As
Robert Johnson, a Vietnam veteran and journalist put it: “Johnson was
representing the views of several other former officers who were coming forward
to tell of their own participation in acts similar to those that led to the
murder verdict against Calley.”10 He was essentially, a scapegoat
for US policymakers that decided the offensive in the first place. There is no
guarantee that other countries such as France or Holland will not do the same
with their propagators. In cases like this, there is a possibility that these
countries will convict their own William Calleys, their own veritable
scapegoats instead of apprehending the root of the issue: the leaders of import
that decide those campaign goals and policies. And there is, for a country,
little to no boon to apprehending their own important members of government.
These leaders and policymakers effectively rule their countries in the first
place, and so there is little to no boon to removing a country’s president, or
leader, or war general. After all, and especially if they are skilled, these
important members will have to be replaced anyway with similarly skilled members.
In many cases such as Rwanda, Srebrenica, or My Lai, a country has very much to
lose

and
little to gain: after all, a genocidal trial only speaks to ethics, and ethics
do not allow a country to prosper.

            In order to punish genocide ignorers
or instigators in foreign countries, international power must be given to
international unbiased courts that have juridical power. The international law
of the United Nations must be respected and enforced, for if a lone country or
alliance is given the responsibility to try its own government members, there
quickly becomes a conflict of interest. However, if international courts such
as the UN’s are given the power to accuse and legally denounce, if not punish
members of government, genocide suddenly becomes a crime that any offending
country can be accused of, not a crime that important government members can
now avoid, or escape.

            International interference in
genocide is an important component of genocide prevention extremely vital to
the eradication of future genocides. However, several blockades still lie in
its path, including the ignorance of genocide by important countries,
complicity in genocide by these role model countries, and the lack of
international power to accuse, try, and sentence important instigators,
helpers, or ignorers of genocide. These roadblocks must be lifted within
international boundaries if the world truly wishes to overcome the atrocity
that is genocide.

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