- Editor's Introduction
Genocide Studies and Prevention 4:2 is a combined issue. Part I is a symposium of invited commentaries on the report of the Genocide Prevention Task Force; Part II features three articles on various aspects of genocide.
Part I: Commentaries
The Genocide Prevention Task Force was officially launched in November 2007 by a consortium of non-governmental agencies—the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, the American Academy of Diplomacy, and the US Institute of Peace—under the joint chairmanship of Madeleine Albright and William Cohen. Albright served as US ambassador to the United Nations and then as secretary of state during the Bil Clinton administration, while Cohen was secretary of defense during Clinton's second term. Participants in the task force, including consultants, were more than fifty people with international, diplomatic, political, government, military, academic, humanitarian, and other relevant experience.
The task force's mandate is explained in the title of its official report, Preventing Genocide: A Blueprint for U.S. Policymakers. The co-chairs explain in their foreword,
This report provides a blueprint that can enable the United States to take preventive action, along with international partners, to forestall the specter of future cases of genocide and mass atrocities. The world agrees that genocide is unacceptable and yet genocide and mass killings continue. Our challenge is to match words to deeds and stop allowing the unacceptable.1
Since the task force's report was deemed by GSP's editors to be an important event, we thought we should invite a diverse set of commentaries on the report from as many perspectives as possible. A symposium held in Washington, DC, was co-organized by the International Association of Genocide Scholars, the International Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (A Division of the Zoryan Institute), and the editors of Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal.
The objective of this one-day symposium was to assemble a group of experts in genocide and international human rights from various disciplines and countries to provide an independent, in-depth, scholarly review and assessment of the report's findings and implications. The commentaries that follow were contributed by experts from at least four countries and provide a diversity of views. They range from in-depth scholarly analyses to editorial-style opinion pieces, reflecting different approaches to the report by the various commentators, and provide a series of stimulating views on the task force report that will, we hope, stimulate further attention and discussion.
The symposium begins with a broad critique by Hirsch in which he notes five overall problems with the report:
1. It is poorly written and filled with bureaucratic jargon.
2. It is historically inaccurate and, in some discussions, almost revisionist. Hirsch argues that because of this weak analysis of the recent history of genocide, the report cannot serve as a foundation for adequate policy.
3. It was written and edited by individuals who participated in past policy failures as their attempts to prevent genocide either failed or were not [End Page 147] undertaken. This is part, Hirsch notes, of a "recycling" process in the capital whereby policy makers never achieve a new perspective because former members of previous administrations are recalled when a new administration enters office, which makes it difficult for new or different views to be represented.
4. Reports by commissions often do not change policy; sometimes they do not even influence policy. Often, in government, the presence of a report is pointed to as the equivalent of policy. This is a form of cooptation: in place of taking action, policy makers focus on the report.
5. The "clashing cultures" of the academy and the policy makers may contribute to different perspectives, with academics taking a more analytic and critical view and policy makers arguing that they are more "practical." In any case, Hirsch argues, these are critical weaknesses that must be addressed if this report is to influence policy.
Following this broad critique, we move on to more specific analyses. Since the report is directed at US policy, we thought it would be enlightening to include perspectives from European and Latin American genocide scholars. Interestingly, their views were quite...