Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Handbook To Stop Genocide

Sarah Sewall, a professor at Harvard, has been creating a guidebook on how to respond to mass atrocities, ethnic cleansing and genocide. Since 2007, she has led a group of academics, military professionals and policy makers in lobbying to the Pentagon to embrace this handbook, which outlines the options for humanitarian and military campaigns in the result of an outbreak of violence.

The guidebook she has created is essentially a “blue-print” for an interventionist policy and falls into the category of the ongoing UN debate about balancing state sovereignty with the protection of civilians. In theory the guidebook would be able to be pulled off the shelf and would present formulas for how to approach genocide situations, when to step up peacekeeping, monitor volatile situations, when to send in military and even how to enforce no-fly zones. It would also include when to release heavy ground forces and when to start arresting war criminals. Organizational charts for an anti-genocide task force are provided.

Since the outbreak of the Libyan crisis the United States has launched an initiative to make the military more responsive to mass genocide. This type of guidebook could fill that need. The military runs on doctrine and planning documents guide war when security threats arise. Since 2001, the United States has created a doctrine to put down insurgencies, but still has no formal military planning to stop genocide. Although, initially Sewall’s ideas did stir up controversy, her ideas seem to be taking hold. The Army Operating Concept, which outlines how the Army will fight in the next decade and a half states that the service “must be prepared to conduct mass-atrocity response operations as one of its core tasks.” A guidebook such as Sewall’s might be necessary for the future if the U.S. to continue addressing conflict situations globally.

-Gabrielle Gurian