Courtesy Reuters


Several years after mass killings in Bosnia, Somalia, and Rwanda, the United States is still searching for a comprehensive policy to address deadly communal conflicts. Among Washington policymakers and pundits, only two basic principles have achieved some consensus. First, U.S. ground troops generally should not be used in humanitarian interventions during ongoing civil wars. Second, an exception should be made for cases of genocide, especially where intervention can succeed at low cost. Support for intervention to stop genocide is voiced across most of the political spectrum.

Despite this amorphous consensus that the United States can and should do more when the next genocide occurs, there has been little hard thinking about just what that would entail or accomplish. A close examination of what a realistic U.S. military intervention could have achieved in the last clear case of genocide this decade, Rwanda, finds insupportable

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  • Alan J. Kuperman is MacArthur Transnational Security Fellow at MIT's Center for International Studies and Fellow of the Institute for the Study of World Politics.
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