US military envisages interventions against genocide

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 10 May 2011, 01:36 GMT]
The United States has launched a high-level initiative to make its military more ready and able to respond to potential mass killings in future, the Wall Street Journal reports. The emerging doctrine is a blueprint for an interventionist foreign policy that places such ideas as "responsibility to protect" on a par with the principles of realpolitik, the paper says. A senior Department of Defense official told the WSJ that the project, which is at an early stage, would help develop "a complete set of options that the leadership can consider in the preventive area before it comes to sending in the military, or not sending in the military."

The new doctrine falls within a broader debate in international politics, and at the United Nations, about balancing state sovereignty with the desire to protect civilians.

A tight-knit group of academics, policy makers and military officers have been lobbying the Pentagon to embrace a new 160-page handbook that details, step by step, how the US military can respond to mass atrocities, ethnic cleansing and genocide.

Harvard professor Sarah Sewall leads the group of advocates pushing the Pentagon to mainstream the new doctrine.

"What was clear to me in the problem of mass atrocities, genocide prevention ... is that the military didn't think of it as a responsibility, so they didn't invest any time in trying to understand it," Prof. Sewall says. "But that's what needed to be done in order to inform civilian decision makers."

In the backdrop of Libya, the efforts of Prof. Sewall and her colleagues are beginning to pay off, the WSJ says.

US military leaders such as General Carter Ham, who runs the command that led the initial attacks on Col. Muammar Gadhafi's forces, looking to Prof. Sewall's work as a guide for the next time the US feels compelled to intervene to stop a massacre, the paper says.

General James Lukeman, a senior deputy to Gen. Ham, said Prof. Sewall's handbook was "a great tool to have" for thinking about the unique problems such a challenge posed. The current campaign in Libya, Gen. Lukeman added, was an "obvious parallel" to the scenarios the handbook describes.

The idea has been criticised by some policy experts and scholars, who argue counterinsurgency should be the ongoing concern for the US military, the paper adds.

However the doctrine’s ethos is already appearing in US military strategy - the Army Operating Concept, a document that envisions how the US army will fight in the next decade and a half, says that the service "must be prepared to conduct mass-atrocity response operations" as one of its core tasks.

 

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