Final Solutions

Final Solutions: Mass Killing and Genocide in the 20th Century

BENJAMIN A. VALENTINO
Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 336
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7591/j.ctt24hg9z
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  • Book Info
    Final Solutions
    Book Description:

    Benjamin A. Valentino finds that ethnic hatreds or discrimination, undemocratic systems of government, and dysfunctions in society play a much smaller role in mass killing and genocide than is commonly assumed. He shows that the impetus for mass killing usually originates from a relatively small group of powerful leaders and is often carried out without the active support of broader society. Mass killing, in his view, is a brutal political or military strategy designed to accomplish leaders' most important objectives, counter threats to their power, and solve their most difficult problems.

    In order to capture the full scope of mass killing during the twentieth century, Valentino does not limit his analysis to violence directed against ethnic groups, or to the attempt to destroy victim groups as such, as do most previous studies of genocide. Rather, he defines mass killing broadly as the intentional killing of a massive number of noncombatants, using the criteria of 50,000 or more deaths within five years as a quantitative standard. Final Solutions focuses on three types of mass killing: communist mass killings like the ones carried out in the Soviet Union, China, and Cambodia; ethnic genocides as in Armenia, Nazi Germany, and Rwanda; and "counter-guerrilla" campaigns including the brutal civil war in Guatemala and the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

    Valentino closes the book by arguing that attempts to prevent mass killing should focus on disarming and removing from power the leaders and small groups responsible for instigating and organizing the killing.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6717-2
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION: MASS KILLING IN HISTORICAL AND THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVE
    (pp. 1-8)

    Why do some human conflicts result in the intentional killing of massive numbers of unarmed civilians? This remains one of the most important questions facing humanity today. As the threat of global nuclear conflict recedes in the wake of the cold war, mass killing seems poised to regain its place as the greatest unnatural threat to human life. Episodes of mass killing in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda are but the latest entries on a long list of atrocities extending back to earliest recorded history, even into the archeological record.¹ Mass killings have been perpetrated by and against a wide...

  5. 1. MASS KILLING AND GENOCIDE
    (pp. 9-29)

    No generally accepted terminology exists to describe the intentional killing of large numbers of noncombatants. The most likely contender, of course, is the term “genocide.” This term, however, fails to capture the broad range of events I wish to examine. The most important limitation of “genocide” is its relatively narrow meaning, both in its etymology and in the formal United Nations definition of groups that qualify as its victims.

    Raphael Lemkin, a Polish jurist of Jewish descent, first coined the word “genocide” in 1944. To create the term, Lemkin combined the Greek word genos, meaning “race or tribe,” with the...

  6. 2. THE PERPETRATORS AND THE PUBLIC
    (pp. 30-65)

    In the early morning hours of July 13, 1942, approximately five hundred men from German Reserve Police Battalion 101 surrounded the small Polish town of Józefów with orders to shoot anyone attempting to escape.¹ The policemen entered the town, rounded up every Jewish man, woman, and child, and escorted them to the village marketplace. Those victims too sick or too old to walk were shot, as was anyone who showed the least signs of resistance. Male Jews of working age were separated from their families and prepared for deportation to slave labor camps. The rest of the villagers were loaded...

  7. 3. THE STRATEGIC LOGIC OF MASS KILLING
    (pp. 66-90)

    To identify societies at high risk for mass killing, I have suggested, we must first understand the specific goals, ideas, and beliefs of powerful groups and leaders, not necessarily the broad social structures or systems of government of the societies over which these leaders preside. A few leaders cannot implement mass killing alone, but perpetrators do not need widespread social support in order to carry it out. A tiny minority, well armed and well organized, can generate an appalling amount of bloodshed when unleashed upon unarmed and unorganized victims. Levels of hatred, discrimination, or ideological commitment common to many societies...

  8. 4. COMMUNIST MASS KILLINGS: THE SOVIET UNION, CHINA, AND CAMBODIA
    (pp. 91-151)

    Communist regimes have been responsible for this century’s most deadly episodes of mass killing. Estimates of the total number of people killed by communist regimes range as high as 110 million.¹ In this chapter I focus primarily on mass killings in the Soviet Union, China, and Cambodia—history’s most murderous communist states. Communist violence in these three states alone may account for between 21 million and 70 million deaths.² Mass killings on a smaller scale also appear to have been carried out by communist regimes in North Korea, Vietnam, Eastern Europe, and Africa. Documentation of these cases in secondary sources,...

  9. 5. ETHNIC MASS KILLINGS: TURKISH ARMENIA, NAZI GERMANY, AND RWANDA
    (pp. 152-195)

    Ethnic, national, and religious groups have been frequent victims of mass killing in the twentieth century. I distinguish ethnic mass killings from other instances of mass killing not simply by the distinct ethnic affiliation of the victims, but by the explicitly racist or nationalist ideologies and goals of the perpetrators. This terminology distinguishes cases of ethnic mass killing from other episodes of mass killing that are directed against specific ethnic groups but are motivated primarily by military considerations—as in cases of counterguerrilla mass killings targeted against an ethnically based insurgency movement—or by the desire for territory, as in...

  10. 6. COUNTERGUERRILLA MASS KILLINGS: GUATEMALA AND AFGHANISTAN
    (pp. 196-233)

    The effort to defeat guerrilla insurgencies was the single most common motivation for mass killing in the last century. In this chapter I focus on two of the most significant episodes of counterguerrilla mass killing in recent history: the civil war in Guatemala from 1978 to 1996 and the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan from 1979 to 1988. Counterguerrilla motives have also been the driving force behind numerous other episodes of mass killing, including, but not limited to, the American occupation of the Philippines (1899–1902), the Chinese civil war (1927–49), the Algerian war of independence from France (1954–62),...

  11. CONCLUSION: ANTICIPATING AND PREVENTING MASS KILLING
    (pp. 234-254)

    The evidence presented in this book points to three central conclusions about the causes of mass killing. First, small groups often play an important role in instigating and carrying out this kind of violence. Mass killing is usually conceived of and organized by a relatively small number of powerful political or military leaders acting in the service of their own interests, ideas, hatreds, fears, and misperceptions—not reacting to the attitudes or desires of the societies over which they preside. Indeed, in the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, China, and Cambodia—the four bloodiest mass killings I investigated—there are strong...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 255-310)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 311-318)