The Limits of Humanitarian Intervention

The Limits of Humanitarian Intervention: Genocide in Rwanda

ALAN J. KUPERMAN
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 162
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7864/j.ctt127xzj
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  • Book Info
    The Limits of Humanitarian Intervention
    Book Description:

    In 1994 genocide in Rwanda claimed the lives of at least 500,000 Tutsi -some three-quarters of their population -while UN peacekeepers were withdrawn and the rest of the world stood aside. Ever since, it has been argued that a small military intervention could have prevented most of the killing. In The Limits of Humanitarian Intervention, Alan J. Kuperman exposes such conventional wisdom as myth.

    Combining unprecedented analyses of the genocide's progression and the logistical limitations of humanitarian military intervention, Kuperman reaches a startling conclusion: even if Western leaders had ordered an intervention as soon as they became aware of a nationwide genocide in Rwanda, the intervention forces would have arrived too late to save more than a quarter of the 500,000 Tutsi ultimately killed. Serving as a cautionary message about the limits of humanitarian intervention, the book's concluding chapters address lessons for the future.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-9877-4
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. Preface
    (pp. VII-X)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. XI-XIV)
  5. CHAPTER ONE The Common Wisdom
    (pp. 1-4)

    Several years after mass killings of the 1990s in Bosnia, Somalia, and Rwanda, the United States still searches for a comprehensive policy to address deadly communal conflicts—those within a single territory pitting groups distinguished by ascriptive characteristics such as race, language, clan, caste, tribe, and religion. Among Washington policymakers and pundits, only two basic principles have achieved anything close to consensus. First, U.S. ground troops generally should not be deployed to humanitarian interventions in the midst of ongoing civil wars—a policy codified by the Clinton administration in 1994 as part of Presidential Decision Directive (PDD) 25 in the...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Roots of the Rwandan Tragedy
    (pp. 5-13)

    Before and during the colonial period, Rwanda was dominated politically by Tutsi, a social group comprising 17 percent of the population. Virtually all the rest of the population was Hutu. Less than 1 percent were aboriginal Twa. All three groups lived intermingled in Rwanda for hundreds of years. Although the Tutsi have a separate heritage and apparently entered the region somewhat later than the Hutu, the term “tribe” or “ethnic group” has long been inappropriate to distinguish between these two main Rwandan groups. They share a common language and religions, and have intermarried. In recent decades, however, the Hutu-Tutsi distinction...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Mechanics of the Genocide
    (pp. 14-22)

    The genocide has been documented best in two large volumes by human rights organizations. Immediately after the genocide, African Rights compiled the testimony of survivors.¹ More recently, Human Rights Watch produced a history that explores how the genocide’s leaders implemented their plan, especially in those areas where local political authorities initially opposed the killing.² Both accounts report a chilling regularity to the progression of genocide.

    The following description of the genocide’s progression was constructed from accounts in the African Rights volume. The book, based on survivors’ testimony, does not purport to be a scientific survey and has at least one...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR When Did We Know?
    (pp. 23-37)

    American intelligence reports from the period of the genocide remain classified. U.S. officials who had responsibility for Rwanda, however, assert that classified reports from the first few weeks of violence largely mirrored open reporting at the time by international news media, human rights organizations, and the United Nations.¹ Indeed, these officials say they relied heavily on such open reporting rather than on proprietary U.S. government sources of information.² In part, this was because the normal sources of proprietary intelligence were not available in Rwanda. Soon after the outbreak of violence, American embassy personnel were restricted to their homes until evacuation...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE The Military Scene
    (pp. 38-51)

    At the time of President Juvénal Habyarimana’s assassination, Rwanda hosted three military forces, those of the government, the rebels, and the United Nations. Government forces totaled about 40,000, including army, national police (gendarmerie), and the 1,500-man Presidential Guard (PG). Except for the PG and a few other elite battalions, however, this force was largely hollow, having expanded sixfold in three years in response to the rebel threat. The government conscripted young, unemployed Rwandans without skills and gave them only rudimentary training, assisted by France. From 1990 to 1994, the Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR) grew from approximately 5,200 to more than...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Transporting Intervention Forces
    (pp. 52-62)

    If the united states had decided to launch an intervention immediately upon determining that genocide was occurring in Rwanda, a key question would have been how fast an adequate force could have been transported to the theater and begun operations there. Because Rwanda is a landlocked country in central Africa, and because speed is crucial when trying to stop a genocide, the entire force would have had to be airlifted to the theater. To determine how long it would take to deploy such a force to Rwanda, it is useful to look at the experience of past U.S. airborne interventions...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN Plausible Interventions
    (pp. 63-77)

    Had the united states acted immediately upon determining that genocide was occurring, it could have launched a military intervention some two months before France’s eventual Operation Turquoise. This chapter analyzes the retrospective potential of three types of U.S. military intervention: maximum, moderate, and minimal. None envisions full-blown nationwide policing or long-term nation building by American troops. Long-term deployment of American troops to a region of little intrinsic national interest would have been neither strategically necessary nor politically feasible. After the acute genocidal situation was relieved, the mission would have been handed off to a multinational force, presumably under UN authorization....

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT Contending Claims
    (pp. 78-99)

    Many critics of western inaction in Rwanda have claimed that timely intervention would have prevented the genocide. Some even originally asserted that UNAMIR could have done so by itself, had it merely been ordered to do so. However, it is now acknowledged that the UN peacekeepers were inadequately equipped for such a mission. For example, Astri Suhrke, coeditor of a multinational study on the response to the Rwandan genocide, has testified that even “if UNAMIR had stayed, it wouldn’t have influenced the situation because it lacked everything. It had neither more munitions, nor provisions, nor even sandbags.” Likewise, Alison Des...

  13. CHAPTER NINE Early Warning and Preventive Intervention
    (pp. 100-108)

    A key determinant of the ultimate effectiveness of any military intervention in Rwanda would have been how early it was launched. Only by reinforcing the peacekeepers early in 1994, well before the outbreak of genocide, could intervention have stood a good chance of averting genocide. Barring that, the sooner intervention was launched after the killing started, the more lives would have been saved.

    As noted in chapter 1, there is a growing consensus among American policymakers that humanitarian military intervention should be launched to stop genocide when such violence comes to light, especially where intervention can save lives at low...

  14. CHAPTER TEN Lessons
    (pp. 109-119)

    A realistic u.s. military intervention launched as soon as President Clinton could have determined that genocide was being attempted in Rwanda would not have averted the genocide. It could, however, have saved an estimated 75,000 to 125,000 Tutsi from death, about 15 to 25 percent of those who ultimately lost their lives, in addition to tens of thousands of Hutu. Rwanda represents a particularly tough case for intervention in some respects, including its rapid rate of killing and inaccessible location. However, it would have been relatively easy in other respects, such as the limited military strength of potential adversaries and...

  15. APPENDIX A A Model of the Genocide’s Progression
    (pp. 120-123)
  16. APPENDIX B Airlift in Some Previous U.S. Military Interventions
    (pp. 124-125)
  17. APPENDIX C Theater Airfield Capacity Based on Operation Support Hope
    (pp. 126-128)
  18. Notes
    (pp. 129-156)
  19. Index
    (pp. 157-162)