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Why Not Kill Them All?

Why Not Kill Them All?: The Logic and Prevention of Mass Political Murder

Daniel Chirot
Clark McCauley
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Why Not Kill Them All?
    Book Description:

    Genocide, mass murder, massacres. The words themselves are chilling, evoking images of the slaughter of countless innocents. What dark impulses lurk in our minds that even today can justify the eradication of thousands and even millions of unarmed human beings caught in the crossfire of political, cultural, or ethnic hostilities? This question lies at the heart ofWhy Not Kill Them All?Cowritten by historical sociologist Daniel Chirot and psychologist Clark McCauley, the book goes beyond exploring the motives that have provided the psychological underpinnings for genocidal killings. It offers a historical and comparative context that adds up to a causal taxonomy of genocidal events.

    Rather than suggesting that such horrors are the product of abnormal or criminal minds, the authors emphasize the normality of these horrors: killing by category has occurred on every continent and in every century. But genocide is much less common than the imbalance of power that makes it possible. Throughout history human societies have developed techniques aimed at limiting intergroup violence. Incorporating ethnographic, historical, and current political evidence, this book examines the mechanisms of constraint that human societies have employed to temper partisan passions and reduce carnage.

    Might an understanding of these mechanisms lead the world of the twenty-first century away from mass murder?Why Not Kill Them All?makes clear that there are no simple solutions, but that progress is most likely to be made through a combination of international pressures, new institutions and laws, and education. If genocide is to become a grisly relic of the past, we must fully comprehend the complex history of violent conflict and the struggle between hatred and tolerance that is waged in the human heart.

    In a new preface, the authors discuss recent mass violence and reaffirm the importance of education and understanding in the prevention of future genocides.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3485-3
    Subjects: Sociology, Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface to the Paperback Edition
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. INTRODUCTION Are We Killers or Peacemakers?
    (pp. 1-10)

    Our world today is dangerous. It has always been dangerous, but modern technology, a globalized economy, easy communications, and massive migration now spread the effects of crisis in one part of the world to other parts very quickly. We do indeed live in a “global village.” But like ancient village societies, we still have our clans and tribes, each with their territories, whose competitive disputes can degenerate into violence and occasional genocidal massacres. Like the agrarian states and civilizations that emerged from stateless societies thousands of years ago, we still have competing religions that usually coexist but set boundaries that...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Why Genocides? Are They Different Now Than in the Past?
    (pp. 11-50)

    The termgenocidewas coined only in 1944 (Lemkin 1944) and was designated as an international crime by the United Nations in 1948 (L. Kuper 1981, 210–14).Ethnic cleansingis an even newer term. It came into use during the Yugoslav wars of the early 1990s and was declared a crime against humanity by the United Nations in 1993 (Teitel 1996, 81). Though the two terms are distinct, there is considerable overlap in their meaning. In practice, modern episodes of ethnic cleansing have caused large numbers of deaths and often conform to the United Nations’ definition of genocide, which...

  7. CHAPTER TWO The Psychological Foundations of Genocidal Killing
    (pp. 51-94)

    The four reasons for genocidal killings discussed in chapter 1 are (1) practical, material ends that require the elimination of opponents who are in the way; (2) desire for what is perceived to be justified revenge; (3) fear of the enemy; and (4) a need to rid the environment of dangerously polluting others. But there is more to it than that, because we know that most human beings, all but those most habituated to extreme brutality or a small number who seem to lack normal emotional reactions to bloody violence, have to overcome a sense of horror when they engage...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Why Is Limited Warfare More Common Than Genocide?
    (pp. 95-148)

    Most warfare, whether it is between nations or smaller groups, does not reach the level of genocide. Even the general slaughter of noncombatants is far less common than warfare itself. For that matter, most conflicts between social groups of any size do not lead to large-scale violence. Why is this? The answers are not immediately obvious. To be sure, as we suggested in the previous chapter, slaughtering others is an activity most people are loathe to engage in. Contact with dead bodies, body parts, and bodily products is the occasion of disgust unless conducted within the narrow confines of cultural...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Strategies to Decrease the Chances of Mass Political Murder in Our Time
    (pp. 149-210)

    There is an interpretative footnote added to the above quotation by the Quran’s editors, a committee of official scholars acting on behalf of the “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Fahd ibn Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia.” The note explains: “War is permissible in self-defence, and under well-defined limits. When undertaken, it must be pushed with vigour, but not relentlessly, but only to restore peace and freedom for the worship of Allah. In any case, strict limits must not be transgressed: women, children, old and infirm men should not be molested, nor trees and crops cut down, nor peace...

  10. CONCLUSION Our Question Answered
    (pp. 211-218)

    There is no sign that the occasions of intergroup violence are decreasing. Conflicts based on economic, ethnic, religious, and ideological divides are now considerably more likely within states than between states, but that does not mean that international wars are a thing of the past or irrelevant to understanding genocide and ethnic cleansing. The genocide in Cambodia was the outcome of a process begun by the international Vietnam War; the Rwandan genocide led to the Zaire/Congo war that involved several African countries and resulted in more than three million deaths; and the potential for international wars that could lead to...

  11. References
    (pp. 219-248)
  12. Index
    (pp. 249-268)