• August 18, 2011
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Obama issues a directive for the creation of an Atrocities Prevention Board

Learning from the missteps of his predecessors, President Obama is taking steps to improve the United States’ response to mass atrocities and genocide. Notably, he has directed that an Atrocities Prevention Board be formed, which will be responsible for identifying, preventing, and initiating action to end mass human rights violations. The board has been commissioned to look out for the red flags that indicate mass atrocities are happening and develop inexpensive, low-risk systems to address these atrocities in their early stages.

This bi-partisan and interagency board must begin its work 120 days from now, and these steps cannot be taken soon enough. As Obama writes in the directive,

“Sixty-six years since the Holocaust and 17 years after Rwanda, the United States still lacks a comprehensive policy framework and a corresponding interagency mechanism for preventing and responding to mass atrocities and genocide. This has left us ill-prepared to engage early, proactively, and decisively to prevent threats from evolving into large-scale civilian  atrocities.”

In support of the argument for an early response to warnings of mass atrocities, the directive states:

“In the face of a potential mass atrocity, our options are never limited to either sending in the military or standing by and doing nothing. The actions that can be taken are many –they range from economic to diplomatic interventions, and from non-combat military actions to outright intervention.”

This conversation cited by the The New York Times is a nuance behind the President’s decision that we can really appreciate:

“A senior White House official said one reason Mr. Obama wanted to set up the Atrocities Prevention Board was to avoid a situation in which the president is presented with only two options to respond to a mass atrocity: intervening militarily or doing nothing, the official said, as was the case with former President Bill Clinton and the Rwanda genocide.”

This is a positive move by the current administration and we only hope that it will live up to its mission. That is, if it succeeds, it will be an encouraging step towards preventing  a warlord like Joseph Kony from brutalizing a region for 25 years unimpeded by the international community.

You can read the directive for yourself here. It’s not long and it uses some pleasantly strong language to make its point (and by strong I mean “rigorous” not “explicit.” Unfortunately).


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