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Preventing Mass Killings

David Scheffer, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues

Well, I think the record clearly demonstrates that the international community has not done enough to prevent genocide and crimes against humanity, and that is really our great challenge. I mean, a lot of people sometimes ask, “Well, what is the challenge of this generation? We don’t have a World War II as a challenge, nor do we even have the Cold War as a challenge.” Well, I firmly believe that our challenge in the larger sense internationally is to prevent these mass killings, these atrocities that are so disruptive of the regions, of the international system itself, and which impose such a tremendous burden and, quite frankly, are just immoral, in the commission of these crimes. So, if one is looking for a real challenge morally, politically, and militarily for the twenty-first century, then I would pinpoint the stability of societies in terms of preventing atrocities and preventing the mass killings and persecution of innocent civilians that has been all too common during the twentieth century, and unfortunately all too prevalent during the 1990s, which we always thought—at least the end of the Cold War, there was optimistic thinking that the 1990s was going to be the predicate of an even more advanced twenty-first century with the Cold War behind us. And yet, it has clearly demonstrated that, in fact, it’s almost a throwback to the Dark Ages.