Why Is the Twentieth Century the Century of Genocide? Source:

Why Is the Twentieth Century the Century of Genocide?
Author(s): Mark Levene
Source: Journal of World History, Vol. 11, No. 2 (Fall, 2000), pp. 305-336
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Why Is the Twentieth Century
the Century of Genocide?
MARK
University
LEVENE
ofWarwick
a statistical one at that: 187 million
has become almost a platitude,
now
more
or
less accepted wisdom
for the number
It is the figure, the
of human
beings killed as a result of political
violence?Zbigniew
uses the unlovely
term megadeaths?in
Brzezinski
this, our bloody
century.1 More killing than at any other time in history. And yet at the
as it passes across the
its relentlessness,
end of the twentieth
century
screens of those of us seemingly blessed with immunity from
television
to daze and bewil
its catastrophic
continues
reality and consequences,
der.
For the historian,
him or herself
inured to centuries
if not millen
nia of mass atrocity, this picture of a special era of death and destruc
tion invites,
indeed demands
further probing
and analysis.
Is "the
so
Twentieth
of
in
Dead"
Book
the
different
very
scope
Century
really
or scale from previous ones?2 It has been argued that the effects of the
in China
from 410
reduced its population
Taiping and other rebellions
a couple
in 1850 to 350 million
in 1873.3 In southern Africa
million
of Shaka's Zulu nation and the ensu
earlier, the emergence
or
results
ing Mfecane
"great crushing" produced
equally horrendous
relative to the population
of the region. Go back a few centuries
and
of decades
1Eric
Hobsbawn,
(London,
igi4~iggi
Age of Extremes, The Short Twentieth Century
1994), p. 12.
2The
work by Gil Eliot, Twentieth Century
title of the path-breaking
Book of the Dead
(London,
1972).
3
John King Fairbank, The Great Chinese Revolution
(New York, 1986), p. 81.
i8oo-ig85
Journal ofWorld History, Vol. 11, No. 2
?2000
of Hawai'i Press
by University
305
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to Central
that the Mongol
conqueror Timur wrought
and
Northern
India
historian
modern
East,
impelled
to
note
Arnold
this
of
that
span
exterminatory
Toynbee
twenty-four
to the one hundred
1379 and 1403) was comparable
years (between
and twenty of the last five Assyrian
kings.4
If this seems to be an argument,
albeit a cynical one, for saying plus
the devastation
the Near
Asia,
as
?a change, plus cest lam?me chose, the very use of the term genocide,
time suddenly stumbled upon a
ifwe have in our current self-centered
different order of things, is equally problematic.
How do we find a sep
arate niche for this exterminatory
modus operandi when we are already
civil war, revolution,
with
the idea of massacre,
man-made
total
and
the
indeed
for
nuclear
obliteration?
war,
famine,
potentiality
The signposting
of the scholars is, to say the least, contradictory.
The
international
jurist Raphael Lemkin, who both coined the term "geno
cide" and was founding mover
for its study, saw in it not so much
or
as
a
to past "barbarisms."
reversion
If he per
regression
modernity
was
a
our
not in the destruction
in
it
of peo
difference
ceived
century
familiar
per se but in the ability of international
society, with
ples or nations
it.
international
law as its right arm, to outlaw and ultimately
prevent
In spite of the catastrophe
which
overwhelmed
his own family in the
Lemkin was essentially
about a modern
Holocaust,
optimistic
global
The
civilization
founded on western
1948
enlightenment
principles.
on Genocide
is his great legacy.5
Convention
United Nations
Convention
the Genocide
has been
Yet, Kosovo notwithstanding,
more honored
stream
in the breach than in the practice. A considerable
Lemkin's
would
of current empirical
thought, moreover,
challenge
for instance, has not only forcefully
basic premise. Zygmunt Bauman,
some "irrational
that the Holocaust
the notion
rejected
represented
eradicated
residues of pre-modern
barbar
outflow of the not-yet-fully
. . .
a
concern
on
out
"arose
of
rational
the
but
contrary
ity"
genuinely
by a bureaucracy
generated
this quintessential
genocide
true to it form and purpose." For Bauman,
was a product of a planned,
scientifically
and technically
coordinated,
informed,
expert, efficiently
managed,
resourced society like our own. Indeed, just in case anyone was in doubt
was a
as to his meaning,
that the Holocaust
he not only reiterated
not
in
be
of
and
"at
house
could
the
resident
modernity
legitimate
4
in Leo Kuper,
Quoted
1981), p. 12.
5 For more
on Lemkin's
Lemkin,
Raphael
UN Convention,
cide (New Haven
Genocide:
Its Political
Use
in the 20th Century
(New Haven,
to Genocide;
seminal
role, see Kuper's
introductory
chapter
Axis Rule inOccupied
DC,
Europe (Washington,
1944). For the text of the
see Frank Chalk
The History
and Sociology of Geno
and Kurt Jonassohn,
and London,
1990), pp. 44-49.
Le vene: Why
Is the Twentieth
Century
the Century
of Genocide?
307
in any other house" but that there was an "elective
affinity"
it "and modern
civilization."6
seem to offer very different perspectives
on
If Bauman and Lemkin
home
between
be considered
the century of genocide,
this
why this century might
in itself offers a conclusive
article would submit that neither argument
case. Implicitly, both have the added danger of being reduced to dis
cussions
about
the form genocidal
takes. The
short hand for
killing
thus might
read: "gas chambers":
routinized,
systematized,
belt killings;
industrialized
albeit with a grand vision at its
conveyer
end "of a better, and radically different,
is something
society."7 There
in this theme.
If gas chambers
suggest a 1940's state-of
compelling
the-art technology
for the accomplishment
of a particular type of mass
Bauman
of the Arme
murder, telegraphs and trains in the Ittihadist destruction
nians or the provision
of index registers of the Rwandese
population
as a basis for the selection
of Tutsi and other victims
in 1994 equally
seem to point the finger at a type of social organization
in which vic
as depersonalized
or
tims can be characterized
and
numbers
freight
as pen pushers or technical
their perpetrators
operators who conve
or
find
themselves
"distanced" from
niently
physically
psychologically
the act of murder.
All well and good. Except
that recent studies, such as Goldhagen
on the Holocaust,
or Prunier on Rwanda,
remind us that
provocatively
it is not
like that; that genocide,
whether
perpetrated
by a
or
a
advanced
like
unde
society
technologically
Germany
relatively
still requires the active mobilization
of hun
veloped one like Rwanda,
dreds of thousands of their "ordinary" citizens to pull triggers or wield
that this involves not a spatial removal but a direct con
machetes;
frontation
between
and victims; and that in consequence
perpetrators
can
in
action
be
and messy
every bit as passionate,
vicious,
genocide
as the massacres
or Punic wars.8 By a different
of the Peloponnesian
that nei
route, we seem to be back with Lemkin's barbarism. Except
nor Greeks
saw themselves
as barbarians but rather
ther the Romans
as the most advanced
and sophisticated
societies of their time. If then,
much
of
as Michael
Freeman would assert, the argument cannot be about mod
se
but only about civilization and if we were to pursue this
ernity per
train of thought
further by tracing
in the classical
and pre-modern
6
and the Holocaust
Bauman, Modernity
Zygmunt
(Oxford,
1989), pp. 17, 89, 88.
7
Ibid., p. 91.
8
Daniel
Hitlers Willing Executioners, Ordinary Germans
and theHolo
Jonah Goldhagen,
caust (London,
1996); Gerard Prunier, The Rwanda Crisis, History
ig5g-igg4
of a Genocide
(London,
1995).
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of societies?despite
their usually politically
dif
record the capability
nature?to
fused and decentralized
whole pop
deport or exterminate
is our case for a particular
between
ulations, where
geno
relationship
cide and the twentieth
century?9
in response that form is not the primary
This article would contend
issue whereas
is. Or, to put it another way,
framework most definitely
we cannot begin to understand
genocide without
grappling with his
context
is implied not only the historical
of each indi
tory, by which
us
a
must
vidual genocide which
tell
necessarily
special and unique
story but rather the macrohistorical
record, the broad and moving
canvas in which we might
chart and hopefully
analyze the emergence
of the current international
and development
system. Indeed, its first
we specifically
is
that
the
of
which
call
origins
proposition
something
and prevalence
of this phenom
followed by the persistence
genocide,
enon into the contemporary
is
bound
world,
up with that
intrinsically
an
is
intrinsic
and
indeed
and
crucial
system
part of it. If this
emerging
cannot be simply cordoned
is correct then genocide
line of argument
too ideo
off as an aberration which
afflicts states which have become
to war, or internal conflicts
prone to revolution,
logical, totalitarian,
and stratification.
These may be
which are the result of ethnic division
of
features
and
determinants
important
genocide. And
they
significant
us
certain
tell
also
about
may
countries?Germany,
something
why
Russia, China,
Indonesia, Cambodia,
Turkey, Rwanda, Burundi?have
none of these examples
can be
But
been particularly
prone.
genocide
notes
in
Nation
domestic
isolation.
understood
states,
Anthony
purely
Giddens,
"only exist in systemic relations with other nation-states."10
states which we now take for granted
Yet the global system of nation
is thus not
has only come to full fruition in this last century. Genocide
as
a
of
national
trajectories
only
they attempt
by-product
particular
or possibly con
state building
in order to operate within,
circumvent,
front
that
functional
system,
nature.
but a guide
to and
indeed
cipher
for its own
dys
is closely
should
this be? The
answer, on one
level,
why
or
neo-Marxist
enmeshed
with what Marxist
analysis would call "the
of uneven
the interna
historical
Thus,
development."11
dynamics
But
9Michael
and modernity,"
The British Journal of Soci
civilization
Freeman,
"Genocide,
207-23.
ology 46 (i995):
10
The Nation-State
and Violence
Giddens,
(Cambridge,
1985), p. 4.
Anthony
11Ron
in Toward
the
"Societal madness:
power and genocide,"
Aronson,
Impotence,
on the
and Prevention
of Genocide:
Proceedings
of the International Conference
Understanding
ed. Israel W. Charny
Holocaust
and Genocide,
(Boulder and London,
1984), p. 136.
Le vene: Why
Is the Twentieth
Century
the Century
of Genocide?
309
system was not created all of a piece but was primed and taken
economic
and
forward by a small coterie of western
polities. Their
the
and
ensured
determined
rules
system's
ground
political
ascendancy
tional
that its expansion
would be carried forward and reg
and development
own
in
interests. As a result, not
their
hegemonic
primarily
relations
been
co-eval
with the origins of the
have
"international
only
nation-state"
but this process from its eighteenth-century
origins was
its
of
the
fortunes
upon
leading players, most
peculiarly
dependent
ulated
States.12 We do not ourselves
notably Britain, France, and the United
to acknowledge
have to be westernocentric
this problematic
reality or
thrust of Immanuel Wallerstein's
the essential
thesis
developmental
core surrounded
western
in terms of a dominant
by semi-peripheral
himself would be the first to
and peripheral
zones.13 Yet Wallerstein
was not naturally preordained,
nor
that this development
acknowledge
to lead to the permanent
it have
of specific states.
ascendancy
a
was
outcome
it
series
of
of
the
Rather,
power
long
inter-European
some proto
in a global arena, in which
struggles fought increasingly
modern
states, such as Spain, fell by the wayside while others, notably
Prussia and Russia, came into frame as serious contenders
for primacy.
to have something
If all this had and continues
of a social Darwinian
did
"the intersection of capitalism,
industrial
quality about it, nevertheless,
ism and the nation-state,"
which were the primary ingredients enabling
western
state supremacy
in the first place, remain the enduring features
of the system as globalized, while also ensuring
the continuing
hege
broader but still relatively
small group of states
mony of a somewhat
institutions
and corporations
also now
(with a number of key western
even though the relative position of these may be quite dif
involved),
or nineteenth
ferent from that of the late eighteenth
centuries.14
between
and an emerging
international
genocide
relationship
the avant-garde
further scrutiny. Was
it, for instance,
system demands
or latter
states who committed
in their drive for hegemony,
genocide
it was, where do we locate our first
And whichever
day contenders?
modern
of the Iberian thrust to the Canaries,
the
example? Aspects
are horribly suggestive,
and then the New World mainland
Caribbean,
as are, in the Spanish
and Portuguese
domestic
frames, the disgorging
This
or forcible
of Jews and Moriscos.
Similar
integration
early modern
trends are perhaps to be found in the destruction
of Albigensians
and
12
Giddens,
Nation-State,
13 Immanuel
Wallerstein,
Modern World System, 3 vols.
14
Giddens,
Nation-State,
p. 4.
The Capitalist World-Economy
(New York, 1974-88).
p. 5.
(Cambridge,
1979)
and The
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to the
of French
consolidation
and German
or
in
still
the
later
state-religious
English
Anglo-Scottish
to "clear" Catholic
Irish and Gaelic Highlanders
from their
campaigns
frontier hinterlands.
The process could be said to have been carried
on the
forward in a still wider global frame with the British onslaught
Anabaptists
unities
and
native peoples
and massacres
of Australasia,
the American
expulsions,
subjugations,
of their remaining
Indian nations,
unsubdued
closely
not to say
in Latin American
countries, notably Argentina,
replicated
in the Russian
anti-Circassian
drive to consolidate
the Caucasus
firmly
within
the Czarist empire.
in the case of the
the scale of these killings, particularly
Yet while
not
but
Americas,
surpasses
sixteenth-century
only equals
arguably
mass murder,
instances of twentieth-century
the specificity
of "geno
cide" cannot be confirmed or denied from this litany. If the corelation
is the critical
issue, a possibly more
system
ship to the emerging
authentic
first contender might be the 1793-94
revolutionary
Jacobin
on the Vend?e
region. Here we can observe a premeditated,
onslaught
if albeit geographically
limited attempt at people-destruc
systematic,
tion closely linked to rapid nation-state
the context of
building within
a much
is an
broader crisis of interstate
relations. But if the Vendee
a
mass
murder which has become
type of
par
important
signpost for
in the twentieth
its inclu
and persistent
century,
ticularly prevalent
sion as a case study has to contend with objections
that Frenchmen
cannot be "genocide."15
this
killing other Frenchmen
Interestingly,
contrasts with a contention
from an entirely different quarter which
to pick and choose between which mass kill
protests at any attempt
are not.16 Even were we to put aside this
and which
ings are genocides
ethically
grounded restraint, the bewildering
perfectly understandable,
that perpetrator
and victim groups outlined
diversity of the situations
so far confronts
this writer, no less than others, with
the obstinate
is it that we are discussing?
question: what exactly
"we pres
"At the most
fundamental
level," it has been asserted,
even
a
and
viable
of
the
coherent
lack
and
processes
ently
description
circumstances
implied by the term genocide."17
And
this despite
enor
15
La Vend?e-Venge
Secher, Le genocide franco-fran?ais,
(Paris, 1986) for the
Reynauld
source of this controversy.
16
of genocide:
"Unless
definition
Israel Charny's
ultra-inclusivist
See, for instance,
a large number of people are put
can be reasonably
self-defense
clear-cut
proven, whenever
in Israel W. Charny,
to death by other people,
it constitutes
A
ed., Genocide,
genocide,"
Review
Critical Bibliographical
(London,
1988), vol. 1, p. xiii.
17
11 (1986):
a functional
Toward
Alternatives
Ward Churchill,
"Genocide:
definition,"
main
403.
Le vene: Why
mous
Is the Twentieth
Century
and continuing
efforts by sociologists
and etiologies
of the phenomenon
it. Leo Kuper, doyen
for criminalizing
onomies
work
the Century
of Genocide?
311
tax
and jurists to provide
not to say a legal frame
of its study, sounds almost
genocidal
process" and, to
There
is, he says, "no single
despairing.
no
"a general
basis for developing
boot, probably
theory of geno
warns
Fein
cide."18 Similarly, Helen
that "comparisons
based on either
or
as
a
the Holocaust
the Gulag Archipelago
single archetype which
assume there is one mechanically
recurring script are bound to be mis
19Fein is correct. Each
is different. The problem
is
leading."
genocide
the rubric in the first place, her very refer
knowing what falls within
ence to the Gulag being an interesting
we
example of how potentially
obscure rather than clarify our focus. Fein's example also high
to conflate
the act of "genocide" with "geno
lights a general tendency
cidal process," of which
there is a great deal more. The
latter, involv
or coercive measures,
of draconian
ing all manner
ranging from the
of a group at one end of the spectrum through to
forcible assimilation
at
in
murder
the
other, does not have to culminate necessarily
physical
a program of systematic people-annihilation,
that is, "genocide." Even
might
then it is rarely sustained to an attempted
is perhaps
This
completion.
one reason why the Holocaust
remains so central to our vision of what
as if inWeberian
terms we had found our "ideal"
constitutes
genocide,
to
in contradistinction
this
type. Nevertheless,
argument
contends,
terms
not
it
is
of
reference
that
with
Kuper,
appropriate
possible
only
to discern a pattern of genocide which
in some way is relatable to the
of contemporary
also, at least in terms of
history but which
a
as
can
be
viewed
coherent
study,
having
identity.
revolves around the two obviously
interlinked
ques
My approach
tions: "what is genocide"
and "why does it occur" ?The first might be
sense by proposing
in a preliminary
answered
that genocide
is, as in
a
Lemkin's
of
But
modern
warfare.
formulation,
type
state-organized
not
in
this statement
elucidation.
all
warfare
requires
Though
history
has been conducted
by states, the ability of a state to wage war is both
a prime indicator of its power vis-?-vis other states and of its relation
unfolding
academic
ship to its domestic
populace.
much about the self-perception
a recourse to war tells us
Additionally,
of a state leadership and of its willing
or otherwise,
to pursue what
it views as
motivated
ness, ideologically
state's interests or agendas by these means. Yet war, by definition,
is a
even
can
com
where carefully prepared,
be
strategy, which,
high-risk
18Leo
Its Political Use
Kuper, Genocide:
19Helen
A Sociological
Fein, "Genocide,
in the 20th Century
(New Haven,
Current Sociology
Perspective,"
1981).
38 (1990):
56.
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OF WORLD
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2000
events.
It also requires prodi
demolished
prehensively
by contingent
If the war fails these
resources, and capital.
gious inputs of manpower,
of the
may be lost in part or entirety to the great if not fatal detriment
state. Alternatively,
successful war may result in great material
and
benefits.
This
sound
with
may
paradoxical
psychological
regard to
as
as
true
two
in
is
it
main
fact
for
for
the
but
other
types of
genocide
war.
is
modern
often
conducted
Indeed,
state-organized
genocide
or in parallel with them. Equally
all three
simultaneously
importantly,
a
common
to
nation
the
state's
have
types
relationship
place within
the broader international
system.
sov
is between
and usually powerful
Type One warfare
recognized
states
In
within
the
the
twentieth
the
"total
system.
century
ereign
in the way that, for
ization" of these interstate
struggles, particularly
instance during the Second World War,
adversaries have
indiscrimi
millions
of the noncombatants
of the
nately
targeted and murdered
some
not
to
writers
has
led
describe
this
side,
type of
opposing
only
warfare as "genocidal" but to discern similar psychological,
technolog
at work as those which
inform genocide.20
ical, and political
processes
is to confuse
the issue of moral
with
the
This, however,
repugnance
and ends. The bombing
observation
of means
of Dresden
and Hiro
the creation
and active mobilization
of
shima, or for that matter
are
of
nuclear arsenals capable
global annihilation,
arguably,
producing
no less "crimes against humanity"
or Treblinka.
than Auschwitz
They
of either traditionally
also suggest the obsolescence
grounded or more
are supposed to
codes of military
conduct which
formulated
recently
act as brakes on unlimited warfare between
combatants.
Nevertheless,
in this type of war there remains, however
residually, and even where
one side demands
the unconditional
surrender of the other, a Clause
witzian notion
that the struggle is fought between
adver
"legitimate"
saries and that at the end of the day negotiation
rather than extermi
nation will determine
of both victor
and vanquished
the position
the postwar world order.
The same is not true of the second type of warfare, however. This
a sover
in which
characterized
type is particularly
by circumstances
state which
it
one, acts against another
eign state, often a powerful
to be "illegitimate."
less
the second state is much
perceives
Usually
powerful; one thinks of the British versus the Boer states at the turn of
within
20
and Eric Markusen,
The Genocidal Mentality:
Robert
See, for example,
Jay Lifton
and David Kopf, The
and Nuclear
Holocaust
Threat
Nazi
(New York, 1990); Eric Markusen
in the 20th Century
Holocaust
and Strategic Bombing, Genocide
and Total War
(Boulder, San
Francisco,
Oxford
1995).
Levene: Why
Is the Twentieth
Century
the Century
of Genocide?
313
in
the century, Austria
1914, Nazi Germany
against Serbia in August
on Poland a global war later, or two decades
its onslaught
later still, the
The Japanese post-1937
invasion
United
States versus North Vietnam.
or the Nazi post-1941
of China,
invasion of the Soviet Union
might
in this list, even though the perceived
ille
also, arguably, be included
were
states
in
at
the
or,
ones,
gitimate
question
relatively
powerful
a briefly
other end of the "power" spectrum,
vis-?-vis
the Nigerians
secessionist
Biafra. The diversity
of these examples warns us that too
much can be made of their common
features. Nevertheless,
the nature
is characterized
of the Type Two warfare
the
by
"legiti
supposedly
mate" side dispensing
in entirety with Geneva
Convention-informed
are little more than "ter
restraints on the grounds that the opposition
rorists," "saboteurs," or "bandits" incapable of fighting conventional,
"civilized" war. Worse,
whose
they are succored by a native population
cultural and social level is beneath
Racism
contempt.
invariably con
In the circumstances,
firms this judgmental
verdict.
all "necessary"
measures
are allowable: mass aerial
for the liquidation
of resistance
mass deportation,
scorched
bombardment,
earth, counterinsurgency,
as
as
or discipli
environmental
well
devastation,
repeated retributive
without
nary massacre
regard to the age or gender of victims. These
to
features of indiscriminate
warfare inevitably bear close resemblance
warfare Type Three which
often (though not always)
involves geno
cide. Interestingly, Type Two is also much closer to Type Three
in terms
of its justification,
the "enemy" in its resistance
and obdurate unwill
to threaten
the integrity of the
ingness to submit being perceived
state. It is, therefore,
of the "legitimate"
agenda, or indeed existence,
actions and belief
"they," the adversary populace,
by their misguided
systems, not to say their atrocities
against "us," who are accused of cul
for the perpetrator's
"war of self-defense"
and responsibility
pability
as a result, has to be fought ? la outrance and without mercy.
which,
the enemy is
Type Two warfare becomes Type Three warfare when
state but a perceived
"illegitimate"
longer a perceived
"illegitimate"
or imperial framework of
within
the territorial definition
community
as in the case of the Holocaust,
state. Very unusually,
the perpetrator
to embrace population
this can be extended
groups within
allied, vas
no
is only a
sal, or subject states. Strictly
speaking, however,
genocide
cases where
a sovereign
variant of Type Three,
given that in many
state assaults elements of its own subject population
or citizenry
it does
so without
to
warfare
total
them.
For
the
instance,
resorting
against
British
vicious and punc
struggle against the Irish, while undoubtedly
never spilled over into
tuated by atrocity at its crisis stage in 1919-21,
mass people-killing.
The French
inde
struggle against the Algerian
314
JOURNAL
OF WORLD
HISTORY,
FALL
2000
in the 1950s and early '60s, teetered on its brink.
pendence movement,
The Nazi post-1939
of Poland arguably went over it, not
occupation
in
its
extermination
the
of
but in its
Jews and Roma,
only
country's
to Polish national
resistance. At stake here is what Vahakn
response
access to over
has referred to as the issue of "preponderant
Dadrian
all resources
of power."21 Whitehall
may never have contemplated
not
the
Irish
because
of inherent
institutional
against
genocide
only
restraints and humanitarian
it was ultimately
but because
sensibilities
to commit major resources to the struggle. Having
assessed
unwilling
it opted to find another, diplo
that the enemy could not be defeated,
matic
involve a degree of compromise
and the
strategy which would
In other instances where
of catastrophe.
avoidance
the state is weak
to
the
but possibly resistant to recognizing
deliver genocide
it,
ability
or
of
be
limited
lack
may
manpower
and/or by
military
by
capabilities
the strength of the communal
"enemy." The struggles in the southern
the Karen and other hill tribe regions of Burma,
Sudan, Iraqi Kurdistan,
or the northern Tamil part of Sri Lanka, where the recognized
govern
of violence
has been for much of the period of con
monopoly
in practice
its administrative
flict far from absolute,
and where
hold
to countryside,
has been limited to the major towns as opposed
all pro
vide contemporary
illustration
of this point.
are also highly
to the study
these examples
relevant
Nevertheless,
a
as
to
events
in which
of genocide
inasmuch
sequence of
they point
the states in question,
frustrated
their
by
inability to defeat
increasingly
more
have
lurched
these insurgencies,
towards
radical all-embracing
as in some of these cases, in genocide.
I
Thus
solutions
culminating,
a
occurs
where
the integrity of
state, perceiving
argue that "genocide
ment's
its agenda to be threatened
by an aggregate population?defined
by
or
to remedy the situ
state
in
terms?seeks
the
collective
communal
en masse physical
ation by the systematic,
elimination
of that aggre
or
no
to represent a threat."22
until it is
gate, in toto,
longer perceived
not to say bewildering,
in
there is something
perplexing,
is predi
research
this proposed
state-communal
equation. Genocide
that whatever
cated on the proposition
is, it cannot be con
genocide
sense between
two armed
in the normally
understood
sidered warfare
an
matched
be?but
combatants?however
may
they
unequally
Yet
clearly
entirely
one-sided
affair
in which
a group
of absolute
perpetrators
21Vahakn N.
in Victi
"The structural-functional
of genocide"
Dadrian,
components
and Emilio Viano
MA,
1975), 4: 123.
(Lexington,
mology: A New Focus, eds. Israel Drapkin
22Mark
"Is the Holocaust
of Genocide?"
Patterns of
Levene,
simply another
example
10.
Prejudice 28 (1994):
Levene: Why
Is the Twentieth
Century
the Century
of Genocide?
315
and unremitting massacre
against
apply instruments of terror, violence,
to
not
innocent
and children.23
men, women,
defenseless,
say
entirely
Thus, to ascribe threat from the people who are mass murdered
appears
as a two-sided
not simply to define genocide
dynamic
relationship
a state and an element
between
of its population
but to potentially
actions are both legitimate
infer that the perpetrator's
and justifiable.
a
state
where
it
is
down
this
Indeed,
goes
path
invariably accompanied
recent Serbian
witness
with
behavior
by the claim?as
regard to
it is defending
itself against an imminent
Kosovo?that
danger to its
national
security, territorial
integrity, or even sovereignty, while at the
same time it is going to inordinate
the evi
lengths not only to conceal
dence for mass murder but to deny that it has killed anyone.
an actual threat?where
This discrepancy
it exists at all?
between
and what the perpetrator
claims to be a threat is at the very heart of
what one might
call the genocide
conundrum.
this
Yet, paradoxically,
is the very reason that the perpetrator's
claims cannot
simply be dis
missed out of hand but requires very careful examination
and evalua
tion not only in the forensic sense of proving whether mass killing did
or did not occur but equally
a necessary
in providing
importantly
The repeated tendency by per
insight into the perpetrator's mindset.
to conjure up or imagine enemies,
or to make of real ones
petrators
than they actually are,
something much more terrifying and dangerous
a clearly cultural and/or psychological
to the
dimension
represents
Iwill return later. But crack
and one to which
genocide
phenomenon
cannot be achieved
in isolation.
Indeed itmay be
ing the conundrum
that it can only be found in the intersection
this dark?and
between
of the human condition
and the level
essentially
unquantifiable?side
are assumed
of state and interstate
to
relations where
leaderships
in the best interests of their polities and societies.
behave rationally
Yet there is already a second conundrum
here. Those who do not
or at least have not done so in a
commit genocide,
twentieth-century
time scale, do not necessarily
look askance or in horror on those who
have. Take, for example,
this statement
by a British observer of the
first authentic
1904-05?
twentieth-century
example committed?in
and Nama
in South West
against the Herero
by the Germans
people
Africa
"There can be no doubt, I think, that the war has
(Namibia):
to the German
been of an almost unmixed
benefit
colony. Two war
like races have been exterminated,
wells have been sunk, new water
holes
discovered,
23 See Chalk
the country
and Jonassohn's
mapped
definition,
and
in History,
covered
p. 23.
with
telegraph
JOURNAL
3i6
OF WORLD
amount of capital
and an enormous
tenor
of this comment
unmistakably
upbeat
lines,
HISTORY,
has been
stands
FALL
2000
laid out."24 The
contrast
in marked
to the language of the United Nations
in which genocide
Convention
is reviled as an "odious scourge." In principle,
of course, leading politi
cians stand shoulder to shoulder alongside human
rights activists and
in
in
is
of
what
leaders
their
condemnation
the
religious
popular mind
of crimes. In practice, however,
tend
considered
the most heinous
they
to be much more selective, not to say circumspect,
before leveling the
is this simply a case of narrow state interest. At the
accusation.
Nor
level of international
relations, Kuper
highest,
supposedly most moral
asserts "that for all practical purposes" the United Nations
defends the
... as an
state
of
"the
territorial
sovereign
integral part of its sov
right
ereignty
...
to
commit
genocide."25
about the
quite schizophrenic
something
one
to
On
the
hand it
international
response
community's
genocide.
a
a
treats it with repugnance
and has
Convention,
signed by majority
on those who
of its states, which
seeks to outlaw
it; pours opprobrium
a
tri
commit
international
it; is in the process of creating
permanent
There
is, thus,
clearly
to book; and yet, at the same time, has
to bring its perpetrators
or even
who either look the other way, or condone
powerful members
it be then, that
support incidents of it. Time after time. Could
actively
states that have not committed
the last one hundred
genocide within
see in those that have too close a reflection of their
years nevertheless
bunal
former selves?
Some scholars,
and Irving Louis Horowitz,
notably R. J. Rummel
in western
of genocide
the argument
that the avoidance
have posited
societies
the separation of
lies in the strength of their civic institutions,
and legislative branches,
and above all, in their demo
their executive
cratic, liberal traditions.26 Thus, societies which are tolerant, open, and
involve a
Yet these assumptions
democratic
do not commit genocide.
and more contemporary
remarkable historical
sleight of hand. True,
that before 1900 had already experienced
prolonged
in their
that were well advanced
and state building,
and
that
infrastructural
and
izing
development,
consequently
polities
nation
periods of
industrial
felt rea
24
of all Parts of the
in Tdman
"A Certain
Treatment
Rigorous
Quoted
Dedering,
in German
of the Herero
South West Africa,
Nation:
The Annihilation
1904," in The Mas
sacre inHistory,
and Penny Roberts
eds. Mark Levene
(Oxford,
1999), p. 217.
25
p. 161.
Kuper, Genocide,
26
and State Power (Brunswick, NJ, 1980);
Taking Lives, Genocide
Irving Louis Horowitz,
in The
in Totalitarian
States: Mortacracies
R. J. Rummel,
"Demoeide
and Megamurders,"
ed. I.Charny,
vol. 3 of Genocide, A Critical Bibliographical Review
Circle of Genocide,
Widening
(New Brunswick
and London,
1994),
pp. 3-39.
Le vene: Why
Is the Twentieth
Century
the Century
of Genocide?
317
a wider geo-strategic
context
sonably secure of their position within
since then, for committing
it.
less likely candidates,
have been much
But in order to arrive at this happy condition,
the leading modernizing
states certainly did commit, at the very least, proto-genocides
as well as
a number
of other practices, which
under today's international
rule
book?created
largely out of western Enlightenment
thought and prac
tice?would
be considered
dubious
if not downright
illegal. These
recourse
to
included
and above all slavery.
war, conquest,
repeated
these states with
practices, however, were crucial in providing
to
turn
in
shortcuts
which
fueled their techno
capital accumulation,
and which, by the mid
logical cutting edge and industrial revolutions
to late-nineteenth
century, had assured for them an entirely hege
monic
around the globe. Not only was this the beginning
of
position
a new world order, but a "new world pecking order," in which
these
These
states
set the tune and everybody
to dance to it.27
else was expected
This would suggest that the twentieth
century practice of genocide
has more in common with states which are new, or are heavily engaged
or are redefining or refor
in the process of state and nation building,
in order to operate more autonomously
themselves
and effec
mulating
an international
states. Thus, polities
system of nation
tively within
were latecomers
to it, including potentially
very powerful ones
a
at
like Russia and Germany,
themselves
vis-?
finding
disadvantage
vis the frontrunners,
had to consider how best they could make up lost
or unwillingly
ground. Willingly
taking on board much of the leaders'
which
military, and infrastructural aspects, superficially seemed
forward. The ensuing cultural,
social, and institutional
set
most
in
motion
the
of econ
reformulation
borrowings
profound
omies and societies. One
of the key dilemmas
for such late nation
to borrow from a cul
states, however, was not simply the requirement
once
as
alien
the
but,
template
turally
acknowledged
players within
it. Its regulators and supervisors?the
system, how to keep up with
an implicit
leader states?demanded
of new candidates
undertaking
that they would transform themselves
into polities which would oper
ate effectively
to its rules. But being funda
and coherently
according
and
fueled
its very nature a
mentally
dynamically
by capitalism?by
new state could afford to stand still and had,
cutthroat
business?no
this dominant
rather, to find ways and means of staying afloat within
administrative,
the only way
political
27The
4, 31 March
economy.
term
True,
is borrowed
1995.
some
from Misha
states were
Glenny's
BBC
able
to do so by finding
broadcast,
"All Fall Down,"
for
Radio
3i8
JOURNAL
OF WORLD
HISTORY,
FALL
2000
or geo-political
a secondary position
under the economic
themselves
a few, sometimes
while
by dint of their
aegis of the leading nations,
a relatively
found for themselves
comfortable
position,
geographic
or entrep?ts.
Still other later
niche by acting as trading intermediaries
were able to trade on
newcomers,
arrivals, particularly
postcolonial
and underdevelopment
their poverty
Western
aid. These,
interestingly,
were to commit genocide.
to become major
of
recipients
a number of states which
included
This deterministic
framework clearly has its limits and
explanatory
limitations. To restate a list of some of the main genocide
perpetrators
the Ottoman
Russia
of this century?Germany,
(the USSR),
empire
Indone
China, Cambodia,
(later Turkey),
Iraq, Pakistan, Bangladesh,
to obvious
Burundi?is
sia, Ethiopia,
Rwanda,
hardly an invitation
terms
in
of
this
wealth
and
The
of
power,
range
group
communality.
not to say political
and cultural background,
represents a major disin
or totali
to suggest ideological
centive while any attempt
proclivities
the
tarian systems as the connecting
thread would either be stretching
or
to
with
other
the
ridiculous
comparison
ideologi
demanding
point
or authoritarian
prone
regimes who have not been
cally hard-line
notable
offenders.
where do we find the
Moreover,
states who have committed
ernizing
those who have not? To argue that
tiality is all well and good but would
on the
essentially
specific instances
a
is
crucial factor.
edly, circumstance
distinction
between
those mod
of
and the generality
genocide
all such polities have the poten
for
require us to offer explanation
basis of circumstance.
Undoubt
But is it sufficient? A final thrust
posit that what all our genocidal
of the deterministic
approach might
acute anxiety about the wide
states share is a particularly
practitioner
leaders
themselves
and the global
and ever-increasing
gap between
to
in
their
within
the international
system but
relationship
special
or even mythic,
sense of a historic,
tradition of premodern
coherence,
in
authority, or imperium, both in regard to their own societies and/or
arena.
a broader regional or continental
states/soci
Thus,
genocide
com
eties have been the ones with the strongest and most persistent
a position within
the inter
plexes about having been blocked off from
on
historic
national
record,
believe,
past
system which
ought to
they
be theirs; have been the ones most prone to support leaderships who
also have
this anger and resentment;
articulated
and, consequently,
to
their
domestic
radicalize
been the ones mostly
arrangements
likely
or
as well as foreign policies
in ways that consciously
contravened
rules.
inclusivist
the
ground
system's "liberal,"
challenged
in the poem, "Esnaf
is perhaps best encapsulated
This state of mind
soon
Turkish
written
the
famous
nationalist,
Destani,"
Ziya Gok?lp
by
Le vene: Why
Is the Twentieth
after a series of catastrophic
wars:
Century
the Century
Ottoman
defeats
of Genocide?
319
in Tripolitania
and the
Balkan
because we were
We were defeated
To
We
On
take
revenge,
we
shall
the
adopt
so backward.
enemy's
science.
shall learn his skill, steal his methods.
progress
we
will
set our
We shall skip five hundred
And not stand still.
Little time is left.28
heart.
years
in other words,
is closely
linked with
genocidal
mentality,
or
at
aimed
economic
social
and
accelerated
agendas
force-paced
or
or
in
interests
of
the
change
"catching up"
alternatively
avoiding,
us
a
rules
of
the
If
the
this
little
leaders.
system
gets
circumventing,
of the genocide
it still falls
closer to the wellsprings
phenomenon,
The
somewhat
short of explaining
frustrations
why and how state/societal
are unleashed
on specific domestic
After
all, the enemy
populations.
in Gok?lp
'smessage
appears to be the West. As a result, rapid infra
structural overhaul and military
industrialization
should logically have
geared Ottoman
Turkey only toward Type One warfare as the route to
at
break out from the system's perceived
And we might
straightjacket.
at
note
states
this juncture also
various times have adopted
that other
recourse to genocide. Wilhelmine
this formula without
obvious
Ger
in its 1914 bid for "Weltmacht
oder Niedergang"?world
many
power
or collapse?did
not unleash
its fury at this point against the Jews.
a
in my understanding
Nor
of the term did Japan commit
genocide
it attempted
its own dramatic breakout, despite
global war later when
its repeated Type Two mass atrocities
and other
against the Chinese
since
this is because
peoples.
Perhaps
of its Christians,
near-extirpation
Japan
religious, or social grouping who could fulfill an
its now tiny
"enemy." Indeed, notwithstanding
Asian
its early-seventeenth
no ethnic,
contained
obvious
role as inside
and isolated northern
earlier times?Japan's
rather
era perpetra
its contemporary
century
in much
population?subdued
unusual national
makes
homogeneity
tion of genocide
unlikely.
cannot be said of Ottoman
The same, however,
Turkey at the time
of Gok?lp's writing. Thus,
if the specificity of genocide over and above
a drive to rapid nation building
is also bound up with the social and
a
at what point does this
ethnic
of
state's
composition
population,
on
toxic? The Ottoman
for
become
instance, was historically,
Empire,
Ainu
28Uriel
(London,
Heyd, Foundations
1950), p. 79.
of Turkish Nationalism,
The Life and Teachings
of Ziya Gok?lp
JOURNAL
320
OF WORLD
HISTORY,
FALL
2000
a rather successful multi-ethnic
the whole,
entity. Even with the emer
and, thanks to the events of 1789, the explosion
gence of modernity
onto the wider world,
there was no
of the French nation-state
model
reason why the Sublime Porte should not have been able to
particular
its diverse ethnographic
and religious elements
refashion
along these
citizens. After
lines into good Ottoman
all, there were no given blue
or guidelines
as to what constituted
Even Gok?lp's
the nation.
not
exclude
his half
did
Turkish
community
"imagined"
presumably
in
nation
the first eighteenth-century
Kurdish
self. Indeed,
states,
which Gok?lp
and other national
France and the United
States?to
in principle
ist theoreticians
would have looked for inspiration?were
print
and highly assimilationist,
embracing
people of dif
under
of
ethnic
the
and
rubric
By a
origins
religious
citizenship.
these
somewhat different route, a hybrid British "nation" also followed
contours.
code for all
thus became
the recognized
Inclusive citizenship
to
for
instance,
followed,
sovereignty,
aspirants
nineteenth-century
by
both
universalist
ferent
to its Jews (and Catholics),
and for
an Ottoman
state desirous of inter
late-nine
of its territorial
national
integrity. Another
recognition
as
we have
entrant
into
nation-state
the
system, Japan,
teenth-century
a
was
out
in
line
of
from
base
fortunate
seen,
starting
people-homo
with regard
Germany
post-1871
least on paper?by
that matter?at
to
state proposed
Soviet
the post-1917
(countersystem)
geneity, while
on
at
in
circumvent
least
the national
itself
issue,
part, by founding
for a genuinely
internationalist
supposedly provided
principles which
and all-embracing
color-blind
citizenship.
with the early liberal universalist
French and
The major weakness
was
and
what
that
what
models
they
they proclaimed
Anglo-Saxon
one
were
at
variance
in
with
did
another, most
quite
practice
actually
it came to their colonial
black populations.
when
When,
blatantly
the
ilk
the
of
thus, latter-day
sought to scrutinize
ideologues
Gok?lp
source of western
state advantage
and to adapt the recipe for their own
they most
readily latched onto was not the
or
innovation
per se but the abil
technological
modernizing
impulses
a
to
ethnos?
national
distinct
mobilize
ity
people?the
supposedly
most
a
inter
is
In
into
and powerful unity.
coherent
retrospect, what
on
a
is his emphasis
poem
alarming?in
Gok?lp's
esting?and
ethnic compo
exclusive
"we," that is, those "authentic"
thoroughly
in the past
nents of the Ottoman
which
had
supposedly
population
reassem
the empire great and glorious and which
made
consciously
return it to greatness
would
bled as a tool for national
regeneration
societies'
once
benefit,
what
again.
Gok?lp was hardly alone
Europe,
nineteenth-century
in his
leading
search
for national
scholars
ur- man.
and academicians
Across
in the
Levene: Why
Is the Twentieth
Century
the Century
of Genocide?
321
new
and literature had
of history, archaeology,
philology,
disciplines
contours
remote
for
of
the
the
the
"national" past,
drawn
already
study
not only for its own sake but as an instrument
to "mobilize
which
by
most
in
Even
the
future."29
that
forceful
change
nineteenth-century
to the national
to be
counterblast
claimed
thesis, namely Marxism,
able to construct
the genuinely
universal modern man?the
for homo sovie?cus?on
the basis of a scientific examination
prototype
of man's
from his natural history. All
ascendance
these historical
and prehis
were
not
reinventions
torical
but often utterly
selective
only highly
them from becoming
this did not prevent
spurious. Nevertheless,
received wisdoms which,
adopted and adapted by the elites or would
serve radical agendas.
be elites of other "latecomer"
It is
states, would
no
that the primary frontrunner
and
moreover,
coincidence,
perhaps
for these lines of enquiry should be that nineteenth-century
state par excellence, Germany.
Nor
that it should be Ger
many again which would most
strikingly appropriate new racial lines
in this national
of thought
quest.
construc
and indeed antinational
The flip side to these national
assumed the existence
of
tions, however, was that they all implicitly
exemplar
latecomer
not only would not fit the prescribed
which
groupings
population
to contaminate
in some critical sense, threatened
model but which,
it.
can
the
of
in
this
be
located
Again
crystallization
tendency
European,
from the late nineteenth
informed wisdoms
and early
scientifically
centuries.
In particular, medical
twentieth
science's
of
"discovery"
not
mass
bacteria
and
bacilli
coincided
with
death-dealing
only
epi
in the new urban and metropolitan
centers but also with new
demics
and obsessive
Social Darwinian
discourses
about the "survival of the
fittest." Fears of communal weakness
and febrility thus became associ
ated with anxieties
that "foreign bodies" operating
from within the
or
contaminate
undermine
the
might
body-politic
physical and mental
of the nation,
informed but
leading in turn to further medically
on
to
value-free
how
protect or improve
prognostications
supposedly
the national
stock by eugenics or other programs of social engineering.
anxieties were a common
These fin-de-si?cle
feature of the western
or western-orientated
world at large. But they arguably played or were
to play more prominent
states
roles among political
elites in latecomer
who perceived
their national weakness
and
who
radical
keenly
sought
to overcome
or transcend
their limitations. One
policies
tendency we
health
have already noted with regard to these elites is the extreme
lengths
to which
we
these goals. Another
they have gone in order to achieve
29
Giddens,
Nation-State,
p. 12.
JOURNAL
322
OF WORLD
HISTORY,
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2000
to blame supposedly
is the tendency
internal
corrupting
these strategies go wrong. The two aspects,
"foreign bodies" whenever
in the sense that by their very effort
connected
indeed, are intimately
to attain what is usually unattainable
such state strategies are likely to
come unstuck,
not
to
increased frustration but with it the
leading
only
should
note
that this must be the result of the insider enemy
further rationalization
or enemies'
conscious
of the state's heroic not to say Her
sabotaging
in crisis
scenarios
culean efforts. Thus,
genocide
regularly crystallize
a regime's conscious
situations
in which
effort at break out from its
fetters encounters
fail
obstacles which
recall some previous
perceived
a
The
classic
ure, either of its own or that committed
by
predecessor.
the Holocaust,
whose
full-scale
implementation
began dur
example,
life and death struggle with the Soviet
ing an early stage of the Nazis'
in 1941, makes no sense without
Union
reference back to the previ
ous major
crisis of German
state and society in 1918-19,
in which by
were held to be responsible.
By the
the
Ukrainian
and
"kulaks,"
against
to
set
to
has
be
1933,
1929
against the
Jews qua Jews
popular consent,
same token, the Stalinist
drive
from
other "ethnic" peasantries,
crisis of revolution
and civil war
between
1917 and 1921; the Ittihad
in 1915-16,
of the Armenians
against the repeated
state from 1878 through the 1890s, culminating
in
crises of Ottoman
extermination
the Indonesian military's
the Balkan wars of 1912-13;
movement
communist
of the countrywide
(the PKI) in 1965 against
to nationalist
PKI challenge
rule in 1948; the Rwan
the attempted
in 1994 against
of the Tutsi
the
dese "Hutu Power" extermination
to
efforts
and
the
of
destabilize
destroy
counterrevolutionary
backdrop
new postcolonial
in the period
the only
Indeed,
regime
1959-64.
ist extermination
major example of genocide
is the Cambodian
Khmer
notable prequel
being perpetrated without
and political
destruction
of
ethnic
Rouge
an
from
which
nevertheless
1975 through
1979,
example
groupings
a
cat
to
of
sequence
immediately
preceding
points
quite extraordinary
as
to
mill.
Even
with
this
added
the
the
Khmer
grist
Rouge
astrophes
is
termed
the
"Never
what
here
however,
perpetrators'
example,
in some historic context
Again"
syndrome applies: the regime locating
a communal
intent on the dis
adversary, or adversaries,
supposedly
ruption or sabotage of its transformative-salvationist
agenda.30
one might wish to draw from this picture
An obvious conclusion
or authoritar
are stridently
of genocide
that perpetrators
ideological
30 For more
Holocaust
Understanding,
27-64.
is
see Mark Levene,
The
Threads:
this argument,
Rwanda,
"Connecting
in Genocide:
of Contemporary
Pattern
Genocide,"
Essays Towards
ed. Roger W. Smith
and Prevention,
(Williamsburg,
1999), pp.
Early Warning
on
and The
Levene: Why
Is the Twentieth
Century
the Century
of Genocide?
323
ian regimes more often than not led by unhinged,
dicta
psychopathic
tors. Popular portrayals of Hitler, Stalin, Saddam Hussein,
or Pol Pot
only reinforce the sense that their actions against "imagined" enemies
are essentially
of extreme
and projec
symptoms
delusion,
paranoia,
tion. The very fact that in some instances, as for example
in the case
of the "kulaks," the construction
of a coherent
and identifiable
adver
in the heads of the Stalinist
sary took place
leadership and bore no
to
to
social
view that our subject
the
adds
realities,
relationship
only
is one primarily for clinical psychological
Indeed, Nazi
investigation.
as
and
about
world
ranting
raving
Jewish
just cause for
conspiracy
cases
worst
are
their actions would
that
of
behavior
suggest
genocidal
not simply deeply
irrational but completely
mad.
The
this line of reasoning,
is threefold.
however,
problem with
while
the
"madness"
of
above
is
the
First,
alleged
instigators
genocide
one way or the other, an extended
not easily verifiable
list which
for instance,
include Atat?rk,
and Milosevic
would be
Mao,
might,
to
of
the
this
support
assumption.
hardpressed
generality
even where
states are totalitarian
and heavily
Second,
genocidal
are
on
a
founded
domestic
lim
base?however
support
they
policed,
must itself at least in part be mobi
ited or narrow that may be?which
in the perpetration
lized as accomplices
of genocide.
Itmust therefore
follow that either this support base is itself suffering from similar delu
sions as its leaders, or alternatively
is act
that the leadership
believes
in
the
interests
best
of
In fact, the two
ing rationally
polity and people.
are
not
irreconcilable.
Norman
Cohn
positions
provoca
necessarily
some thirty years ago the manner
in which
fan
tively demonstrated
tasies reminiscent
times took strong hold of a significant
of medieval
German
of post-1918
indeed especially,
proportion
society, including,
in the form of
amongst many highly educated and professional
people,
the notion
that worldwide
its
status
Jewry, despite
dispersal, minority
was actually spearheading
an international,
and history of persecution,
even cosmic conspiracy
to emasculate
and ultimately
wipe out not
western
the
German
but
all
civilization.31
Fears
of sexual,
only
people
and mental
of the spread of disease, and the
contamination,
a
debilitation
of
virile volk by races of Jewish or
consequent
healthy,
it
could be argued, did not so much have to be manu
gypsy antimen,
as the
factured by the Nazis but simply echoed
and then amplified
instincts of a vox populi. In this way, it could be further argued,
visceral
cultural,
31 See Norman
The
Cohn, Warrant
for Genocide,
the Protocols of the Elders ofZion
(London,
1967);
and mystical anarchists of theMiddle
tionary milleniarians
Demons: An Inquiry Inspired by the Great Witch-Hunt
and
Myth
of the Jewish World Conspiracy
The Pursuit of theMilknium:
Revolu
(London,
Ages
1970); Europe's
(New York, 1975).
Inner
324
JOURNAL
state organized
but bottom-up
OF WORLD
HISTORY,
FALL
2000
not from the top down,
is actually constructed
genocide
from hate models
societal pho
grass-roots
provided by
bias.
in which
is, of course, the well-known
position
Goldhagen
is
it
is
because
within
the
embedded
cultural
genocide
plausible
deeply
a
not
of
But
does
from
his
conclude
society.
Goldhagen
archetypes
were
in
of
German
the
that
Holocaust
study
participants
ordinary
they
other than normal,
toward
anything
simply that they were
impelled
of Jews by an eliminationist
often
sadistic killing
anti-Semitism.
This
thesis is important for the issue of compar
Undoubtedly,
Goldhagen's
ative research
in its implicit demand
for further consideration
of the
as
as
stones
interconnections
well
between
stepping
genocidal
popular
ismissing
culture and state-building
from Goldhagen
agendas. What
is the context. Traditional
anti-Semitism
within
large sections of the
into something
population
crystallized
utterly toxic only dur
in
in
circumstances
other
words
of
ing 1918-19,
quite extraordinary
a third reason why
mass
trauma and disorientation.
This provides
"mad" or "evil" regimes alone for genocide will not suffice if
blaming
in which
those regimes
this fails to take heed of the circumstances
German
arise.
It is surely no
comes
genocides
accident
that the first great wave of contemporary
out of the actuality
of that great
and aftermath
in
and watershed,
the First World War,
twentieth-century
catastrophe
ones
or
were
or
which particular states?the
which collapsed,
defeated,
were most obviously
embittered
by the war and postwar outcome?
economic
and not least by the post-1929
aftershock?were
also the
ones which
discarded
the received wisdoms
of the liberal
increasingly
"second" or "third" ways to
system in favor of alternative
capitalist
and
ultimate
progress
triumph. Ordinary
people did not initiate the
were
sometimes
But the manner
which
of their
consequent.
genocides
or
to these domestic
in their enabling,
either
convulsions,
or
on
new
to
masters
in their inability
resist
put the brakes
possibly
with their programs for a radical reshaping of society, were critical to
response
these
outcomes.
thus emerges from the period
1914 to 1945 is a pattern of
or overthrow
to
is
of
which
linked
the
supercession
closely
genocide,
or bankrupt
and
their
discredited
traditional
regimes
by
replacement
at least in part popularly
radical ones with maximalist
agen
legitimized
All
these regimes were
das for social and/or national
regeneration.
or
in the sense that they sought to challenge,
"revisionist"
circumvent,
What
transcend
And
all,
coherence,
world order.
the terms of either the pre- or post-Versailles
a streamlined
in their efforts to socially engineer
people
both for its own sake and also for this wider purpose, were
Levene: Why
Is the Twentieth
Century
the Century
of Genocide?
325
to greater or lesser degrees ready to reject or abandon
former policies
or assimilating
aimed at integrating
ethnic,
religious, or social group
"fit" into the state's organic con
ings which did not easily or obviously
of
itself.
ception
sees in these strivings,
Bauman
in Nazism
and most particularly
and Stalinism,
"the most
uninhibited
of the
consistent,
expressions
a
of
In
other
rational
words,
spirit
modernity."32
highly
project. Yet
on the Roma, or, again under Nazi
when we look at the Nazi onslaught
extermination
Romania's
of its Bessarabian
and Bukovinan
or
Stalin's
of
and other
Tatar, Chechen,
Jewry,
genocidal
deportations
or
as
lesser
known
such
the
minority
peoples,
Iraqi "Assyr
examples
ian affair" of 1933, or almost coincidentally,
Mussolini's
of
extirpation
one cannot but be struck by their per
the hill peoples of Cyrenaica,
suffer genocide
petrators'
irrationality. Their victims did not ultimately
a
not
"fit"
because
did
of people
simply
they
regime's perception
aegis,
at them
suffered it because
the finger was pointed
homogeneity.
They
as the group or groups accused of actively
or
the
disrupting
polluting
state's drive to transcend
its limitations.
are back with
or hyperinflated
We
the massive
imaginings of the
acute
another
as a
has described
state, which
observer, Ron Aronson,
Aronson
does not propose that this
"rupture with reality."33 However,
to modernity.
has no relationship
On the contrary, what he argues is
as an instrument
that in situations where modernity
is harnessed
for
the realization
of impossible goals what you end up with
is a dialecti
cal set of tensions between power and impotence,
reason and madness.
In a critical sense the gargantuan nature of a regime's agenda may indi
cate in advance
the degree to which
it has already lost touch with real
"the realization
of the
ity. But the actual attempt at implementation,
as he calls it, is likely to result in a crisis in which, hav
unrealizable"
to retreat, the
itself into a corner from which
it is unable
ing boxed
is in "reshaping what resists," that
regime finds that its only recourse
violence.34
Aronson
is, massive
suggests that it is not
Interestingly,
that this extreme
and seemingly
irra
only in instances of genocide
can occur. The United
tional behavior
in its
for instance,
States,
to obliterate
first much
of North Korea
in the early 1950s,
attempts
and then North Vietnam
in the 1960s and early 1970s, not to say the
rest of Indochina,
an
between
speaks volumes about the contradictions
its
and
the
of
apparently
all-powerful
hegemon
actuality
inability to
in its own assured image. The discrepancy
reorder the world
between
32
Bauman, Modernity,
p. 93.
33
Ronald Aronson,
The Dialectics
3< Ibid.
p. 136.
of Disaster,
A Preface
toHope
(London,
1983),
p. 169.
JOURNAL
326
OF WORLD
HISTORY,
FALL
2000
of a recog
hubris and humiliation
does not have to be the prerogative
nized genocide
taken out on a communal
state, nor necessarily
scape
crisis resolution
could as easily be in the form of an
goat. Attempted
breakout
1914 attempted
aggressive Type One warfare; Germany's
or
from perceived
for
Two
instance,
encirclement,
1990
Iraq's Type
invasion of Kuwait or, as a latter day extension
of either of these tra
a scenario?bar
of nuclear weapons,
the
the unleashing
different
of
World
War
Two?nar
sequence
culminating
to date.
rowly avoided
is the state leaderships'
all these scenarios share in common
What
jectories,
somewhat
conviction
of the malevolence
of forces "out there" that have con
not
to
frustrate
realization
of their agenda but to harm
the
spired
only
and even possibly physically
their own people. This does not
eradicate
these anxieties
have some grain of truth in
rule out instances where
are those
most
them. However,
the
extraordinary
examples of genocide
to suggest
notable
for the complete
evidence
absence of any concrete
a
that
let alone ability,
communal
group qua group has the intention,
to carry through such a maleficence.
The Nazi assertion
that "the Jew
is the German
the
enemy" perhaps represents
people's most dangerous
most
Aronson's
rupture thesis.35
example
confirming
thoroughgoing
in the Serbian parliament
in 1991 that "the
But the statement made
ethnic
the
truth is (my italics) that all non-Serb
groups, especially
are at this very minute
the genocide
of all Serbs"
preparing
are hardly exclusive
to the era of Stal
suggests that such projections
inism and fascism.36
since the
of genocide
the persistence
and prevalence
Indeed,
to an average of almost one case a
destruction
of Nazism?running
lead one to further ponder what motor contin
year since 1945?must
Croats,
ues to drive this seemingly
immediate
after
irresistible
lunacy?37 The
its trials of German
and Japan
math of the Second World War, with
ese war criminals
at Nuremberg
of the
and Tokyo,
the inauguration
on Human
it both its Charter
and
and with
United
Nations,
Rights
Genocide
Convention,
international
system
should have been crystal-clear
signals from the
newcomer
states
that its perpetration
by
leaders
35
in Uriel Tal, "On the Study of the Holocaust
and Genocide,"
Yad Vashem
Quoted
Studies 13 (1979): 7-52.
36
on the
in Paul Parin, "Open Wounds,
Reflections
Quoted
Ethnopsychoanalytical
inMass Rape, The War against Women
in Bosnia-Herzegovina,
in Former Yugoslavia,"
Wars
ed. Alexandra
and London,
(Lincoln
1994), p. 50.
Stiglmayer
37 See Barbara Harff and Ted Robert
of Genocides
"Toward Empirical
Gurr,
Theory
since 1945," International
of Cases
Studies
and Measurement
Identification
and Politicides:
of the State: Genocides,
and more
their "Victims
32 (1988):
359-71,
recently
Quarterly
from 1945 to 1995," in Contemporary
Genocides:
and Group Repression
Politicides
Causes,
Cases,
Consequences,
ed. Albert].
Jongman
(The Hague,
1996),
pp. 33-58.
Levene: Why
Is the Twentieth
Century
the Century
of Genocide?
327
not be tolerated. Yet, paradoxically,
it was the willingness
of
or condone,
these very same leaders at this very same time to acquiesce
or even officially
or
allies such as the Czechs
sponsor, former wartime
the Poles in their sub-genocidal
ethnic cleansings
of millions
of Ger
mans and other unwanted
peoples from their territories, not to say of
would
continuance
the Soviet Union's
of its prewar reordering of communal
which
seemed to offer a
populations
primarily by mass deportation,
and hardly
subliminal
It was as if
countermessage.
quite different
human rights were being put on a frozen pedestal of abstract principle
for the foreseeable
future in order to enable states created or recreated
to get on with the creation of social conditions
in a postwar context
to their rapid modernization
and consolidation.
Indeed,
appropriate
to be that it was expected that the practical
the message
seemed
achievement
of these goals would
involve ethnic standardization,
the
or difficult population
of troublesome
removal or dissipation
groups, or
those who, perhaps because of their "primitive" and "backward" cul
in the path of progress.
tures, were deemed obstacles
These
would
that genocide would
suggest, ? la Bauman,
imperatives
new
state
be committed
for
rational reasons,
by
leaderships
perfectly
to
associated with their developmental
operate and compete
blueprints
within an increasingly
international
economy. The
integrated
political
in the interwar years was most associ
which
very fact that genocide,
states in Europe and the Near East,
ated with new or newly remodeled
in the post-1945
became a global phenomenon
ebb of the European
or
some
must
to this line of
tide
credence
give
imperial
neo-imperial
for instance,
the genocidal
of a num
behavior
thought. Superficially,
ber of South American
countries
and South Asian
tribal
peo
against
and integrate rich forest and
ples, in their efforts to reach out, connect,
resources of geographically
other extractive
for
peripheral hinterlands
the benefit of their already advancing metropolitan
would
economies,
suggest a wholly
developmental
logic. But even in these largely "off
the map"
instances
of contemporary
such logic has been
genocide,
so
one
dimensional.
rarely quite
The name of the game in these instances has been that of former
Zia's "develop or perish,"
in other words,
President
the
Bangladeshi
courses
in rapid modernization,
whatever
the conse
race
in
fear
of
the global
for position,
quences.38
being left behind
or much worse, being forced back into a
thus
perpetual
dependency,
pursuit
of crash
The
38The
Zia of Bangladesh,
in the late 1970s, coinciding
with
rallying cry of President
on the
the onset of the genocidal
Hill Tracts. See Veena Kukreja,
onslaught
Chittagong
in South Asia, Pakistan, Bangladesh
Relations
and India, (New Delhi
and Lon
Civil-Military
don, 1991), p. 164.
JOURNAL
328
OF WORLD
HISTORY,
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2000
era something
has always had in the contemporary
of an air of desper
ation about it. That native peoples have particularly
been the casual
ties in this process, however, has not been a case simply of their inhab
or hydroelectric
for roads, mines,
dams.
iting territories
designated
or Bangladeshi
in the eyes of notably Brazilian,
Rather,
Indonesian,
to some preconceived
it has been their failure to behave
and
their
who,
barbarous,
type
recognizing
primitive,
preferably passive
station in the great scheme of things, would consequently
and
allotted
or
as
soon
as
into
the
first
fade
oblivion
bulldozers
away
conveniently
settlers
On
the
refusal
for
the
of,
contrary,
transmigratory
appeared.
or Papuans
in Irian Jaya (West
the jumma in Bangladesh
instance,
to lie down and die quietly but instead organize
and fashion
Papua)
in order to more
into modern
"fourth world"
identities
themselves
resist state encroachment,
provides a potent clue both as to
effectively
technocrats,
of the genocidal
upon them and the per
onslaughts
must be some other
that
behind
them
justification
petrators'
repeated
more organized
force directing
their sabotage
of the state
outside
the intensification
agenda.
developmental
This notion
that the targeted victim group are really the proxies,
or hid
or
but dissembled
stooges,
agents of a much more malevolent
on
state
mission
its
intent
the
self-directed
den power
own,
denying
and genuine
unfettered
integrity
seemingly
independence
an
us
in the
for genocide
toward
back yet again
gravitates
explanation
mindsets
where
the perpetrator
much murkier waters of psychological
sees international
in everything.
In the post-1945
world
conspiracies
towards
have
international
such accusations
of Cold War-dominated
politics,
results. Tagging whole
flown thick and fast with devastating
popula
in the Indonesia
of 1965, East Timor a decade
tions as "communist"
state justification
of the early 1980s provided
later, or the Guatemala
and Cambodia,
But so too, in the Soviet Union,
for genocide.
China,
or
as
"Soviet
diverse
did
revisionist,"
branding
"cosmopolitan,"
of these examples,
In the most extreme
"stooge of US
imperialism."
were
not
in
the Khmer Rouge
Cambodia,
regime
only
specific ethnic
Chams
of Chinese,
and Muslim
Vietnamese,
minority
populations
to such charges, but literally anyone who had
vulnerable
particularly
to have been living or seeking refuge in the US-backed
the misfortune
zone around Phnom
it fell to the Khmer
Penh when
government
into "true"
of
division
in
The
1975.
society,
ensuing
Rouge
April
Khmer who would
"super
enjoy the fruits of the country's projected
slated for perpetual hard labor
great leap forward" and "new" people
that the latter,
and probable
death, was founded on the assumption
however
fleetingly,
were
tainted
by
their
association
with
western
Levene: Why
Is the Twentieth
Century
the Century
of Genocide?
329
Even then, as the regime's closed Utopian experiment
imperialism.
a
halt and began disintegrating
under the weight
of the
ground to
tasks it had set itself, the list of "enemies"
shifted and
impossible
further still to embrace anyone that the regime deemed for
expanded
we come face to face with anxi
Here, however,
eign or inauthentic.
go much
deeper than any set in motion
simply by Cold
to have denied
The historic
the
enemy perceived
ideologies.
Khmer their rightful greatness were the neighboring
Vietnamese.
Com
in 1978, of course, was supposed to be a fraternal ally.
munist Vietnam
Yet in that year the genocidal
reached
trajectory of the Khmer Rouge
eties which
War
both its apogee and nemesis when practically
the whole population
of
its Eastern Zone were provided with blue scarves for their deportation
on the collective
and then extermination
indictment
that their Khmer
were occupied
minds."39
by "Vietnamese
The episode of the blue scarves ought to throw doubt on arguments
treat genocidal
as in some Lin
victim groups as fixed entities
which
naean system of plant and animal classification,
instead of as the prod
ucts?often
the perpetrators'
imaginary ones?of
entirely
assemblage
of social reality. Lemkin's formulation
of genocide based on genos (race)
to our well-rounded
in this sense is a disservice
of the
comprehension
bodies
Lemkin's
focus on the destruction
of the
Certainly,
a
was
correct
structure"
of
communal
and
group
"biological
appropri
ate inasmuch as a distinctiveness
of genocide
lies in the mass murder
of women
of all ages equally and without
discrimination
from the men
who are their blood relatives and with the purpose of denying or seek
as well as social reproduction.40
But how
ing to deny their biological
this group of people
it does so at all, in eth
identifies itself, or whether
terms is immaterial
to either a "genocidal
nic, religious, or political
or the actuality of sys
of
human
and
abuse
process"
rights
persecution
tematic liquidation. When
it came to legalizing discrimination
against
phenomenon.
of them as a "race" proved to have
Jews the Nazis'
conceptualization
no empirical
or juridical foundation.
By the same token, Himmler's
to isolate the authen
of
academics
and
engagement
special institutes
tic Roma achieved
but
In the end,
messages.
nothing
contradictory
state perpetrators
exterminate
of
because
groups
people
they perceive
them as a threat and find racial, ethnic,
venient
for this purpose.
39 Ben
Kiernan,
The Pol Pot Regime,
Race,
or social
Power
tags for them as con
and Genocide
(New Haven
and Lon
don,
1996), p. 408.
40
Lemkin, Axis
p. 24.
spective,"
Rule,
p. 79. See
Fein's
definition
in "Genocide,
A
Sociological
Per
330
JOURNAL
OF WORLD
HISTORY,
FALL
2000
that a group need necessarily
does not mean
be a
This, however,
to be victimized.
to know
is important
is
What
tabula rasa waiting
or appears in the perpetra
what it is about "the group" that challenges
tor state's mind
to challenge
its authority,
legitimacy, or integrity. The
in Bangladesh,
in southern
in Burma, Dinka
and Nuer
Karen
in Rwanda may not have objectively
Kurds in Iraq, or Tutsi
states, but the fact that
represented mortal dangers to their respective
a
more
elites
of
each
have
framework of
significant
pluralistic
sought
jumma
Sudan,
it against the grain of centralist-minded
state, or an autonomy within
have
been
agendas, may
enough for them to be viewed as such. Add
to this a historic association
of these groups with former imperial rulers
and one can begin to itemize common
pro
ingredients which might
for a genocidal
in Saddam's
recipe. Of the Kurds
Iraq, Kanan
more
notes
"suffered
than
others not
that
Makiya
they
specifically
were
resisted
but
because
and
because
Kurds,
they
fought back
they
were
considered
hard."41 Not
all Kurds,
Some
though.
"loyal" and
on
In
the Ba'athist
side.
another
case, that of the
significant
fought
was
in
it
of 1959,
Tibetans
the Chinese
onslaught
perhaps not only
a territorial
to
reassert
which
their bid
their autonomy
represented
vide
to the People's Republic
but a cultural one to its hegemonic
challenge
In other words, the threat of a bad example.
and monolithic
wisdom.
a thorn
One can note many
similar cases where a people have become
in the side of a regime not so much
for their "ethnic" or "national"
characteristics
but for what they socially or even morally
represented,
that power and resources might
be shared
the idea, for instance,
that soci
between
different communal
tendencies;
groups or political
or perhaps
but diverse and multicultural;
ety need not be homogenous
at the world. George
that there are other ways of looking
context
of Christianity
and Euro
has spoken of the Jews in the
as the incarnation,
and unaware?
"albeit wayward
pean civilization
in the shape of the Nazis,
of its own best hopes." When
Europe,
simply
Steiner
to extirpate
attempted
lation" but a "lunatic
ers of the ideal."42
them, it was thus not only a form of "self-muti
carri
retribution"
against the "inextinguishable
All this surely brings us back less to the victim groups and more to
it is
commit
what
the nature of the driven regimes which
genocide,
to
most
what
that impels them and, as a necessary
that,
corollary
them. Our argument has rested on the proposition
frightens or haunts
41Kanan
don,
Cruelty and Silence: War, Tyranny, Uprising and
Makiya,
1993), p. 219.
42
in Bluebird's Castle
Steiner,
(London,
1971), pp. 41-42.
George
theArab World
(Lon
Levene: Why
that
Is the Twentieth
the drive to genocide
or latent tendency
marked
Century
the Century
of Genocide?
331
is a function
of states with a particularly
to dispute the discrepancy
between
the way
the world is and the way they think that it ought to be. The era of Cold
War
and of bipolar,
nuclear-armed,
struggle
including
potentially
to the toxic potential
gave an added edge and intensity
undoubtedly
or "enemies of the peo
in this condition.
inherent
"Enemies within"
were
communist
both
up
by
conjured
regularly
hard-pressed
ple"
or geographically
sensitive
oppo
regimes and their most vehement
in the "free world" camp as justification
for the extirpation
of
as
or other elements
to
in the population
stand
ethnic
perceived
to
to their monodirectional
obstacles
progress.
paths
Competition
to given
in their support or opposition
the superpowers,
between
some of these outcomes.
eth
states, also directly affected
Supporting
nic insurgencies,
for instance, as the United
States covertly did with
in Tibet
in the 1950s, or the Kurdish
Tsogdu
regard to the Mimang
or
not
to make tangible Chinese
in
the
seemed
1970s,
only
pesh merga
nents
international
there really were
plots aimed at
so
in
increased
the
them,
doing vastly
undermining
vulnerability
of ordinary Tibetans
and Kurds to genocide.
Likewise, US geo-strate
as to the imminence
to
of South East Asia's
gic obsessions
collapse
one
in
in
the
of
Phnom
Penh's
fall
wake
communism,
1975, provided
Iraqi state
fears
that
but
stark examples
of a state?Indonesia?being
given the
to
the
the
marxisant-led
and
green light
year
extirpate
following
newly
of
liberated Portuguese
colony of East Timor to the tune of one-third
its million-strong
inhabitants.
Western
for Indonesia's
of course,
stands in
backing
advantage,
contrast
to the simultaneous,
marked
and utterly autarkic
self-willed
to overcome
drive by the Khmer Rouge
the limitations
of Cambodia's
of the most
that
scenarios,
perceived
febrility. Of all twentieth-century
genocidal
nature
in many
in
its
of late-1970s Cambodia
demonstrates
respects
extreme
to
deemed
be
away everything
crystallization.
By clearing
non-Cambodian
debris the Khmer Rouge
aimed to begin again, as it
so
In
from
scratch.
assumed
that this would provide
were,
doing they
innate power would
the necessary
from
which
Cambodia's
springboard
to its twelfth-cen
be dramatically
the
unleashed,
country
returning
a
on
one
matter
in
if
of
Yet
level this marks out
tury glory days
years.
as
not to say
the Khmer Rouge's
both peculiarly
Salvationist,
agenda
on a narrow and unwavering
Utopian, as well as unusually
dependent
set of ideological
to
in order
arrive at this transcendent
assumptions
in reading too much
into this perspec
there is a danger
destination,
tive. Ideological
Pol Pot and his followers
certainly were. And
good
communists?in
But ultimately
what so desper
their own eyes?too.
332
JOURNAL
OF WORLD
HISTORY,
FALL
2000
ately impelled them was an intense Khmer patriotism which demanded
state against
of an ancient not to say mythic Khmer
their revitalization
the grain of an unjust, hostile,
and bloody world. One might
go fur
ther and say that what mattered most to the Khmer Rouge was less the
a simple, brazen
would
get them there and more
ideology which
reassertion
their
Hutu
of Wille
seen
zu Macht.
in
of the same functional
pragmatism
something
While
Serbia's
Milosevic
and
Croatia's
genocides.
Tudj
on
to arch-nationalist
spots from communist
changed
in Bosnia and beyond, Rwandese
roads to war and subgenocide
leaders sought to defy regional pressure and international
accords
We have
more recent
man happily
to eliminate
for power sharing with former Tutsi exiles by attempting
all perceived
this latter great end-of-the-century
That
opponents.
came after the collapse
of the Cold War
and in an era in
genocide
to
the ideological
American
guru Francis Fukuyama,
which,
according
to liberal capitalism had been comprehensively
alternatives
trashed on
the slag heap of history, must surely give us pause.43
to Fukuyama
in Kosovo
Events
there
surely confirm that contrary
as strong
for genocide
does remain one great ideological
underpinning
now, at the onset of the twenty-first
century as it was at the end of the
nineteenth:
nationalism.
Indeed, one might posit that the emergence
states out of multi-ethnic
in the wake of
of new nation
Yugoslavia
communist
demise both there and more generally,
the most
represents
in world historical
reassertion
marked
of toxic tendencies
develop
ment
record. Kosovo
should remind us that these
from the pre-1914
never
can perhaps be
tendencies
away. Their
continuity
truly went
to a Serbian opinion-former
and pol
illustrated best by brief reference
to say on the Kosovo
issue. Vaso Cubrilovic
icymaker who had much
was one of the group of young terrorists, alongside Gavrilo
Princip,
who had planned
the assassination
of
in Sarajevo. Unlike
however,
Princip,
a respected historian
to become
War
where he wrote policy papers for the
ing, in effect, state terrorism to get rid
the Archduke
Franz Ferdinand
survived the Great
Cubrilovic
at the University
of Belgrade,
advocat
government
Yugoslav
and
of the country's Muslims
He also regularly attended,
in Belgrade, where quasi-scien
in
in
particular,
the 1930s, the Serbian Cultural Club
and the general
staff
initiated by the government
tific discussions,
one
In
for
the
this
theme.
such
reiterated
paper
office,
extirpatory
a
more
not
had
been
that
there
Cubrilovic
Club,
systematic
regretted
Kosovo's
43 Francis
Fukuyama,
ethnic
Albanians.
The End of History
and
the Last Man
(London,
1992).
Levene: Why
Is the Twentieth
Century
the Century
of Genocide?
333
as had been practiced
in pre-1914
of the "foreign element"
state building
to the
and concluded
that the only solution
was
to
make
Arnaut
them
leave
the
(Albanian)
country.
problem
to force tens of thousands of the Jews
"When it is possible for Germany
to emigrate,
for Russia to transfer millions
of people from one part of
to another, a world war will not break out just because
the continent
removal
Serbian
of some hundreds
of thousands of displaced Arnauts."44 At the end of
the Second World War Cubrilovic
reappeared as adviser to the Yugo
in essence
slav communist
the same "Albanian"
regime, advocating
policy.
Of course one riposte to this illustration might be to argue that, in
the light of the contemporary
realities extolled by Fukuyama,
today's
are actually yesterday's men peddling nationalisms
Cubrilovices
that
are a redundant
irrelevance. Of the hundred most
economic
important
in the global political
units currently
economy,
only half of them are
nation
states; the others are transnational
(TNCs). Or to
corporations
some
it
states
180
nation
in
another
of
the world,
way,
put
130 of them
have smaller economies
than the fifty largest TNCs.45 Yet it is exactly
in this rapid globalizing
that we should be able to discern
trajectory
the
and Milosevices
Cubrilovices
of the world, rather than disap
why
to have a following
and why, consequently,
pearing, will continue
in the near future than it was
genocide will in fact be more prevalent
years ago.
fifty or a hundred
states will not readily give up their power or their promise
Nation
to the forces which
drive the global economy,
however
inexorable
those forces may appear to be. One might add that this may well con
true for state regimes which because
tinue to be particularly
they are
to compensate
the
economically
faltering may attempt
by amplifying
national
self-esteem message
and conversely,
the malevolence
of the
international
system towards them. We forget at our peril that Rwanda
had a political
coherence
and sense of cohesive
iden
(and Burundi)
the colonial
since then,
era, perpetuated
tity which
long preceded
albeit in fiercely competing
Tutsi and Hutu narratives. Or that Milo
sevic's bid to create a greater Serbia out of the carcass of Yugoslavia
was predicated
not only on a Serb self-perception
of a special mission
44
from H. T. Norris,
"Kosova and the Kosovans:
Past, present and future as seen
Quote
and Muslim
through Serb, Albanian
eyes," in The Changing
Shape of the Balkans, eds. F.W.
Carter
and H. T Norris
see
(Boulder and London,
1996), p. 15. For more on Cubrilovic,
also Noel Malcolm,
and Basingstoke,
Kosovo, A Short History
(London
1998), pp. 284-85,
322-23.
45Robin
Cohen,
Global
Diasporas
(London,
1996),
p. 158.
334
JOURNAL
OF WORLD
HISTORY,
FALL
2000
back to the nineteenth
century but even further back to some
times.
Serb civilization
from medieval
supposedly mythic
In both Rwandan
and Serbian
instances, war and genocide
repre
of state regimes to their inability to achieve
sented the crisis-response
tore up the
their national
agendas by other accepted means.
They
system and instead gambled on rad
apparent rules of the international
to a solution. Yet the great irony is that until
shortcuts
ical, high-risk
dating
air campaign
of the Kosovo
24 March
1999?the
day of the opening
?so
as
were
such
efforts
contained
within
the
confines
territorial
long
or had no noticeable
of the state's own sovereignty
it,
impact beyond
or even genocide
anxiety about human
rights violations
into
action.
In this
let
alone
translated
international
censure,
hardly
assessment
inertia
of
international
has
sense, Cubrilovic's
1930's
there is a simple
remained accurate until almost the present day. And
international
reason
the nation
surprising given that
for this:
hardly
state has remained
is
which
sacrosanct,
it is the basic building block of the global
system.46
As a result, nobody
censured Democratic
for its geno
Kampuchea
cides despite
the fact that by the late 1970s these were already quite
well known and documented.
international
Instead, the Western-led
was
it
when
became
with
invaded by
incandescent
anger
community
to
its Vietnamese
neighbor. Nor, while followers of Pol Pot continued
seat
at
hold the Cambodian
the United
Nations
long after they had
ousted, did the international
community
complain when another
in
full
Saddam's
state,
1988 in increasingly
genocidal
Iraq, attempted
most
to
its
in
notorious
troublesome
Kurds
the
liquidate
public view,
it did respond when Saddam made
Anfal
the
However,
campaigns.
of invading oil-rich Kuwait.
It could thus be argued that the
mistake
New World Order, which
the US-led
against Iraq
campaign
military
is
it comes to geno
like the old when
very much
supposedly heralded,
in Northern
allies set up a "safe haven"
cide. True, the Western
Iraq
been
because
of fleeing Kurds but only primarily
they more
its
for their NATO
ally Turkey?with
greatly feared the consequences
own "troublesome"
it have had to admit
Kurdish population?should
for millions
46
at the thirty-fourth
in September
session of the General
of the UN,
Thus,
Assembly
were
out "that the United
in pointing
successful
and ASEAN
1979, Western
delegates
is based on the principle
and that UN membership
has
of non-interference
Nations
charter
on the basis of respect for human
never been granted or withheld
rights. If it were, a large
to leave." Quoted
inWilliam
there would have
of the governments
proportion
presently
and Modern
Conscience
Holocaust
The Quality
Cambodia,
(London,
Shawcross,
of Mercy,
1984),
p.
138.
Levene: Why
Is the Twentieth
Century
the Century
of Genocide?
335
of displaced
the refugees. Fears of the impact of millions
persons also
some
in
role
the
belated
of the
decisions
very
postgenocide
played
to
to
act
with
Bosnia.
In
and
Rwanda
the
latter
case,
"powers"
regard
status as a sovereign
state certainly
Bosnia's
did
initially uncertain
not help its plight anymore
than the earlier case of East Timor, whose
continued
remained?until
very recently?
by Indonesia
subjugation
The Kurdish safe haven
acquiescence.
largely a subject of international
on the vine; Tibet remains off the international
withers
agenda; the
international
and Milosevic's
ethnic
community
upholds Tudjman
itmight
The message,
carve-up of Bosnia through the Dayton Accords.
international
tribunals on Rwanda
and
appear, is rather clear. Despite
court to try crimes against
Bosnia and the prospect
of a permanent
the leading states who constructed
the
humanity,
including genocide,
to be its prime movers have demon
international
system and continue
strated not only an ability to live with states who commit genocide but
even
to applaud its successful consequences.
IsWestern
action over Kosovo,
the herald
therefore,
even
a
new
era
in
of
which
will
Or,
beginning?
genocide
of a new
be finally
from
the
human
the
expurgated
experience? Undoubtedly,
willingness
arm NATO,
of the international
system leaders, through their military
to respond specifically to gross human rights violations
sov
in another
a
state
does
and
remarkable
ereign
represent
possibly quite unprece
dented
under the auspices
departure. But the fact that this happened
of today's Great Powers rather than at the behest of the UN also recalls
a more
familiar pattern of self-interested
in the
action
international
was
far
from
very
past which,
being universally
benign,
actually highly
If this pattern reasserts itself, the Western
selective.
system leaders may
act in the future to prevent or halt genocidal
threats where
they are
sure of being able to do so with minimal military, political, or economic
to themselves?in
other words against very weak states
consequence
not against, for instance, Russia, China,
or Turkey?all
?but
states
with
for
Western
self-interest
significant
potential
genocide?where
would dictate a strictly hands-off
policy. Thus with the UN and other
to the real conduct
international
institutions
of
genuinely
marginal
to
international
Western
be
able
will
and
choose
affairs,
powers
pick
where they wish to intervene against actual or would-be
per
genocidal
petrators.
Yet even this sobering prediction
in the light of post-Kosovo
analy
sis and assessment may be too optimistic.
in early
the euphoria
Despite
June 1999, when Milosevic
agreed to the new peace deal and removed
his forces from Kosovo,
the fact that this had been achieved
less by
336
JOURNAL
OF WORLD
HISTORY,
FALL
2000
and more by a deal
days of constant NATO
seventy-plus
bombing
on
strict
Russians
reliant
the
the
limits upon Western
suggests
heavily
to
commit genocide.
those
who
let
alone
pursue,
willingness
punish,
in
A final, ominous historical
Back
1923, at the treaty of
example.
to
its
smashed
modern
nation-statehood
Lausanne, Turkey, having
way
was
out of the imperial hulk of the Ottoman
Empire,
duly recognized
into the concert of nations
pow
by the great Western
to this goal, the Ittihadist
and subsequent
Kemalist
or ethnically
than
cleansed many more
regimes deported, massacred,
two million Armenians,
and
There
had
been
Greeks, Kurds,
Assyrians.
in earlier years, particularly
much Western
about the genoci
outrage
and even plans to try the perpetrators
dal fate of the Armenians,
court. But as Richard Hovannisian
has noted
before an international
and welcomed
ers. En route
"The absolute Turkish
protocol:
triumph was reflected
... neither
nor
in the final version
the word Armenia,
was
was
as
to
if the Armenian
be found. It
the word Armenian,
Ques
to exist."47 In
tion or the Armenian
themselves
had ceased
people
of the "official" rules of the
other words, Turkey's blatant
repudiation
geno
game in favor of a series of accelerated
shortcuts?including
were ultimately
statehood
cide?toward
conveniently
ignored and
even condoned
of Lausanne.
On
the contrary,
by the treatymakers
of the Lausanne
in the fact that
into a series of long-term
by entering
diplomatic,
they reciprocated
and ultimately
relations with Turkey. Talaat
commercial,
military
in the 1915 destruction
said at
of the Armenians,
Pasha, prime mover
that as long as a nation does the best
the time: "I have the conviction
the world admires it and thinks it
for its own interests, and succeeds,
into the present
the message might
be to Sad
moral."48 Translated
and other would-be
emulators:
be bloody minded,
dam, Milosevic,
and letWestern
self-interest
do the rest.
batten down the hatches,
47 Richard
of the Armenian
"Historical
Dimensions
G. Hovannisian,
Question,
in Armenian
in Perspective,
Genocide
ed. R. G. Hovannisian
(New Brunswick,
1878-1923,"
N] and London,
1986), p. 37.
48
in Vahakn N. Dadrian,
Ethnic Con
The History
Genocide:
Quoted
of the Armenian
to the Caucasus
toAnatolia
and Oxford,
(Providence
1995), p. 383.
flict from the Balkans