Academic journal article Military Review

Preventing Mass Atrocities in Sub-Saharan Africa through Strategic Engagement

Academic journal article Military Review

Preventing Mass Atrocities in Sub-Saharan Africa through Strategic Engagement

Article excerpt


THE 2010 NATIONAL Security Strategy established the principle of "responsibility to protect" (R2P) as one of the keystones of national policy. The concept of R2P is to protect populations from genocide and other atrocities, and it recognizes, first and foremost, that it is the responsibility of sovereign governments to protect the populations located within their borders. Under the principle of responsibility to protect, members of the international community should only intervene when the sovereign government in question proves unable or unwilling to protect members of a persecuted population. When either the sovereign government or the international community offers protection, prevention of atrocities is emphasized over crisis response. (1) NATO's intervention in Libya was a recent example of internationally implementing a national policy involving the responsibility to protect.

The challenges of an R2P policy, as seen in Libya and the on-going debate over an intervention in Syria, are deciding in which conflict to commit the United States and in operationalizing R2P to prevent or, if necessary, respond to atrocities that occur across the globe.

We assert that prevention of atrocities is the preferred and only viable option. We must develop creative solutions to prevent atrocities. This is the only way to responsibly protect populations. We offer a cost-effective solution for a complex geographic area that can prevent mass atrocities and help lead to democratic development for long-term security. We believe the U.S. military is in a good position to overcome the challenges inherent of R2P in this effort by harnessing the skills our soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen have gained during a decade of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Chief of Staff of the Army General Raymond Odierno has recognized the value of soldiers experienced in combat and issued guidance to harness their potential. He notes in his recent "Marching Orders" that the Army is focusing on three interconnected roles: prevention, shaping, and winning. He states that Army forces will prevent conflict by building relationships with partner nations and enhancing their capacity. (2) Preventing the atrocities that lead to R2P interventions requires the increased capacity and professionalism of local security forces.

Developing capacity and professionalism is a long-term process and should begin with education. This is evident in the military forces that support the African Union who are striving to handle crises across the continent and require support to further their professionalism. Developing an educational institution under the aegis of the African Union is a possible way to address this. This institution would focus on key leaders of African militaries--the mid-grade officer.

The Case for Prevention

While the United States can respond to mass atrocities, we believe that the damage will already be done by the time U.S. forces arrive in sufficient numbers to make a difference. We base this belief on a study conducted on the conflict in Somalia and the U.S. response time. The U.S. Army planned on delivering and supplying 13,400 personnel to Somalia during Operation Restore Hope. The actual number deployed was a little over 10,000. Initial planning for the operation started in November 1992 when President George H.W. Bush directed the Secretary of State to work through the UN to stop the famine in Somalia. The execution order came on 5 December 1992. Within 30 days, 82 percent of U.S. personnel and over half of U.S. equipment had been delivered. The initial equipment goal was reached by using prepositioned stocks located in the Indian Ocean and Europe. The military did not deliver all material shipped from the United States until mid-February. The limited infrastructure in Somalia was the "bottleneck" in the operation. Only one ship could offload at the port in Mogadishu, and no ship carried a full capacity load because of the shallow draft in the port, further complicating the efforts to fully deploy the task force. …

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