Report Gives Obama Advice on Handling Genocide Threats
- From: Chim <ChimS1@xxxxxxx>
- Date: Mon, 8 Dec 2008 03:22:35 -0800 (PST)
By Michael Abramowitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 8, 2008;
Over the past several years, President-elect Barack Obama, Secretary
of State-designate Hillary Rodham Clinton and Vice President-elect
Joseph R. Biden Jr. have repeatedly urged stronger action to deal with
mass violence in places such as Darfur. Now that his administration is
taking shape, Obama is looking at how to reorganize the national
security apparatus to respond more effectively to threats of
One guidepost for such efforts may come in a report being released
today by a task force led by former secretary of state Madeleine K.
Albright, an adviser to Obama and Clinton, and former defense
secretary William S. Cohen. Among dozens of steps, the group is
recommending that Obama create a high-level forum in the White House
to direct the government's response to threats of genocide, focus
intelligence analysis on potential cases of mass atrocities, and
provide more funds for crisis prevention and response.
The task force concludes that the government is not well organized to
prevent genocide. The recommendations would make it easier to take the
necessary early action to prevent dangerous situations from escalating
into mass violence or crimes against humanity, the members write.
"Preventing genocide is an achievable goal," the report says.
"Genocide is not the inevitable result of 'ancient hatreds' or
irrational leaders. It requires planning and is carried out
systematically. There are ways to recognize its signs and symptoms,
and viable options to prevent it at every turn if we are committed and
Brooke Anderson, Obama's chief spokeswoman on national security, said
the transition team will review the recommendations carefully.
"President-elect Obama is committed to strengthening U.S. leadership
and international efforts to respond to genocide and other
humanitarian disasters," she said.
Gordon D. Johndroe, a spokesman for President Bush, said that the
White House has not seen the recommendations but that responding to
genocide or threats of genocide, such as the situation in the Darfur
region of western Sudan or the post-election violence in Kenya, has
been a priority for Bush. "We have worked across the government to do
it. It requires a lot of international pressure as well," he said.
Most modern U.S. presidents have had to confront some mass violence
against civilians, from the killing fields in Cambodia during the
administrations of Gerald R. Ford and Jimmy Carter to the ethnic
cleansing in the Balkans and Rwanda during the Bill Clinton years to
the Janjaweed militia attacks on villages in Darfur during the Bush
Obama and his team come into office with an unusual track record of
statements and, in the case of some of his advisers, experience in
grappling with mass violence. Two of his closest foreign policy
advisers during the campaign, Susan E. Rice and Tony Lake, had senior
positions in the Clinton administration and have expressed regret
about their failure to respond adequately to the rapid-fire genocide
in Rwanda in 1994.
The task force says Obama should create a standing committee of senior
officials, directed by the White House, to consider how to respond to
genocide threats. It says the intelligence community should prepare
the kind of national estimate on worldwide genocide risks that it
frequently prepares on other subjects, such as Iran's nuclear
capability or conditions in Iraq.
Former Bush U.N. ambassador John C. Danforth, a member of the task
force, said a key recommendation was for the new secretary of state to
launch a major diplomatic initiative to enlist other countries and
organizations into a formal network dedicated to the prevention of
genocide and mass atrocities, given what he sees as the
ineffectiveness of the United Nations on such issues. "Working through
the U.N. is good and important, but I have just seen the U.N. not do
anything" in many cases, he said.
The task force was convened by the U.S. Institute of Peace, the U.S.
Holocaust Memorial Museum and the American Academy of Diplomacy.
Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.
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