Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 01/2010

Intervention to Stop Genocide and Mass Atrocities: International Norms and U.S. Policy

Matthew C. Waxman

October 2009

Council on Foreign Relations


On a stone wall at the memorial of the Dachau concentration camp, a promise is written in five languages: “Never Again.” Yet in the decades since the Holocaust, in places from Cambodia to Rwanda to Darfur, international actors have failed to mount an effective response to mass atrocities. The reasons for this failure are numerous. Political will to act, as well as the availability and capability of military intervention forces, is often absent. Moreover, enduring notions of sovereignty make it difficult for outside countries or international organizations to step in, despite considerable acceptance in recent years of the concept of “responsibility to protect.”