There is an interesting back story to Barack Obama's call today for stronger action to prevent genocide that directly relates to the subject of this blog. The president's speech at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum announcing new sanctions against perpetrators of mass atrocities was shaped in large part by senior aides with first-hand experience in places like Bosnia and Rwanda.
The key person here is Samantha Power, now a senior foreign policy advisor to Obama, who was a young reporter in Bosnia in July 1995 at the time of the Srebrenica massacre, seething in frustration at the failure of the international community to take effective action against the likes of Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic. As the author of the Pulitzer prize-winning A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide, Power provided much of the intellectual heft for a growing genocide prevention movement that has sought to pressure the United States government to live up to the slogan "Never Again."
In her book, Power states that she returned from Bosnia "haunted by the murder of Srebenica's Muslim men and boys, my own failure to sound a proper early warning, and the outside world's refusal to intervene even once the men's peril had become obvious." She noted pointedly that the United States "had never in its history intervened to stop genocide and had in fact rarely even made a point of condemning it as it occurred."
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Ratko Mladic has been described as "one of those lethal combinations that history thrusts up occasionally-a charismatic murderer." What drove the Bosnian Serb military commander to order Europe's deadliest massacre since World War II? Could it have been prevented? Michael Dobbs, a U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum fellow, investigates.