The Rwanda genocide took place ten years ago. George Washington University has released a new study, which includes access to newly declassified documents and previously unavailable insights. The study can be read here.
Its conclusions are mixed. The analysts were greatly impressed by the intelligence resources available to the Clinton Administration.
[C]onsiderable U.S. resources-diplomatic, intelligence and military-and sizable bureaucracies of the U.S. government-were trained on Rwanda. This system collected and analyzed information and sent it up to decision-makers so that all options could be properly considered and 'on the table'..... Despite Rwanda's low ranking in importance to U.S. interests, Clinton Administration officials had tremendous capacity to be informed--and were informed--about the slaughter there; as noted author Samantha Power writes "any failure to fully appreciate the genocide stemmed from political, moral, and imaginative weaknesses, not informational ones."From the conclusion:
In sum, the routine-let alone crisis-performance of diplomats, intelligence officers and systems, and military and defense personnel yielded enough information for policy recommendations and decisions. That the Clinton Administration decided against intervention at any level was not for lack of knowledge of what was happening in Rwanda.Why, then, did they choose not to act? Was it because they were "internationalists," and other countries had no interest in or will for intervention? The report does suggest this is part of the answer:
While some countries argued early for action, few actually ever brought any means to bear-the "lack of resources and political commitment" was "a failure by the United Nations system as a whole" as the Independent Inquiry on the UN noted. The U.S. did not encourage a UN response because it saw two potential outcomes: the authorization of a new UN force and a new mandate without the means to implement either; and worse, the very real possibility of the U.S. having to bail out a failed UN mission. For the recently-burned Clinton Administration, this looked like Somalia redux.Finally, though, the blame falls on:
[T]he structure and personalities of U.S. decision-making during that late spring of 1994 when hundreds of thousands were killed as the U.S. and other nations stood by.There are lessons here for the future. Intelligence is only part of the answer to any problem: "political, moral, and imaginative weakness" can undo even the best our Intelligence service careerists can provide. The Rwandan genocide is almost a mirror image of the Iraq invasion: the intelligence was spot on, and correctly interpreted and analyzed by the Administration. However, due to a lack of moral and political courage, as well as an inability to understand and use military force, the US (non)response allowed hundreds of thousands to die.
In Iraq, the intelligence was murky; the parts of the intelligence that were strongest were ignored by the Administration in favor of the parts that fit their own picture best; but their moral and political courage, and ability both to imagine a better future and the military means to bring it about, these things were unmatched in recent history. As a consequence, Rwanda ended in the worst genocide of recent decades; Iraq, though it is too soon to say it has ended, has emerged from war with the first chance at liberty and human freedom it has known.
There are those among you--Deuddersun, I recall, asked the question directly--who wonder how I can support George W. Bush in spite of his many mistakes and flaws. This is why.