The Limits Of Humanitarian Intervention / Edition 1

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In 1994 genocide in Rwanda claimed the lives of at least 500,000 Tutsi —some three-quarters of their population —while UN peacekeepers were withdrawn and the rest of the world stood aside. Ever since, it has been argued that a small military intervention could have prevented most of the killing. In The Limits of Humanitarian Intervention, Alan J. Kuperman exposes such conventional wisdom as myth.

Combining unprecedented analyses of the genocide's progression and the logistical limitations of humanitarian military intervention, Kuperman reaches a startling conclusion: even if Western leaders had ordered an intervention as soon as they became aware of a nationwide genocide in Rwanda, the intervention forces would have arrived too late to save more than a quarter of the 500,000 Tutsi ultimately killed.

Serving as a cautionary message about the limits of humanitarian intervention, the book's concluding chapters address lessons for the future.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A succinct, pessimistic analysis of a horrifying episode in recent international politics.... His case is lucidly and powerfully presented, blending political and military analysis, and it is unrelentingly dark.... Essential if dispiriting reading for the tender-hearted and tough-minded alike." —Eliot A. Cohen, Foreign Affairs

"... a succinct but authoritative analysis of what consensus exists, or is possible, when future genocides appear on the world's radar screen.... This hard-hitting and authoritative account is highly recommended reading." — ASIL- UN 21 Interest Group

"Kuperman's controversial and critical analysis of American policy (or lack thereof) in Rwanda is clearly much more than that. It is an examination of the past as a guide for future action. [Because of]... September 11, 2001, and the subsequent response by American and allied forces in Afghanistan, that future is now." —Peter I. Rose, Smith College, International Studies Review, 2002

"Ironically, Kaufmann concludes that 'those interested in humanitarian intervention must develop more expertise in the use of force.' Amen. A good place to start is my book, which remains the only open-source study of the real-world military and logistical constraints on such operations." —Alan J. Kuperman, Foreign Affairs, 11/1/2002

"The analysis is a sobering contrast to much of the breathless criticism of U.S. policy that we have heard. Anyone who has thought about foreign intervention in response to humanitarian emergencies would be well advised to consider his message." —Daniel Langenkamp, The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs

"[Kuperman's] short book offers detailed and compelling analysis of the intricacies of the Rwandan conflict and the possibility of humanitarian intervention in the months preceding or weeks immediately following the events of April 1994.... a detailed, thorough, and compelling analysis.... While the results seem somewhat grim, Kuperman analyzes the foregone possibilities of intervention in Rwanda in as favorable a light as practical and highlights prospects for success.... implicit throughout the book is the acknowledgment that no price can be put on human life, and Kuperman does not purport to answer the question of how much we should let limits stop us when the prize is such a significant one." —Jennifer Gorskie, Harvard Law School, J.D. candidate, Harvard International Law Journal

"[A] thoughtful study of the Rwandan slaughter." —Stewart Nusbaumer, Intervention Magazine

"Kuperman succeed[s] in shedding new light on some controversial assumptions which, in recent years, have largely been accepted as fact. The book is recommended particularly to readers interested in the Rwandan genocide, the debates surrounding humanitarian intervention, and U.S. foreign policy." —Karen Smith, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, The European Journal of Development Research

"The book is worthy of a broad readership.... [It] is important in demonstrating the difficulties involved in humanitarian intervention and the measures that need to be taken in order to guarantee that another genocide does not occur." —Stephen Burgess, Air War College, International Politics

"Kuperman's masterful account of the constraints operating upon the hypothetical transportation of such a force (U.S. Military) is the most interesting and useful part of the book." —Alexander Zahar, Arusha, Tanzania, UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

"This is a well-researched, carefully documented and balanced book.... In summary Kuperman's book stands as a useful analytical precursor to several recent policy initiatives that advance the debate on collective security and peacekeeping." —David Carment, Norman Patterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, Contemporary Security Policy

The genocide in Rwanda forms the basis for this study on humanitarian intervention. Details of the killings in Rwanda reveal the swiftness with which they were carried out; Kuperman (international relations, John Hopkins U.) convincingly argues that humanitarian intervention would not have been possible. The study concludes with a list of policies that would lead to more effective intervention and to policies that might prevent violence between ethnic groups from arising in the first place. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780815700852
  • Publisher: Brookings Institution Press
  • Publication date: 6/1/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 180
  • Product dimensions: 0.41 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 6.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Alan J. Kuperman is assistant professor of international relations at John Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies and the author of numerous articles on ethnic conflict and humanitarian intervention.

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Table of Contents

1 The Common Wisdom 1
2 Roots of the Rwandan Tragedy 5
3 Mechanics of the Genocide 14
4 When Did We Know? 23
5 The Military Scene 38
6 Transporting Intervention Forces 52
7 Plausible Interventions 63
8 Contending Claims 78
9 Early Warning and Preventive Intervention 100
10 Lessons 109
App. A A Model of the Genocide's Progression 120
App. B Airlift in Some Previous U.S. Military Interventions 124
App. C Theater Airfield Capacity Based on Operation Support Hope 126
Notes 129
Index 157
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