"A Problem From Hell": America and the Age of Genocide

by Samantha Power
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"A Problem From Hell": America and the Age of Genocide by Samantha Power

About this book:In 1993, as a 23-year-old correspondent covering the wars in the Balkans, I was initially comforted by the roar of NATO planes flying overhead. President Clinton and other western leaders had sent the planes to monitor the Bosnian war, which had killed almost 200,000 civilians. But it soon became clear that NATO was unwilling to target those engaged in brutal "ethnic cleansing." American statesmen described Bosnia as "a problem from hell," and for three and a half years refused to invest the diplomatic and military capital needed to stop the murder of innocents. In Rwanda, around the same time, some 800,000 Tutsi and opposition Hutu were exterminated in the swiftest killing spree of the twentieth century. Again, the United States failed to intervene. This time U.S. policy-makers avoided labeling events "genocide" and spearheaded the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers stationed in Rwanda who might have stopped the massacres underway. Whatever America's commitment to Holocaust remembrance (embodied in the presence of the Holocaust Museum on the Mall in Washington, D.C.), the United States has never intervened to stop genocide. This book is an effort to understand why. While the history of America's response to genocide is not an uplifting one, "A Problem from Hell" tells the stories of countless Americans who took seriously the slogan of "never again" and tried to secure American intervention. Only by understanding the reasons for their small successes and colossal failures can we understand what we as a country, and we as citizens, could have done to stop the most savage crimes of the last century.-Samantha Power

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780465050895
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication date: 05/14/2013
Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 640
Sales rank: 315,233
File size: 4 MB
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

Samantha Power is the executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. From 1993 to 1996 she covered the wars in the former Yugoslavia as a reporter for U.S. News and World Report and The Economist. In 1996 she worked for the International Crisis Group (ICG) as a political analyst, helping launch the organization in Bosnia. She is a frequent contributor to The New Republic and is the editor, with Graham Allison, of Realizing Human Rights: Moving from Inspiration to Impact. A native of Ireland, she moved to the United States in 1979 at the age of nine, and graduated from Yale University and Harvard Law School. She lives in Winthrop, Massachusetts.

Date of Birth:

September 21, 1970

Place of Birth:

Dublin, Ireland


Yale University and Harvard Law School

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Problem from Hell 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Prof. Power's Study of Genocide is excellent from the time she picks up Lemkin's and Sen. Proxmire's diplomatic efforts to fix Genocide as a world treaty and as a UN defined crime. However, the beginning of the book, covering the Armenian Genocide by the Young Turk element of the Ottoman Empire, is very disappointing on several levels. First, it fails to note the important role played by President Wilson's 12th of the 14 points, in favor of the Christian Minorities of Asia Minor. This was in favor of the Kurds, the Armenians and the Aegean as well as Pontian Greek Chriatian 'Rumi' Greeks of Asia Minor collectively, these outnumbered the Turks as of 1915 and as of 1919. Second, she misses completely President Wilson's championing of the Armenians at Versailles, and his carving out of an Armenian state as neutral arbitrator composed of one quarter of the extant Asia Minor portion of the Ottoman Empire in 1919, which was submitted as a mandate to be administered together with the coastal black sea portion of the Ottoman Empire mandate to the senate, only to be rejected in the spring of 1919. Only later was the Versailles Peace Treaty also rejected. Third, she misses the earlier genocides of 1895 against the Armenians, which were well-publicicized in the world newspapers and in the media, and noted by President Cleveland as well as later Presidents, and by other world leaders. As early as 1878, Gladstone was railing against the 'Terrible Turk'. The oppression of the christian minorities in the Ottoman Empire had a long history, but a wiser starting point would have been 1821 and the Greek war of Independence, and the 1822 slaughter of more than 100,000 innocent greeks on the island of Chios, immortalized in the painting by Delacroix, and the killing of the Patriach and the Phanariotes by the Turks in 1821-22. The so-called 'Eastern Question' which Prof. Power only catches the end of with the 'Armenian Genocide' is really a very complex matter, and she only covers approximately five percent (5%) of the details in a very cursory and limited fashion. Furthermore, her numbers are wrong one and one half million Armenians perished in 1915, not one million as she cites an additional one and one half million Armenians perished subsequent to 1915 when the Soviet Union partitioned Armenia with the new Turkish state, in an agreement reached between Attaturk and Lenin. Another error that Power makes is that she is unable to distinguish between the new turkish state, represented by the rebellious Attaturk, who is making treaties with the insurgent soviet union and Lenin, and the old Ottoman Empire, which actually signs a peace treaty with France, England and Greece, called the Treaty of Sevres (1920), in which Constantinople and Smyrna were ceded to French, English and Greek rule. Also, that Armenia and coastal black sea would be under American mandate, and the Kurds and Armenians would be given their own states. Attaturk and the young turks disputed their own Sultan, and the Sultanate, and disregarded that treaty, and went to war over the Treaty of Sevres. They killed and executed Armenians and Greeks alike from 1920-22 along the Black Sea Coast when America failed to execute its mandate, notwithstanding that President Wilson urged the US and the US Senate to send troops. Power mistakenly says that no US President wanted to prevent genocide in Turkey, but Wilson wanted to send US troops, wanted to participate in the League of Nations, and wanted US Troops to be sent to the black sea and to armenia to protect the armenians and christian greeks from 1919-23, and if necessary, to protect the nascent armenian state. It is worth noting that the british sent troops to protect and foster the new Iraqi state from 1919-23. Otherwise it would never have existed. American presidential leadership was there it was the isolationist republican congress who opposed intervention. The result was the
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willyvan More than 1 year ago
Powers' book is a call for intervention wherever the US state unilaterally decides that it wants to interfere in other countries on spurious 'humanitarian' grounds. Read instead David N. Gibbs' First do no harm, which argues for a new, noninterventionist model for U.S. foreign policy, one that deploys non-military methods for addressing ethnic violence. He asserts, "in most instances, the legacy of military intervention has been appalling." And, "alleged humanitarian interventions in the Balkans helped establish a new rationale - however spurious - for militarism. The Yugoslav case served to define US intervention as a benevolent and even altruistic activity, and this image has proven useful as a justification for virtually all overseas action." As he writes, "external intervention was one of the principal causes of the conflict. Interventions helped to trigger the breakup of Yugoslavia and the various wars that followed the breakup; later intervention served to intensify the war, and to spread the fighting." And, "US officials deliberately undercut a potential diplomatic solution to the Kosovo war." NATO "was nominally a military alliance to guard against external military threats. But its real function was to maintain US predominance in Europe." As the 1992 Defense Planning Guidance document, by Wolfowitz and Cheney, said, "we must seek to prevent the emergence of Europe-only security arrangements which would undermine NATO."
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Guest More than 1 year ago
In honour of those who suffer the least that can be done is to listen, or read. This book helps fulfill the human duty to know. Hopefully, I hope those who should read it will, and after becoming aware try to stop it in the future. The voice I wanted is in this book. It is a history journey that I hope touches the heart of our innocense to slaughter. I wish this could become a book taught in schools. There is a side to human nature that is automatic when people are in trouble, there are those who care. THIS BOOK SHOWS HOW NECESSARY THIS IS TO CARE I AM GRATEFUL FOR THE OPPORTUNITY TO HAVE READ IT
Guest More than 1 year ago
Did you know that Osama was operating in the Balkans war fighting Christains who were cleansing Muslims. Is this how he formed his view on the USA? This book discusses the issues of problems and how they ultimatley impact the USA and why every American should be actively interested in what happens in the world.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The author did a very good job in presenting an important problem which threatens the human life throughout the history of the world. I agree on the point that whoever is responsible for any kind of genocide and crime should get what he deserves. However, in presenting some of the historical events,especially related with the Ermanian issue, the writer is far from being objective. I think she giving some inconsistent ideas to the readers. On one side she is critizing crime and on the other side she is teeling about a violent terrorist as a hero. In my opinion, this book is not a successful and mainly depends on subjective informations rather than historical facts.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very well researched book, its pretty nice
Guest More than 1 year ago
Eye opening book on genocide, from the coining of the term to its occurrences since the Holocaust. Includes in depth research on happenings at the site as well as the response (or lack there of) of international leaders and support of the public. I thought it dragged out just a little at the end which is why I didn't give it 5-stars.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Samantha Power has written,in my opinion, an extremely important book. I was practically angered and dissapointed at the information this work asserted. Noninterventionism in the face of genocide should be unacceptable under any circumstance. Goood job Powers
Guest More than 1 year ago
The author brilliantly traced a long history of inaction on the part of American leaders in the face of genocide. But it is no longer accurate in view of the subsequent US military actions/invasions in Afghanistan and Iraq under the Bush Administration. One wonders whether this book was one of the cause of recent US interventionist policy as her indictment of US policy would have been read by US policy makers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A thorough and accurate report on the poorly justified political decisions behind U.S. intervention and non-intervention in major ethnic conflicts, and the devastating (genocidal) impact of both on the local populations. For a well- and recently researched political history of one of the U.S.'s best-orchestrated "legal" manipulations of a people, and the ensuing genocide of this people--the American Indians--see Jesse Larner's "Mount Rushmore: An Icon Reconsidered."
Guest More than 1 year ago
I can only cringe at the standard policies of nonintervention that Powers clearly demonstrates and applaud the brave few who sacrificed to be heard. As a nation of vast resources, we owe something back to our global community. Furthermore, such action may have saved us from the difficult conflicts we face today. The international community must decide that the loss of any culture or people is devastating to all. We ALWAYS have a dog in this fight.