How Mass Atrocities End
Studies from Guatemala, Burundi, Indonesia, the Sudans, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iraq
Cambridge University Press 2016
If you want to know how to bring future mass atrocities to an end, the best place to start is to examine how past mass atrocities have ended.
This simple piece of logic is at the heart of Bridget Conley-Zilkic’s new edited collection titled How Mass Atrocities End: Studies from Guatemala, Burundi, Indonesia, the Sudans, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iraq (Cambridge University Press, 2016). As Conley points out in her introduction, leaders choose to engage in mass atrocities because the rewards for doing so seem greater than the cost. They end either because they have achieved their goal or because the balance of rewards and costs has changed. So, for people interested in preventing or stopping mass atrocities, the challenge lies in changing that balance.
This book, then, examines a variety of different case studies to understand how the changing calculus of rewards and cots has occurred historically. The case studies are superb, the range of cases broad and the analysis perceptive. It is a sobering book to read, one that avoids easy answers or platitudes. But behind it lies a determination to make a difference.
This is one of an occasional series of podcasts that address the question of preventing or responding to mass atrocities. Earlier this summer I interviewed Scott Straus about his book Fundamentals of Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention. In the next couple months I’ll also speak with Jim Waller and Carrie Booth Walling.