A. Dirk MosesMay 14, 2021
The Problems of Genocide
Permanent Security and the Language of Transgression
Cambridge University Press 2021
Genocide is not only a problem of mass death, but also of how, as a relatively new idea and law, it organizes and distorts thinking about civilian destruction. Taking the normative perspective of civilian immunity from military attack, A. Dirk Moses argues that the implicit hierarchy of international criminal law, atop which sits genocide as the 'crime of crimes', blinds us to other types of humanly caused civilian death, like bombing cities, and the 'collateral damage' of missile and drone strikes. Talk of genocide, then, can function ideologically to detract from systematic violence against civilians perpetrated by governments of all types. The Problems of Genocide: Permanent Security and the Language of Transgression (Cambridge UP, 2021) contends that this violence is the consequence of 'permanent security' imperatives: the striving of states, and armed groups seeking to found states, to make themselves invulnerable to threats.
Jeff Bachman is Senior Lecturer in Human Rights at American University’s School of International Service in Washington, DC.