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The Limits of Humanitarian Intervention: Genocide in Rwanda Paperback – June 1, 2001

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Editorial Reviews


"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

About 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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 162 pages
  • Publisher: Brookings Institution Press; 1St Edition edition (June 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0815700857
  • ISBN-13: 978-0815700852
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,084,704 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Gregory Stanton on October 21, 2003
Format: Paperback
Alan Kuperman purports to stick to "the facts." But the fact is that he ignores them:
He assumes that the only effective intervention in Rwanda would have been an airlift of U.S. troops from the continental United States, and then calculates that intervention would have taken too much time to be effective. In fact, 2500 UNAMIR peacekeeping troops were already on the ground in Rwanda, with over 5,000 French, Belgian, and U.S. troops in neighboring countries, and the French and Belgians had their troops in Rwanda within a week of the beginning of the genocide, but only to extract their own citizens. As Linda Melvern proves in her much better book, A People Betrayed, what was needed was the revised U.N. Security Council mandate for UNAMIR and the reinforcements the courageous UNAMIR commander, Gen. Romeo Dallaire requested.
Mr. Kuperman also assumes as fact that President Clinton did not know about the genocide until weeks after it began. In fact, despite efforts by lawyers in the State Department to avoid calling it genocide, U.S. diplomats in Rwanda called it genocide the day after the killing began, and Pres. Clinton knew it within the first week.
The failure of the U.N., U.S., France, and others who could have intervened to prevent and then stop this preventable genocide was a failure of political will and moral empathy. Mr. Kuperman's attempt to excuse it as militarily and logistically impossible to stop may let the policy makers responsible for this colossal failure sleep more peacefully. But for the murdered people of Rwanda, his excuses provide little solace.
Dr. Gregory Stanton
President, Genocide Watch
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6 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Ruby on February 4, 2002
Format: Paperback
Ever wondered how to decide whether to intervene in a genocide?
This book lays out the obstacles that would have had to have been overcome to avert the wholesale slaughter in Rwanda, a genocide that was largely completed in a matter of weeks.
As a lay person and concerned citizen about U.S. intervention policies in other countries, I am relieved to find a book that analyzed the issues in an clear, unbiased fashion.
Kuperman briefly but cogently outlines various considerations including geography, culture, and history in a practical, behind-the-scenes manner that makes a complicated situation better understood, even for those outside government and policy think tanks.
Highly recommended for any reader interested in humanitarian aid.
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7 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
Having read favorable reviews of this book in both the Harvard Magazine and the Harvard International Law Journal and being an attorney who is deeply concerned with human rights, I felt compelled to read Kuperman's book and I was not disappointed. While the conventional wisdom that a small force of 5000 troops could have prevented genocide in Rwanda and possibly in other places, Kuperman smashes such beliefs in his intricate analysis of the 1994 genocide of 500,000 Tutsis in Rwanda. And unlike Samantha Powers who in her book "A Problem from Hell" sugarcoats how easy it would be for the United States to have prevented genocides throughout history, Kuperman in his book deals with the facts -- and as he states so eloquently in the first page of his preface "facts are stubborn things". Therefore, Kuperman proceeds to lay out all the facts of the Rwanda genocide in excruciating detail. And in laying out all the facts, Superman dispels myths, discusses the complex motivations of all the actors in this civil war, hypothesizes about the success of various forms of military intervention, and ultimately, draws important and reasoned conclusions which can help future leaders prevent civil conflicts from escalating into genocides. While this book is not light reading and you do need at least a couple of years of college to understand it, Kuperman's book is a must read for any serious student of genocide and international relations. I give it my highest five star rating!
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4 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Publisher on September 8, 2004
Format: Paperback
Here's a sampling of published reviews:

"Essential if dispiriting reading for the tender-hearted and tough-minded alike."

- Foreign Affairs, Nov/Dec 2001

"A detailed, thorough, and compelling analysis."

- Harvard International Law Journal, Summer 2002

"Hard-hitting and authoritative account . . . highly recommended"

- American Society of International Law, Jan 2002

"Thorough, succinct, analytically innovative, and refreshingly unbiased."

- Marine Corps Gazette, March 2003
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5 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 31, 2001
Format: Paperback
As one who knows the definitions of both genocide and humanitarian intervention, I agree with Mr. Kuperman that everything has its limits, including humanitarian intervention in Rwanda. As a fellow of the U.S. Institute of Peace, Mr. Kuperman is an expert in the nuances and inherent value of peace. It is quite clear from the chilling photograph on the cover of Kuperman's 162-page-text that there were people and weapons involved. Evidently, the book clarifies that there was, in fact, widespread absence of peace in Rwanda. I am almost certain that Rwanda is a country and that it is in Africa. The genocide in 1994 that took the lives of at least 500,000 Tutsis, apparently, was related to that war. Or was it? Perhaps such conventional wisdom is a myth to be exposed by another rising star in the foreign policy universe.
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