University of Miami National Security & Armed Conflict Law Review

Document Type



This paper calls on the United States to assess where its true interests lie in evaluating genocide and mass killings. Through an examination of the social and political factors which were paramount in bringing about the atrocities in Cambodia in the late 1970s and Rwanda in the mid-1990s, the U.S. is urged to take heed of the tried-and-true methods used by ruthless regimes throughout history in bringing about the destruction of their own citizenry. Consideration of the psychological imperatives necessary for ordinary men or women to depart from the standard boundaries of civilized society and butcher their neighbors and countrymen is worthwhile in understanding how individuals permit, if not facilitate, genocide in their own backyards.

Many believe that genocides are inevitable and caused by ancient ethnic or religious strife. Governments understand these tensions and use them to exploit their own people and gain political leverage. Genocide does not occur over night. Bringing about the conditions necessary to permit such a grave injustice is cultivated over many years, often decades. When governments enact laws and issue directives, no matter the content, the legitimacy of such edicts cannot be overlooked by the average citizen, especially the ill-educated and impoverished. By looking at the legislation and government programs enacted prior to mass-murder, clear and systematic evidence of intent cannot be overlooked. The goal of this article is to spread awareness of the methods and techniques employed leading up to genocide so that the freedom-loving nations of the world may act proactively and prevent tragedies before needless blood is spilled.