Is genocide a necessary evil?

April 2, 2008

Thank you for your thoughtful responses on yesterday’s topic. In response, I must admit that my knowledge of the Azeri genocide is significantly limited. However it has raised questions in my head.

Can we have mutual genocides, if we can have mutual massacres? Is the gravity of the event so great as to be called a genocide? Is the labeling mere propaganda? I would like to respond to the first question and open the other two up to your responses, I also encourage you to respond to this.

We need to have a definitive line concerning when something is or is not a genocide. I have previously posted a definition on the what constitutes a genocide. While it does not say that mutual genocides cannot occur, I would argue that the concept of mutual genocides goes against our fundamental understanding of a genocide. It does not however rule it out.

Intrinsic to genocide being labeled as genocide is the concept that one group attempts to systematically exterminate the other group. Generally, we assume that the perpetrators of genocide are a dominant group. Therefore, they possess the resources and position to carry-forth on their threat of extermination. This natural dominance sets up a situation in which there is essentially one party engaged in genocide and one party engaged as victim to the genocide. This is a situation which has defined the Holocaust and the Cambodian genocides.

However, it is not against the definition for two systematic genocides to occur at once between groups who are co-dominant. Therefore, if the two groups both have an ideology which promotes systematic extermination and attempt to eliminate each other because of this ideology than I suppose that two genocides could in fact occur simultaneously. They could also occur in waves where power balances shift i.e. Azeri and Armenia. Therefore, could we have one mass genocide followed by another until there is either a complete elimination of one or both parties or their is a significant enough decrease in one party to allow for dominance of the other. Genocide ideologies, as noted in this blog, haven’t stopped in Rwanda but a situation of power dominance has occurred.

Therefore, the question remains if genocide can be cyclical or a one time event. I posted about an article in The Economist, the other day, with the question being does genocide lead to peace. Today’s posting urges me back to that question. If cyclical or mutual genocides occur, I would argue that they do not lead to peace until the violence expands to a certain point. This point would have to be a place where either chaos or peace are the only two options. Chaos in this sense would have to be the complete devolution of any semblance of normalcy and capacity. Peace would be the complete cessation of violence and the return of one power dominant group. Perhaps, this is the point at which genocide can truly be evaluated. If we see genocide as the tipping point between chaos and peace than it becomes arguable that genocide is a singular event and a way point in finding a final outcome. Genocide, therefore, is a means to an end– whatever that end may be.

I’m not sure how comfortable I am with this statement as it would inherently argue that genocide should then be allowable and permissible. I’m entirely uncomfortable with that concept but my comfort levels and relative truths do not always live in peaceful existence. I would like more thoughts about this topic and encourage your participation.


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