We should have done more. Both because it is what is morally right and also because the preservation of life is always more important than any petty politics. Although I do recognise the political issues that might have resulted from such intervention, especially as the world was embroiled in WWI, it will always be wrong to sit around and simply let such atrocities happen. As the British said when they heard, "the most expedient way to end the killings would be to defeat the German-Austrian-Turkish alliance" — it is that hesitance to action that prevailed over our better nature, unfortunately. The same sentiment is evident in the American government’s actions statement that they would “leave those committing [genocide] alone.” The hope is that such things will not happen in the modern day, as the UN does exist, and they, as a governing body that has power internationally to enforce such laws that prosecute genocide and crimes against humanity. However, despite this, the wilful blindness of many in the US, and our preoccupation with our own lives, has meant that there are many genocides which have still happened with the silence of the international community. No matter what the circumstances of the genocide, and the political situation in the world, it is important that America and other countries with authority continue to stay engaged and involved in aid, and active efforts to stop the genocide. There is so much that governments could have done but did not. Recognising the sanctity of human lives, and understanding that that, above all else, is what matters. We can debate all day about the actual impact of intervention, and in many other cases, intervention by the US has resulted in worse results, but in cases where such crimes against humanity are taking place, everyone needs to take action. Roosevelt and American fundraising was too little, too late, and as a result, they all bear that responsibility to answer for their failure to act.
If there is knowledge of a genocide actively happening, or the steps to genocide occurring, it is certainly necessary for intervention to take place. Presently, I believe that the UN is the most well poised to intervene, as a governing body not constrained in the same way as many countries. I am hesitant to say that we should declare war, as that causes further harm, but it may be necessary. Although war is always harmful, and usually fought by people who did not decide to be there, I think it may be necessary to stop crimes like genocide. Certainly if the US had intervened, there would have been war. I think the same question we discussed about Ukraine applies here too: is supplying protective gear the same as providing weapons? As Teddy Roosevelt critiqued the Committee on Armenian Atrocities, saying anything they did was useless unless they were “willing to risk something”, I believe the same is at least somewhat true about most types of aid. If we use aid simply as a balm for our conscience, as a way to pat ourselves on the back and say that we tried to help, I think that is the most insincere and least useful type of aid. If we can’t even empathise with the suffering of other people, separated from us only by circumstance and distance, what right do we have to say that we ‘did our best?’
I hope that there might have been some way to stop the genocide from occurring without resorting to war, but ultimately if pressure from the US and other influential Western countries failed, then military intervention may have been necessary. In the case of a natural disaster, we would not hesitate to help; why should the presence of a hostile government prevent us from helping however possible? Woodrow Wilson, in general, was very indifferent to personal rights and the wellbeing of individual citizens, promoting the idea of small business instead, which may explain his behavior. However, the American government is made of more than just the president, and as such, more people should have spoken up, in light of the 145 stories that the New York Times published on the matter. In addition, the right-wing idea of states’ rights has certainly impacted opinions around intervention, but we’ve seen later on that the US has no issue with using military intervention to “prevent the spread of communism.” In the end, I believe that although individual nations witnessing genocide have the responsibility to intervene, they are likely to all stay out of it for various political reasons, and as such, that is why organisations like the United Nations, and other international bodies like the ICC, are so important in preventing future genocides.
Both the genocide of the Herero and Nama peoples and the Armenian genocide certainly were both atrocities and crimes against humanity. I personally believe that the world reacted very differently to the two events, both because they likely considered the Herero and Nama an “other” and also due to the sparsity of the coverage in major news outlets. The first likely influenced the other, as we see today in Ukraine. Yes, the invasion of Ukraine likely has more ramifications on the political stage than the crisis in Syria, but the world’s reactions to these two different events is very telling. Especially in the western world, we consider the events in Ukraine to be closer to us, and likely it raises more instinctual fear, as we might all fear that the same happens to us. In addition, the publicity raised around the Armenian genocide was likely also influenced by the way it simply happened later, and in a place where other countries had diplomatic embassies. The disorganisation, and the way that the Armenian genocide involved many more deaths caused by other civilian aggressors/bystanders likely also contributed. However, this is still no excuse for ignoring the voices who were trying to raise awareness of the Herero and Nama genocide; although the aid provided during the Armenian genocide was nowhere near enough, it was still something, and many did make an effort to help those that did escape to resettle in other countries.