What could we/should we have done? Should the U.S and/or other nations take a stand when an entire population is being destroyed? On principle? Wherever and whenever it happens? No matter what? Always? Sometimes? Rarely? (Whoa, quite a few question marks here…)
Most nations are bystanders, the U.S. included. We knew what was happening, we knew in detail and how dire it was, but we did nothing about the armenian genocide. As a nation, we have always praised (on paper and publicly) that we were a free and just nation. It was part of our brand, the thing Lady Liberty stands for, that immigrants move here in hopes of. Though it doesn’t happen all that often, the U.S. should stand for it’s word. During the armenian genocide, I think the United States, with it’s influence, moral standard, and resources, should have helped and at least spoken up about it. They were urged by Henry Morgenthau, which he grew to be desperate, yet they still refused. There was this concern with ‘neutrality’ which, in my opinion, was not worth ignoring the deaths of millions of innocent people. There were so many options on what to do, of varying levels of involvement, from sending troops to directly involve to just publicising those atrocities. Even that we didn’t do - does that seem humane, to absolutely ignore a genocide? (the answer is absolutely no). What we did was simply selfish. Most of the world is in agreement when it comes to the opinion that killing innocent people is bad - so one of the scarce reasons why a nation would not step in is political. A nation should step in though, it is the just thing to do. Everyone should step in, on the grounds of morality and humanity. As of now I can’t think of any reason why entire populations are reasonably destroyed, so yes, we should intervene every single time, all the time. Back to calling us bystanders, though. I feel the word often has a neutral connotation, that by being a bystander you are neither helping or worsening a situation. Being a bystander in genocide is actively continuing the act of genocide. We did not do anything, and in doing so, let it continue. In that sense, we are less bystanders and more supporters, a sick thing to support.
In short, what sort of role would you advocate for the United States and other nations witnessing this (and by extension, any other) genocide?
I think if all nations should just agree to not commit genocide. Lemkin proposed a draft law that basically said genocide was internationally illegal, where the perpatrator would be punished wherever they were caught. If everyone agreed to this, there would be less concern with who is allied with who and whether it would be ‘friendly’ to prosecute, because it is just international law. The point is we should be proactively fighting against genocide. The role most take up is empty: standing idle and waiting for something to happen or turning their cheek. We have to stop.
Do you think world nations behaved differently during the Armenian genocide than they did during the carnage in Africa—specifically what we saw in German South West Africa (Namibia)--in the late 19th and early 20th centuries? Why or why not?
I think the world nations had a slightly more humane view and more awareness of not being allpowerful. In the carnage of Africa, they were doing more than doing nothing, they were asking for heads, sending them to deserts, raping, starving, and murdering, outright saying that they knew what they were doing was bad, that they knew they were killing innocent lives, they simply didn’t care. It was worse than the documents of the holocaust and the Armenian genocide, where they atleast tried to justify their actions through religious or moral motives. But no, in Namibia, commanders were explicitely saying they were doing it for personal gain. The sheer audacity makes it different. Additionally, the European powers had an unchecked superior feeling towards basically everyone else, so they continued plundering Africa with no consequence to be worried of. This is different than that of the armenian genocide, when nations were aware of their image to others and had atleast some grasp of morality more than before. America tried to remain ‘neutral’ (as we have discussed before, is still active) because they had relations to uphold. European powers had trios against trios. There was much more careful calculations to be made, whereas before they just took what they wanted and minded their own business, not too concerned with war. Nevertheless, they continue to ignore pleas and be a bystander.