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MAKING AND UNMAKING NATIONS: War, Leadership, and Genocide in Modern Africa


MAKING AND UNMAKING NATIONS: War, Leadership, and Genocide in Modern Africa

The analysis of these cases leads Straus to conclude that “the strongest commonality among violence in cases, and the factor that the negative cases lack, is the ideological dominance among the political and military elite of a hierarchical, nationalist founding narrative.”

MAKING AND UNMAKING NATIONS: War, Leadership, and Genocide in Modern Africa Scott Straus, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York, 2015, 400 pages

Scott Straus’s Making and Unmaking Nations is a very good book, although it may not be of much direct use for the operational artist. The author explores the phenomenon of genocide from a very interesting perspective. Instead of solely exploring cases of genocide, he also examines near genocide-cases where the environment was ripe for genocide but it did not occur. Straus uniquely approaches genocide from a lens of pseudocomplexity. While he clearly and correctly indicates that genocide is a complex political phenomenon, he only somewhat embraces complexity theory and never references or uses any of the rich literature on that subject. This is a minor shortcoming in such a novel work on genocide and state formation.

Some might take umbrage with the small number of cases Straus examines, but that would be a mistake; he intentionally focuses on African cases of genocide and near genocide so he can compare similar cases. They are from a similar period, which means they arose in a comparable strategic context. The cases studied where genocide was considered likely but did not occur involved the Ivory Coast from 2002 to 2011, Mali from 1990 to 1995 and 2011 to 2012, and Senegal from the late 1980s to 2011. Conversely, the author also studied Sudan from 2000 to the present and Rwanda in 1994, as the cases where genocide did occur. It is clear that Straus is interested in honestly exploring why genocides occur-and do not occur-rather than selecting favorable cases to promote a preconceived policy or theoretical agenda.

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Theorizing the Responsibility to Protect EDITED BY RAMESH THAKUR AND WILLIAM MALEY. Cambridge University Press, 2015, 353 pp.

In 2005, the un General Assembly unanimously adopted the doctrine of “the responsibility to protect” (R2P), requiring governments to safeguard their citizens against mass atrocities and authorizing the international community to act if they do not. In theory, R2P redefines long-standing norms of sovereignty and nonintervention. In practice, however, R2P remains an elusive goal, as revealed by this collection of essays, the best account yet of the philosophical and practical difficulties that bedevil R2P. Gareth Evans, one of the doctrine’s intellectual architects, contributes an incisive account of the origins and rise of the R2P idea and argues that despite setbacks, it is slowly emerging as a guiding principle. Edward Newman contends that the legitimacy of R2P ultimately hinges on the procedures used to authorize international action. Jean-Marc Coicaud looks at R2P through the lens of the recent crises in Gaza, Syria, and Ukraine, showing how the norm can be hijacked for cynical purposes. And Jonathan Graubart offers the most far-reaching critique, arguing that R2P merely provides great powers with a new justification for pursuing traditional military interventions.

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