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Trivia and Discussion: Preventing Genocide and Employing Military Options


What are the challenges to employing military options for genocide prevention? Name two.

Hint: You’ll find the answer in the following discussion guide. 


The Genocide Prevention Task Force Report outlines the challenges of and recommendations for the inclusion of early prevention of genocide and mass atrocities into US foreign policy. While the report analyzes these recommendations on a general level, it does not specifically apply them to current conflicts or troublesome areas which threaten to become conflict zones.   

How would the GPTF recommendations on employing military options impact the conflicts in Sudan, Congo, Burma and other areas of concern if they were implemented into government policy? 

Read the fifth chapter of the GPTF report here. 


  • The United States does not face an all-or-nothing choice between taking no military action and launching a major intervention.
  • While there is a necessary focus on prevention, we cannot assume preventive measures will succeed.
  • Challenges to employing military options:
    • The nature of genocide (can’t be neutral; must take sides)
    • Domestic political challenges (public does not understand whole scale of military options)
    • International political challenges (if actions aren’t authorized by the UNSC or out of self defense- illegitimate at best, illegal at worst; "responsibility to protect" is a step forward with this problem)
    • Military challenges (primary objective is protection of civilians, not a goal or consequence of broader aim; is the US military prepared for something like this?)
  • Most important tools for military preparedness: national policy, doctrine, plans, and training
  • Check out the charts on page 82 and 83 of the GPTF Report to see the process of violence and graduated military options
  • The US should work with partners- UN, AU and ECOWAS, NATO and EU




  • Recommendation 5-1: The secretary of defense and U.S. military leaders should develop military guidance on genocide prevention and response and incorporate it into Department of Defense (and interagency) policies, plans, doctrine, training, and lessons learned.
    • Genocide prevention would be integrated into already existing defense planning.
    • Language on protecting civilians from mass atrocities should be included in the rules of engagement (ROE) issued by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
    • The US should support mapping out the range of early and longer term options to prevent or halt actors from committing atrocities; there should be a clear indication of "interruption points" within the development of conflict.
  • Recommendation 5-2: The director of national intelligence and the secretary of defense should leverage military capacities for intelligence and early warning and strengthen links to political-military planning and decision making.
    • Strengthening the military’s role in intelligence and early warning is important for dispelling false idea of only being able to do nothing or launch an intervention.
    • Defense intelligence capabilities can strengthen the link between indicators of potential violence and use of military assets; genocide indicators should be introduced into military intelligence
  • Recommendation 5-3: The Departments of Defense and State should work to enhance the capacity of the United Nations, as well as the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States, and other regional and subregional bodies to employ military options to prevent and halt genocide and mass atrocities.
    • The US should support and reinforce UN and other international peace keeping efforts.
  • Recommendation 5-4: The Departments of Defense and State should work with NATO, the European Union, and capable individual governments to increase preparedness to reinforce or replace United Nations, African Union, or other peace operations to forestall mass atrocities.
    • Missions may need rapid reinforcements if peacekeeping operations come under threat themselves or if violence escalates. (ex. Rwanda)
    • The US can also provide logistics and operational capabilities.
  • Recommendation 5-5: The Departments of Defense and State should enhance the capacity of the United States and the United Nations to support a transition to long-term efforts to build peace and stability in the wake of genocidal violence.
    • Long-term support for post-conflict rebuilding is important for sustainable peace.

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