Holocaust Memorial Day: we need to reconcile the conflicting lessons of the the last century

Heavy-handed Iraq-style occupations are out, but so are Libya-style interventions on-the-cheap

 

This year, Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) falls on the eve of another round of negotiations in Geneva that are unlikely to end the war in Syria – the latest case of mass killing that the international community has failed miserably to halt.

HMD has long been about more than just remembering the Holocaust and its victims. The failure of the world to prevent the crime of the Nazis or to come to the rescue of its victims provoked the cry of ‘Never again’. Today, the cry sounds as forlorn as ever.

The cause of intervention to prevent genocide and other mass crimes has had its ups and downs since the twin tragedies of Bosnia and Rwanda in the 1990s made it an issue in international politics.

Then, the discrediting of the international community by its wilful failures to intervene to halt genocide, and of those Western statesmen implicated in the failure, motivated their successors to do better.

Hence, a series of international military interventions to halt atrocities, beginning with Kosovo and East Timor in 1999 and culminating in the saving of Benghazi from Colonel Gaddafi’s forces in 2011.

There were terrible failures elsewhere, including Darfur and Congo. But the unanimous adoption of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ (R2P) by the 2005 UN World Summit, committing the world to acting to prevent genocide, war-crimes and crimes against humanity even within the borders of sovereign states, seemed to have laid the ghosts of Bosnia and Rwanda to rest.

It was not to be. The hugely unpopular, if not greatly discredited US invasion of Iraq, and the bloodbath that followed it, alongside the apparently unending war in Afghanistan with its tally of US, British and other soldiers killed or crippled, gravely damaged the cause of humanitarian military intervention.

The 2011 Libya intervention was at one level R2P’s finest hour, insofar as it occurred with UN authorisation and genuine international support and achieved its immediate humanitarian goals.

Yet the grubby aftermath, with Libya descending into anarchy, confirmed for many the impression that outside intervention only makes civil conflicts worse.

The global economic downturn and rising tide of Islamophobia have further contributed to a pessimistic, isolationist climate in which calls to intervene to protect Muslim lives, or even Christian lives in Muslim-majority countries, are fiercely resisted.

With world opinion tilting against intervention, Syria reminds us of the terrible cost of non-intervention: over 250,000 dead; a country destroyed; an unending war in one of the world’s most politically sensitive regions; a huge wave of refugees knocking at the EU’s fortified gates; and the emergence of ISIS and a huge new breeding ground for terrorism.

The world desperately needs to reconcile the conflicting lessons of Kosovo, Iraq, Libya and Syria and find a way to deal with crimes of genocide and mass violence, wherever they occur.<

There can be no more Iraq-style unilateral interventions, waged in defiance of world opinion. But nor should intervention depend upon formal UN approval, giving the tyrannical regimes in Russia and China vetoes.

Heavy-handed Iraq-style occupations are out, but so are Libya-style interventions on-the-cheap. Intervention cannot produce a clean slate and peace, prosperity and democracy overnight, nor can it be limited to the purely military, with no thought to post-conflict reconstruction.

Given these dilemmas, it is worth remembering that prevention is better than cure. By 1944, when Auschwitz came within reach of Anglo-American bombers, it was already too late to save most Jewish victims of the Nazis, but 1938, the time of the Munich Agreement, was not too late.

‘Never Again’ is not just a cry for soft-hearted humanitarians or foreign-policy hawks; failure to take prompt action may necessitate costlier, bloodier intervention later on.

Marko Attila Hoare is an historian at Kingston University

27 Responses to “Holocaust Memorial Day: we need to reconcile the conflicting lessons of the the last century”

  1. Bradley B.

    I think left-liberals in education have their hands full dealing with or denying (which is more millennial) the prevalence among working-class British Muslims of Holocaust denial.

  2. Cole

    Quite a lot of right wingers are Holocaust deniers. Remember that it was the Nazis – extreme right wingers – who committed this crime.

  3. Bradley B.

    You think working-class Muslim Holocaust deniers are NOT right-wing? You think right-wing is white thing?

    Many ultra-right whites do not deny the Holocaust – they celebrate it. In the insane fragmented world of the white ultra-right I do not know how these two views get on side by side but they both certainly exist.

  4. andagain

    Do you have a reference for that? I’m curious.

  5. andagain

    1938, the time of the Munich Agreement, was not too late.

    It was, however, a lot too early. Since the Holocaust had not even started at that date, no one would be going to go to war to stop something they had no reason to believe would start.

  6. andagain

    Curious enough to discover that all you can point to is a list of accusations, rather than an article demonstrating anything.

  7. Bradley B.

    Ask a friend how to search lists and you’ll be fine. In the meantime go ask 20 working-class Muslim friends which I am sure you have and they can share with you.

  8. JAMES MCGIBBON

    They were National Socialist Christians.

  9. andagain

    I thought it quite possible your claim was true, which is why I asked for evidence that supported it. In response I get lists of accusations and comments full of snark, which is not the response I usually get from people who DO have evidence.

  10. Bradley B.

    I have lived and worked closely with Muslims, mainly middle-class for 20 years and I know from them that working class Muslims under 30 do not believe anything about the Holocaust. I also worked in Libya, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf where Holocaust denial in the Street is taken for granted. I would guess that the majority of single, male Muslim migrants seeking refuge in Europe are deniers. Leading Islamic scholars from the Grand Mufti (Sunni) down to those in colleges tend towards denial.

    And PS. I have had two part-time jobs working for the PLO – yes the PLO. Both jobs concerned with placing students with scholarships into Western Universities.

  11. Cole

    I guess there are far right loons who deny the Holocaust – white, Muslim and no doubt others.

  12. Selohesra

    When you get to political extremes terms like right & left are pretty meaningless – BNP have quite left wing economic policy & Nazi’s were form of Socialism after all. I always like the horseshoe analogy where both extremes are closer that they would like to think.

  13. andagain

    Those assertions would have sounded so much more convincing if you had not resorted to argument-by-personal-insult first. As it is: point to some reference source.

  14. Bradley B.

    Find your own sources. Try speaking to hundreds of Muslims as I have done. Seems pretty clear you do not know any and have never spoken to nay about such subjects. But you are so sure you know it all. The ignorance on this site beggars belief. This nonsense typifies it:

    http://leftfootforward.org/2016/01/ofsted-not-the-niqab-is-impairing-learning-in-schools/

    My comment:

    ”For a start, it’s unclear exactly why the niqab might be an obstacle to learning. Muslims have been teaching, learning and otherwise communicating wearing the full-face veil for centuries in Islamic countries all around the world.”

    Illiteracy rates among Muslim women early in the 20th Century was around 90% in Indian Empire, Afghanistan and the Arab world.

    In the few areas where there were schools, females were taught by females and no face covering was necessary.

    Your ignorance is appalling and shameful.

  15. Reginabchristopher

    Curous enugh to discver that all you can point to is a list of acusations, rather than an

  16. Reginabchristopher

    Curous enugh to discver that all you can point to is a list of acuons, rather than an

  17. Reginabchristopher

    Curous enugh to discver that all you can point to is a list of cusations, rather than an

  18. Reginabchristopher

    Curous enugh to discver that all you can point to is a list of cusatins, rather than an

  19. Reginabchristopher

    Curous enugh to discver that all you can point to is a list of tions, rather than an

  20. Reginabchristopher

    Curous enugh to discver that all you can point to is a lit of acusations, rather than an

  21. Reginabchristopher

    Curous enugh to discver that all you can point to is a list of acusationrather than an

  22. Reginabchristopher

    Curous enugh to discver that all you can point to is a list osations, rather than an

  23. Reginabchristopher

    Curous enugh to discver that all you can point to is a li acusations, rather than an

  24. Reginabchristopher

    Curous enugh to discver that all you can point to is a list of acusationher than an

  25. Reginabchristopher

    Curous enugh to discver that all you can point to is a list of acs, rather than an

  26. Barzini

    The Nazis were socialists, literally every single one of their policies was left wing in nature

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