Rationalization Of Mass Killing Essay

3253 words - 14 pages

According to former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, “there is no rationality at all about ethnic conflict. It is gut, it is hatred”(Z). Despite this claim however, many political scientists assert that mass killing is rational, and serves a purpose to those who instigate it: two such theorists, Barry Posen and Benjamin Valentino, present two differing philosophies. Posen presents a theory for mass killings that focuses on the realist school of thought, and therefore mainly on the concept of security dilemma and anarchy. Unlike Posen whom presents his theory based on the state level of analysis, Valentino presents a theory that encompasses the individual level of analysis, and as such can be considered to follow the constructivist school of thought. His theory attempts to explain mass killing as a strategy that leaders use in order to fulfill their long-term goals. Posner’s realist explanation describes a limited range of mass killings: It can merely describe and predict the mass killings and ethnic conflict that can occur after the deterioration of a large central authority into small ethnic subgroups, such as what happened to Yugoslavia. Conversely, Valentino’s theory not only offers rationalizations for all types of ethnic conflict and genocide, but also presents an accurate model that can be used to predict the manifestation of such events in the future. Thus, due to Valentino’s ability to present explanations for most occurrences of mass killings in history and the facility to predict such events occurring in the future, his theory for mass killings is superior to Posner’s limited explanation and even more constrained ability to calculate the chances of future manifestations of mass killing that is offered in his rationalization.
Barry Posen, a political science professor at MIT presents his explanation for mass killing and ethnic conflict in his article “The Security Dilemma and Ethnic Conflict”. The article presents a vindication for mass killing through the lenses of a realist explanation for international relations. Thus, his argument heavily focuses on the concept of security dilemma, a model that realists utilize to describe why states go to war. Realists assume that because there is continual anarchy throughout the international political system, the main concern of independent states is security. Thus, a state will build up its defenses in an attempt to provide itself security in the state of anarchy in which it resides. This, in essence, is the crux of the security dilemma: actions that seem “sufficient to one state’s defence will seem, and often be, offensive to its neighbours” (X). Thus, what a state does to augment its own security in the face of anarchy will compel other states to increase their security as well, and will produce uncertainty and fear in the political environment. The security dilemma becomes especially severe under certain conditions, such as when one cannot distinguish between the offensive and...

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