The Holocaust and Mass Atrocity: The Continuing Challenge for Decision

by Aitza Haddad

This article begins with an appraisal of a report published by the United States Institute for Peace and authored by the former Secretary of State, Albright, and former Secretary of Defense, Cohen. This Report generated a great deal of interest and reaction from scholars across the globe. The article will introduce the broad outline of this Report and provide a summary of the principal criticisms that it has generated. This sets the stage for approaching the problem that is sensitive to the issue that this phenomenon be explore with a view to developing usable insights and data as well as methods and guidelines that may be of value to policy makers who have responsibility for acting in response to the problems of genocide and mass atrocity. The article then explores the problem with the specific emphasis on a better understanding of the Holocaust. It reviews anti-Semitism from a multi-disciplinary perspective. It focuses on the influence of American anti-Semitism on the German Nazis, it explores the endurance of anti-Semitism in Germany via its intellectual and scholastic elite, and it explores the political psychology of Hitlerism prior to the Second World War. The article then explores the problem that anti-Semitism may be a necessary condition of genocide but it is not sufficient. This requires us to understand the jump from anti-Semitism that is repressive and dominating to the decision to exterminate a population of human beings completely. This requires us to more carefully explore specific features of the Nazi decision process as well as its framework of social control.

The Article then seeks to underline the unique aspects of the Holocaust, it also identifies the specific lessons which make the Holocaust uniquely distinctive, and it explores the intellectual and policy challenges generated by this experience. Among the issues which have driven Holocaust-like outcomes is the way in which emotion shapes human political behavior in both benign and lethal ways. It explores the tradition of political psychology and its relationship to character and social structure. It also explores the important revelations that quantum physics provides for understanding the influence of emotion and consciousness on the behavior of subatomic particles. From this perspective the article develops a theory that contextualizes the social processes of emotion in terms of social processes of positive and negative sentiment. These are factors that influence the possibility of destructive behaviors or constructive social outcomes. The article then shifts the focus to recurrent genocide and uses the tragedy in the former Yugoslavia as a contemporary case study.

With this background the article focuses on developing the theoretical and methodological intellectual skills that have been developed in the context of the policy sciences to provide an approach to the challenges generated by the problems of mass murder and genocide which will guide a policy maker to more realistic, timely, and effective interventions. The article then explores five distinctive but interrelated intellectual tasks required of research to guide inquiry and policy making. These intellectual tasks include a disciplined commitment to the clarification of the value goals implicated by the problems of mass murder and genocide; it focus as well on the intellectual task which requires a careful specification of the trends in past decision that have sought in some measure of efficacy to respond to these problems; it focuses of the third intellectual task which is to understand the scientific conditions that have shaped the nature of the trends; it then focuses on the fourth intellectual task which is the task of forecasting the prospect of mass murder and genocide and the possibility of constraining it. Finally theory requires an element of creativity. That would be expressed in terms of the forecast about the prospect of genocide and mass murder which could be understood as a tentative forecast of an optimistic and a pessimistic nature. The creative aspect of this would be the invention off strategies that might direct intervention of a trend in the direction of the optimistic possible future.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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