Nearly nine months ago, President Obama declared the prevention of mass atrocities and genocide “a core national security interest and core moral responsibility” of the United States in the 21st century and set in motion an unprecedented review of our national capacity to foresee, prevent, and respond to them. In doing so, the President expressed his determination to ensure an end to history’s bitter succession of mass killings and to make “never again” not just a reminder to future generations, but a hallmark of American policy.
Today, at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, an institution dedicated to the imperatives of memory and action, President Obama announced sweeping initiatives generated by his directive. The President ordered steps—including the establishment of an Atrocity Prevention Board—that will lay the foundation for a stronger, better-organized U.S. and international response to early warnings of mass atrocities and genocide, presenting policymakers with better prevention options before the costs of action rise.
Atrocities are not inevitable. They are perpetrated by those who choose cruelty, preach hate, and seek power through division and death. They need not—and should not—happen anywhere. Not in Cote d’Ivoire, nor Libya, nor Syria. Yet, as the President has said, “History has taught us that our pursuit of a world where states do not systematically slaughter civilians will not come to fruition without concerted and coordinated effort.” Today and every day, let us work together to apply the lessons of the past and to strengthen the world’s will and capacity to make “never again” an enduring reality.