Once the horrors of the Nazi persecution of the Jews, homosexuals, gypsies, political enemies, and other minorities became clear, much of the world vowed to prevent such acts from happening again. Sadly, they have not lived up to that promise. Since then, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Iraq, Rwanda, Bosnia, and many other nations have suffered under genocidal regimes. No genocide has the same political causes or motivations, but that does not give the world a pass to watch on as they occur. In many of the cases of genocide since the Holocaust, Western powers knew they were occurring and either did nothing or did too little. Since the Rwandan genocide, many academics and critics of the response have suggested that a more aggressive intervention may have prevented, or at least lessened, the murder of hundreds of thousands of Rwandans. In the case of the Sbreninica massacre in Bosnia, UN officials were told that Serbian commander Ratko Mladić had surrounded the town. Considering the town was primarily Bosniaks, which had already suffered years of persecution by the Serbians, it was easy to guess what inaction would cost. Humanitarian interventions can be messy, but it guarantees that someone is standing up for the persecuted, at any cost. We cannot let the failures in the short history of intervention deter action against future atrocities.
The doctrine of humanitarian intervention is wholly admirable but completely impractical. Much like many of the moral problems we face—poverty, healthcare, and climate change—there are often huge logistical hurdles to overcome in solving them. In the case of genocide and human rights abuses abroad, it is not only difficult legally muddy to intervene in a sovereign nation's affairs, but comes at a huge economic and human toll to all involved. Most crucially, there is not a clear track record of success in the cases where intervention has occurred. Often times, it can protract the conflict or destabilize the nation it is occurring in. We have an obligation to everything we can, but most of the time intervention is not a practical option.
[P1] Nations generally posture a desire to uphold human rights. [P2] Many atrocities have occurred without intervention. [C] Despite indicating a dedication to protecting human rights, the US and its allies have failed time and again to do so in practice.
Rejecting the premises
[Rejecting P2] In some cases the atrocities were not well documented, or there were few viable means of intervention.