What is the Significance of American Leadership in the World, I wonder

“How could we have gone in there (Rwanda) and stopped that slaughter?” Senator McCain

By Immaculee Kayitare


Senator John McCain speaks at Robinson Exhibition Hall on Friday April 12, 2013.

During his visit on Friday 12th, April 2013 at the University of Arkansas, Clinton School of Public Service, Senator McCain declared that America’s leadership does not mean that it has to put boots down and go to war. I couldn’t agree more. However, he went on to say that he does not see how America could have effectively intervened in Rwanda. On this note, I completely disagree.

To explain his point Senator McCain stated that [America’s] values are [its] interests. “Our values, he said, are to stop things that are happening in the world if we can. We can’t stop every problem, we can’t intervene everywhere”.

Senator McCain had made a similar statement in 2008 in an exhaustive piece in the New York Times magazine on his military policy thinking. He states that “[he] still look at Rwanda, to some degree, and think, How could we have gone in there and stopped that slaughter?”1. Senator McCain’s observation came to me as a chock and I was left with great disappointment. Not only the United States and the international community in general could have stopped the genocide if it had intervened, but also the United States and the international community have the responsibility, through the United Nations, to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. It is a disappointment that such an influential political leader still believes otherwise. How can a country like the United States justify its nonintervention when 10,000 people on average were being killed daily?

After the Holocaust occurred, the United States leaders declared that never again should genocide happen in the world. Yet, the genocide against Tutsi happened in the eyes of the world and the United States did not feel compelled to intervene. The United States and the world have the obligation to prevent genocide from ever happening again anywhere in the world. Ethnic cleansing is and should always be alarming enough to make the US act. Military intervention is not the only effective form of intervention. The international community could have used its influence to press the UN to increase its peacekeepers in Rwanda instead of retrieving them. A single speech from the United States government against the massacre that was being carried out in Rwanda could have awakened the world to realize the tragedy of the 21st century. Instead, the country turned its blind eye to Rwanda and let the genocide take its course.

Indeed, it is a sad realization that Senator McCain’s observation reflected his core belief. I cannot help but endorse Daniel Nasaw’s commentary2 in the guardian that “one would hope a military man like the Arizona senator might be capable of thinking creatively about how to use military resources to staunch genocide”.

Genocide prevention requires political will. World leaders should make the right decisions in a timely and decisive manner to prevent genocide from ever happening again. In Rwanda, the international community failed to prevent and/or curb the magnitude of the genocide against Tutsi, great effort should be put in supporting the genocide survivors secure reparations and in helping the country in its reconstruction process.

About the author: Immaculee Kayitare, is Masters of Public Service Candidate at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.

1Bai, Matt. “The McCain Doctrines.” The New York Times (New York), May 18, 2008. Accessed April 22, 2013.                         http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/18/magazine/18mccain-t.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1.

2Nasaw, Daniel. “McCain: How could we have prevented Rwanda bloodbath?” the guardian, May 19, 2008.            Accessed April 22, 2013.     http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/deadlineusa/2008/may/19/mccainhowcouldwehavepreve.

Posted by Albert Gasake

7 replies »

  1. From Hiram
    Hello ,

    This article is right on the point. With due respect to Senator McCain, he is competely and absolutely wrong!! How about shutting down the air waves such as radio RTLM. This Radio was Widely listened to by the general population, and it projected racist propaganda against Tutsis, moderate Hutus, Belgians, and the United Nations mission UNAMIR. It is widely regarded as having played a crucial role in creating the atmosphere of charged racial hostility that allowed the genocide to occur.
    To Senato McCain, Yes, the United States of America could have done something.



  2. Personally i think that the USA should do something to stop the genocide and it’s in their responsibilities to do it.
    From That i think that Senator McCain should or have to apologize publicly for this speech ( to the survivors Genocide against the Tutsi)


  3. Thank you all for your feedback, indeed to achieve restorative justice, Senator McCain should admit that the United States did not act as it should have and apologize.


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