Roger W. Smith


The proposed handbook, MARO: Mass Atrocity Response Operations; A Military Planning Handbook, offers many valuable suggestions about how the military can be prepared for intervention in situations of mass atrocity against civilians. The chief flaw of the document is that it places the military at the center and banishes the political, diplomatic, humanitarian, and reconstructive elements of intervention to the periphery of its focus. As a result, it sets up utopian goals for the military to rebuild devastated societies, fails to ask crucial questions about coordination and decision making in the political and military hierarchies, largely ignores inter- national relations and their possible impact on intervention, creates structures that are excessively complicated, and by emphasizing structure (formal organization) it tends to ignore the vital element of process (the process by which decisions are made and implemented). The authors of the report view genocide and mass atrocity against civilians almost exclusively from the lens of the military. This approach is severely flawed for a variety of reasons, the main ones being that genocide and atrocity do not exist in a military vacuum and that many of the tasks that the hand- book assigns to the military are beyond its competence.