During a genocide that the international community could
During the course of the Rwandan genocide, an estimated 500,000–1,000,000 Rwandans were
killed during a 100-day period in 1994.
70% of the Tutsi population was exterminated using repugnant methods
such as massacres by machete. The
majority of an ethnic group was exterminated in a matter of months because of a
genocide that the international community could have stopped but chose not to. President Clinton stood on the sidelines of
this conflict and did not do anything expect for give a half-hearted apology
after it was over. In fact, when he
touched down on Rwandan soil, the engines of Air Force One did not even turn
off as he only stayed for a matter of hours.
Even though the blame does not rest entirely on America’s and by
extension, Clinton’s, there was multiple things that the US could have and
should have done to either prevent or stem the conflict. America had uttered a promise, “never again”
and Clinton and his administration let it happen again. While America did not directly cause the
Rwandan genocide, they simply let it happen, and they let it happen while they
knew everything about what was happening.
If a country knows about genocide and does nothing to stop it or help
the situation then they share part of the blame for the situation. If someone tells you that they will kill
their neighbor tomorrow and you do not report it to the authorities or even try
to help the situation yourself, then you share some of the blame for the murder
for simply sitting on the sidelines doing nothing. Thus when Clinton apologized
years later for simply doing nothing during the genocide, he tried to shift the
blame upon the international community and made no real changes domestically or
internationally to ensure that this would not happen again.
Therefore, I do not think that
President Clinton went far enough in his apology to Rwanda. This is important because I believe that
apologies in international politics are important and can help to improve
relations between countries. Apologies
are useful as long as there are definite policies to back them up or else they
are just seen as being cheap talk and can have negative consequences. Every country does not apologize because true
apologies are not cheap. It is not
simply having your leader say, “I’m sorry”; it means a whole set of policies,
including compensation, educational policies, commemoration policies, how to
remember the past in museums, at cultural sites, and through holidays and
Governments increasingly offer or
demand apologies for past human rights abuses, and I believe that such
expressions of contrition are necessary to promote reconciliation between
former adversaries. The post-World War II experiences of Japan and Germany
suggest that international apologies have powerful healing effects when they
are offered, and poisonous effects when withheld. West Germany made extensive efforts
to atone for wartime crimes-formal apologies, monuments to victims of the
Nazis, reparations, and candid history textbooks; Germany successfully
reconciled with its wartime enemies. By contrast, Japan has made few and
unsatisfying apologies and approves school textbooks that whitewash wartime
atrocities. Japanese leaders worship at the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors war
criminals among Japan’s war dead. Needless to say, relations between Japan and
its neighbors remain tense. In fact,
nearly 60% of South Koreans believe Japan to be a military threat, whereas only
37% of South Koreans view China as a threat.
This can all be traced back to previous transgressions against South
Korea that have not been apologized for.
It’s not just popular opinion that is based on these apologies,
in South Korea, ex-president Park Geun-hye declared, that an upcoming summit with Tokyo would be
“pointless” unless Japan began to truthfully address its
history. Park’s predecessor, Lee Myung-bak, had also demanded apologies from
Japan. South Korea and China have recalled ambassadors, cancelled summits, and
issued numerous criticisms of Tokyo’s perceived failure to atone for its
wartime violence. They claim that Japan’s reluctance to apologize for its past
continues to stymie efforts at regional cooperation, most notably by scuttling
a 2012 security pact with South Korea.
Compare this with Germany,
a country is welcomed as a leader in trade and diplomacy with previous foes,
and its military forces fight alongside those of its former enemies in UN and
NATO operations. An excellent example of how relations between the former foes
is that in 2004, the former Allies invited the German Chancellor to the 60th
anniversary commemoration of the Normandy invasion. Many celebrated this move
as the culmination of German apologies and how if a state can take definite
policy changes, their ideologies and relations can change for the better and it
will enable future cooperation in the international community.
might say that Japan has made multiple apologies, including in the 1990s,
observing the 50th anniversaries of World War II, Japan’s government issued
numerous apologies, including a 1995 Diet resolution that expressed “a sense of
deep remorse” for the pain and suffering that Japan inflicted on its neighbors.
But while some most left-wing Japanese supported these moves and also
apologized, many Japanese conservatives denounced these gestures, asking why
Japan alone should be asked to apologize, denying that Japan had committed
aggression, or arguing that Koreans had welcomed their annexation into the
Japanese empire. Predictably, Japan’s neighbors reacted to these remarks with
outrage and expressions of deep distrust. Failing to acknowledge past
harm has toxic effects on international relations, as is all too clear in East
Asia. Despite some efforts on the part of Japan to recognize and atone for
its past violence, many of the country’s museums, public statements,
and symbolic actions continue to ignore or glorify the country’s past violence.
As a result, Tokyo is helping sustain the region’s tense relationship with its
Therefore, real apologies backed by policies that seek to truly mend the
divide can cause real, positive changes in the international community and
enable countries to work together to solve crises and prevent war. Otherwise the apology has a negative impact on
relations, as I believe that the Clinton apology did as it was not backed by
any policy changes.