International Security coverRobert Pape adds to a growing literature that is trying to develop a more cohesive approach to controlling or mitigating episodes of genocide and mass atrocity violence. His call for a more pragmatic approach is certainly laudable and his claims that the world has not fared well in preventing past genocides is certainly correct. Overall, however, his article is puzzling on a number of analytical points and his prescription for a pragmatic standard of humanitarian intervention appears to fall short of providing a clear and workable framework for alleviating mass atrocity events.

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Many of the specific questions raised about our article’s limitations by the commentators are, indeed, true, but they reflect the stated approach of the paper.  North Korea is a country where the uncertainties are great, and this is no truer than in trying to anticipate a future North Korean government collapse and potential transition to Korean unification.  Moreover, information on North Korea is scarce and difficult to interpret in large part because of North Korean information denial and falsification efforts.  As a result, it is important to note our statement of the purposes of our article: “First, we seek to bring into the public debate a discussion of the scale of the problems that the collapse of North Korea’s government could create, and the potential for dire consequences, both humanitarian and strategic, if stability efforts were delayed or failed altogether.  We describe the military missions that might be necessary to stabilize North Korea and estimate the force requirements for those missions. …  Second and more broadly, this analysis sheds light on international intervention in collapsing states.” (86) With their comments, the reviewers have certainly contributed to our first objective, and their comments add to what we have contributed on the second.  Moreover, we developed estimates of the military force requirements because we felt they would help motivate a public debate.

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International Security coverBruce Bennett and Jennifer Lind provide what can only be described as a most timely analysis of the challenges facing external actors in the event of a collapse in North Korea following “the most difficult challenge that such regimes face: succession” (84).They correctly identify not only the internal weaknesses of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the daunting prospect of a truncated transition period, but also the difficulties and dangers faced by the international community in addressing a potential collapse. Underlying trends leading to collapse include the destabilizing effects of a chronic lack of food combined with uncertainty about who is in power (91). The authors see Kim Jong-il’s sudden death or incapacitation as the potential trigger for a power struggle and subsequent government collapse, due to the limited time spent grooming his successor, Kim Jong-un, and the candidate’s extreme youth (84). And a “government collapse in North Korea could unleash a series of catastrophes on the peninsula with potentially far-reaching regional and global effects” (84). These effects would include a humanitarian crisis leading to a massive outflow of refugees, North Korean weapons of mass destruction (WMD) finding their way onto the international black market, and, potentially, in the absence of sufficient international coordination, conflict between the countries likely to intervene, the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of Korea, and the United States (85).

 

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