Genocide born in the depths of insecurity
As the Nexus continues its observance of the 15th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, Bruce Wilshire's Get 'Em All! Kill 'Em! provides an opportunity to attempt to understand more deeply the psychological underpinnings of a genocide.
According to Wilshire, genocides are often born out of mortal terror -- they are started by populations that consider themselves at risk of being destroyed, and in a perverse fashion they embark upon genocides not out of mere hatred for their targets, but because they're convinced that destroying their targets is the only way to ensure their own survival.
While this could very well hold true for many of those who participate in a genocide as foot soldiers, history leads us to suspect that it probably doesn't absolve the leaders.
Adolph Hitler -- the engineer of history's prototypical genocide -- clearly had political motivations at the heart of his quest to destroy European Jews. He empowered himself to a stark degree by fear-mongering against Jews. Whether or not he felt that they really constituted a mortal threat is a matter of historical dispute.
In Rwanda, the move to kill politically moderate Hutus -- a move that removed political rivals to many Hutu leaders, particularly military leaders -- is itself very telling.
While Wilshire's analysis is fascinating on a macro-level when applied to the population as a whole, it is less convincing on a micro-level when applied to the leaders of a genocide.