Courage First: Dissent, Debate, and the Origins of US Responsiveness to Mass Killing
Amanda Rothschild’s dissertation, “Courage First: Dissent, Debate, and the Origins of US Responsiveness to Mass Killing,” proposes a novel theory explaining US policy in response to mass killing. Rothschild argues that the most critical factors historically responsible for shaping US policy include the degree of congressional pressure for action, the level at which dissent occurs within the government, and the extent to which the president views the atrocities as a political burden. To develop her theory, Rothschild investigates the policies of seven presidential administrations regarding five cases of mass killing: the Armenian Genocide of 1915; the Holocaust from 1938 to 1945; mass killings in Bangladesh in 1971; atrocities in Bosnia from 1992 to 1995; and the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. The presidential administrations under examination include the administrations of Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, and William Clinton. In developing her case studies, Rothschild draws on primary source documents from eight archives across the United States and on several oral history interviews. Her conclusions highlight the enduring role of dissent in shaping US policy on mass killing, the significance of individual leaders in international relations, and the critical relationship between domestic politics and foreign policy. Rothschild’s findings not only provide new historical data and theoretical insights relevant to academic literature in political science, international relations, international security, and diplomatic history, but also offer novel ideas for understanding present day debates on US foreign policy, atrocity prevention, and human rights.