STAND posted a message today reporting that Senators Russell Feingold (D-WI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) are sponsoring new legislation that calls for “the development of an interagency genocide prevention strategy.” The bill’s short title reads:
Recognizing the United States national interest in helping to prevent and mitigate acts of genocide and other mass atrocities against civilians, and supporting and encouraging efforts to develop a whole of government approach to prevent and mitigate such acts.
The emphasis is my own and was added in order to draw attention to the soft wording. If you read the entire resolution you will see that it carries no force and effect; rather every subsection begins with urges, encourages, affirms, or supports which leaves it fairly toothless. Compare this to S. 1067 (Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009) which was also sponsored by Sen. Feingold:
SEC. 4. REQUIREMENT OF A STRATEGY TO SUPPORT THE DISARMAMENT OF THE LORD’S RESISTANCE ARMY.
(a) Requirement for Strategy- Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President shall develop and submit to the appropriate committees of Congress a strategy to guide future United States support across the region for viable multilateral efforts to mitigate and eliminate the threat to civilians and regional stability posed by the Lord’s Resistance Army.
As you can see, S. 1067 has a defined action required within a specified timeframe.
From the proposed language, it’s difficult to see how this will change the government’s approach toward genocide. While Feingold’s efforts on this and past legislation should definitely be applauded, true progress in preventing genocide is only going to come if we make combating it a priority rather than a sound bite.