Ethics & International Affairs Volume 16.2 (Fall 2002): Book Reviews: Samantha Power A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide

Nov 25, 2002

Peter Ronayne (reviewer)

Joseph Stalin, mass-murderer extraordinaire, famously commented, "A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic." Stalin’s cynical statement no doubt has a ring of truth to it—the mind is easily overwhelmed by the staggering death tolls that represent genocide in Armenia, Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and elsewhere. Nonetheless, one expects and hopes that the United States and its leaders, as champions of human rights, would rise well above Uncle Joe’s cynicism to see such "statistics" for the crimes they are and put a stop to them where possible.

In her authoritative book, A Problem from Hell, Samantha Power reminds us that, sadly, this has not been the case. Instead, the United States has consistently failed to exert its considerable leadership on the world stage to halt genocide.With forceful, regretful, and even angry prose, Power reveals the stark record: the United States has rarely missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity to stand against genocide.

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