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Final Solutions by Benjamin Valentino

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Published: Tue, 19 Dec 2017

This research paper discusses the main problem of “Final Solutions” by Benjamin Valentino. It also considers theories of mass killing origin.

The stimulus for mass killing usually initiates from a relatively little groupings of forceful leaders and is often realized without any approval of society.

When the average American is asked to name the conventional reasons for genocide and mass killing he is certain to indicate ethnic enmity or accuse the contradictory society. But in “Final Solutions: Mass Killing and Genocide in the 20th Century” (Cornell University Press), author Benjamin A. Valentino claims that ethnic harassment and the dysfunction of out society are unequal elucidation. Though Valentino considers these elements as factors, he notices that pervasive intentional cruelty is typically stimulated by small minorities of military or political leaders, their intentions and plans are realized without the approval of the community.

There is something strangely tender about Benjamin Valentino’s book, on the wholly distenderless topic of genocide and mass killing in the twentieth century. If the Valentino is right about the crucial role of relatively small ethnic or military groupings in the cruelest offences of the twentieth century, then genocide/mass killing may appear not to be the secret it would seem. And if its nature can be seen in lucid terms that refer to a wide range of examples, then maybe something can be carried out to avert it. This is, first of all, the real aim of all genocide scientists. By the way, they care about the pragmatic consequences of their work in stopping the killing as they are with its purely scientific value (Miller). Summing up all phenomena connected with human activity – especially genocide all over the world in the twentieth and nineteenth century – one can surely feel blue and disappointed. Though in a sarcastic manner, Valentino has evaded this partially by including in his work what he calls “mass killing,” or “the intentional killing of a massive number of noncombatants” (Valentino). You are surely interested how massive these killings are? Here Valentino gives the definite figure of “at least fifty thousand intentional deaths over the course of five or fewer years,” though if his theory is proved to work, he claims, this figure should reduce as well (Valentino). The main point is not in definite number (and one of the cunnings of the UN’s Genocide Convention is that it does not require any researches revealed in specific numbers on a genocide studying). The main point is to understand how the mass killing of guiltless, defenseless people becomes the policy of some states.

Valentino is surely not the only scientist who researches the causes of genocide/mass killing origin. His profound studying, nevertheless, allows him to make some rather well-reasoned and sensible refutation of earlier explanations such as social segmentation and raw governmental power. Opposing the “plural society theory” that Leo Kuper and others have suggested to explain genocide, for instance, he shows us that in Cambodia trespassers and sufferers belong to the same social and ethnic layers, and that many sufferers, actually, referred to dominant ethnic groups (Valentino). Similarly, Valentino catches reader’s attention by describing such examples as French behaviou in Algeria to refute the mind that genocide/mass killing depends on government. He appoints that democracy stimulates and gives a push to violence. He is also uncertain of scapegoating as the main motivating reason, quoting Michael Mann’s recent research of Holocaust offenders as evidence that private complaints were rarely necessary to sketch behavior. Considering these researches, Valentino says they have “strong intuitive appeal … they are simply too common to serve as accurate indicators of this relatively rare kind of violence” (Valentino). The author next opposes another overall presumption concerning the reason of genocide/mass killing: that it is sought after and supported by the major part of the society. Most scientists, I believe, won’t argue with the author in the chapter “The Perpetrators and the Public,”(Valentino) which views such classic works in this area as Christopher Browning’s “Ordinary Men”(compared very graciously with Daniel Goldhagen’s critically different consequences for the same grouping of men); the despotic individualism experiments of psychologists Stanley Milgram and Philip Zimbardo; and explores of what makes warriors readily risk their lives for things that don’t influence them in a direct way (Miller). Valentino assumes that the course of mass killing lies in situational elements and the plans of relatively small but forceful groups, but not in wide public backing and deep-seated ideological odium. This is well proved by the chapter’s variable number of evidences. Actually, this chapter could be titled as a representation of the wide range of scientists theories about the question what makes people kill.

But the main question is why people kill each other. In order to answer this, during the left three quarters of the book, the author provides thorough studying of the “specific situations, goals, and conditions” that lead political and/or military leaders to embark upon a policy of genocide/mass killing (Valentino). In chapter three, the author, defines six main courses of mass killing and genocide: communist, ethnic, territorial, counterguerrilla, terrorist, and imperialist (Miller). Considering communist, ethnic, and counterguerrilla mass murdering as the most dominant and fatal, his work then dedicates chapter to each reason. Moreover, as regards the common examples of ethnic genocide such as Armenia, the Holocaust, and Rwanda. Valentino devotes the whole chapter to the Soviet Union, China, and Cambodia, as well as the guerrillas’ mass murders in Guatemala and Afghanistan. In addition to this, in order to give profound reasoning, he finishes every chapter by studying duties that were much less cruel and never turned into genocidal – such as Cuba, South Africa, and the Philippines during its counter revolt against the Huk rebellion of 1947-1953 (Miller). The outcome of all these examples, some of which could make up deserving abstracts for university or school teaching, is that, with the exclusion of Cambodia, genocide/mass killing is “rarely a policy of first resort” (Valentino). It is better to say that it is a deliberate and expedient strategy chosen to reach a definite goal. The Fascists made several attempts to vanish Jews from their captured territories, including compulsory emigration and deportation. In some time this methods were substituted by extirpation. The famous soviet ruler Stalin released the famine in Ukrainian. He did it by keeping to the policy of agricultural collectivization. And the author describes a parallel process with reference to the Guatemalan regime’s increasing violence against its village people considering the villages population rising for the riot. The average reader is not familiar with Guatemalan example, but historians claim and approve the accuracy of the stated events. The main point of the book is that the leaders exploit genocide/mass killing in order to achieve their political or ethnical goals. Valentino contends that, assassinating innocent people in wide numbers is clarified as a tactical step based on a lucid vision of the end outcome. Indeed, Valentino leads us beyond the limits of what prompts people to kill other people, to the more important question of what moves their leaders to command them to act this way. It is an insuperable, profound and, of course, significant argument. Nevertheless, like most arguments it assumes some examples that cannot be brought into correlation with the author’s six motivational range. View, for instance, the often fatal behavior of the soldiers who act in accordance with the command of Bosnian Muslim Naser Ori in the Serb villages surrounding Srebrenica. Now on trial in The Hague for war crimes, Ori was operating without the authority of the Bosnian leadership in Sarajevo and very much in response to the aggression of the Bosnian Serb army (which was receiving aid and directives not only from their civilian leadership in Pale, but from Belgrade itself) (Miller). Valentino may contradict that Ori’s deeds, as those of similar insurgents will never achieve the level of mass killing that is appropriate in their opinion. Moreover these rebels act only in accordance with their leader policy and views. They did, nevertheless, intimidate the Bosnian Serb people near Srebrenica. Similarly, the Guatemalan villagers intimidated by their own authorities. And despite that the Bosnian Serbs certainly did not need any additional motivation for their clearly conceived program of ethnic cleansing and genocide, Ori’s actions were, we know now, on their minds when they entered Srebrenica in July 2005 (Miller).

Valentino’s research is not limited by the seven motives definition, it goes deeper. It does, nevertheless, point out that profound and deep reasons such as vengeance or simply terror, can also stir up cases of genocide/mass killing, especially when a current government is absent or does not have the real power. I have mentioned this because Valentino’s proofs can sometimes seem abundantly positive in effort to describe policies that forecast and avert genocide/mass killing. I understand that author tries to consider genocide not as something scheduled, but rather as the thoroughly chosen tools to reach goals that are desired for the state or certain group. Surely Valentino’s work is based on the investigation of others. Though his sources belong to scientific ones and his work is fully footnoted, his conclusions are based on impressive mixture of investigations that were carried out during the past half century, but not on any original reviews, original works, or other investigation programs. For instance in chapter three he considers some rather intuitional causes that make genocide/mass killing more likely, including: “the higher the priority that communist leaders assign to the radical transformation of society”; “the more rapidly ethnic cleansing is carried out”; and “the greater the physical capabilities for mass killing possessed by the perpetrators” (Valentino). Similar example can be referred to the author’s believe “the Holocaust was unique because each of the millions of lives it extinguished was unique, never to lived again “(Valentino). I cannot agree with this statement because every person in our world is unique. And one will not become unique only for the reason of being killed during the Holocaust. According to Nazi world view the Jews belonged to the lowest group of the human rung hierarchy. Actually the Hitler’s ideology regarding conceived of Jewish people was carried through the ages. Fascists were afraid of their Aryan blood being contaminated.

Valentino’s book has prospered in providing readers not only with a reasonable interpretation for genocide/mass killing, but also with many valuable proposals for what we should do to prevent it. Benjamin A. Valentino thinks that ethnic enmity or harassment, anti-democratic policy of government in community do not influence mass killing and genocide that is generally accepted. He affirms that the stimulus for mass killing usually initiates from a relatively little groupings of forceful leaders and is often realized without any approval of society. Mass killing, to the author’s mind, is a savage political or martial plan worked out to achieve leaders’ most significant goals. Leaders use this technique to overcome menace to their power, and resolve their most complicated problems. Valentino does not confine his research to mass killing aimed against ethnic groups. He characterizes mass killing as the intentional killing of 50,000 or more innocent people during five years. The book concentrates on three kinds of mass killing: communist mass killings like the ones carried out in the Soviet Union, China, and Cambodia; ethnic genocides as in Armenia, Nazi Germany, and Rwanda; and “counter-guerrilla” campaigns including the brutal civil war in Guatemala and the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (Miller). Valentino finishes the book by disputing that attempts to prevent mass killing should be aimed on disarmament and shifting from governing the leaders and small groups in charge of initiating and arranging the killing. As for me the main conclusion of this book has been the clear gospel truth in all times. The problem that I consider the main – is contradiction of society. There will always be those leaders, and small groups that are aimed to reach their personal goals. But these leaders are the children of society. But on the other hand people need somebody to manage them, that is why they agree to all leaders requirements. All in all, Valentino has raised a very important problem that alarms people all over the world. The author sets very vivid and arresting examples that simply catch your attention. But one thing I can say with certain that this book was not written for the average reader. To develop one’s reasonable mind on this book one should be good at history, sociology and psychology.


  • Miller, P. “Final Solutions.” H-Genocide 14.09 (2005): 34-38
  • Valentino, Benjamin. Final Solutions: Mass Killing and Genocide in the 20-th Century. Cornwell University Press, 2004.

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