WASHINGTON—The majority of Americans are knowledgeable, concerned, and keen to stop genocide occurring around the world, according to a new poll released in Washington, D.C., on Monday.
The poll commissioned by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum found that 67 years after the Holocaust, most Americans—94 percent—believe genocide is still a concern and still possible, while two-thirds believe genocide is preventable.
In a forum in which U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered the keynote speech, pollster Mark Penn said he was surprised at the results, fearing that the influence of today’s pop culture would result in a less-informed response.
“The results are striking in that they show a deep American concern for genocide and a strong desire for global action to face this threat,” said Penn, a former presidential pollster and now CEO of international public relations firm Burson-Marsteller and blue chip research organization Penn Schoen Berland.
The results are striking in that they show a deep American concern for genocide and a strong desire for global action to face this threat.
—Mark Penn, pollster
While two-out-of-three of those interviewed believe the United States has a major role in stopping genocide—and 78 percent said they would support U.S. military action to do so—only 10 percent support unilateral action by America. Just over half said multilateral action was their preferred military strategy.
“Americans believe they have a moral responsibility to prevent or stop genocide around the world, even if it means putting boots on the ground. But they view multilateral action as the most effective military strategy for prevention,” Penn told the forum.
The poll was conducted in a random telephone survey of 1,000 people by Penn Schoen Berland between June and July this year.
Penn said he was surprised at the level of engagement among Americans on genocide, particularly across the generations, saying there is a combined sense of “knowledge,” “realism,” and ‘idealism” in the polling results.
“They are well-educated on the correct definition of genocide, especially young Americans, and believe education plays an important role in preventing this threat,” he said.
Three-quarters of those interviewed believe educating people about the history of genocide can help prevent future atrocities.
In her keynote speech, Secretary Clinton acknowledged the important role the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum plays as “a teaching and learning experience” for the 1.7 million people who visit each year.
“Here at this museum and in the work that many of you do every day, we are countering hatred with truth,” she said.
President Barack Obama spoke at the museum in April, declaring the prevention of mass atrocities and genocide as “a core national security interest” and “a core moral responsibility.”
Clinton said military action was a last resort, with the administration focused on preempting atrocities before they occur.
Resources were now drawn from across government, including the Defense, Treasury, and State departments, and the intelligence community, she said, with specific training to understand warning signs and to provide accurate assessment underway. Technological innovation and greater citizen engagement were also being explored.
Despite all these avenues, Secretary Clinton acknowledged the challenges.
“We are struggling with some of the deepest and most difficult impulses of human beings to protect themselves, to obtain power, to dehumanize others in order to enhance their own position and standing,” she said.
Those challenges were inadvertently made clear by a question about the persecution of the Falun Gong spiritual practice in China, which was directed to a panel following Clinton’s speech.
The actions taken against Falun Gong adherents by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which include systematic torture, arbitrary imprisonment, and mass organ harvesting, were recently described as genocide by the vice president of the European Parliament, Edward McMillan Scott.International human rights lawyer David Matas also described the 13-year-long persecution, which has seen over 3,000 documented deaths and an estimated 65,000 deaths as a result of forced organ removal for resale harvesting, as a genocide.
Panelists were asked what might be done about it.
An awkward silence followed the question. Panelist Christopher A. Kojm, chairman of the U.S. National Intelligence Council, did not respond; Californian Peter Schwartz, a strategic planner with technology firm Salesforce.com, said, “China will have to respond to pressure from the world to become a genuine player in that respect,” before positing that the United States may not have the moral credentials to do anything about it—an argument frequently made by China’s communists.
Speaking to The Epoch Times after the event, Schwartz captured a common thread in the apparent difficulty for the United States in dealing with the Chinese Communist Party’s ongoing genocide.
He said, “You have to say something, and we did, but the reality is China is too big and too important.”
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