AGENTS OF ATROCITY: Leaders, Followers, and the Violations of Human Rights in Civil War

Neil J. Mitchell, Author . Palgrave $35 (240p) ISBN 978-1-4039-6274-4

A compact and cogent study of atrocities in civil wars, this book argues that they are mostly volitional acts by individuals rather than the inevitable results of impersonal forces. The individuals include "principals" who give the orders and "agents" who execute them, and the principals in turn are those who direct atrocious levels of violence at specific threats and those who consider whole religions or ethnic groups to be threats. The Russian civil war of 1918–1921 was fought with both sides feeling that they had a free hand, with the Bolsheviks under Lenin's orders to execute whole categories of people via a motley crew of agents. The English civil war was comparatively free of atrocities; the most influential principal, Oliver Cromwell, was relatively tolerant and kept his agents, the New Model Army, under rigid discipline. (The royalists tended to reply in kind.) Israel, University of New Mexico political scientist Mitchell argues, targets specific threats only, with principals and agents divided on how much violence to use; along with the international environment, Mitchell argues that the split has limited the bloodshed in the Middle East. The book is too short to give full weight to the case it makes, but what it offers is still enough to generate useful discussions. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 07/05/2004
Release date: 08/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 228 pages - 978-0-230-61902-9
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