Fighting Fire with Fire The Growing Nexus between Atrocity Prevention and Counterterrorism and Its Implications for the Use of Force to Protect Civilians

Article/Op-Ed in US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Shujaa_777 /
Feb. 1, 2018

Colin Thomas-Jensen wrote for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum about links between atrocity prevention and counterterrorism:

Drawing from interviews with nearly 40 former and current US policy makers and outside experts, as well as a convening of 20 experts at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in June 2017, this paper explains the increasing relevance of the counterterrorism–atrocity prevention nexus and defines some of the significant challenges of closer collaboration between those communities, with a specific focus on preventing imminent atrocities. Defining when (including clearly articulated criteria for what constitutes “imminent” in this scenario), how, and under whose authority to use force to prevent atrocities against civilians is only one element of broadening a counterterrorism strategy that also includes diplomacy and countering violent extremism (CVE) efforts. 2 This paper is narrowly focused on the use of force and argues that in some circumstances, the atrocity-prevention agenda can be advanced by using counterterrorism tools—including lethal strikes—to prevent imminent atrocities against civilians in areas where terrorist groups operate.