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“Mass Atrocity Response Operations: A Military Planning Handbook”

Launch Events

Planning Military Responses
to Mass Atrocities

Opening remarks:

COL John Kardos (Ret)
Former Director,
US Army's Peace Keeping and Stability Operations Institute


Janine Davidson
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Plans

Sarah Sewall
Founder and Faculty Director,
MARO Project,
Carr Center for Human Rights Policy,
Harvard Kennedy School

Sally Chin
MARO Project Director,
Carr Center for Human Rights Policy,
Harvard Kennedy School

COL William Flavin (Ret)
US Army's Peace Keeping and Stability Operations Institute

Lyston Lea
Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization,
U.S. Dept. of State

Moderated by:

Lawrence Woocher
USIP Senior Program Officer

A question and answer session
followed the presentations.


  May 5, 2010 - U.S. Institute of Peace,
  Washington D.C.

“There is language in the QDR [Quadrennial Defense Review] that
makes it clear that we should be prepared to respond to protect
civilians in these sorts of mass atrocity environments. We should
be prepared in a planning environment, too.”

-Janine Davidson, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Plans

The MARO Project launched the newly released Mass Atrocity Response Operations: A Military Planning Handbook at an event co-sponsored by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The launch drew a wide and diverse audience, including representatives of US and foreign governments and militaries, academics, research institutions, and NGOs.

COL John Kardos, recently retired as the Director of the US Army's Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute, led off the program with opening remarks. He set the stage by discussing military planning, the problems that are created by mass atrocities, and the aimsof the MARO Project. COL Kardos said:

COL John Kardos They [Mass Atrocities] have very real security implications for both the United States and for other countries that are dealing with them. The instability caused by these acts have wide-ranging, long term effects on the political landscape that people need to consider.

Ultimately our civilian political leaders need to make the decision to intervene or not based on a variety of complex factors. Each situation will be different; there will be no simple answers. But what shouldn't be in question is whether we are prepared to respond with all instruments of national power if and when the decision is made to stop the killing. While it would be ideal to try to accomplish this using diplomatic, economic and informational means, we must be prepared to take military action when that is called for. And that is the purpose of the MARO Project; to provide insights and tools to military commanders and planners to assist them in executing mass atrocity response operations.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Plans, Janine Davidson discussed the importance of prior planning from both a policy and operational standpoint.

Janine Davidson We need to be able to advise the President, because the President is the person who is going to make the decision about whether or not military forces are going to be sent in. And let me just say, historically, we do not deploy troops early in these sorts of environments. We, as a community, ring our hands, because we aren't quite sure about the indicators and warnings. We aren't quite sure when to go.

My sense is that the most likely [time we go into a MARO] will also be the most dangerous times at which the military will finally be called to act. Since nobody wants to send the military into these kinds of environments, they'll probably wait till the last minute. That's what I worry about; I worry about what we should be planning for in the military. We try to think about what would be the most likely, and what would be the most dangerous, and in this situation they line up as likely and dangerous, and so it's really important to try to understand how to plan for that.

Project Founder Sarah Sewall discussed the origins and evolution of the Project.

Sarah Sewall Like so many who were serving in the military or policy community, Rwanda is seared in our memories... In my office at the Pentagon, we were sitting around a table and trying to figure out what on earth would you do, if you were asked to do something. Do you go inside out? What is the center-of-gravity? How do you deploy your forces? They were puzzles for which we had no guidance. The planning was ad hoc, responsive; not where you want to be if your Commander in Chief tasks American men and women to go into the field and address a challenge.

I came away from that experience fully cognizant of the fact that responses to mass atrocity were not simply a matter of 'whether', of political will. They were a question of how, and that was a tricky question.

Sally Chin and COL (Ret) William Flavin discussed the specifics of the conceptual thinking and planning processes that are covered within the Handbook.

Finally, Lyston Lea of the Department of State's Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization discussed how his office could complement the military in a MARO as well as important issues that would need to be addressed by the intelligence community.

- Click here for video coverage of the USIP launch event -

  May 12, 2010 - Harvard University,
  Cambridge, Massachusetts

“Mass atrocity, like counterinsurgency, like many of what were
for a long time considered, non-traditional, unconventional
military operations is very much a part of the landscape we
face as a power that is concerned about global events.”

-Sarah Sewall, MARO Project Founder and Faculty Director

The MARO Project presented Mass Atrocity Response Operations: A Military Planning Handbook to the Harvard community on May 12th. An engaged audience included active duty military officers as well as Harvard Kennedy School students and Fellows with a wide range of experience in the humanitarian field and activist work.

Dr. Robert Rotberg moderated a discussion with MARO Project members and authors of the Handbook, Sarah Sewall, Sally Chin, and COL (Ret) Dwight Raymond. Sarah Sewall discussed the origins of the Project while Sally Chin reviewed the MARO Project's findings on the distinctions of a MARO and their subsequent potential planning implications. Dwight Raymond discussed how the Handbook would better enable military planners in preparing for MAROs. From sarah's comments:

Name Ten years after the Rwandan Genocide, I was here at the Kennedy School forum on a panel, reflecting on the legacy of Rwanda and what it had meant. I was really struck by how assiduously we had ignored the issues that arose in 1994 and how we had made zero progress in thinking about the problem conceptually or operationally.


Introducing Mass Atrocity Response Operations:
A Military Planning Handbook


Dr. Robert Rotberg
Program on Intrastate Conflict and Conflict Resolution,
Harvard Kennedy School


Sarah Sewall
Founder and Faculty Director
MARO Project,
Carr Center for Human Rights Policy,
Harvard Kennedy School

Sally Chin
MARO Project Director,
Carr Center for Human Rights Policy,
Harvard Kennedy School

COL (Ret) A. Dwight Raymond
PKSOI Representative to the MARO Project

Sally Chin explained the three main distinctions of a MARO, and elaborated on operational and political implications. COL Dwight Raymond then addressed military planning considerations in light of particular MARO issues. COL Raymond remarked on the Handbook's overall design:

What we wanted to do with the handbook was to provide a functional, useful reference for military planners and commanders as they prepare for, and if necessary conduct, these types of operations.

The MARO Project is a program of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
with support of the U.S. Army Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute.

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