A Holocaust 2.0: Would it be a casus belli?

After the Holocaust, much of the world said, “Never again.” But I’d like to start a GD debate about just how far “never again” really extends.

Suppose a modern nation today set up everything Holocaust-ish - an exact replica of Auschwitz, gas chambers, trains taking victims to the death camps, everything replicated - and made no secret of the fact that it intended to gas a certain religious/ethnic minority. Indeed, perhaps such a nation even broadcast this intent openly to the world.

No doubt this would lead to strong economic and diplomatic sanctions. But if “never again” really means never again, is this a casus belli for war? What if it’s a superpower doing it? (say, either China or a fascist USA) At what point is a nation just so powerful that the rest of the world throws up its hands and says, “Ah, well, nothing we can do, we’ll just have to let them do their gassing?”

I don’t think there is any “if” about whether it will be tolerated with respect to China and how it is currently treating the Uirgurs.

And we’ve stopped talking about Syria altogether.

The world community answer seems to be a decided collective wag of the finger and a shrug.

The line in the sand seems to be whether you’re going to inconvenience any neighboring nations around you or just keep it as a domestic problem.

In the case of Rwanda, not only could the UN have stopped the holocaust, but they actively prevented the soldiers on the ground to intervene. No one really cares.

Sure, but that’s still a bit different than the hypothetical. So far, China has “only” detained and tortured them in concentration camps - don’t take that the wrong way, but it’s still quite a lower level than openly announcing to the world that “We have set up gas chambers with Zyklon B and we’re going to put three thousand Uighurs through them every day.”

Assad and Hussein gassed his “enemies” in the streets. Very little has been done about Assad, and Hussein didn’t really get much attention until he decided to invade Kuwait. Of course we know the pretense of the second war with Iraq had nothing to do with him gassing his own people.

The deciding factor seems to be whether the conflict stays internal or whether you’re going to develop territorial ambitions and start invading neighboring countries. Even then, we might look the other way if you’re not doing all three, i.e. ethnic cleansing, building WMD, invading/attacking neighboring nations. One, maybe two out of three seem tolerable.

I believe that it should.

I don’t believe that it would. Cambodia, Rwanda, Yugoslavia and so forth are strong indicators that it wouldn’t.

Note: One determined exception. Jews. If some nation announced a large antipathy to the jews again and began exterminating all Jews within its borders I believe you could count on an extreme reaction from the Israeli government.

I believe genocide qualifies as cassus belli, especially if your own citizens are of the same ethnic group. I hate to shoot down two of your debate topics so quickly, but I also think there’s a big difference between “we are justified if we want to go to war” and “we are actually going to war”.

Within the narrow confines of the question at hand, I think the answer is a clear yes. If one country is openly announcing that they will gas three thousand people of a particular ethnic group per day, iff a diplomatic resolution is not immediately effective, other countries are justified in a declaration of war for the express purpose of stopping the genocide.


Bear in mind that the Original Holocaust™ was not a casus belli, so why would a similar event* be?

*c’mon, give genociders credit for originality. Nostalgia goes only so far. They’d want to give oppression and murder a modern twist so they would be viewed as special. The Star Trek episode where a civilization on another planet recreated 1920s gangland Chicago was an aberration.

That’s what I was saying before, would vs. could. Since WWII, genocide has become a de facto (and usually de jure) crime in international law. Before then, the concept of a crime against humanity did not exist, or at least was not recognized… religious persecution excepted, it was considered the internal affairs of the other state.

The religious exception probably had to do with how religious states traditionally derived their sovereignty.


The genocide of the Rohingya in Myanmar was an actual genocide by mass murder and it only barely resulted in sanctions from the US.

And therefore, genocide is not valid for cassus belli?


Technically speaking the United Nations charter (chapter VII) itself delegitimized all justifications for war except defense, defense of allies, and consent of the United Nations Security Council. Consent of the UNSC is impossible if the aggressor is one of the superpowers, since they have veto power in that body. That includes genocide, unless one argues that genocide constitutes an attack against another state. I think it does, when the ethnic group subject to genocide is associated with that other state.

If Vietnam were to start exterminating ethnic Chinese, China (a country of ethnic Chinese) would be justified in a declaration of war on the basis of that genocide. If Egypt were to start exterminating Jews, Israel (a “Jewish and democratic” state) would be justified in a declaration of war on the basis of that genocide.


My post was in reference to the “how far does never again extend” and the discussion about China’s genocide of Uygurs.

Never Again: The World’s Most Unfulfilled Promise - Samantha Power