News Release

Study shows some types of military interventions can slow or stop genocide

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

A study published in the latest issue of International Studies Quarterly is the first to examine the effectiveness of military action on the severity of ongoing instances of genocide and polititcide. The study reveals that only overt military interventions that explicitly challenge the perpetrator appear to be effective in reducing the severity of the brutal policies. Military support for targets, or in opposition to the perpetrators, alters the almost complete vulnerability of unarmed civilian targets. And these interventions that directly target the perpetrators were not, on the whole, found to make matters worse for those being attacked. "If actors wish to slow or stop the killing in an ongoing instance of state-sponsored mass murder, they are more likely to be effective if they oppose the perpetrators of the brutal policy," author Matthew Krain states. He finds that even military intervention against the perpetrator by a single country or international organization has a measurable effect in the "typical" case.

When a single international actor challenges the aggressor, the probability that the killings will escalate drops while the probability that the killings will decrease jumps. Each additional intervention by another international actor raises the chance of saving lives. Krain's study examines factors affecting all ongoing instances of state-sponsored mass murder from 1955 to 1997 and simulates the effects of interventions on two cases, including the current case of mass murder in Darfur, Sudan. His results also confirm that attempts to intervene as impartial parties seem ineffective. "By finding that increasing the number of interventions against perpetrators of genocide or politicide reduces severity this study confirms that international interventions against perpetrators do save lives," Krain concludes.


This study is published in the September issue of International Studies Quarterly. Media wishing to receive a PDF of this article please contact

International Studies Quarterly is committed to publishing the best work being carried out in international studies today. It is published on behalf of the International Studies Association.

Matthew Krain is associate professor of Political Science and chair of the International Relations Program at the College of Wooster. He specializes in the study of contentious politics and large-scale political violence and has written scholarly books and articles on repression, human rights violations, revolutions, civil wars, and genocide and politicide.

Dr. Krain is available for questions and interviews.

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