An Interview with Rudolph Rummel

January 15, 2004

By Khatchig Mouradian

15th of January 2004

Rudolph J. Rummel is a Professor Emeritus of Political Science in
University of Hawaii. He has dedicated his career to the study of
causes and conditions of collective violence and mass murder,
and has written about two dozen books and around a hundred
professional articles on the subject. According to his website
( www.hawaii.edu/powerkills ), he was finalist for Nobel Peace Prize
in 1996.

Aztag- What brought the issue of murder by government to your
attention, making you dedicate yourself to the research of war and
mass murder?

Rudolph J. Rummel- I have spent much of my career in the study of
war in order to understand how to stop this massive killing, I was
increasingly surprised to come across references to murdered in
China, the Soviet Union, and elsewhere. I began to wonder if more
were murdered by governments than died in war.

Secondly, it became clear in my research that democratic freedom was
a solution to war. The natural question was then: Is this also true
of democide?

Aztag-What lessons does your research teach us about human nature
and how human society should be “constructed” to ensure a safer future?

Rudolph J. Rummel- What I’ve learned that is most important is that
war, democide, and famine are not matters of psychology, economics,
or bad rulers, but a matter of the social structure of society. When
society is so structured that the people of a society determine
its policies and leaders (democratic freedom), then war, democide,
and famine will disappear (note that no democracies have ever had
a famine).

Aztag- Your research has revealed that the number of people killed
by absolutist governments in the 20th century far exceeds that for
all wars. Is this unique for the 20th century?

Rudolph J. Rummel- No, although the numbers for the previous centuries
are very uncertain, my feeling for it, having gone through all the
data on this I could find, is that in all previous centuries democide
far exceeds war dead.

Aztag-You say that “the more democratic freedom a nation has,
the less likely its government will commit foreign or domestic
democide”. However, such nations have rarely interfered when calamities
like the Armenian genocide and later genocides have taken place. Is
interference in such situations not a moral responsibility that comes
with being a democratic country?

Rudolph J. Rummel- In my view, the democracies have a moral
responsibility to intervene and stop massive democide. I would go
further, since it is the absolute dictators of the world that are the
major source of war and democide, I would rule dictatorship itself
a crime against humanity.

Aztag-Your work with numbers, statistics, calculations, and estimations
related to democide is impressive. In historiography, when can numbers
speak louder than words?

Rudolph J. Rummel- When they are large enough. Just take the number
murdered by communist governments, which is about 110,000,000. that
number alone speaks volumes. Add to it that this is more 3 times
the number killed in all international and domestic wars. This adds
more highly significant volumes still to our historical knowledge. I
would add the visualizations of the numbers to this. See, for example,

Aztag- Some of your conclusions have been criticized for “not
considering the number of deaths due to anarchy and the lack
of government, through mechanisms such as civil conflict, the
breakdown of society, and foreign invasion”. What would you say to
such criticism? If we accept this criticism, does it change anything
of the “big picture” you have helped create?

Rudolph J. Rummel- The criticism does not realize that we live in
the world’s largest anarchy, which is the international system. Then
compare the number killed in wars within this anarchy to the numbers
within a state killed by its governments in democide and its civil
wars. Some of the most violent wars have been civil (up to 40 million
in the Teiping Rebellion, for example, whereas WWII killed in combat
about 16 million; the American Civil War was the deadliest war between
the Napoleonic Wars and WWI). Unknown to many is the we can test this
argument about anarchy empirically, and what in shown is that the most
peaceful society (if peace is one’s only value) would be anarchy. I am,
however, not an anarchist, but a libertarian who believes in minimal
government–there are other values besides peace).

Aztag- How did you first become interested in the Armenian genocide?

Rudolph J. Rummel- In the process of collecting data on and histories
of democide. The Armenian genocides is, of course, a big one, and
I wrote a chapter on it in my Death By Government–my statistics on
this are in a chapter on the genocide in my Statistics of Democide
(see URL below).

Aztag- You say about 2.1 million Armenians were murdered by Turkish
regimes, while many scholars put the number somewhere between 1-1.5
million. Can you elaborate a little on on how you made that estimate?

Rudolph J. Rummel- Too many scholars stop their analysis at the end
of the Young Turk Regime. But genocide also occurred after that, even
involving the Turks invasion of the new, postwar Armenian state. See my
statistical analysis at: http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.CHAP5.HTM

Aztag-The fact that the murder committed against Armenians is genocide
is never in doubt in your work. Many Other genocide scholars have
provided a great body of evidence which indicates the same. However,
there are still many historians (mainly Turkish) and a far larger
number of governments (Turkish and other) who deny/refuse to
acknowledge the Armenian genocide. How do you visualize recognition
and reparation in the case of Armenian genocide?

Rudolph J. Rummel- No reparations. Too much time has passed, virtually
no one in authority during this period is alive, and Armenians loses
in property and income are too diffuse to determine now anyway. The
other side of this in the injustice that would be committed against
Turks that had no role in the genocide and may have opposed it, and
whose even may have fought against it (many Turks did try to help
the Armenians).

What I do think is right is recognition internationally and especially
by Turkey that the genocide occurred, and a formal government to
government apology.


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