WASHINGTON (JTA) — Joe Biden said the United States must see genocide prevention "not just as a moral imperative" but also as a "national security priority."
The vice president, speaking Wednesday at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s National Tribute Dinner in Washington, also said said he and President Obama believe that "preventing genocide is not only a representation of who we are as a people but also a very high national priority."
Responding to genocide is not required in a moral context, but also "strategically necessary," he said. "When genocide goes unchecked, America’s credibility and leadership is tarnished."
Biden said the United States has been slow to act in the past against genocide because the issue has been presented as a choice between doing nothing and making a major military commitment.
"President Obama and I reject that as a false choice," said the vice president, adding that "military might is something that is an option — sometimes the only option" but that there are a "wide range of effective strategies."
"We have to reclaim the words ‘Never again,’ " he said, adding later that too often those words have been used as a "true lament" or "expression of shame over responses that were insufficient." But never again should be "assertive."
The dinner honored former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Secretary of Defense William Cohen, who co-chaired the Genocide Prevention Task Force jointly convened by the Holocaust museum, the American Academy of Diplomacy and the U.S. Institute of Peace. The panel made policy recommendations to enhance the U.S. government’s capacity to respond to threats of genocide and mass atrocities.