It's Not Enough to Call It Genocide

MORE THAN 60 YEARS ago, a Polish Jewish lawyer named Raphael Lemkin fled Nazi-occupied Europe, arrived in the U.S. and invented a word that he thought would change the world. Lemkin believed that genocide-- from the Greek geno (race or tribe) and the Latin cide (from caedere, killing)--would carry such stigma that states would be loath to commit the crime--or to allow it.

Lemkin, a haunted refugee and relentless lobbyist, managed to construct a lasting norm, as Webster's and the Oxford English Dictionary granted his coinage lexicographic admission. In 1948 he went door to door at the new United Nations and...