Friday, March 05, 2010

On Another Armenia Resolution

The House Foreign Affairs Committee narrowly passed a resolution declaring the 1915 mass killings of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire (now Turkey) a genocide. The Turks are, as is their wont, apoplectic.

My views on this issue are well-known and not particularly subtle. It is exceedingly important to recognize genocide as genocide. This is not simply a case of historical semantics -- the way that mass killings are remembered by history is a critical factor in deterring or enabling future perpetrators for enacting similar atrocities.

But the other thing I've been thinking about is this: while Turkey has threatened various retaliatory measures against the US whenever we inch towards official recognition of the Armenian genocide, there is a limit to how long they can do so. Turkey may withdraw overflight permission temporarily in protest, but do we really expect that in 3, 5, or 10 years, they'll still be denying us aid and pitching diplomatic fits over a House resolution passed years earlier? Yes, the prospect of losing some Turkish support in the region is intimidating. But once the resolution is out the door, the gains are locked in, while the losses are temporary and can be ridden out.

So you know what I say? Pass the damn bill.


N. Friedman said...


I tend to agree with you. The Armenian genocide goes down as among the darker episodes of modern history. It is certainly a precursor of the the Shoah and, if Professor Dadrian is correct, not only is there much blood on the hands of the Ottoman Turks but also, albeit to a lessor extent, on Germany.

It is interesting that those head honcho hypocrites named Biden and Obama (both of whom, when they were Senators and when they wanted Armenian votes, favored the resolution) no longer put their money where their mouths once were. All is lost to the insane efforts to appease whatever people from Muslim lands assert and do, no matter how preposterous.

For anyone who doubts what occurred in the last days of the 19th Century and through to WWI, read the following books:

History of the Armenian Genocide: Ethnic Conflict from the Balkans to Anatolia to the Caucasus, by Vahakn N. Dadrian, which provides an history of the political, religious and social origins of the Armenian genocide. It also provides considerable detail regarding the first part of the slaughter, which occurred between 1894 - 96. It is an amazing book.

The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response, by Peter Balakian. This recent book provides excellent detail regarding the slaughter. It is well written, informative and deeply troubling.

Ambassador Morgenthal's Story, by Henry Morgenthau, Sr.. Ambassador Morgenthau had direct knowledge about quite a bit of what occurred, tried to help the Armenians (something for which he and his family have been recognized) and wrote extensively about his involvement.

Whether or not the Turks will forgive us, time will tell. Turkey is drifting, at this point not so slowly, away from the West. The current government is in love with religion so, until the Turks have had enough of them - or, until the military decides that secular, Kemalist, governance is at risk, which it clearly is, and throws out the current government -, I would not hold my breadth expecting the Turkish government to move on anytime soon. It is just as likely to use the move to further sour relations with the West. Be that as it may, Congress did the right thing.

joe said...

I'm agnostic on this issue, the costs and benefits on either side seem attenuated and speculative.

But it seems to me that Turkey's thin skin here isn't very rational in the first place, so it's tough to predict the diplomatic fallout.