Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Am I Missing Something?

Between 1915 and 1923, an estimated 1.5 million Armenians died in the process of being deported from present day Turkey.

Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, has declared her intention to pass a resolution in the United States House of Representatives formally labeling this event a genocide. Most of the history I have read and independent commentators I have listened to recently seem to agree that what happened was, in fact, a full-fledged genocide.

That being the case, what will such a resolution accomplish?

Apparently, there are a number of Armenian-Americans that have been demanding such a resolution for decades. Many of them reside in Pelosi's home state of California. This resolution is apparently designed to make them feel better. I say that with no sarcasm - I simply can find no other upside or benefit of such a resolution.

The costs, however, are far more apparent.

Turkey has recalled its Ambassador to the United States in the last few days. They are threatening to tighten or close our largest pipeline of military equipment into Iraq and even talking about lessening the restraint they have shown (at our stringent request) to strike back against Kurdish fighters from Iraq launching attacks across their southern border.

I do not mean to belittle what some of these people and/or their parents and grandparents experienced - but can we remember for one second that the political entity that persecuted these people ceased to exist in 1923? Can we also remember that the entity that replaced it is probably nothing short of the best case model we could realistically hope Middle Eastern governments to achieve? Why intentionally offend a secular government in a Muslim country that has been a key NATO ally for decades??

I could be missing something here, but the only upside I see to this is for Nancy Pelosi and select fellow Democrats to score some political points with local Armenian Americans. Perhaps they will get some more points from the sliver of Americans that think moral victories of this particular sort are worth more than tried and true political, economic and military alliances.

I hope I am missing something substantive. If I am, she is failing to call it out.

Her argument is principally a moral one - rhetorical justice for a rapidly dwindling pool of survivors.

I feel genuine sympathy for the victims of this crime. But the perpetrators of it are dead and their political movement is buried forever. The cost of the meager comfort we can provide them at this point is too great.

A powerful leader, such as the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, has a responsibility to recognize this and act accordingly. She's no longer representing just her district or even her State. When she speaks, it reflects on the entire nation.

Pelosi should make a clear argument why this resolution's benefits outweigh the costs of humiliating a close friend and ally.

If she cannot, she is failing as a leader by trying to succeed as a politician.


Unknown said...

If it's really all over and done with, and if "the political entity that persecuted these people ceased to exist in 1923," then why is Turkey getting upset about it?

Jared said...

That's a great question. Given news reports of big crowds of people in Turkey demonstrating against this resolution it seems that it is not just the government that is angry...

I was thinking of this when I wrote the post - and I dont have a good answer. But I honestly think it is beside the point, which is why I didnt bring it up.

The difference between this Turkish government and the one that killed the Armenians is arguably as different as the Nazi Party and the current German Government. It is possible that I have overstated my case a little there - I'm not well read on present day Turkish politics - but I doubt it is a huge stretch given their membership in NATO and their serious candidacy for the European Union.

Given that, does the cost/benefit argument I have made not hold? Am I going to far accusing Speaker Pelosi of being overly political? Maybe, but I still dont see another explanation for her actions...

Unknown said...

In the 2000 census, about 385,000 people identified themselves as being of either full or partial Armenian ancestry. I don't know how many of them are citizens or of voting age. Almost all of them live in California or northeastern blue states. I just don't really see them as a major, critical voting bloc that Nancy Pelosi is deviously trying to swing toward the Democratic Party.

I don't know what her exact intentions are, but I do see another explanation (I don't assert that it's true, but I see it): that Nancy Pelosi appreciates the importance of recognizing and condemning genocide, current or historical, and perceives the failure of the United States to do so with regard to the Armenian genocide as an injustice.

Turkey is upset because they want to wipe out the Kurds without being compared to Hitler.