With all due respect, I disagree with Max on the condemnation of the Turkish genocide against Armenians. Complicity comes in various shades, the most insidious of which is pragmatic impartiality. Over the past year we’ve learned intimately what bearing witness feels like: strikingly un-American.
True, in the case of Iran, inaction has immediate consequences for the victims of ongoing brutality. With the Turks and Armenians, we’re assessing history. While Max is correct that the resolution “does nothing to help the state of Armenia, which would benefit from better relations with its large neighbor, Turkey,” it does serve as an important public marker of consequence. When the U.S. goes on record as condemning crimes against humanity, it makes it that much harder for a cynical administration to strike a faux-realist pose and accommodate a brutal regime. How nice it would have been, in fact, if this resolution had passed some time in the run-up to Iran’s June 12 election.
There is also the issue of tactical wisdom. Just how pragmatic has our silence on the Armenian genocide been? Turkey did not allow U.S. troops to enter Iraq through its territory; in October of last year, Ankara cancelled Israel’s involvement in joint-military exercises on Turkish soil; Turkey then turned around and scheduled upcoming military exercises with Syria. It remained neutral when Russia invaded Georgia. Turkish leadership is now becoming ever cozier with Tehran. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has not come closer to endorsing sanctions on Iran and has said, “We have specifically stated that the question [of Iran’s nuclear program] can be resolved through diplomacy and diplomacy only.”
All this has unfolded against the backdrop of Turkey’s increasingly Islamicized government. And it is worth recalling that NATO’s charter calls for member countries to safeguard democratic freedoms at home. It is illegal in Turkey to call the Armenian genocide by its rightful name.
One last point: The Turks are already animated by a profound suspicion of an all-powerful Armenian lobby working against them in the halls of American power. Actually, they’re not animated by this belief; they’re becoming crippled by it. It’s not a coincidence that cultures marred by human-rights violations also become grievance cultures. There is no simpler way to defer blame for the societal stagnation that results from the quashing of dissent.