Every year, efforts by the Armenian Diaspora in the United States to win formal Congressional and Presidential recognition of the Armenian Genocide culminate on April 24, the date Armenians mark as their Genocide Remembrance Day. It’s a hot-button issue which historians still debate. Genocide scholars and Armenian historians declare that deliberate genocide occurred, while many Turkish historians and Ottoman specialists question argue that Ottoman officials did not conduct premeditated genocide, but rather that between 600,000 and 1.5 million Armenians died in the fog of war. Regardless, the deaths of so many are a tragedy, and one that should not be forgotten. Still, questions and aspersions of denial and negation will only be settled when both the Turks and Armenians open their archives to everyone without regard to nationality or ethnicity.
I do not deny the sensitivity of the genocide issue, but Armenian American organizations are doing both themselves and U.S. national security a disservice by making the genocide issue the community’s marquee issue. History must be respected, but the future is as important as the past—if not more so. To the present day, Turkey and Armenia remain adversaries. Traditionally, the American alliance with Turkey has driven a wedge between Washington and Yerevan. Sadly, Armenia remains largely antagonistic to the United States. In 2009, Armenia voted with the United States on important issues at the United Nations less than half the time; In contrast, Israel voted with the United States 100% of the time.
Armenia has also embraced Iran to the detriment of U.S. interests and security. Armenia has even reportedly supplied Iran with weapons, which the Islamic Republic used to kill Americans.
It is long past time for Armenian organizations in the United States and the congressmen who partner with them to demand change in Armenian behavior. By ignoring Armenia’s orientation, the Armenian American community squanders an unprecedented opportunity to build a true partnership. Turkey has transformed from an ally into an adversary. From a strictly realist perspective, never before have the constellations oriented in such a favorable way to make the United States receptive to Armenia, should Armenia seize the opportunity. Yet the Armenian community in the United States appears asleep at the switch. It need not drop its interest in the genocide resolution, but it might nevertheless prioritize strengthening the diplomatic and strategic partnership between Washington and Yerevan. That partnership, however, will not develop if the Armenian Diaspora cannot convince its cousins in the Armenian homeland that a successful Armenian state could be a military, security, economic, and diplomatic partner to the United States—not a proxy for Iran or a puppet to Russia. Perhaps it’s time for the good Congressmen and Congresswomen from California and New Jersey to push back the next time Armenian lobbyists come knocking on their doors.