Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Genocidal Panic

Current congressional efforts to pass a resolution acknowledging the genocidal slaughter of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War I has thrown the neo-cons into a panic. Now the very people who fell over themselves insisting that American foreign policy must be based on securing other people's universal human rights (at the cost of American lives and money) are screaming that realpolitik demands appeasing the Turkish denial of the mass murder of Armenians. Apparently the universal human rights and dignity of some people (Iraqis, Israelis, etc.) are somehow more important that those of others. Writing at National Review Online, Mark Krikorian points up the absurdity of the neo-con's sudden, furious insistence on realpolitik.

... it’s particularly amusing to see opposition to the genocide resolution from those who want to use American foreign policy to promote human rights abroad. If you’re going to stick your nose in other people’s business, and tell Burma’s junta how to behave, and pass judgment on every nation’s commitment to religious freedom, etc., this is what you’re going to be stuck with. In other words, once you start moving along the spectrum toward foreign-policy Idealism, don’t be surprised when this sort of thing happens.

American foreign policy should serve American interests, which may or may not include promoting democracy and recognizing human rights in a particular place at a particular time. What US foreign policy should never do is become a crusade for global democracy. Of course, the neo-cons are moved to hysterics because Turkey has been threatening to throw yet another monkey wrench into the expensive, bloody mess they created in Iraq. Turkey had been a crucial American ally during the Cold War, but ever since the end of that conflict, Turkish and American interests have been diverging. Turkish public opinion was massively against the Iraq invasion - so much so that it forced the Turkish government to forbid the US to use its soil as a staging ground for a northern invasion of Iraq, a stunning rebuke from such a key ally - and the war has only increased the already rising support for Islamists, who won a massive victory in the recent parliamentary elections.

Krikorian points out the new political reality vis a vis America's former Cold War ally - a situation greatly exacerbated by the neo-cons and their Iraqi project.

The context for Turkey’s reaction to the House resolution is the fact that Turks are the most anti-American people on Earth. A 47-nation Pew survey earlier this year showed that ordinary Turks had the least favorable view of the United States, more negative than even the Palestinians or Pakistanis. Mein Kampf is a bestseller there, and the luridly anti-American and anti-Semitic film Valley of the Wolves — Iraq drew record audiences and thumbs-ups from Turkey’s political leadership. The Turkish people’s deep-seated hatred of America obviously wouldn’t get any better because of passage of the genocide resolution, but it couldn’t get any worse.

Still, the primary reason for opposing the resolution does not rest of whether the Armenian genocide happened or not; the best reason for opposing it is that it actually feeds into the neo-con program of tying American foreign policy (and US government proclamations) to the agenda of promoting "universalism" abroad rather than promoting actual concrete American interests.

If there’s any real problem with the genocide resolution it’s precisely that it feeds into an excessively idealist view of foreign policy. While its many findings are largely restatements of facts in the public record, its “Declaration of Policy” states that “The House of Representatives — (1) calls upon the President to ensure that the foreign policy of the United States reflects appropriate understanding and sensitivity concerning issues related to human rights, ethnic cleansing, and genocide documented in the United States record relating to the Armenian Genocide and the consequences of the failure to realize a just resolution.” Our foreign policy is already reflects inordinate “sensitivity concerning issues related to human rights” — we hardly need more of it.

None of this would have happened if subsequent presidents had simply followed Ronald Reagan’s lead in commemorating the Armenian Genocide along with the Holocaust, without lots of specific “findings,” without declarations of policy, without even mentioning Turkey or the Ottomans. Our policy toward modern Turkey should have nothing whatsoever to do with acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide. But caving to Turkish pressure never to use “Armenian” and “genocide” in the same sentence is what has given the current resolution its impetus.

Better still, Congress might consider abandoning the practice of passing meaningless proclamations and concern itself with restoring fiscal solvency and border security to the U.S. Unfortunately, no one in Washington - Democrat or Republican - wants to do any of that.