The coming betrayal of the Armenians

Yes, Barack Obama believes that there was a genocide committed against the Armenians. No, he won’t say so after he’s inaugurated.

I don’t doubt for a second that Barack Obama is completely sincere in his belief that the Ottoman Empire committed deliberate genocide against the Armenians in the second decade of the last century. After all, it happens to be true. And if that gets him some Armenian-American votes that otherwise would have gone to John McCain, I won’t be very unhappy.

But the Armenian-Americans will.

After Obama gets elected, he will confront two facts: facts which he surely knows now, and which his expert advisers and the career diplomatic corps will din into his ears. First, for reasons of Turkish internal politics, a formal recognition by the United States of an historical reality that no non-Turkish historian doubts would make our relationship with Turkey very much harder, and strengthen the forces within Turkey that are most inimical to us and to democracy and human rights in Turkey. Second, our relationship with Turkey, and Turkey’s continued development toward a democratic country where human rights are respected, matters enormously to us. Along with Indonesia, Turkey is the Muslim-majority country most hostile to jihadism, and Turkey is much closer to where the trouble is. If there’s to be a peaceful settlement in Iraq, the Turkish government is going to have to hold still for more autonomy in Iraqi Kurdistan than Turkey wants.

For all these reasons, we need the Turks. We don’t need the Armenians. The President of the United States is a statesman, not an historian.

Yes, it’s completely unreasonable for both the Kemalist Turkish establishment and the Islamic-but-not-Jihadist Justice Party that now has a the majority of the voters behind it to take personally a statement that applies to a long-dead regime both of them heartily despise. But lots of unreasonable things are nonetheless true.

So Obama will be told that, while in office, he’s not allowed to state the truth, and the Armenian community will react bitterly to the double-cross.

That’s life in the big city.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: