This will have to be a brief post, but before I stop posting for the next couple of days I do want to say a few words about Obama and recognition of the Armenian genocide. Alex Massie has a good post on the matter, and a new LA Times story gives the usual reasons for the administration’s shifting position. I have written quite a lot on this question, and I remain in favor of the recognition resolution. However, as I mentioned in my first column for The Week, U.S.-Turkish relations are abysmally poor, and there is some slight chance that the new administration’s positions on Iraq withdrawal and entering into talks with Iran will create some opportunity to repair the damage of the last six or seven years.
Last year, there was no prospect of any such improvement, which made the timing of the resolution seem less important. The vociferous and dishonest lobbying by pro-Ankara forces remains infuriating, the appalling shilling for Turkish revisionism on the American right remains a mark of shame, and it continues to be outrageous that one of our allies dictates what symbolic resolutions our Congress can or cannot pass. On those points, I will make the same arguments that I made last year when the occasion arises.
However, there is now also a possibility that Ankara will be opening up the border with Armenia after almost twenty years, and as a mere otar I submit humbly that this is more important for Armenians today and for the Republic of Armenia. It may be time for Diasporan Armenians to heed the words of the murdered Hrant Dink, who urged the Diaspora to focus on building up the Republic of Armenia. Sadly, it was the very words he was using to urge Diasporan Armenians to focus on the present and future that were used against him and which an irresponsible Turkish nationalist media used to whip up a frenzy against him that resulted in his death. Out of respect for the work that Hrant Dink did, Armenians should seize the opportunity to improve Turkish-Armenian relations in the present. The Armenian community should certainly not give up on commemorating and recognizing the genocide, and there will be a time for Congress to do this, but both Armenia and America will be better served if recognition by Congress is delayed at least a year.
P.S. The same goes for any presidential declaration on the subject.
Update: To address the reported frustration of Rep. Schiff, who has been a tireless supporter of recognition, I would add a few more points. Yes, it is true that many opponents of the resolution in the past have made a similar, “Wait for a better time” argument, and I understand how precarious this argument is. After all, supporters of recognition have been stymied by making this sort of argument year after year, but I do think things have changed in a couple important ways. First, reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia seems more likely than it has at any time in the last decade, and for the first time in decades there is a President and a majority in Congress sympathetic to recognizing the genocide. I think it is slightly better to delay so that relations with Ankara can recover a point where genocide recognition would not end up being the last straw that severely damages the alliance.