Saturday, October 20, 2007

Armenian resolution incredibly ill-timed

I had a long talk last night with Peter Mentzel, our discussion leader here at the Liberty Fund colloquium. He teaches history at Utah State University, specializing in the Ottoman Empire and the Balkans. He told me he was at a conference last year in Turkey at which younger Turkish historians (almost all of whom acknowledge that the slaughter of Armenians in 1915 amounted to a genocide) tiptoed to the edge of public acknowledgment. But they still meet considerable resistance from older historians and officials, for the reason that many of the Young Turks who helped make the Ataturk secularist revolution that displaced the Ottomans were officers in 1915 and share some of the guilt. But Peter thought public acknowledgment by Turkey could (have) come in a few years. It has been a gradual, careful, years-long effort.

The Armenian genocide resolution in a House committee last week, however, torpedoed that effort, and made most Turks incredibly angry at the U.S. With tensions rising along the Iraq-Turkey border due to PKK raids across the border into Turkey, and pressure developing for the U.S. to get involved against a NATO ally that has been the most pro-Western country in the Middle East and a reliable U.S. ally, this was amazingly poor timing. The Bush administration deserves a great deal of the blame; the Iraqi invasion destabilized the region and strengthened Iran, and the administration has done much else to alienate Turkey. But for the resolution we can thank Nancy Pelosi.

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