(Los Desatres de la Guerra by Francisco Goya , 1810)
Mindy L. Kotler is director of Asia Policy Point, a nonprofit research center providing objective information and scholarship on Northeast Asia to the American policy community.
Steve Clemons is right that comparing the U.S. House of Representatives Resolution 121 (passed July 30th), the Comfort Women Resolution (CW), to H. Res. 106, the Armenian Genocide Resolution (AG) that was passed out the House Foreign Affairs Committee on October 10th is both wrong and dangerous. There is also little similarity in style, substance, and intent between these two human rights resolutions.
Among the many differences between the resolutions, a critical one is that the Armenian Resolution has no endgame other than to condemn Turkey. There is no suggestion for a solution, support for those who are trying to do the right thing in Turkey, or even understanding of how its passage can affect U.S. foreign policy interests in the region.
The AG Resolution is one long (30 sub-sections) and emotional Resolved Clause (resolutions are usually composed of several Whereas and Resolved Clauses) condemning Turkey. It only asks the U.S. President to show appropriate acknowledgement of a Turkish genocide against the Armenians. How is that constructive? The job of U.S. Congressional resolutions should be to solve problems, not to make bigger ones.
The CW Resolution, in contrast, was composed as a road map to affirmatively rectify an historic injustice. Backed by rigorous scholarly research, the CW Resolution confirms that the Government of Japan, within its own legal and legislative system had never offered a formal, honest apology to the CW. The Resolution also compliments Japanese efforts to reconcile with the CW, and ties this historic wrong of state-sponsored forced prostitution to the fate of women and families in the brutality of contemporary warfare.
Most important, experts on Asian regional security were involved in the writing of and backup research for the CW Resolution. There is a consensus, even among those who opposed the legislation, that resolving and ending the vituperative historical debates in Asia about national conduct during World War II is important. The lingering resentments block the establishment of a workable regional security architecture and cooperation. With Japan being an important American ally East Asia, it is in Washington’s interest to encourage Tokyo to settle these issues justly and quickly.
By contrast, the Armenian Genocide Resolution, as it now stands, is simply one long laundry list of accusations; a jeremiad that increases the tension in an already brittle U.S. relationship with Turkey. The CW Resolution is a tool, while the AG Resolution is a club. Yes, what the Ottoman Turks did to the Armenian people was horrific, but just wanting the Turks today just to feel bad is not the job of the U.S. Congress.