(House Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Tom Lantos)
When I lived in Los Angeles, I was riding my bike westward on Wilshire Boulevard just past the Los Angeles Country Club when I saw in the distance a car speed up the curb, over the sidewalk, and into a tree. As it turned out, Kemal Arikan, the Consul General of Turkey in Los Angeles had just been assassinated by an Armenian activist.
History matters for many. I supported the Comfort Women Resolution in the Congress because historical memory battles in Asia are becoming geostrategically consequential — and in my view, the irresponsibility of some leaders in Asia is enabled by the military buffer that we provide. If American forces were not present in Japan and Korea, then the leaders in Japan, Korea, and China might in fact be less prone to stoke historical fires of strident nationalism with decades old grievances. Today with no real chance of military confrontation, they can get away with irresponsible comments.
But I don’t agree with Scott Paul that the Armenian Genocide Resolution passed yesterday in the House Foreign Relations Committee meets the same standard — and given where we are in the Middle East today, the passage of that Resolution undermines “real time” American interests. Chairman Tom Lantos was wrong to allow Congress to legislate history in this case, at this time.
I completely agree with Chris Nelson of the must read but nearly impossible to get Nelson Report:
The Nelson Report — 11 October 2007
TURKEY. . .with the House in recess today, ironically for a funeral, a Floor vote on the Armenian Genocide Resolution could come as quickly as tomorrow (Friday).
Please forgive our blatant editorializing here, but dammit, it does not take a highly developed moral center to decry mass murder, or, for that matter, starvation in Darfur, brutality in Burma, et al.
And while we’re at it, how about historical events in the US, like, say, the officially declared and systematically applied genocide against the American Indian tribes…and the truly blood curdling justifications offered routinely by Andy Jackson, or Grant, Sherman and Sheridan. . .American heroes all.
Since of course we don’t torture, no apologies are needed for Abu Gharib, renditions, et al.
What it does take is the ability to distinguish between the national interest, and gratuitous, feel-good posturing. . .and if you are a legislator, the guts, if you don’t like bad things, to say what you propose to do about them.
Appropriately tough questions for the perhaps mis-named Foreign Affairs Committee were aptly and very coherently put by its chairman yesterday, who then ignored every one of his points to lead the “yes” vote.
So the question remains on the table today: What strategic interests of the United States have been served by this vote? What US strategic interests will be improved by pushing this Resolution to the Floor? If the Resolution is passed by the House, will US interests be advanced in the Middle East?
Will US troops be safer? And for that matter, will the situation for Armenians still in Turkey be improved?
Oh, sorry, forgot. . .they don’t vote in San Francisco.
Such considerations, incidentally, are why analogies to the Comfort Women Resolution are both false and misleading. It is an indisputable fact that “history”, especially the Government of Japan’s handling of it, had become, and remains an impediment to rational relations between Japan and it’s neighbors in North and East Asia.
The US had and has a legitimate interest…indeed, a compelling need…to help resolve those anxieties. . .in Asia. . .as per the very carefully scripted Bush/Abe colloquy during the then-Prime Minister’s visit earlier this year.
Writing about Lantos’ mistake yesterday, “pairing” the Resolutions on Comfort Women with Armenian Genocide, a leader on Comfort Women, Asia Policy Point’s Mindy Kotler, warns:”Comfort Women was written to provide a road-map to a solution of an historic injustice which had become a strategic concern for our country, (and although no one noticed, it complimented past Government of Japn efforts to resolve the issues).
The Armenian resolution has no end-game other than to condemn Turkey. It does not ask for support to those trying to do the right thing, in Turkey, much less explaining how the resolution relates to Mideast peace and reconciliation. . .”
Congress needs to provide adult supervision over a White House that while powerful still behaves in unacceptable, adolescent ways when it comes to America’s national security needs.
But Tom Lantos and the Foreign Relations Committee has just made the White House look good on a Middle East related policy matter — and that was something I thought was inconceivable.
— Steve Clemons