By all accounts, the 2008 presidential election is about "change," yet it is politics as usual when it comes to the ongoing Armenian dispute with Turkey. The quarrel over World War I history in Anatolia -- which many have difficulty even finding on a map -- has been turned into a special interest issue by the Armenian lobby. Political calculations prompted Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to release presidential campaign statements supporting a congressional resolution to mischaracterize tragic events which unfolded during the waning years of the Ottoman Empire as genocide. The two White House aspirants are aping the Armenian resolution initiative of the House of Representatives in the previous Congress, whereby Members would hijack the role of both historian and the World Court in deciding the genocide question; this resolution was derailed by the then House Speaker. The Obama-Clinton pandering to the Armenian lobby betrays the signature Washington habit of making promises now and thinking about them later. It speaks volumes that Senator John McCain, arch enemy of earmarks and sister special interest money, refrained from bowing to Armenian campaign contributions and votes.
For several decades, some outspoken Armenian-Americans have politicized the events of 1915 in lieu of seeking the full truth. By playing their game, Obama and Clinton wander from history, fan the flames of division, and stray ever farther from what they purport to be about: change from past myopia, folly, or pettiness.
Turkey opened the Ottoman archives for academic research many years ago. Armenian archives that remain closed, including those in the United States, should be opened for examination by scholars. Openness would foster constructive change by creating an impartial forum free from the influences of domestic electoral politics to establish a more comprehensive narrative of the events of 1915. Genocide questions are too important to be entrusted to amateurs. They should be addressed by objective experts in the proper forum un-distracted by political calculations.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul responded to the recent Armenian presidential election results by calling for "normalized relations" between Turkey and Armenia and urging increased cooperation. His remarks highlight Turkey's commitment to change from a political landscape reminiscent of a petrified forest. Our nation's leaders, both current and prospective, should follow President Gul's instruction.
Reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia is no pipedream. Who ever thought Germany and France would reconcile in the short decades after World War II? At issue are not only the grim events of 1915, where innocent life was tragically lost on both sides during the war, but also Armenia's occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh, territory belonging to Azerbaijan. Turkish-Armenian reconciliation may need the catalyst of leaders who care not only about geostrategic maneuvering, but the people whose lives would be directly implicated. To play the role of facilitator, a United States leader would need to harmonize the disparate voices of domestic constituencies, without neglecting strategic allies such as Turkey.
A leader who promotes reconciliation and peace among peoples and nations is the architect of change.
America deserves that kind of leader.