Foreign Policy

Does Obama Know What 'Principled Commitment' Means?

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Yesterday the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved a resolution that calls upon President Obama to recognize "the systematic and deliberate annihilation" of 1.5 million Armenians during and after World War I "as genocide." The New York Times notes that the resolution was approved despite "a last-minute plea from the Obama administration to forgo a vote that seemed sure to offend Turkey." The third-to-last paragraph of the story suggests that plea was somewhat inconsistent with Obama's record. "While still in the Senate," the Times says, "Mr. Obama had described the killings of Armenians at Ottoman hands as genocide." But as Matt Welch noted a year ago, Obama's turnaround on this issue is more dramatic and dishonorable than the Times indicates. Here is Obama's position when he was running for president (emphasis added):

I also share with Armenian Americans—so many of whom are descended from genocide survivors—a principled commitment to commemorating and ending genocide. That starts with acknowledging the tragic instances of genocide in world history. As a U.S. Senator, I have stood with the Armenian American community in calling for Turkey's acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide. Two years ago, I criticized the Secretary of State for the firing of U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, John Evans, after he properly used the term "genocide" to describe Turkey's slaughter of thousands of Armenians starting in 1915. I shared with Secretary Rice my firmly held conviction that the Armenian Genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence. The facts are undeniable. An official policy that calls on diplomats to distort the historical facts is an untenable policy. As a senator, I strongly support passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.106 and S.Res.106), and as President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.

Obama did not leave himself much wiggle room to suddenly decide, after becoming president, that calling genocide "genocide" was not such a good idea after all because it might offend the Turks. It's not as if that possibility never occurred to him until he took office and had access to secret intelligence on the Turkish government's attitude regarding official American recognition of the Armenian genocide.

More on Obama's broken promises here.

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  1. What was the point of this resolution anyway?

    1. It is generally accepted by historians that there was a genocide of the Armenians.

      1. Isn’t that enough?

      2. Yes, this much is not in dispute. What this response fails to answer is, “So why is this the province of the U.S. Congress?”

        All this seems to do is to pronounce a near-century old genocide as a bad. Wonderful. It’s not going to go back and save any Armenians, or even change our refugee policy to be more humane and rational. Nor is it going to change any Turks’ minds on the facts of whether this was a genocide.

        So, “What was the point of this resolution, anyway?”

        1. Armenian-Americans have a bigger lobby than Turkish Americans. A US President has no business commenting on historical issues. The point, really, is that Obama sucked up to Armenians like a good little politician, and now it’s biting him in the ass.

          1. Why not? It’s one of the few powers the federal government currently exercises that it legitimately possesses.

            1. Agreed. The Constitution delegates interaction with foreign powers to the Federal government. Part of that means calling a spade a spade, and not letting a dictatorial regime rewrite history. If it takes the imprimatur of the US Congress to tell people “This happened, no stop saying it didn’t” I’m alright with that.

              And if it pisses off the Turks, too bad. Maybe they shouldn’t marry themselves so closely to the Ottomans and just fess up to what their forebears did.

  2. I think he’s invoking the line from Animal House: “Face it. You fucked up. You trusted me.”

  3. It wasn’t genocide. It was the systematic relocation of people to the afterlife to allow them to meet their maker. Kinda sucks for them since there aren’t a bunch of virgins waiting for them in their afterlife per their magical papers.

  4. Casus belli?

  5. I’m not sure President Obama is especially skilled at thinking two moves ahead.

    1. No, man, he’s not just playing chess, he’s playing 3-D Vulcan Chess. You simply cannot fathom the depth of his strategery.

      Or maybe he just doesn’t think anyone will ever call him on his BS because it’s worked pretty well so far.

  6. Does Obama Know What ‘Principled Commitment’ Means?

    That’s a rhetorical question, isn’t it?

  7. I’m so glad to read Reason staffers encouraging the passage of acts of government that bring about no change in governance (and thus are wastes of taxpayer dollars), strain diplomatic relations (and thus impede free trade), and attempt to define what reality is (and thus discourage free minds). Fascinating.

    1. Did you read the same piece I did? I saw neither approval nor condemnation of the House Foreign Affairs Committee resolution. Jacob Sullum was just pointing out another case of the duplicity of Barack Obama.

      1. If Mr. Sullum was not voicing his support for the resolution (my apologies for using the word “act” before if that is not correct), then he was simply engaging in Obama-bashing. Like its predecessor Bush-bashing, senselessly criticizing the President does not pass for intelligent thought. A more sensible rejoinder might be to say that it is better for Congress to pass non-binding resolutions than binding acts that increase the debt. In any event, pointing out that a politician changed his position is like pointing out that the wind changed direction. Worthy of note to some, but usually not very consequential.

        1. The criticism is far from senseless.

          1. Nobody fucks with the Jesus.

            1. Yeah, well, that’s like, your opinion, man.

              1. 8 year olds, dude.

              2. Let me tell you something, pendejo. You pull any of your crazy shit with us, you flash a piece out on the lanes, I’ll take it away from you, stick it up your ass and pull the fucking trigger ’til it goes “click.”

                1. What’s this day of rest shit? What’s this bullshit? I don’t fuckin’ care! It don’t matter to Jesus. But you’re not foolin’ me, man. You might fool the fucks in the league office, but you don’t fool Jesus. This bush league psyche-out stuff. Laughable, man – ha ha! I would have fucked you in the ass Saturday. I fuck you in the ass next Wednesday instead. Wooo! You got a date Wednesday, baby!

        2. What makes Sullum’s criticism senseless? That is the qualifier you used. Why is it senseless to point out that a candidate not only voiced support for a position, but made that position part if his foreign policy stance people voted on. Then when the office was gained, he opposed the same position he supported.

          We need more of this type of criticism, not less. It is extremely consequential when people say one thing to appeal to voters and do the opposite once in office. That you let it slide so easily is precisely the problem.

          1. Shall we inventory every statement reneged by the 435 members of the House of Representatives, the 100 members of the Senate, and the 9 Justices of the Supreme Court as well? If every one of them said something once and changed their position later, that alone would be 544 shifts in position. Extrapolate for the changing whims of every political season, and you might even get exponential growth.

            On the other hand, if the President says he’s going to curb the deficit, and then engages in the most profligate spending in the history of the country, that’s meaningful. That has consequence. Criticizing that is sensible, and that’s where more criticism is needed. And to their credit, Reason has been on top of that from day one.

            But criticizing someone for changing their position about something you don’t even care about? That is the definition of senseless criticism.

            1. “Changing his position”? Nice little word mincing, that.

              He did not simply “change his position.” He made an explicit, affirmative promise to act in a specific way – one of many such promises he made.

              “I strongly support passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.106 and S.Res.106), and as President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.”

              This is not an expression of an opinion, or a policy preference, or a favored position on a particular issue. This is a firm promise to ACT in a specific way. Not, “at this time, I believe that the right thing for Congress to do is…,” or “based on what I currently know, my position on that question is…” No, Our Dear Leader said, “When I am President, I WILL…”

              And now he’s doing exactly the opposite of that.

              Which we’ve become accustomed to from that scumbag.

            2. Shall we inventory every statement reneged by the 435 members of the House of Representatives, the 100 members of the Senate, and the 9 Justices of the Supreme Court as well?

              Yes.

            3. Shall we inventory every statement reneged by the 435 members of the House of Representatives, the 100 members of the Senate, and the 9 Justices of the Supreme Court as well?

              Yes, please.

        3. At the very least, we have to point out the lie in case joe is lurking.

        4. then he was simply engaging in Obama-bashing.

          If the shoe fits . . . .

          In any event, pointing out that a politician changed his position is like pointing out that the wind changed direction.

          So should we just stop pointing out that, for the most part, politicians are lying, thieving bags of crap. Just lie back and enjoy it?

  8. You don’t have to consider diplomacy or offending recalcitrant allies when campaigning. Then you get elected and get to piss off the people you pandered to due to the realities of real world of international diplomacy.

    You’d think a smart guy such as Obama would have thought of that before making foolish promises to single issue ex-pats and their descendants.

    You’d be wrong.

    1. OTOH, you have McCain, who refused to call it a genocide for those various political reasons while running for President and before, and then apparently off-the-cuff called it a genocide in a magazine interview in late 2009.

      1. That’s because I’m such a maverick!

    2. “You’d think a smart guy such as Obama would have thought of that before making foolish promises to single issue ex-pats and their descendants.”

      A politician making foolish and politically opportunistic promises to a determined interest group on the campaign trail? Say it ain’t so!

    3. The amazing thing about this is that, with a little rhetorical gamesmanship, he could have pleased the Armenian audience without explicitly promising to recognize the genocide. It’s not just the duplicity of Obama that I find alarming, it’s the utter sloppiness of his duplicity.

      Bob Kerry once lamented that his Dem primary opponent Bill Clinton was “a highly skilled liar”. Barack Obama has shown us that there is something worse for a politician to be: a clumsy liar.

      1. The amazing thing about this is that, with a little rhetorical gamesmanship, he could have pleased the Armenian audience without explicitly promising to recognize the genocide. It’s not just the duplicity of Obama that I find alarming, it’s the utter sloppiness of his duplicity.

        Oh, like anyone was going to say, “Hey, I was going to vote for Obama, but I’ll vote for McCain since he attempted to please the Armenian audience without explicitly promising to recognize the genocide or call it that.” (which he did)

        Whereas Armenians actually may have voted for Obama instead of McCain on the basis of greater pandering.

        Seems to me like the standard politician ploy worked.

    4. Obama is plainly not very smart. And his campaign advisers were very good at electing him, but not much else.

      1. I wouldn’t say that — they’re very good at showmanship (as evidenced by the white lab coats surrounding Obama whenever he does anything related to health care). And I’m still mystified as to how they got the GOP leadership to attend that “bipartisan health care summit” farce with exactly zero concessions from Obama.

        The problem with the Obama administration is that, even though the strategies they employ are often ingenious, they change their strategies seemingly every week.

        1. He did promise to validate their parking.

  9. The first instinct of any serious politician should be to never tell the real truth. We must lie to protect the status quo completely intact.

    1. Start the rEVOLution!!!

      Ron Paul is the only true libertarian!!!!

    2. Yeah woohoo, show these libertarians why they’re wrong and RON PAUL is always right!

    3. Ron Paul is the only politician that knows the truth about the Jewish conspiracy. The Fed is owned by the Rothschilds, who used fake American money to fund Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor. The profits from this reactor were then sent to the Israelis so that Mossad could plant explosives at the base of the World Trade Center. Then the Rothschilds used the Illuminati’s universal remote to fly Osama bin Laden’s innocent followers’ planes into the towers just as the explosives were triggered to explode and melt the steel supports. The financial chaos that ensued then allowed the Rothschilds to reap enormous profits from their hoarded Nazi gold. Only Ron Paul is courageous, patriotic, and intelligent enough to tell the truth about the Elders of Zion that Bernanke won’t.

  10. One question I have is why the Turks care.

    Are there any practical ramifications whatsoever to having the Armenian deaths classified as a genocide? I can’t see any. No war crimes trials are possible. It’s not like they’ll be assessed some kind of genocide tax. So who gives a shit?

    The Congress could pass a symbolic resolution saying, “Fluffy committed genocide against Armenians!” or whatever and if there was no other legal or financial component to their declaration, I’d laugh. “I got your genocide right here in my pants!” I’d say. Who cares?

    1. Think of it this way: Why do Battlestar Gallactica nerds care about their respective issue? Who knows?

      But pass a House resolution condemning BSG, and I guarantee you that you’d have a whole host of angry nerds.

      1. After the way that show finished, there was a host of angry nerds passing their own resolutions condemning it.

    2. The Turks find the whole thing insulting. They insist to this day that the Armenians “started it.” And to be fair this is not the same as Germans rounding up peaceful Jewish citizens and sending them to extermination camps. The Russians were invading Eastern Turkey in 1915 and many Armenians sided with the Russians. Armenian militias did attack Turkish villages, kill civilians, etc. The Constantinople government probably had good reason to suspect the Armenian population was not very loyal. Does that excuse the awful inhumane way they ethnically cleansed Eastern Turkey? No. But “genocide” is a loaded word thanks to the Holocaust, using it just makes the Turks even more recalcitrant about admitting their guilt.

    3. They probably just find it alienating, given the popular view in that country.

      Frankly, I don’t see why Congress should recognize the genocide, given the practical diplomatic problems it brings up. What good is this legislation?

      That said, it IS significant that Obama is breaking yet another impassioned promise, albeit a stupid one.

  11. Barack Obama is going to become the champion of broken promises. His post election goal is to break every promise he made..the only thing he truly succeeds in doing. Recognize it or not, the Armenian Genocide is a reality that has to be dealt with to prevent future and ongoing Genocides.

    1. Recognize it or not, the Armenian Genocide is a reality that has to be dealt with to prevent future and ongoing Genocides.

      Sanctimony from legislative bodies adds up to jack shit in preventing any disaster natural or man made from occurring. See the entire history of the UN for proper antecedents.

      Do you really want Turkish legislatures to sponsor investigations into Hiroshima, for one? Many here would defend that event to the death, but take a good Goddamned look into Truman’s diary if you care to be deeply embarrassed as an American. It reads like a Hollywood lover’s tiff aimed at Stalin where Truman reveals he rejected Japan’s surrender for some of the most superficial reasons imaginable.

      If it is outside the realm of living memory, let it go because it does nothing but muddle the waters ahead of you.

      1. Citation to HST’s diary where he rejected Japan’s surrender, please?

  12. Has the House passed a resolution acknowledging and condemning the genocide perpetrated against the Plains Indians by the United States government, via distributing smallpox-infested blankets and paying sharpshooters to decimate the bison population upon which the Indians depended? If not, they need to STFU about other countries’ sordid pasts. Mind the log in your own eye, etc.

    1. That’s not exactly the same.

      It’s more like if the Turkish parliament passed a resolution honoring the Indian victims of those policies, and we got all bent out of shape and denied anything happened and made it into a diplomatic incident. Would we do that? I guess maybe. But it’s also possible we’d scratch our heads and busily not give a shit about the Turkish parliament’s resolution.

    2. I was about to say the exact same thing. I don’t see why we have to play around with words or dig up old history, but let’s be honest about our own history too.

      I suspect that one of the reasons so many Americans find it easy to discriminate against people of Mexican ancestry is because we ethnically cleansed native Americans so thoroughly in the United States that we have a hard time imagining people who look like that as part of our own culture.

      The Spanish may have brutally subjugated the indigenous people there, but they just didn’t slaughter, starve and plain drive out native Americans the way the people of the United States did. We so rarely see them in daily life, or when we do we think they’re Mexican (which is a nationality, not a race, by the way) that we don’t even feel an iota of empathy for them… It’s like Native Americans are invisible to us.

      Now there’s something to be said for recent memory–some of the atrocities our ancestors committed against indigenous peoples were committed a long time ago. But 1915 wasn’t exactly just yesterday either!

      So all this talk about genocide… I’ve read Turkish explanations saying that it was in the middle of World War I, that the Ottomans were fighting for the very existence of their state, that there were all sorts of unique reasons for why those people did what they did, and to lump them together with the Nazis under the title “genocide” is unfair.

      …everybody’s got reasons for what they do. We had reasons for what we did too–and if we’re telling other people to be honest about their own histories just for the sake of honesty, then there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be honest about our own history too.

      Very few nations have been better at it than we were. The history of the United States has a lot to teach the world about genocide.

      1. Avatar!

    3. Considering both the Native American and Armenian genocides were both cited by Hitler as to why he thought no one would give a fuck about the Jews, I think maybe the Congress should pass a resolution condemning past actions of Federal employees and Congresses. Not sure what that would mean for some of the treaties in place with Indian nations but that could be hashed out in the details.

  13. he was simply engaging in Obama-bashing. Like its predecessor Bush-bashing, senselessly criticizing the President does not pass for intelligent thought.

    President-bashing is never “senseless” or “un-called-for”. Presidents should be bashed mercilessly at any opportunity.

    1. Never speak in absolutes. I agree with the quoted poster that bashing with no basis in fact or logic should be discouraged, but I think this particular bashing does have a good basis.

  14. Having no idea what this massacre was about, naturally i wiki’d it.

    Best part of the article:

    “Israel and Denmark believe that the genocide recognition should be discussed by historians not politicians.”

  15. Really, if you think about it, the whole nation of Turkey is based on genocide. 1,000 years ago Asia Minor was inhabited by Greeks, Armenians, Jews and Persians. Where are those people now? I can see why the Turks are a little sensitive about this particular Pandora’s box.

    1. Where are all the people who inhabited North America 500 years ago? See my post above about logs and eyes.

      1. Running casinos?

    2. Their languages changed, but most of them are still there. Compare the physical features of speakers of Turkish to speakers of other Turkic languages, such as Uzbek and Uighur. Notice anything? The Turkish speakers look like Greeks, Italians, Syrians, etc. The Uzbeks and Uighurs look like Mongolians.

      IOW, the dominant language and culture changed, but the population mostly hasn’t changed.

  16. Where are all the people who inhabited North America 500 years ago?

    I suspect they’d be dead even if Christopher Columbus had sailed off the edge of the world.

    1. Well, if he had sailed over the edge, wouldn’t the native americans already be falling through the abyss ahead of him? Though, it’s probably pretty tough to have a normal life tumbling through the void, so you’re point about them being dead still stands.

    2. Ha ha. I notice that you singled out my comment for a smartass response, even though such a response is equally applicable to what Vanya said. But I suspect my question was more disturbing to American narcissism, so I understand.

  17. This thing is stupid all around.

    It’s stupid that this is an American political controversy. Has someone confused America with Turkey? What the hell?

    It’s stupid that Obama took a position.

    It’s stupid that Obama is reversing himself.

    It’s stupid that Congress is passing the ‘declaration’, and double stupid because the Democrats in Congress are hurting a Democratic president.

    It’s stupid that the Israel lobby has lined up on the side of genocide denial.

    It’s stupid that Turkey is all worked up about it.

  18. The Armenian Genocide has been a political bargaining chip ever since it ended. It’s likely that there will never be an end to this idiotic spectacle either way. The bargaining chip is only useful to politicians if they don’t cash it in.

  19. Also, I’m sure Obama knows what principled commitment means. The real question is whether he’ll actually act it on. And the answer is no.

    1. Fuck I’m to drunk to write.

  20. This effort by the Armenians is not at all about putting the truth into the historical record.

    It is completely about their seething hatred of Turks and everything Turkish, and their attempts to get the world to despise Turks with the same raging, blind, violent and purposeless hatred.

    Do reasonable people really want to feed the hate of others?

    http://mavigozler.awardspace.i…..Issue.html

    1. This effort by the Jews is not at all about putting the truth into the historical record.

      It is completely about their seething hatred of Germans and everything German, and their attempts to get the world to despise Germans with the same raging, blind, violent and purposeless hatred.

      Do reasonable people really want to feed the hate of others?

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