BY SETO BOYADJIAN, ESQ.
Last week Sen. John Kerry – a long-time supporter of Armenian American issues – was confirmed as our new Secretary of State. In the process of his confirmation hearing, Kerry shied away from his continued stance on Armenian issues and revealed a new face, which in fact is the old face of the outgoing Secretary Hillary Clinton.
In his responses to the written questionnaires submitted by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Kerry sounded pathetic enough to evade his outspoken convictions on the Armenian Genocide and Armenia. At the same time he sounded hypocritical enough to reflect President Obama’s unabashed retreat on Armenian issues.
We have become accustomed to this kind of “change of heart” by our friends on Capitol Hill as soon as they are offered the opportunity to hold an executive pedestal within the Administration. As such, there must be an explanation to the about-face of “friends” such as Obama, Biden, Clinton, Kerry and their ilk.
The explanation lies in the groupthink on Turkey that is embedded within the National Security Council circles and State Department staffers. This groupthink expresses itself in favor of Turkey on all issues that relate to Armenia and Armenian American concerns.
Groupthink on Turkey at the level of the Administration operates in rationalizing and decision making to support, to please and to appease Turkey irrespective of prevalent realities that manifest harmful consequences to U.S. interests. This is an utterly biased practice that has been going on unchallenged over that past fifty years.
In meetings and dealings with the White House and State Department staffers on Armenian American concerns, it is easily detected how they display an instinctive as well as rationalized conformity to a policy that blindly favors Turkey. When confronted with hard political and geopolitical facts denoting the damaging effects of Turkish positions on U.S. strategic interests, they try to minimize or ignore the problem and stubbornly adhere to their fallacious analysis of the problem.
Groupthink on Turkey is so perfected that our policy makers in the Administration are not bothered with their incorrect or deviant decisions that place our national interests in the harm’s way.
A case in point is the overblown assumption that Turkey is a valuable and loyal ally. Time and again Turkey has evidenced that its credentials as a U.S. ally – let alone as valuable and loyal – is highly dubious. Turkey, just like any other country, pursues its own national interest. In this pursuit it has crossed and conflicted with U.S. strategic interest over and over again. Since 2002, the Erdogan government, with its Ottoman empirical ambitions and Islamist penchants, has repeatedly proven that it has no qualms in ignoring and even confronting U.S. interests.
Another case in point is the exaggerated importance of Turkey in geopolitical terms. Turkey is an important country. It carries its weight in the region. However, in reference to the South Caucasus, Turkey’s geopolitical importance is counterbalanced in significant measures by Armenia. Given the current regional realities and the prevalent instabilities in Georgia and Azerbaijan, Armenia is an important gatekeeper to Eurasia in general and to the South Central Asian countries in particular. In reference to the latter Armenia becomes significantly important given those countries’ proximity to China and China’s relations with the U.S.
Turkey is not the only country that carries geopolitical weight in the region. Armenia, with its geographic location and stability, presents significant geopolitical importance to U.S. strategic interests in the region. Turkey has made one of its main political objectives to minimize Armenia’s geopolitical importance in the eyes of U.S. and the West. The Baku-Ceyhan pipeline is a glaring example of Turkish attempts to bypass Armenia, thereby trying to diminish Armenia’s geopolitical value.
Unfortunately, the U.S. groupthink on Turkey has become a major obstacle for our policy makers to render Armenia its due share of importance. As explained by the groupthink theory pioneer Irving Janis, the groupthink “tends to override realistic appraisal of alternative courses of action.” Such an attitude does not serve our national interest well.
Secretary Kerry became the new victim of groupthink on Turkey. The choice now rests with him not too victimize U.S. interests to this groupthink process. This choice is also Kerry’s dilemma.
Seto Boyadjian is an attorney and serves on the national board of ANCA.