BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
Trump Armenian Genocide Statement, that’s what TAGS stands for. Last year, when he had his first chance to do right on the matter of the Armenian Genocide, President Donald Trump gave us the same mealy-mouthed meaninglessness we had gotten accustomed to from his immediate predecessors in that office.
We are about six weeks out from proclamation/resolution/statement (PRS) season when it comes to the annual spike in intensity of Genocide recognition efforts, so it is very timely to discuss what our expectations of Trump are or should be. It seems to me there are two aspects to consider.
First, let’s address how we should approach heads of state and governments when it comes to Genocide recognition. It strikes me that should adopt a “one chance” policy. The first April that person is in office, s/he should be expected to make an appropriate statement, including the word “Genocide” coupled with relevant, implementable, policy that will guide the course of that country. Anything less, even if it includes the word “Genocide” is far too little, too late. The time for such platitudes is past. Armenians’ expectations are far more hard-nosed now. We want something that will produce real results, not just good feelings. It should be permanent in its effect, that is, it should not require annual renewal. Otherwise, we will forever be in the position of the proverbial dog chasing its tail. This does not mean we should sever relations with an executive-office-holder who fails to deliver on our expectations. Rather, we should appropriately criticize her/him and simply focus on other issues of Armenian concern where cooperation is possible. Repeatedly groveling for a “handout” when one can reasonably expect no benefit is simply humiliating.
In Trump’s case, since this “one chance” rule was not in place last year, we should make every effort to elicit an appropriate utterance from him in 2018. Turkey’s crescendoing arrogance and troublemaking might provide sufficient impetus to move the White House’s various entrenched bureaucracies to reduce or eliminate their opposition to a proper Genocide PRS, as described in the previous paragraph. Congressmember Adam Schiff makes this argument in his piece Turkey’s Descent Into Authoritarianism published a little over two weeks ago.
Another interesting argument is made by Robert M. Morgenthau, the famous Ambassador Morgenthau’s grandson, in a Wall Street Journal piece from late January titled Will Trump Tell the Truth About the Armenian Genocide? He thinks that because Trump is so unconventional, he just might be willing to rock the boat enough to give proper recognition to the Genocide. Of course this would still be insufficient based on my requirements for something results, rather than feelings, oriented. It is something worth thinking about.
But, let’s say that Trump is willing to go all the way, recognize and change policy, give appropriate marching orders to the Departments of Defense and State. The question becomes, do we, Armenians, want that action to come from someone like Trump?
Why would this question even arise? Trump’s inconsistency, erraticness, thoughtlessness, impulsiveness, intellectual-rigorlessness, vacuousness, and just plain inappropriate-for-the-presidency personality could easily devalue, render meaningless, any Genocide related action or position he may take. He is not even like Reagan, who at least had some political experience and a tolerable presidential bearing and mien. That’s why Reagan’s 1981 statement (inserted by his speechwriter, Ken Khachigian, after getting appropriate clearances, as recently documented by Peter Musurlian in an interview with him) carried weight then and still does now.
Nevertheless, I think it would be a good thing if he were to take action, but especially because of who he is, it becomes doubly important that what he does meets the “practicality” requirements I set forth above.
All the Armenians who voted for him (and heck, everyone else, too) should engage in a massive letter writing/e-mailing/tweeting campaign urging Donald Trump to properly characterize the Genocide and direct that U.S. policy reflect it.