Wilsonian Armenia, How the Armenians got Screwed After World War One
OK, in my previous post I laid a bit of the background behind the Armenian Genocide. Yes, it happened. Yes, the Turks still deny it. Yes, everyone who was a participant is dead. So why are the Armenians still pressing for an apology from Turkey, and why are the Turks so adamant about refusing to even acknowledge the crime? Heck, it’s not even legal to teach about the Armenian Genocide in Turkish schools. We’re talking systematic denial here. I mean, what has Turkey got to lose by apologizing about something that happened nearly a century ago?
Well, as the map above so clearly indicates, quite a lot. A lot, because the key word that comes after apology is … reparations. Today’s Armenians insist that they should be compensated for the property and wealth that was stolen during the Ottoman rule. And that the territory they were promised by treaty after World War One be restored to them, or at least Mount Ararat, the “Mt Fuji” of the Armenian people. Illustrated above is what is now referred to as “Wilsonian Armenia.” This was the territorial division that the Ottoman Empire agreed to after the war in the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920. However, the treaty was never ratified or put into action as the Ottoman Regime fell apart. And a few years later the new nation of Turkey signed the Treaty of Lausanne, which superseded the Treaty of Sèvres and established the current borders of Turkey. And so the Armenians got hosed by the Turkey and the western powers.
So do the Armenians have a case? Legally, yes, it’s pretty clear under international law. There is no statute of limitations on crimes against humanity, and the nation of Turkey, being the successor state to the Ottoman Empire, is in fact obligated to make reparations for their crimes. And if it was a perfect world, they would do so and that would be that. Unfortunately this is where the many thinkers end their analysis. No offence, but for one thing, any government of Turkey that actually tried to give a quarter of Turkey to Armenia would be overthrown during the first commercial break after the announcement. So as things stand now, it seems unlikely that the Armenians are going to get either an apology or reparations from Turkey. And it’s fairly easy to see why the Turks are reluctant to even acknowledge the crime, let alone apologize for it. To apologize would be to give the Armenians much stronger grounds to make their case for reparations and even territorial claims, no government is going to voluntarily do that except under extreme conditions.
So what do I think, and what’s to be done? Well, for one thing, I think holding the modern Turks responsible for the genocide, or demonizing them for their failure to apologize is a bit, well, ridiculous. Racist even. More importantly, it’s counterproductive. Racism and demonizing is always counterproductive, though it’s amazing how many people who consider themselves highly moral engage in it, but that’s a topic for another post. And it obscures the point that there are Turks who acknowledge the crimes of their fathers, the Armenians would do well to try and work with them. There are Palestinian and Israeli peace groups working together. If they can, anyone can. However, don’t construe this as my trying to delegitimize the Armenian claims or the horror of the Armenian genocide, as always I’m trying to look at things from different perspectives to help my understanding of them. I’m just saying that the Turks collectively aren’t being evil for refusing to apologize, though no doubt some of them are. In fact some Turks apparently have made threats against Turkey’s remaining Armenian population if other Armenians don’t drop their claims, which is evil.
My final point, the point I have been leading to, is that looking at things like the Armenian Genocide in isolation is missing the big picture. And if we step back, the world is full of legitimate claims for reparations and territorial adjustment. There were literally dozens of genocides and ethnic cleansings in the twentieth century that have yet to even make it into the history books and general consciousness, let alone be acknowledged by a dozen or more governments as the Armenian Genocide has. Compounded by the fact that many of the world’s borders, including pretty much all of the borders in the middle east and Africa, were drawn up by the colonial powers to facilitate resource extraction, with little or no relevance to ethnic realities on the ground. This was the point I was making some years back when I published my “New Middle East Map” post. Which is still getting nasty comments to this day, even though it is very clear that this map is simply grounds for discussion, not an actual proposal.
Moving right along, until we as a race are willing to acknowledge and fix the horrible legacy of the colonial era and redraw the world’s borders in a sensible way, let alone grant reparations for past crimes, we are doomed to a world where ethnic cleansing, genocide, and war are the norm, not the exception. As is being demonstrated in Kyrgyzstan as I type. Will we ever be able to do that? I don’t know, but as military technology gets ever more lethal and trickles down to the lowest of the low, as it always does, the cost of not doing so will continue to rise. Will humanity grow up before the cost is our very survival as a species? The jury is still out on that one.
(The above image image of Greater Armenia/Wilsonian Armenia is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, it’s the best image I could find on line to illustrate the concept, and it’s use here in no way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. Plus I am acknowledging that the Armenian claim for reparations and an apology from Turkey is legitimate, so hopefully the image is being used to further their cause. Credit and copyright: OurArarat.com. Final note: Both of my Armenian genocide posts are simply discussion, I hope and pray for a just peace and reconciliation between the Turks and the Armenians, and know there are good people on both sides working for just that.)