For quite a while now I’ve been hearing liberals insist that the Democratic Party is the home to serious-minded realism. Those whack-job, neoconservative-hijacked, Republicans are all a bunch of neo-Wilsonian idealists and democracy voluptuaries. Meanwhile, liberals are willing to make the cold, reasoned, case for America’s enlightened self-interested. You’ll even hear quite a few folks polishing apples from the Walt and Mearshimer’s anti-Israel barrel.
Well, where are all these people when it comes to the Democratic Party’s push to condemn the Armenian genocide? Look, I am sympathetic to the effort on the merits. America should condemn genocide — for starters! — everywhere and anywhere it can. Though it’s difficult to stomach some of the Democratic sanctimony about how morally courageous they are to condemn a 90 year-old atrocity when Democrats like Barack Obama claim that preventing genocide in the here and now isn’t a serious foreign policy goal, at least not if it happens in Iraq.
But just look at what’s being discussed. Turkey is a hugely important strategic ally, and long-standing member of Nato. They provide enormous logistical support for the United States in the region. They offer precisely the sort of secular model Democratic and Republican foreign policy mavens insist should be offered throughout the Muslim world. They can cause incredible hardships for us if we alienate them and we can give anti-American elements in the country a great issue in the process.
The Armenian genocide resolution is being driven in no small part by Armenian constituents in various Congressional districts. I see nothing wrong with that. But where is the realist outrage? When Jewish-Americans lobby for specific foreign policies that allegedly harm America’s national interest, it’s enough to send realists into dithyrambs of dyspepsia. But, at least when pro-Israel lobbyists make their case they argue that such policies also advance American self-interest as well. The Armenian genocide resolution, meanwhile, may be morally right, but it is very, very, difficult to argue it is in America’s self-interest, at least in terms of how the so-called realists define it. By any realist calculation, it is purely symbolic in all ways save its potential for harm.
But once again, as I’ve long argued, realism is a hat idealists and ideologues put on when they lose an argument. When the losers win their arguments, all of a sudden there’s nothing wrong with idealism.