Armenian Massacres Helped Shape U.S. Foreign Policy: Prof. CharlieLaderman

LONDON — Prof. Charlie Laderman and his path breaking work, “Sharing the Burden. The Armenian Question, Humanitarian Intervention, and Anglo-American Visions of Global Order,” (OUP), 2019, were a topic of discussion among leading scholars working on the Armenian Genocide. Hosted by Ara Sarafian and Vincent Lima, this was an “In Conversation” session of the Gomidas Institute on 2 September 2020. Prof. Laderman was joined by two other distinguished guests, Prof. Vicken Cheterian, (University of Geneva and Webster University, Geneva) and John Evans, former US ambassador to Yerevan. The panel discussion is now available online.

Opening with an illustrated presentation, Prof. Laderman touched on three critical points which framed the debate that followed.

  1. The little known 1896 Congressional resolution protesting against the massacre of 100,000 Ottoman Armenians under Abdul Hamid II. This was a major milepost in US foreign policy and reflected important shifts in US politics, including an interest in the “Armenian Question” as it was known at the time.
  2. The Armenian Genocide of 1915 and United States efforts to save the victims during the killings or their aftermath. These efforts included the creation of Near East Relief by an Act of Congress (1918), as well as intense debates around the possibility of the United States assuming a mandate for an independent Armenian state (1920).

  3. The 2019 Congressional resolution affirming United States recognition of the Armenian Genocide and calling for “education and public understanding of the facts of the Armenian Genocide, including the role of the United States in humanitarian relief efforts…” The inclusion of “education and public understanding” in the resolution was seen as a significant opportunity. Serious engagement with scholars like Prof. Laderman who put the Genocide in the context of evolving U.S. foreign policy can be an important way of taking full advantage of the resolution.

Laderman’s discussion covered US domestic politics (and the position of senators, presidential candidates and presidents, such as Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Warren Harding), imperial rivalries and alliances (mainly between Great Britain and the United States), and the impact of a devastating world war.

The discussion that followed touched on the UN Genocide Convention of 1948 and developing case law; the duty of states to act in genocidal and pre-genocidal cases for purposes of prevention or punishment; third party intervention and differing victimisers’ and victims perspectives; the persecution of Armenian, Assyrians, Yezidis and Kurds in the Middle East today; Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide and its failure to oppose the 2019 Congressional resolution; the political significance of the latter resolution and the opportunities it presents lobbyists for future action; and the lessons one can draw from the failure of the United States and others to protect Armenians in a more successful manner between 1895 and 1923.

All participants thanked Prof. Laderman for his work as a critical reference for our understanding of the Armenian Question, humanitarian intervention, and Anglo-American visions of global order circa 1900-1923.
Gomidas Institute

“Armenian Massacres Helped Shape U.S. Foreign Policy: Laderman,” YouTube.

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