Why did President Obama Not Recognize the Armenian Genocide? Hints from the Obama Administration Memoirs – and Other Sources
Keywords:Armenian Genocide, United States, Genocide Recognition, Memory Politics, Genocide Denial
This paper discusses the reasons and processes that led the Obama administration to notrecognize the Armenian Genocide. Although Barack Obama had promised he would doso during his presidential campaign of 2008, he never did once in office, despite many of his administration members, including Vice-President Joe Biden and Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, having strong records in support of such a recognition. To investigate this hitherto poorly explored question, this paper uses primarily — although not exclusively — memoirs written by Barack Obama and members his administration, some of them addressing the issue directly, others dealing with it indirectly. This study focuses on President Obama’s personal choice, and therefore responsibility, to not recognize the genocide, but also expands on the geopolitical determinants of this non-recognition (related mostly to the geostrategic importance of Turkey) as well as on its diplomatic aspects (involving particularly the argument that US recognition would hamper a hypothetical Turkey-Armenia rapprochement). Two episodes of possible presidential recognition of the genocide will be particularly discussed; one in April 2009 (three months after Obama became president of the United States and coinciding with April 24, the anniversary of the genocide), and the other in 2015 (corresponding to its centenary). Finally, stress will be placed on the positions and role of the president’s entourage at the White House, and on his State and Defense Secretaries.
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