Students across Ann Arbor were collecting around their televisions or inside Al Glick Field House, watching President Barack Obama inject hopes and dreams into the minds of Americans everywhere (only because of University President Mary Sue Coleman’s letter to him, and the fact that Michigan is a swing state, but that’s a different story). While the president spoke, many were ignoring a very important development concerning the past, one that may shape the future of the world.
On Dec. 22, the lower house of the French Parliament passed a bill that would make it an offense to deny that the Armenian genocide by the Turks took place in 1915. On Jan. 23, the bill passed the French Senate, effectively making it law. This development comes on the heels of a tense relationship between Turkey and France, and resulted in the two countries severing diplomatic relations. The denial of the Armenian genocide is one of the sticking points.
When Turkey was still the Islamic Ottoman Empire, fighting alongside the Central Powers in World War I, they marched over more than 1 million Christian Armenians into the desert, a crime on par with the Holocaust. Resolutely, however, the present-day secular Turkish nation refuses to acknowledge the heinous act. Where the Germans have made it illegal to deny the Holocaust, the Turks have locked up their skeletons.
France has quite a bit of influence, especially when it comes to the European Union. The EU’s position has weakened recently — financial crises in Greece, Spain, Ireland and most all countries not named Germany have cut at the core of its economic strength. But by making it illegal to deny the Armenian genocide, France has effectively blocked one of the most economically dynamic nations from the EU.
Despite its best efforts to hide it, the EU is a dying organization. It can no longer hold on to its members, and internationally, countries such as Brazil, China and India are shaping the future. Turkey is a new and emerging power in the Middle East. More importantly, it is a new secular power in the Middle East. The West needs to make friends with Turkey.
Let’s face it. Iran doesn’t like us very much. Neither does Saudi Arabia — they only are nice to us because we pay them a lot. Once we (hopefully) need less foreign oil, the Middle East will have no reason to play ball with us. That’s a lot of people against the U.S. But if the EU would be so kind as to let Turkey in and establish a power base in the Middle East, the West might have a say in the events that happen there.
France is coming from a place of high morals and is conveniently ignoring what happened during the Algerian War of Independence. France has a worthy sentiment, but, especially in light of its recent credit downgrade, it can’t afford to pick and choose its allies. None of Europe can.
Obama, in an election year, projected a message of hope without any real feasible plan for the future. Sarkozy, in an election year, gave a clear plan, but does not project any hope for the future. Which is worse?