News this week is that North Dakota Senator Kevin Cramer has, at the behest of President Donald Trump’s administration, held up the passage of a bipartisan resolution about the Armenian genocide.
On Twitter there was outrage (is there ever anything else on Twitter?) from Cramer’s political opponents.
Here’s North Dakota House Minority Leader Josh Boschee (D-Fargo):
— Joshua Boschee (@JoshBoschee) December 6, 2019
This, I think, is the perfect distillation of shallow social media politics. Not to mention how harmful the political/media class obsession with Twitter is to our discourse.
Because there’s some nuance to this story that’s getting missed.
The push to pass a resolution about the Armenian genocide is more than a decade old, spanning both Republican and Democratic majorities. What’s more, this resolution has real-world implications for foreign relations policy in the middle east.
Namely, the Turks don’t like it, and the Turks are an important (if deeply imperfect) ally of ours.
“Cramer said the White House wanted the resolution blocked because President Donald Trump had just met with the Turkish President at the NATO summit,” CNN reports. As a practical matter of policy, passing this resolution really changes nothing. It’s symbolic.
Symbols are still important, but if the timing of a symbolic resolution can influence actual foreign policy, isn’t it appropriate to adjust the timing?
(It’s worth noting that the Turkish Armenians aren’t all that united behind the resolution. “Even Mesrob Mutafyan, patriarch of the Armenian community in Turkey, has stated that his community is opposed to the resolution, calling it the result of domestic American politics,” dearly departed columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote in 2007.)
“I don’t know what the right time is, but this isn’t it,” Cramer continued to CNN. “And maybe there’s never a perfect time. But at some point, he’ll succeed, it’s my belief.”
The George W. Bush administration opposed passing the resolution because of its implications for our relationship with Turkey. While the Barack Obama administration was generally supportive of the resolution publicly, they also had then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tell the Turks that the administration opposed it.
Are Senator Cramer and the Trump administration villains for holding up this resolution again? If you believe that, then you must also believe that the Obama administration and the Bush administration and the past Democratic and Republican majorities in Congress since 2007 who failed to pass this resolution are all villains too.
Social media platforms like Twitter reward hot takes and outrage and umbrage. They do not reward nuance or caution.
The Trump administration is being cautious about a symbolic resolution which represents a thorny issue in middle eastern policy. Senator Cramer is assisting the Trump administration in that regard.
I’m really not certain how that is controversial.