Power’s description of the Armenian genocide and the United States’s role (or lack thereof) in it clearly indicate that the US was a bystander. There is no defense. Morgenthau begged repeatedly for months that we intercede and do literally anything to end the genocide. The United States’s foreign policy priorities were clear, however: if a matter did not directly impact American interests, of what importance was it to them? America essentially said, mass murder was unfortunate, but, we shed a tear and dab our eyes, respect for Turkey’s sovereignty just doesn’t allow for intervention. As was so often the case, a blinding fixation on gain excluded humanity’s common interests from playing the essential role it should have in their policy. The inaction of the Committee on Armenian Atrocities only confirms the popularity of this doctrine (i.e., interference only in affairs relating to American interests, and total respect for sovereignty).The CAA advocated pacifism apparently fearing the fate of “American schools and churches” in the country should America step in. I think this explanation requires a bit more context as to what exactly the meant, but either way, such a concern hardly permits inaction on a crime against humanity. The setting up of a war tribunal after the fact by France and Britain, although ulterior motives such as the punishment of their enemies were also present, does show that there WERE other states and leaders who did believe in certain, universal laws of humanity that the US so forcefully denied. This means that the US hadn’t just fallen prey to the prevailing political thought of the time; it actively chose to follow the unacceptable path it did.
Since the war offered such an opportunity for the US to join the fight against the genocide, I believe they should have absolutely joined the fight—it wasn’t as if doing so was going to trigger a new war or create a conflict that wasn’t already happening. Plus, the US would have the support.
I’d like to look at this event from a more modern lens, however. Specifically, considering recent events in comparison to it. Let’s take the case of the Uigher Muslims in Xinjiang, which @cherryblossom noted is a parallel to the Armenian situation in some respects. Well, there isn’t a war going on in China right now, obviously. So the US can’t just join that war and help fight this genocide. Should the US invade/attack China? Certainly not. And yet, if we claim that genocides should be stopped at any cost, wouldn’t this be the next logical conclusion? The US has tried sanctions, tariffs, and import bans, but none of those have worked.As at @BLStudent says, press coverage in the past has been helpful and important, but ultimately failed to make a difference. The same is true today. As of right now, China is shaping up to be successful in their elimination of the Uighers as a people. Horrifying to say, yet what meaningful resistance has there been? And, what in actuality can be done to prevent this?There are a lot of lingering questions about what to do when genocides are happening in our present. Taking a stand is non-negotiable, as are basic steps like sanctions (both economic and on leaders). But further than that, I think there is a real hesitancy to use the military these days—which makes perfect sense. American imperialism has hurt far too many to even think of advocating its use, and yet, practically speaking, it is the only real method through which the Uigher genocide might be stopped. So we remain paralyzed, in indecision and in meager commitment to actions which least harm us, and the Uighers continue to be destroyed. What is the answer here? While we struggle to find it, the suffering of millions unfolds and the long history of genocide gains another chapter. “Never again” becomes “once again.”
I don’t want to spiral too far here, but let’s continue this line of reasoning to the next point: what to do about brutal, horrific abuses of human rights around the world in general? In from Yemen to Syria to North Korea, hundreds of millions suffer under dictatorship, war, and terrorism. The United States holds immeasurable wealth and influence in the international sphere. Shouldn’t we use it? Does the imperative to act exist only under the condition of genocide? Surely the crises in the countries mentioned above are just as alarming and damaging as the genocide in Xinjiang. But what are we doing there? Exceedingly little; and in the instance of Yemen, we have actually been promoting the violence and war crimes by supporting Saudi Arabia. And what can we do?
In sum: the adult world loves to make bold promises about uplifting humanity and preventing genocide at all costs, but even when people are paying attention to genocide and want to act, history thus far indicates that their attempts will inevitably fail. I do hate to be a cynic, but everything here seems to indicate that if a leader has the power and understanding of hate and rhetoric necessary to commit a genocide, they will succeed in at least beginning it if they wish. The same goes for leaders bent on war, violence, and authoritarianism. Without exception, as far as I am aware. Which is an alarming position to be in. Because we care! And we want to do something! And we look back on history’s atrocities and tut-tut the US for not doing more, for not preventing the brutality the occurred. But I feel that we are so helpless here, because here we are, in that exact same position, and not doing enough, once again—now WE are the guilty ones, not the Americans of the past!! So, are we doomed to stand as powerless spectators to the cruelty and suffering of humanity? I feel we are. We think we have improved so much over time, and in many ways we have, yet we still cannot find a way to resolve conflict and save people from atrocities. How dispiriting.
In regard to the final question, I’m sure the US behaved differently in regard to the Herero genocide. A) Herero are Black Africans, meaning their plight could hardly be expected to evoke concern from the average American at the time (and still today, frankly). The smaller scale of the murder and the similarity of it to what America itself had just abolished 30 years ago (i.e. forced labor—> slavery), also likely mitigated any concerns that might have arisen. Plus, the Herero were not Christian, like the Armenians were (Powers noted several times this was a major sticking points for why Americans thought they should intervene), and Namibia likely seemed a remote German colony to them.