Does the head of state always have to tell the raw truth? Saturday, Joe Biden has officially acknowledged the existence of a Turkish genocide against the Armenians.
There is no serious historian who denies that the Turks committed such genocide.
But is it right for Joe Biden to make that kind of statement? Because Biden is doomed to argue with the Turkish president. This kind of condemnation does not create an atmosphere for friendly debate.
It is true that in 2019, the US Congress voted to declare recognition of the Armenian Genocide. His spokesmen said that Donald Trump later refused to acknowledge this genocide, to preserve the good relations between the White House and Turkey.
Certainly, Erdogan will use Biden’s statement to bolster his faltering popularity in the name of defending Turkey’s honor.
In Ankara, the statement is being interpreted as an indication that the United States may sever ties with Turkey.
After publicly admitting that Vladimir Putin is a murderer and explaining that Xi Jinping has no democratic point in him, who will Biden’s next target be? Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia?
The sad truth is that in a world dominated by dictatorships, the president of the United States cannot tell all leaders of their four truths without risking himself becoming persona non grata in international meetings.
A serious political gesture
Insulting another head of state in public is always a dangerous business. A political gesture is sometimes necessary, but it does not rigorously display the truth.
Given Trump’s love for dictators and his sick culture of lies, Biden’s comments are welcome, even if only to demarcate his administration from the Trump era and return the United States to some moral supremacy.
As long as these comments from Biden remain focused and scarce, they can be analyzed as part of a broad counterattack designed to smash undemocratic propaganda.
Indeed, many dictatorships, starting with China, are trying to present themselves as a reasonable alternative to democracy. They are also trying to prevent the rest of the world from passing judgments for the crimes they commit on their land.
The moral, not the political, position
The problem is that Biden’s statement about Putin seemed spontaneous. President Xi was not trying to establish a balance of power. The Turkish genocide case targeted the Ottoman Empire specifically, not today’s Turkey.
Thus Biden places himself on the basis of morality, not on the basis of politics. However, no head of state can limit his statements in the area of morality.
Biden’s moral statements delighted many Democratic supporters. But it could be counterproductive internationally quickly if it builds up.