When amateurs make foreign policy

Justice: Of course, it's right to recognize the wrong that the former Ottoman Empire did to the millions of Armenians it slaughtered and deported from 1915 and 1922. That said, does Congress have to recognize it now?


The answer is no. The country that was formed following the Ottoman Empire's collapse in 1922, Turkey, is today a stable, democratic and secular country ? and an ally of the U.S. and Europe. Believe it or not, after ours its army is the second-largest in the NATO alliance ? bigger than Britain's, France's or Germany's.

More importantly, it straddles a swath of what may be the most strategically important piece of land in the world.


Turkey is situated in both Europe and Asia Minor, guards the oil- rich and strategically vital Black Sea, dominates the back end of the Mediterranean, and shares borders and geography with some of the most troubled spots in the world. These include Iraq, Syria, Iran, the former Soviet Union and parts of Eastern Europe.


How puzzling, then, that the Democrat-led House Foreign Affairs Committee would choose this time to push through a resolution recognizing as genocide the murder of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians at the end of the first World War. We hope the rest of Congress ? House and Senate alike ? pass on the chance to vote on it.


Today's Turkey, founded on the ashes of the Ottomans, didn't commit these crimes. We wonder: Will Congress now also condemn our own government for genocide against the American Indians?


We fail to see what good comes of this. But it's easy to see the bad.


To repeat: Turkey is an ally ? though an imperfect one. Recently, it has been angered by hit-and-run attacks staged from Kurdistan in northern Iraq (a fifth of Turkey's population is Kurdish, and it adamantly opposes the creation of an independent Kurdistan on its border). It has threatened to invade Iraq repeatedly, only to be talked out of it by the U.S.


Now, after it recalled its ambassador following the committee's action, will Turkey continue to show patience? Maybe not. We hope Democrat Tom Lantos, who heads the foreign affairs panel and who pushed H.R. 106, remembers this. The blood's on his hands.


Don't get us wrong. We think Turkey should have recognized its acts a long time ago. And the U.S. is only one of a number of democracies that have already recognized the killings as genocide. Others include Argentina, Canada, Chile, Cyprus, France, Greece, the European Parliament, Lithuania, Slovakia and Switzerland.


But the timing of this resolution simply stinks, and we're made to wonder if this isn't some Democrats' way of making President Bush's Middle East policy even harder to implement.


Americans might not realize it, but Turkey is strategically indispensable. About 70% of our flights into Iraq come from our Turkish base at Incirlik. About 30% of our fuel comes from there.


Our ability to base in Turkey gives the U.S. and NATO reach far beyond our borders. A carelessly delivered diplomatic slap to the face of a key American ally ? the Turks see the resolution as undermining the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, elected to a second term only in July ? can hardly be helpful. (By the way, this isn't the first time Congress has done this. It voted on similar resolutions in 1975 and in 1984. We're already on the record.)


Turkey struggled to create a modern identity for much of the 20th century, and continues to do so today. At great political cost, it has turned itself toward the West ? building a modern, secular and democratic state in a region not known for any of those things. It has undergone wrenching but necessary change over the last decade in an effort to join the European Union.


But its 71 million people, let's not forget, are still mostly Islamic, and the same forces at work in the rest of the Middle East, namely Islamic fundamentalism, are at work there. The committee's vote didn't help that one bit, and will only give the extremists more fodder.


No wonder Turkey is furious ? talking even of shutting down Incirlik, which would cost the U.S. war effort in Iraq dearly and could even delay what appears to be a likely victory there.


This is where the Democrats' foreign-policy meddling and incompetence will get us: echoes of Jimmy Carter, who embarked on a badly-thought-out human rights campaign as the Soviet Union gobbled up more territory around the world.


Democrats style themselves as highly intellectual, nuanced global thinkers. But both in Congress and on the campaign trail they've shown themselves to be a bunch of bumbling, foreign-policy-challenged amateurs. Is this the best they can do?