Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice) is absolutely right: U.S. foreign policy should reflect "appropriate understanding and sensitivity concerning issues related to human rights, ethnic cleansing and genocide." Further, the president should indeed "accurately characterize the systematic and deliberate annihilation of 1,500,000 Armenians as genocide." That's why Harman is one of more than 220 members of the House to co-sponsor a worthwhile, nonbinding resolution containing precisely that language.
Harman is right about something else as well: Turkey is an invaluable NATO ally and strategic partner in the always combustible Middle East. It is arguably the most important friend both the U.S. and Israel have in the Muslim world, and the most reliable country on Iraq's border. Ankara's ongoing modernization and painstaking integration with Europe provide a crucial example to the largely misgoverned Muslim world: that a secular state can be the path to prosperity, not hell.
These two sets of facts, being factual, are not in conflict. Nor should they have anything to do with one another. Yet the government of modern Turkey has invested enormous diplomatic capital and cash in denying the genocide committed by its forebears and warning weak-kneed U.S. politicians -- from President Bush on down -- that a symbolic vote to call the events of nine decades ago by their proper name will create, in the words of Turkish President Abdullah Gul this week, "serious troubles" for U.S. diplomacy.