To-Negotiate-or-Not-to-negotiate.doc - TO NEGOTIATE OR NOT TO NEGOTIATE The Past as Dilemma Gerard J Libaridian University of Michigan Ann Arbor The

To-Negotiate-or-Not-to-negotiate.doc - TO NEGOTIATE OR NOT...

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TO NEGOTIATE OR NOT TO NEGOTIATE The Past as Dilemma Gerard J. Libaridian University of Michigan, Ann Arbor The past dominates the general perception of Turkish-Armenian relations. At least it appears so. It dominates because it ended tragically in the Ottoman Empire and because we have perceived it in more ways than one and invested so much in each. The question is: Can we take responsibility for the way in which we have recreated that, just as it has created us. And, What is to be done with two different, disparate and more often than not conflicting perceptions of the past, when there is willingness to transcend it? For the Armenian side, the difference can be resolved if and when the Turkish side acknowledges the Genocide perpetrated by the Young Turk government during World War I. This expectation of the victim has encountered the Turkish view, which places its own victimization by the Great Powers at the center of its own perception of history, a perception that makes what happened to Armenians an almost irrelevant detail, a nuisance at best, and that should be denied, trivialized, or explained away. The mainline Turkish position has been to do all three, at the same time. There are, essentially, three ways of reconciling differences when positions have been long standing and when each side has invested so much of its identity in its position. We know that identity wars are more ferocious than interest wars. A first way is to better understand the past and, equally if not more importantly in the initial stage, to understand better the reasons for the other’s position. The second way is to negotiate history. The first requires scholarship, intellectual integrity, and the courage to integrate what one learns into one’s thinking and positions. The second requires technical skills taught at diplomatic, business and law schools . The first implies painstaking efforts; it can be expedited but not forced. Its outcome may still not be imposed universally. The second
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can be encapsulated in a diplomatic protocol, treaty, or a formal resolution by institutional political bodies, governmental or otherwise. These two are, conceptually, separate processes; but in real life, given the stakes, they have not been. After all, governments and institutionalized bodies formulate and implement policies; they are more inclined to negotiate; and they do so by invoking the past. Scholarship, on the other hand, has clear implications for policies. Furthermore, scholars are not immune to their identity and environment, although policy makers seem to have thicker skins when it comes to accepting facts shown to be evident by scholars. It is as useless to argue history with a diplomat charged with the implementation of a policy as it is to ask a scholar engaged in a dynamic process of discovery for policy recommendations.
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