Clements Center
Clements Center

Sharing the Burden? The American Solution to the Armenian Question, 1918-1920

Charlie Laderman Oct 26, 2015

Charlie Laderman a Professor at Cambridge University and panelist at the Clements Center's conference at King's College London titled "Grand Strategy and the Anglo-American World View" recently published an article in Diplomatic History titled, "Sharing the Burden? The American Solution to the Armenian Question, 1918-1920."

Drawing on public and private archives in the United States, Britain and Armenia, this article assesses the Anglo-American response to the Armenian Question as an illuminating but neglected window into the United States’ rise to world power, the decline of the British Empire and the origins of the League of Nations. The Armenian Question, relating to the security and independence of the Armenian subjects of the Ottoman Empire, was a humanitarian cause célèbre at the turn of the 20th century. The search for its solution was at the center of an American, and wider international, debate over the world role of the United States. Previous studies have not appreciated the significance of this solution to the larger public debate over the nature and purpose of U.S. power. Above all, whether the United States should join with the British Empire to construct a new global order.

By following the public and political debates on a solution to the Armenian Question, this article re-examines the American conflict over its world role after World War One and re-interprets the evolution of ideas on international governance in the early twentieth century. The domestic clash over the legitimate basis for U.S. intervention in global affairs, requiring sanction by international association or unfettered national authority, demanding legislative approval or executive authorization, is addressed. It considers the British and American responses in tandem, explaining why the most prominent international champions of Armenian independence were also the most determined advocates of establishing a reformed international system, underpinned by an Anglo-American alliance. Furthermore, it reveals how Turkish and Armenian leaders influenced the mandate debate, forcing Americans to confront the complexities of pacifying the post-Ottoman Near East. Ultimately, this article reveals how the search for a solution to the Armenian Question became entangled in a wider debate over America’s future world role and the international commitments it was willing to assume. 

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