The Great Game of Genocide: Imperialism, Nationalism, and the Destruction of the Ottoman Armenians
Oxford University Press, 2005, 344pp., $35.00
The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey: A Disputed Genocide
University of Utah Press, 2005, 356pp., $24.95
During World War I, the Ottoman decision to deport Armenians out of the war zone in eastern Anatolia set in motion a massacre that produced casualties probably numbering well over a million. As much as 40 percent of the prewar Armenian population in Anatolia may have been destroyed, a destruction proportionally far greater than that of any other people in the terrible carnage that was World War I. Was this a premeditated plan to annihilate the Armenian population? Was it genocide? The authors of both these books give unstinting attention to the horrors that occurred, but they differ in their judgments about whether the massacres were premeditated and about the Ottoman role.
Lewy sifts the available documentation and the charges and countercharges of scholars to decide that although the Ottoman government bears indirect responsibility for overreacting to the possible security threat Armenians posed and for mishandling the deportation, there was no plan to eliminate the Armenians; it was not genocide. To Bloxham, it clearly was. He offers a broad historical account of Armenian relations with the Ottoman Empire leading up to the 1915 deportation orders and the ensuing massacre. Thereafter, he weighs the "international response and responsibility" in this case of genocide in the years since. A penultimate chapter offers a penetrating review of official and unofficial U.S. responses from the time the massacres were taking place to the present.