Krauthammer’s Razor

I wrote about the House resolution condemning the Armenian genocide in “What about the Dardanelles?” Charles Krauthammer devotes his weekly column to the subject in “Pelosi’s Armenian gambit.” I called the House resolution an act of unbelievable irresponsibility because of its negative impact on the vital support Turkey provides for our effort in Iraq, and Krauthammer characterizes the House resolution similarly. He also takes up the interesting question whether Speaker Pelosi intends the resolution to produce its predictable consequences, a question I avoided. Krauthammer declines to answer, preferring instead to formulate “Krauthammer’s Razor” as a tool of analysis:

Is the Armenian resolution her way of unconsciously sabotaging the U.S. war effort, after she had failed to stop it by more direct means? I leave that question to psychiatry. Instead, I fall back on Krauthammer’s razor (with apologies to Occam): In explaining any puzzling Washington phenomenon, always choose stupidity over conspiracy, incompetence over cunning. Anything else gives them too much credit.

I am afraid that “Krauthammer’s Razor” will prove to be an even more useful analytic tool than “Bush Derangement Syndrome” (to which Krauthammer added the “Cheney variant” earlier this year), Krauthammer’s denomination of the syndrome that accounts for so much political discourse over the past seven years.
Listening to House Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on Fox News Sunday this week, I thought that the Democrats must know exactly what they are doing. Brit Hume asked Hoyer why the resolution was being taken up by the House now, when it threatened to do so much damage. Hoyer responded:

HOYER: OK, Brit. That’s a good question. I’ve been in the Congress 26 years. I’ve been for this resolution for 25 years. I’ve talked to the Turkish ambassadors, Turkish government, Turkish parliamentarians, over a quarter of a century.
Never once in that quarter of a century has anybody in the Turkish government said to me, “OK, this is the right time.” In other words, there would be no right time.
But the fact is our government is absolutely convinced a genocide was committed, not by the Erdogan government or the present Turkish people, but almost 100 years ago, 1950, during the course of the…

The exchange continued on the question of timing:

HUME: But why is it a good idea to say it now?
HOYER: Because if we forget what has happened, if we paper over what has happened, then we are at risk of letting it happen again. As a matter of fact, unfortunately, in Darfur…
HUME: I mean, do you think it’s an urgent issue, something that happened between Turks and Armenians in World War I?
HOYER: Brit, do I think it’s an urgent issue? I think the issue of genocide is a very urgent and present issue. It’s happening in Darfur now. It happened in Bosnia not too long ago. And the world sat by and watched.
Yes, I think it’s an urgent issue.
HUME: Well, but nobody’s arguing that it wasn’t a mass killing or even a massacre.
HOYER: No, it was a genocide. And I understand some people are arguing that well, let historians look at it. Historians have looked at it. Nobel writers have looked at it. And there is a conclusion that, in fact, this was a conscious effort to eliminate a race of people.

Hume presses Hoyer one more time on the question of timing:

HUME: And I don’t think anybody in the administration would dispute that that happened.
However, do you think it’s worth making this expression of this at this time, all these years later, at the expense of souring relations with a country who has helped us, is vital in the Mideast and in Iraq in particular?
HOYER: Well, I think Turkey’s help to us is vital. More vital is the United States’ help to Turkey, Brit.
Over the last half a century, the relationship between the United States and Turkey has far more advantage to Turkey than it has the United States. Are we both advantageous to one another? We are.
Speaker Pelosi and I met with the Turkish ambassador just a few days ago and said to him, “We are friends. We are allies. We believe this is a historical observation. It is not about your government. It’s not about the Turkish people. It is about a historical event that happened that we need to remember to preclude its happening again.”

In other words, Hoyer was unable to provide an answer to the question of timing; he changed the subject. Krauthammer and the utility of Krauthammer’s Razor to the contrary notwithstanding, I doubt that stupidity is a sufficient explanation in this case.
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