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The fantasies of power

"The fantasies of power" Continued...

Issue: "Is Romney rolling?," May 19, 2007

They also became primary proponents of Arab nationalism, a movement destined to change the political map of the Middle East.

WORLD: One objective of U.S. foreign policy used to be to preserve, in Theodore Roosevelt's words, "the just rights" of American missionaries in the Middle East . . .

OREN: Twice, in 1903 and 1904, Roosevelt dispatched battleships to the Middle East in response to reports of Ottoman mistreatment of American missionaries. The Turkish defeat in the First World War and their replacement by British and French colonialist administrators meant that American missionaries could run their schools and hospitals relatively free of threat.

WORLD: But at one critical juncture that desire to protect missionaries contributed to inaction. Tell us about American reaction to the 1915 Turkish jihad of over 1 million Armenians.

OREN: The first reports of the massacre of Armenian civilians by the Turkish military reached the State Department in the early spring of 1915. The United States was then neutral in World War I and, as such, the government was reluctant to intervene on the Armenians' behalf.

WORLD: Was President Wilson particularly reluctant?

OREN: Even when the country entered the war against Germany and Austria-Hungary in April 1917, Washington deliberated over whether to declare war against Turkey. A solid majority of both Houses of Congress were strongly in favor of it, and Teddy Roosevelt insisted that the slogan "making the world safe for democracy" was meaningless unless America saved the Armenians. But Woodrow Wilson, the grandson and son of Presbyterian ministers, was extremely close to the missionaries. And the missionaries warned him that if he went to war in the Middle East, the Turks would murder the missionaries much as they had the Armenians.

WORLD: So he didn't do anything . . .

OREN: Wilson decided to keep America out of the Middle Eastern war. His response contrasted sharply with that of the American public. Many Americans felt a strong sense of responsibility for the Armenians, great numbers of whom had studied in American schools.

WORLD: What's happened to that idea of making the world safe for missionaries?

OREN: The missionaries maintained favorable relations with the Arab nationalist movements that achieved independence after World War II. It was only in the 1980s, with the ascendancy of Islamic extremist groups, all of which were deeply inimical to missionaries, that the danger resurfaced. By that time, however, the United States had established extremely close relations with the Saudis, who were among the extremists' primary sponsors. American missionaries have since become the targets for Islamist attacks, especially in Lebanon, while the United States has remained largely passive.

Read Part II of the Michael Oren interview now ...

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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