01 August 2015
3565) Book Review “They Can Live In The Desert But Nowhere Else”: A History Of The Armenian Genocide
by Ronald Grigor Suny. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015
Reviewed by Edward J. Erickson
Professor Ronald Grigor Suny is a distinguished scholar and a well-published historian. He is known for his body of work specializing in Armenian history and affairs. The title of the book comes from a conversation that American ambassador Henry Morgenthau reported he had with Ottoman interior minister Talat Pasha in early August 1915 (p. 269–270), which Suny purports to show that Talat had solved the Armenian “problem” in a particularly brutal manner. The introduction presents Professor Suny’s thesis is a roundabout manner, which is to explain that the Young Turks (the alleged perpetrators of a genocide) had an “affective disposition” that “allowed them, indeed in their minds required them, to eliminate whole peoples”
(p. xx). Essentially, Suny argues that the Young Turks’ cognitive and emotional state demonstrated by their observed behavior and actions in 1915 proves a genocide.
While this kind of argument may be suitable for forensic psychologists, historians rarely attempt it because of the dictum that correlation does not prove causation. . . . . .