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The Critical Corner - 05/10/2004

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'Essential Elements for Armenia's National Security Doctrine: Part I'
by Armen Aivazian
(228pp, Yerevan, 2003)

Armenian News Network / Groong
May 10, 2004

By Eddie Arnavoudian


Armen Aivazian's 'Essential Elements for Armenia's National Security
Doctrine' is a welcome and thoughtful contribution to an urgently
needed discussion about the present and the future of the Armenian
people, the post-Soviet Armenian state and the Armenian nation.
Accounting for the political, military and economic realities of the
post-Soviet world order, Aivazian argues the case for a powerful and
independent socio-political and economic-military strategy that could
secure the long-term survival and development of the Armenian state
whose existence is threatened by hostile neighbours and by global
political developments.


I. THE ARGUMENT REHEARSED

In the face of the unceasing and growing flow of evidence highlighting
the steadily weakening foundations of the Armenian state, in the face
of the modern Armenian elite selling off Armenia's national wealth
without regard for the state and its future, Armen Aivazian's thesis
is largely indisputable.  Contemporary forms of globalisation, together
with the current dominance of the US in international politics, pose a
threat to the people of small nations, to their cultures and their
civilisations. Overwhelmed by the US dollar, cowed by US military might
and swamped by its mass produced tinsel culture, the independent and
progressive development of the people of smaller nations is at risk as
US power, and one should add European Union power too, debilitates
their states and impoverishes their peoples' lives.

Among them, the people of Armenia confront additional and difficult
problems.  The Armenian state borders the Turkish state, a preferred
US agent in the region that does not accept the existence of the
Armenian nation. Fearing that a ' strong Armenia could one day raise
questions about (the Turkish state's) responsibility for the Genocide
and demand (Turkish) territorial concessions' (p172), Turkey
'radically rejects the Armenian right to statehood' (p175), refuses to
establish full diplomatic relations and harbours active long-term
ambitions to invade and eliminate the country.

The problems besetting the Armenian people are compounded by the
failures of the post-Soviet elite. This elite has not set in place any
of the essential elements of genuine state independence and shows no
ambition to do so. It displays instead an 'absolute indifference' to
the interests 'of its population (and) to the Armenian people as a
whole.' (p23) The Armenian elite has destroyed the people's faith and
their hope for a better future in Armenia and alienated them from the
political process. The governing class's corruption, political and
economic ineptitude and criminality, its refusal to provide state
sponsorship for Armenian national culture and its failure to oppose
the harmful and inane features of western influence has reduced the
population to insufferable material and spiritual poverty. By such
behaviour, the current rulers of Armenia have and continue to drive
out of the land its best and most vigorous elements and meanwhile they
squander the wealth and resources that remain. This veritable
haemorrhage has severely weakened the foundations of the state,
rendering it impotent to confront any major regional or international
crises. So today 'Armenia and the Armenian people' are living through
'a systemic crisis embracing the political, economic, cultural, moral,
ideological and socio-psychological spheres' (p5) and one can in
effect speak of the 'de facto absence of a national state.'  (p19)

Together with a critique of a deeply rotten Armenian governing class,
runs a rounded appreciation of the Armenian Diaspora. Recognising its
value for Armenia, Aivazian does not regard the Diaspora as beyond
reproach. Despite its benefits it acts as a magnet that empties
Armenia of its youth; its organisations are frequently the playthings
of foreign powers and its intellectual environment is not conducive to
the development of Armenian culture. Most significantly it generates
outlooks and attitudes that prioritise foreign interests over Armenian
ones. Remarking on the huge expenditure of resources that would be
better devoted to strengthening Armenia, Armen Aivazian makes some
telling points about the Diaspora-led genocide recognition campaign.
He does not oppose this campaign. But he does argue that it is being
conducted according to the same principals of begging from, and
reliance upon, western imperialist powers 'whose harmful results are
evident' from past Armenian history.  (p153-4) Aivazian rightly notes
that western powers have no interest in the Armenian people, but use
Armenian 'genocide recognition formulas' as one of their 'means to
reign in Turkish ambitions to become a hegemonic regional power.
(p178) So where these states have passed resolutions recognising the
genocide these are vague and without practical consequence.

Today the future for the people of Armenia appears bleak, even as the
elite lives in idle luxury strutting around the world gorging itself
at the tables of its masters. However all is not hopeless. The
Armenian people have the resources to overcome subordination to the
new global order and to create for themselves a decent life on an
equal and secure footing. But, argues Aivazian, this can be brought
about only through a radical transformation, one that involves a
'strengthening of security in Armenia and Karabagh', the
'establishment of the rule of law and social justice' and a political
programme that guarantees the people 'the right to work and a decent
living standard'. Simultaneously a democratic Armenian state must
sponsor policies that encourage the 'development of an Armenian
culture'. And as significant as any of the above it must set about the
work of 'gradually eliminating' damaging 'strategic consequences' of
the Genocide. (p46-47)

Within this complex of measures the defence of Karabagh is of the
highest order. Any retreat or defeat here threatens the very existence
of Armenia. Shrunk in size from its historic boundaries Armenia is
penned into a corner and has no hinterland or unassailable bastions to
which it can retreat, regroup and recover in the event of hostile
aggression. In coping with and overcoming the dangers confronting them
Armenian citizens even as they rightly manoeuvre to exploit
oppositions between Russian and US policy, cannot afford to rely on
either of these powers. Armenians should put no faith in any big power
proclamations about justice. Aivazian notes how such proclamations
have led to no restitution for other people who have suffered
genocide, among them the Native Americans. The only guarantees for the
people of Armenia are the enactment of measures that will bring into
being a strong and independent state that relies on its own resources
and the power of its own people.

Such a line of argument suggested by Armen Aivazian's work is
powerful. There are however at least three areas of significant
ambiguity that, if unresolved, could vitiate the project of national
independence and development that he advocates.


II. QUESTIONS DEMANDING ANSWERS

No discussion of national security or national independence can be
adequate without a full consideration of the character and nature of
the nation in the modern global world order. This issue unfortunately
receives little attention. Here Armen Aivazian could have, but does
not draw on the legacy of Armenian political thought on the matter -
in particular that of Mikael Nalpantian and Raffi. Yet both have
particular purchase for the modern world order.

Nalpantian and Raffi correctly defined the nation in terms of the
needs and interests of the majority of people, the 'common people'.
Nalpantian argued that 'by the term "nation" we must understand the
common people and not those few families who have enriched themselves
from the sweat and blood of the people.'  After all he notes, almost
as if he was writing from Yerevan in 2004, 'the rich are (well)
protected behind their barricades of wealth.'  In the name of
globalisation, many dismiss such ideas, along with notions of national
independence, as useless relics of the past. They conveniently ignore
the fact that globalisation is essentially a euphemism disguising
great power domination of smaller and poorer nations. Today through
their control of global institutions such as the IMF, World Bank and
WTO, a few great powers dictate the economic policies of smaller
nations, subordinating them to the interests of their own
trans-nationals.
    
    Nalpantian's notion of the common people, not the elite,
constituting the nation's core and essence is even more appropriate in
today's global political and social conditions than in his own day.
Today elites of all nations are increasingly being 'denationalised' as
their ideology, interests, status and movements are fashioned by
forces outside their nation state and particularly by the overwhelming
force of US capitalism. Elites from small nations draw privilege and
status from their connection to and identification with the dominant
global or regional powers. So they come to serve as agents for these
powers rather than as representatives of their native state's
population. In the Armenian context, even the most casual reading of
press reports forcefully confirms the views of that great African
thinker Frantz Fanon. In his classical 'The Wretched of the Earth' he
noted how the elite of newly independent nations 'is not engaged in
production, nor in invention nor in labour'. Its 'innermost vocation'
he continues 'seems to be to keep in the running and to be part of the
racket.' So during its rule of the new nation 'it will in practice set
up its country as the brothel of Europe.' These are harsh words but
true, in the Armenian context too.
    
In contrast to the elite the majority population of these same small
and newly independent nations confront in the global order not just
growing barriers to their international movement but obstacles to
their social, economic and cultural progress and threats to their
independence and self-determination. For the common people of the
Third World, of which Armenia is in fact now a part, the global order
is an incarnation of injustice that by a variety of means drains their
land of its material and human wealth. For the people preserving their
national independence and creating a strong state can become part of
their resistance to the injustice and inequity of the global
order. For them the best elements of their national culture can also
serve as a repository of national identity and independence and can
help protect the people from absorption into the reactionary,
oppressive and passive culture of a dominant power. Thus their culture
can become a weapon for struggle against global injustice.
    
Armen Aivazian's solidarity with the common people is not in
question. Not only does he argue that the majority in Armenia is the
decisive element of the nation he also proposes that it must be armed
to provide for national security.  But in this volume the majority,
the 'common people', remain nevertheless only as one component of
society. The nation and the notion of nationalism appear as separate
from the interests and needs of majority. Sometimes the concept of
nation seems even to incorporate the corrupt elite that Aivazian
exposes so effectively. Such a loosely defined conception runs the
risk of being transformed into a historic abstraction open to abuse
and exploitation by demagogues who do not have the interests of the
people of Armenia, Armenian culture and Armenian civilisation at
heart.

Closely related to a conception of the modern nation is that of the
role of the state in the national economy. No nation on earth, not
even those most wedded to a 'free-market' ideology, can do without
decisive state intervention in the economy.  The case of the US state
is telling. For all its 'free market' declarations, it unabashedly and
unashamedly intervenes in economic affairs while criticising Third
world countries that intervene less!  An active and direct role for
the state in the economy is all the more urgent for small nations such
as Armenia with its fragile economic foundation and its corrupt,
anti-democratic and unpatriotic elite.

The democratic state of any nation that intends to look after the
interests of its people, its welfare and its culture must have access
to all the nation's wealth and the power to allocate and distribute
national wealth and resources according to the needs of its people.
The state must be permitted a central role not just in recouping for
people and nation the billions of drams of stolen property but be
given the power to take any economic measures, including the
organisation of economic life, that are necessary for national
security, social welfare and independent development.  Such measures
would of course bring the state into conflict with the contemporary
organisers of the global order.  But the alternative to resistance is
continued and increasing enslavement to the dictates of the dominant
global powers, an enslavement that promises only further injustice and
more impoverishment.

Armen Aivazian demands a decent quality of life as a matter of right,
insisting that 'the concept of social justice' be 'at the foundation
of the development of Armenia.' (p96) This is, he argues further, a
central plank of a nation's national security. Yet he proposes no
significant economic role for the state, without which there can be no
social justice. Instead in opposition to 'jungle capitalism' and the
extreme polarisation between a wealthy elite and an impoverished mass,
a polarisation that is sapping the foundations of the nation, he
advances a notion of 'egalitarianism' defined as 'the establishment of
the rule of law and social morality' (p97) But who is to define the
rule of law and how is it to be established and enforced? Today the
elite controls state power and readily flouts all law and all rules
that are inconvenient to it. How will its lawlessness to be curtailed,
and its plunder of the national wealth and economy be stopped? Such
questions cannot be considered without assigning a critical role for
the democratic state in the national economy.


III. GENOCIDE RECOGNITION AND ARMENIAN-TURKISH RELATIONS

Dominating and determining all other concerns about national security,
argues Aivazian, are the problems of Armenian-Turkish relations at the
centre of which lies the still unresolved question of the Genocide of
1894-1922. A strong Armenian state must also deal with outstanding
problems of Genocide that still impinge on the life of the people of
Armenia. Against those who are inclined to consign the Genocide to the
sphere of historical studies alone, Aivazian points to the systematic
politicisation of the Genocide by the Turkish state for whom Turkish
'falsification of history (including genocide denial) has become an
object of enthusiastic intervention.' In contrast to Armenian
Government indifference, Turkey not only 'has an official state
position' on the Genocide but has assigned to its National Security
Council a sub-'Council for Struggle Against Groundless Charges of
Genocide.' (p183) as part of its strategy to undermine the right of
the Armenian people to self-determination. An Armenian state that
represents the interest of the people is obliged therefore 'to
preoccupy itself' with questions of Genocide and genocide recognition.

Here Aivazian raises fundamental questions. But he does so without the
necessary conceptual and political precision that would avoid getting
mired in irreconcilable disputes. His consideration is at points also
marked by an uncomfortable dualism that could muddy the basis of a
credible and democratic policy on the question. It is worth remarking
in advance however that his argument is not scarred by anti-Turkish
racism or by any 'sea-to-sea' Armenian nationalism that reduces
intelligent discussion to little more than bombastic bluster.

Aivazian is a proponent of the restoration of 'mutual trust between
Armenian and Turk'. He insists however that this can only come about
'through Turkey's recognition of the Armenian Genocide.' Flowing
'ineluctably from this' recognition will be the matters relating to
the 'provision of compensation for its victims', compensation that
includes 'certain territorial concessions'. These must however be
'subject to negotiation' (p173) between Armenian and Turkish
people. Alongside such propositions that suggest a democratic and
negotiated settlement is an approach amenable to an entirely different
interpretation. Discussing the Diaspora, Armen Aivazian writes that at
'this historical moment the liberation of Western Armenia cannot be
regarded as a realistic prospect. This however does not mean that
Armenians, and in particular Diaspora Armenians, should once and for
all renounce the idea of claiming their fatherland.' (p150) In the
same breath arguing that the 'majority of Armenia' 'remain(s) brutally
occupied' (p150) Armen Aivazian goes on to propose a vision of
Armenians 'regrouping' not just within the borders of the modern
Armenian state but 'in other portions of historical Armenia that' are
'to be liberated.' (p156).

There is here a dangerous imprecision in definition and ambition. What
territories are being discussed, how far are they to extend from the
existing borders of the Armenian state? In the event of any land
transfers how are the rights of non-Armenian citizens of an Armenian
state to be protected? Here the utmost precision is necessary because
such issues affect not just the illegitimate Turkish state but raises
hugely sensitive issues relating to and possibly affecting the lives
and futures of millions of ordinary men and women, Armenian, Turk,
Kurd and others.

A just and enduring 'restoration of mutual trust' that could generate
the maximum of good will among Armenians and Turks certainly requires
the recognition by the Turkish state of the Genocide carried out by
the Ottoman-Empire and Young Turks. But such official recognition
should in no way undermine the dignity of the ordinary Turkish people.
In return Armenians should acknowledge that the ordinary Turkish and
Kurdish population now living on lands that historically belonged to
Armenians before 1915 and that were part of classical Armenia are not
responsible for the Genocide committed by the Ottoman Empire and the
Young Turks. Where historic responsibility is to be assigned, it must
be to the state and the powers that be.

Clearly genocide recognition by the Turkish state will provide a
certain moral foundation to land and reparation claims by the Armenian
state. But in the current absence of genuinely democratic governments
in either Armenia or Turkey there is little possibility of genuine
democratic negotiation between the Armenian and Turkish people.
Prospects for resolving such contentious issues are therefore
extremely limited.  Nevertheless it is clear that in the event of
genuine negotiations between genuine representatives of the Armenian
and Turkish people certain principles must apply.

Most crucially where land and border adjustments are to be made these
must flow from direct and democratic agreement of the ordinary people
living in the areas that may come under discussion. The forcible
incorporation of any people into the national borders of another
state, or their expulsion as a result of border changes, is both
undemocratic and a recipe for continued national animosities. This
must be avoided at all costs. Furthermore the democratic national,
cultural and social rights of different peoples living within a single
state need to be safeguarded with stern resolution.

Here one however does need to note that demands for certain land
concessions by a democratic Armenian state are by no means dependent
or conditional upon the Turkish state's genocide recognition. The
Turkish conquest of portions of historical Armenia and the cleansing
of these territories of their Armenian population by means of genocide
has pressed the current Armenian nation into geographic/territorial
boundaries that cannot sustain genuine national independence,
development, progress and stability. For the sake of both Armenian and
Turkish people this historic injustice demands correction.

Beyond land and border adjustments, descendents of Armenians from
historical Armenia must be granted the right of return to any part of
their homeland - whether this be in Turkey or Armenia. This right of
return must also apply to all people throughout the region. In this
regard Armenians should remember that there are many non-Armenians who
could exercise their right of return to regions in modern Armenia. Any
implementation of this right must not however be at the expense of one
single person, whether Armenian, Turkish, Kurdish or any other
people. As for the question of monetary or other kinds reparations,
none can be just that increases the burden of taxation and poverty
already borne by the Turkish and Kurdish people. Furthermore if
reparations are to be spoken of, they are and must be joint ventures
for the common good of all - not to be pocketed by individual
institutions.

The whole gamut of Armenian-Turkish relations are not exhausted or
resolved on the point of Turkish Genocide recognition. There are
issues of regional coexistence and security, of economic, social and
cultural relations, the protection of the cultural heritage of
different nations within single states that affect all the people of
the region - Armenian, Kurdish, Turkish, Azerbaijani, Georgian and
others. What form will economic, social and cultural relations between
people take? How will conflicting claims for the same lands be
resolved?  How will centuries of animosities and deeply ingrained
prejudices be removed to secure prosperity in the broader region? How
will the corruption and criminality of the elites in these different
nations be controlled so as to allow democratic forces to attend to
such issues without them being abused and used to fire national
hatreds and animosities? All these matters that touch critically on
issues of national security will perhaps be considered in the planned
second volume of this work.
    
Despite unresolved questions, Armen Aivazian's 'Essential Elements for
Armenia's National Security Doctrine' provides a foundation for an
urgent discussion and for urgent immediate action. His case acquires
extra weight for the absence of any cheap polemic or rhetoric. It is a
call to arms animated by a refusal to accept as inevitable the steady
devastation of Armenia and its people by super power ambitions, the
reactionary influences of the new world order and the corruption of
the new Armenian governing elite.


--
Eddie Arnavoudian holds degrees in history and politics from
Manchester, England, and is Groong's commentator-in-residence on
Armenian literature.  His works on literary and political issues
have also appeared in Harach in Paris, Nairi in Beirut and Open
Letter in Los Angeles.

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