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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.