Our Best Option…For Now

Editorial, 19 October 2013

Because too many Armenians willfully ignore some of the fundamental truisms of international politics, it bears to repeat the number one “law” on how states ultimately relate to each other. To put it bluntly, military muscle is the tacit but determining “supreme court” of political conflict. And since the Big Powers dominate militarily, it is their will that will be done, not that of Burkina Faso, Fiji…or Armenia. Many other diplomatic “laws” get their cue from this first law.

For all the striped pants, top hats, elegant tails, and the diplomatic civilities at the UN, international politics is, in essence, little different from the way “peace” is maintained by the street-corner bully. Power will not be denied. Witness the western invasions of the Middle East or Turkey’s recent Kurdish-friendly reforms. The latter are being proposed not because Ankara has suddenly seen the justice of the Kurdish cause, but primarily because the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK – Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan), the Pesh Mergas have cost Turkey thousands of casualties, not to mention $300 billion to wage war against the Kurds.

Editorial, 19 October 2013

Because too many Armenians willfully ignore some of the fundamental truisms of international politics, it bears to repeat the number one “law” on how states ultimately relate to each other. To put it bluntly, military muscle is the tacit but determining “supreme court” of political conflict. And since the Big Powers dominate militarily, it is their will that will be done, not that of Burkina Faso, Fiji…or Armenia. Many other diplomatic “laws” get their cue from this first law.

For all the striped pants, top hats, elegant tails, and the diplomatic civilities at the UN, international politics is, in essence, little different from the way “peace” is maintained by the street-corner bully. Power will not be denied. Witness the western invasions of the Middle East or Turkey’s recent Kurdish-friendly reforms. The latter are being proposed not because Ankara has suddenly seen the justice of the Kurdish cause, but primarily because the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK – Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan), the Pesh Mergas have cost Turkey thousands of casualties, not to mention $300 billion to wage war against the Kurds.

When we lobby for the recognition of the Genocide, demand the return of our lands, argue that Artsakh is rightfully ours, and insist Armenians should retain some western Azerbaijani territory to discourage future Baku attacks, it behooves us to pay heed to the above rules.

Another rule is that no country cedes an inch of land, unless it is forced to do so. The time-honored way of acquiring land is war or its threat. Which brings us to the subject of the return of some of Western Armenia to Armenia.

For more than a decade some in the Armenian media and intelligentsia have expressed the hope that a democratic-liberal Turkey is our best chance to regain parts of Western Armenia. Despite Armenian disappointments in Turkish promises of modernity and tolerance (“Young Turks” in 1908;  Ataturk’s “modern” Republic of Turkey), these same Armenians hope against hope that Ankara would return to us Kars, Ardahan, Ararat, Van, etc. because somehow and someday Turkey would believe it’s the right thing to do.

But democracy, liberalism, etc. have nothing to do with self-interest, especially when it comes to occupying another’s land or returning lands to their rightful owners. Britain acquired its empire when it was a liberal democracy. It gave away its empire only when the “natives got restless” and packed the British back to their island. To this day, Britain refuses to give up the Falklands in the South Atlantic or Gibraltar. The U.S, a democracy since its birth, illegally took everything west of continental Northeast US from the Natives. To this day, it keeps its hold on Guantanamo, a Cuban beach outpost. France was a democracy when it acquired its African and Southeast Asian colonies. It was a democracy when it refused to return Algeria to the Arabs or Vietnam to the Vietnamese.

When western countries, with centuries of democratic values, refuse to return what’s not theirs, why do we assume a traditionally intolerant and racist Turkey would behave differently? This is delusional thinking writ large. Besides, how will Turkey return an inch of Western Armenia to us when from Kozan (Sis) to Kars, the land is populated mostly by Kurds who demand autonomy, if not independence. Turkey has lost thousands of troops and civilians, in addition to spending vast sums to suppress Kurdish insurgency. Why would it just hand over anything to us?

To say that regaining our lands from Turkey through military means is not an option is to state the obvious. Thus the Kurdish option (see Q&A with Dr. Henry Astarjian in our previous issue) is the only game in town–for now. As Kurds get stronger in Iraq, Syria and Turkey, it seems inevitable to many observers that Ankara will eventually concede some of Western Armenia to a future Kurdistan. Meanwhile, as Dr. Astarjian suggests, we should make serious and strategic approaches to the Kurdish leadership. Representatives of the National Congress of Western Armenians have been touring Western Armenia for the past several years and meeting Kurdish leaders, half-Kurd/half-Armenian, converted and hidden Armenians. Their focus is cultural ties with the Kurds. These are incipient moves. We need to see more vigorous exchanges. Armenian organizations in North America, in Europe and elsewhere should establish friendly relations with the Kurds. We need Armenian-Kurdish Friendship Associations wherever Armenians and Kurds live. We should—in particular–learn how we can help the Kurds. One obvious strategy is promoting the Kurdish cause in the west.

Our efforts would require a quid pro quo–a solid agreement that when Kurds take control of Western Armenia, they would return some of the land to us…at least those adjacent to the western slopes of Ararat.

The “rule” which says states don’t cede land, unless militarily forced, stands. But there are always exceptions to the rule. Let’s try to regain some of our lands through means other than military.  A pipe dream? Perhaps not. It IS a dream, but one with a plan attached to it. It’s certainly more constructive than what we’ve done for so long: chatter among ourselves as Western Armenia drifts away from us.

 

10 comments
  1. Perfect Point

    For the past two years we have seen a hefty collection of Yerevan-based novices polishing cutlery and sending appeasement gestures to Europe. When the solution is right in front of your eyes, you do not look for distant lands to give you some kind of recognition. What is Europe but a bankrupt group of bureaucrats? When did Europe ever assist us?

    What Dr. Astarjian mentioned is the exact solution. A president with reason or with guts would ideally start by throwing sand in the eyes of the enemy so that the political game play is at least balanced. Thus the first step would be the recognition of the state of Northern Kurdish Iraq rather than jockey around Strasbourg with Yerevantsi novices. That is the ideal platform, but who is listening? After our face-to- face meeting with the Armenian diplomats in Europe…..may God almighty help us! They still need a millennium of breastfeeding.

  2. Cannot achieve anything by haste

    Mr. Boghossian, we cannot afford to anticipate the Kurds and "extend our hand¨. Nay, you talk of recognition of Northern Kurdistan by the RoA and you denigrate the RoA diplomats as ¨novices¨. You seem to forget that the Republic of Armenia has been officially admitted to the EU parliament. In fact, it's the president for this term, and you wish to teach them diplomacy?

    Dr. Astarjian has the right approach…just feel their [Kurdish] pulse, initiate dialogue, etc. but not outright, as you write.

    First and foremost they have to show real friendship. They have to offer to make amends to us. Then they have to negotiate with the likes of Dr. Astarjian as to what our side is asking to accredit them as our future good neighbors. Never live among  them, as some Dikranagert fans are being cajoled into doing. I am referring to that city's invitation to us to go  and live with them.

    We can be good neighbors if they wish us to help them with science, general knowledge, etc. They can hire Armenian experts in any profession to help them on the path to progress. Other than that it would be "paremid" (kindly-minded), not to say "barzamid" (simple-minded). Thence, please read history and find out what  transpired between them and us when the Ottoman and Young Turk governments incited them to massacre us and promised the loot to them.

    Easy, Mr. Boghossian, we cannot achieve anything by haste.

    1. Palandjian’s Point

      Dear Mr Palandjian, point taken. We cannot achieve anything by haste, and the Kurds were at our throats during the pogroms. I agree that it is way too premature to run to Dikranagerd and feel safe in its streets just because the mayor has recognized the Genocide. I agree: nothing has changed.

      But let me ask you, for how long are we going to sit on the fence and allow time to pass by? There are doubts being raised about NKR–raised by no one but our "allies". There is a reason why they say "fortune favors the brave". We were fortunate, for once, in our long history to secure NKR, but are  threatened to lose it if we do not comply with the rules of "the game".

      My friend, we have been simple bricks in "the game" for the last 150 years, not even pawns. So I ask: Why don't we play the same game they play and why don't we create the initiative and create close allies around us?

      Not to confuse the matter, why cannot we group the Assyrians, the Hamshens, the Syriacs, the Chaldeans, even the Kurds and a lot of other groups under our auspices? Sounds funny? I don't see it that way. We have the finances and the resources to jockey and bring them close to us, but yet again it is the leadership that is quite confused and disoriented.

      This problem has become more acute in the last few years as promises were made to us to join the EU, Schengen, etc. It is nice to have Baroness Ashton (EU Commissioner) at your side and give you advice and direction. However, this comes at a cost: abandon NKR. Alternatively, if the EU is so keen on allowing Armenians into Europe, a solid answer would be to dismantle the Turkish blockade, allow the export of Armenian products through Turkey, and ultimately through Trabizond. Now the question is: are there any guarantees? Definitely not.

      On a final note, our diplomats: no offence if you know anyone of them, they even do not know our history. (They know soviet history real well-thumbs up!!!)

       

  3. Working with the Kurds

    I agree with your suggestion that Armenians should get close to the Kurds, especially those who live in Western Armenia. My fear is that when Armenians begin to develop serious ties to the Kurds, Ankara would ban Armenian organizations and activists from visiting Western Armenia.

    1. I hope Dr. Henry Astarjian

      I hope Dr. Henry Astarjian reads your comment and offers advice as to how we can approach the Kurds of Western Armenia without Ankara's interference.

  4. As I Explained

    Dear Mr. Palandjian,

    if I understand correctly you suggest we sit and wait to see what will Kurdish do and what they will achieve.  Kind of political voyeurism. Do you think if they are victorious they are going to come and ask you to join them in the victory?  And share a piece of the victim?  I don't think so. We are not significant regional player. If we do nothing but watch, we reduce our insignificance to zero. 

    By having a few individuals working for them or even occupying a leading positions in their ranks does not change anything. It is like having an Armenian individual as the emperor of Eastern Roman Empire or the Russian foreign minister. These individuals work for themselves and the state they represent, not for the benefit of Armenia. What Armenia needs to do is to work with Kurdish political structures on the government level or the official Diaspora representation level (even if it is done clandestine). Then Armenia as a country may anticipate a reward from geopolitical changes in the region. And it is not early, it is actually getting late. 

     

    1. For God´s Sake

      Dear GT,

      For God´s sake, I did not write that sitting pretty is the option. Far from it. I suggested–like Dr. Astarjian has initiated–establish rapport, etc.

    2. Perfect Point

      Dear GT,

      I like your explanation of political voyeurism. I also would like to laugh at the watch-and-wait attitude we, Armenians, have. In the last decade we had the opportunity to change our fate and control a few more meters in the Caucasus, but then again there is a reason why fortune favors the brave and that is why sitting on the fence will end nowhere. It's a shame that there are no more gutsy people like you.

      Regards.

  5. An Idea Whose Time May Never Come

    There is a concept lurking out in space waiting for someone to latch on to it.
     
    It is one that involves today’s dispersed Western Armenians (who have fading hopes for future ties to the Republic of Armenia), and the Kurds of Turkey.
     
    What do they have in common?
     
    For one thing, they both lay claim to the same territory in the Yergir, today called Eastern Anatolia. For another, they belong to the same language group, Indo-European. Also, they share (in retrospect, at least) a similar cultural background. Finally, they harbor the same aspirations for a future state.
     
    Thus, in making common cause against the Turkish government, they can team up, and even contemplate the unthinkable, a country called Hai-Kurdistan.
     
    If they can, by joining together, secede from Turkey, they can always settle their differences later.
     
    A shocking idea?
     
    Of course!
     
    C.K. Garabed

    USA

Comments are closed.

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