EDITORIAL: The Syrian Crisis

Recent news has been flooded with the events in Syria and chemical weapons. Chemical weapons have never been as politically significant as they are today. The usage of Agent Orange in Vietnam by the US was not a political game changer, nor was the usage of naphtha by the Armenians at the siege of Tigranagert a significant event. The Third Mithradatic War between the Roman Empire and Pontus resulted in the defeat of the Armenian army and the transformation of Armenia from a local superpower to a client kingdom of Rome in the space of four years. By 69 BC Tigran the Great had conquered Syria and Cilicia to create an Armenian Empire. Chemical weapons such as the chemically-enhanced fire naphtha or sarin gas do little in helping create an empire: what did and still does assist in creating an empire is good decision making and enacting flexible policies that always give many options.

This quick downfall of the empire from 69 BC can be attributed to a number of factors. For one the confederation of peoples in Tigran’s empire resulted in disloyalty and poor morale. This led to the collapse of the army when things started going wrong, and resulted in an easier Roman takeover of Tigranagert. But more importantly Tigran entered the war to protect King Mithridates of Pontus from the Romans. Choosing allies correctly has been something Armenians have never had an acute skill for. Tigran’s choice to protect Mithridates ultimately lost him his empire, much like how Serj Sargsyan’s choice to join the Russian customs union has diminished the chance of a strong, free and more equal economy in Armenia.

But it is crucial to recognise the difference; Tigran had a choice to protect Mithridates or not, whereas Sargsyan had less of a choice in deciding to join the Russian customs union. In fact, Armenia has little choice in deciding anything in foreign policy, and this is due to overall poor policy. Poor policy in the past has resulted in Russian domination, and continual poor policy means this status quo will remain for the foreseeable future. The more successful in politics tend to be those with more options. Despite Tigran’s defeat, his many options allowed him to retain his kingdom as an ally to Rome. Sargsyan’s lack of options condemns Armenia to a limited foreign policy and one where the national interests of Armenia are not considered. Instead we are left with a foreign policy where Armenia is used as a tool to serve others’ goals.

The solution to craft an independent policy isn’t to rashly create a different path with disastrous repercussions. Instead, policy should be enacted now to result in options in the future so at least then Armenia can have potential paths rather than being a country controlled by a superior ally.

— Vahe Boghosian

Sargsyan Opts for Russian-Led Economic Unions. Read more →

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