Fetishization of the Military Component
The four-day war in April 2016 once again showed that the Armenian society links the security issue with only the military component. In the expert-analytical circles it is widely believed that the second war in Karabakh started as a result of a breach of the military balance. There are serious grounds for such an assertion, given that Azerbaijan had through the recent years boosted its military budget, gained modern deadly offensive weapons and seriously prepared for large-scale military operations. Armenia’s strategic ally, Russia has not only rapidly contributed to the Azerbaijan’s armament efforts, but also slowed down the Armenian army’s re-arming arrangements, thereby contributing to a significant breach of the military balance and creating favorable conditions for the war’s resumption.
Of course, all this was true. But was this the
reason for the large-scale ceasefire violation? Did the change of military balance take place at a qualitative and decisive level? Or is this just one side of the story?
It is not common to talk about this, and the authorities do not encourage such discussions. Something quite different is encouraged by them. Thanks to the volunteer movement, a considerable part of the Armenian public dressed in military uniforms went to the front-line to fight or to support
the fighters morally. The agenda, naturally, was military. The subject of discussion: military issues. The conclusions – also in the military sphere.
Of course, the urge of public appearance in military uniforms, shared by representatives of different layers of the society itself, was important in terms of honoring the soldiers and inspiring the public under the threat of war, emphasizing the soldiers’ heroism and becoming part of it, as well as showing public trust and support to the army. But it was rather problematic to remove the issues from the political sphere or to ignore them, as well as in terms of making obvious the passivity of the authorities in the same field. Wide «uniformization» had shown the inability of our society to link the security component with politics.
The Armenian public is not particularly inclined to make a matter of public agenda the issue whether the events on the line of contact have taken place simply because they should have taken place or should have developed elsewhere. I am talking about the political- diplomatic sphere, in general, not only in terms of the Karabakh settlement. Of course, there were also opinions that the limitations of political sovereignty resources of the Republic of Armenia and Nagorno- Karabakh and the loss of political subjectivity have led to the development of events to the line of contact, thus making the army our last hope and support, and fetishizing the role of the military security component 5 at the expense of politics. It was also mentioned that the army, with all its exceptional importance, can not be the only hope and guarantee of our security, moreover, the hope and guarantee of the force of the army is our adequate policy, corresponding to the international trends.
The majority of the public, however, does not perceive the authoritarian regime as a security challenge, as the power uncontrolled by the people, and hence controlled by a foreign power center.
During the four-day war and immediately after it, it seemed that the process of re-evaluating the attitudes in the Armenian society had began. In particular, if a considerable amount of people thought they were at least safe at the cost of their miserable life and violated rights, the April events showed that, on the contrary, they and their children would be safer if they had not given up at least a small part of their rights, and thus maintained control over their own government.
Securitization and Neutralization of the Reforms
The process of re-evaluation, however, did not go unnoticed, as the authorities once again succeeded in curbing that awakening with monopolized admi- nistrative resources and “responsible” media outlets through the intrusion of patriotic «pathos» and physical security fetishization. The new mentality once again fell victim to “securitisation”.
This has become a tradition when the political
question is being securitized, removed from the political and other levels to the level of security. The problem is presented as an exaggerated threat, and in order to face it, it is required to have public consoli- dation, resource recruitment and extreme measures. As a result, the technology of security is widely used in the consolidation of the society, the obedience to the authorities, the creation of a controlled and predictable society.
As political analyst Ruben Mehrabyan described, as “our security, which has become our “alibi” has become a threat to us, so we, as well as a hundred years ago, are facing the challenge of failing to face the challenges and not being able to use new opportunities in the near future.”
Necessity of Inclusive Policies
Building the security system solely on a mili- tary component is, at the same time, not timely. As experienced diplomat Arman Navasardyan points out, “Effective implementation of security is conditioned by the current processes of deep geopo- litical and international relations. This, in turn, in the face of diplomacy, which operates in a changing paradigm of the international environment, puts on new, extremely complex issues.”
Due to the cooperation of state and non-state actors in a democratic country, a special system of relations is formed. As a result of the cooperation of the world politics, both state and non-state actors, a unique symbiosis is created in the field of diplomacy. Diplomacy theorists call it catalytic diplomacy. Thus, diplomacy is no longer limited to classical tools, in advancing the state’s policy.
Catalyst diplomacy has two sets of of proven means, those of “soft power” and “smart power”.
These means are effectively utilized by powerful countries of the world whose military potential far exceeds other countries. In the case of countries with low military potential, the role of smart power is especially important.
In the case of the use of the political, diplomatic and public security component, the authorities would have to engage new actors within the society, which is unacceptable to them in the conditions of current political monopoly. In this context, it is not accidental that when presenting the new president Serzh Sargsyan specifically emphasized the fact that he was not a political figure, trying to keep him away from political ambitions from the very beginning. The authorities consciously excluded the inclusive approach in politics, further deepening and furthering the political monopoly.
Sovereignty Deficit As the Biggest Threat
Another problem is the availability of sufficient sovereignty resource. According to political scientist Manvel Sargsyan, the Armenian political class is forced to realize that the contradiction between the sovereignty and security is the main defect of our state policy… The current period of radical changes forces us to evaluate the power of sovereign steps and the effectiveness of the decisions made by the state independently. One should overcome the inertia of the policy of refusing to defend the right to security and review the basics of national policy. Over the past 25 years, all “given away” rights of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh should be returned, and the enslaving treaties should be revised»
According to the political scientist, the meaning of the concept of “sovereignty” remains inaccessible for the Armenian political thought. “Particularly, the quality of sovereignty as a provider of constant stability and security is not understood” Sargsyan insists. “The Armenian political class is incapable of seriously understanding the fact that only an autonomous entity can be a stable element of the balance of international powers, thus ensuring its own security. Meanwhile, our security is connected with the rejection of the external patronage and rights.”
Recently, the topic was discussed with regard to the expediency of the presence of Russian Frontier troops in Armenia. According to the analysis carried out by the Armenian Center for National and International Studies “…How many people are interested in self-determination in Armenia? This is the key issue today… And the presence of foreign “friendly” troops, who violate our sovereignty and other external manifestations of our self-sacrifice are the consequences of this unresolved issue. Our society is trying to understand what is happening in the case of a universal mechanism such as a sovereign national state called to protect the lives and health of its citizens. At the same time, however, the Armenian public is still thinking (or hoping) that others will defend them because their interests coincide with the interests of our country, their conscience, international law, etc.. Mistakes that the public just wants to believe in. It’s easy to live like this.“
The Need to Review the Content of the “Nation-army” Concept
Putting forward the concept of “Nation-army”, the authorities pay attention only to the military component of security, while the public has a broader understanding of its scope. In this regard, Hakob Badalyan, commentator of the “Lragir” electronic newspaper, remarkably observes, “Armenia really needs a unique resource mobilization, focusing on the context of the mechanism, Armenia has no alternative to creating a security system with its entire population. However, creating security does not mean to create exclusively a bomb, a military uniform, to honor and be prepared to go to the front. Creating security means to create a competitive state and a vibrant society, to create modern civilization, from the armed forces to the producing economy and to the idea and value of “producing” public and non-discriminatory public institutions that will be able to control the power of the government, and not allow that a model that has no alternative from the point of view of security and state sovereignty to serve only the viability of the government and manipulation of public consciousness.”
Another of Badalyan’s statements is also quite
appropriate: “One of the fundamental goals of the Nation-army, whether written or unwritten model, should be the creation of such a product that will have a world-wide role so that the whole inter- national community and not just Armenia would be interested in the protection of that result. In other words, when Aliyev declares his goal is to capture Yerevan, it would be equivalent in the international perception of the statement that his purpose is to capture Moscow, Vienna or Brussels.”
The role of this latter circumstance is really hard to overstate. Armenia can ensure its security, if it becomes an integral part of the international-regional security system. In other words, not a parasitic consumer of security, but one of its suppliers.
One remarkable observation was made in the panel discussions that the meaning of the concept of “security” was narrowed down and summed up on the “protection” concept. In its turn, the meaning of the concept of “defense” is also minimized and embedded within the sole military component of physical protection or defense, which is conditioned only by external threat, i.e. by the external factor. Thus, the meaning of the concept of “security” leaves out internal problems, internal factors, human rights, social justice, and issues of strengthening democracy, and, of course, the most important – the political-diplomatic component of security.
Pardon, Whose Security are We Talking About?
During the pro-government propaganda of security priorities and excesses, a simple and logical question was often sounded: whose security was prioritized and super-important? The same events of the April showed that the security of the country and people was not a priority, when the Armenian leadership, for reasons of its own security, aban- doned the European integration and became incomp- rehensibly involved with the Eurasian Economic Union, which had nothing to do with the state’s problems, expectations and desires.
It is quite logical that the conclusion reached by different circles of the public, was that, apparently, the issue at stake is the security of Armenia’s supreme leadership, more comprehensively, about the security of the political system in Armenia. In such a situation, such a question can be deadly for the real power of crushing public trust, and it should have been tackled on a national scale with an appropriate agenda. This is why one of the experts who participated in the survey, renamed the concept as “government-army” concept. It is enough to remember who, as a rule, is protected by the army during the national elections and in whose favor the army usually interferes when there is a threat of power shift. However, the concept of “government-army” is in our case, also worryingly narrow, about when the security of the country and people is conditioned by a specific person, irreplaceable person, by turning the concept into a “leader-army” criterion.
Everything said above suggests that the fetishi-
zation of the security component is needed by the government in order to resolve internal problems, to reinforce its positions and eradicate all alternatives.
The emphasis on the coercive-military compo- nent allows the political monopoly to be maintained and to keep the public under tight control. And it is no coincidence that Armenia gradually becomes one of the most heavily policed countries in the world.
A few years ago, Haykakan Zhamanak daily clarified this issue. “According to the UN data, accor- ding to the average statistics of different countries,
about 300 employees of the police account for 100,000 inhabitants. In Armenia this figure is about 1000. In other words, there are about 1,000 police officers per 100,000 residents in Armenia, which exceeds the global average three times. A large number of police officers is usually observed in highly dubious, unpopular, authoritarian regimes, as well as in exotic countries. For example, there are 720 police officers for every 100,000 residents in the American Samoa. In Antigua and Barbuda this figure is 733. The Bahamas – 848, the Bermudes
– 729, Grenada – 818, Dominican Republic – 709, Cayman Islands – 625, Nauru – 800, St. Kitts and Nevis – 899 and so on. The names of these countries are unknown even to many of us. But in many familiar countries, there are fewer police officers than 100,000 inhabitants. For example, in the US there are 256, in Germany 298, in Belgium 373, in Austria 326, in Great Britain 307, in Japan 197, in Russia 285. And so, we are among the most heavily policed and exotic states in the world.”
The newspaper also drew attention to the way the police is being financed by presenting the money allocated from the RA state budget according to the “Public Order Protection and Security” article over the last several years. Here it is,
2010 – 34.7 billion AMD. ($ 93 million)
2011 – 36.8 billion AMD. ($ 99 million)
2012 year – 37.8 billion AMD. ($ 94.2 million)
2013 – 46.3 billion AMD. ($ 113 million)
2014 year – 52.4 billion AMD. ($ 127 million)
2015 – 61.7 billion AMD. ($ 146 million)
In other words, in just six years from 2010 to
2015, the sums allocated to the police from the state 9
budget, that is, taxpayers’ pocket, almost doubled,
from 34.7 billion to 61.7 billion AMD or from 93 million to 146 million USD.
Absurdity of the situation, as the newspaper states, was that the measures taken have not at all helped to reduce the number of crimes. According to the official statistics, by 2015, the number of crimes in Armenia has also doubled, from 9,000 to 18,000. That is, the more police funding increases, the more crimes there are.
All this can lead to the logical conclusion that the main function of the RA Police is not to prevent and detect crimes, but to maintain the ruling regime. In this sense, the government is not at all sincere when it comes to the concept of nation-army, since in reality this is a nation-police or, in a collective sense, a nation-coercive agencies concept. But since this is not very attractive, moreover, contains less potential for aggressive patriotic “pathos”, then “smartly” it was called nation-army. This terminological confusion is not accidental, it is aimed to create confusion in public consciousness and to disguise the real and long-term goals of the authorities. The special treatment of the police continues to this day. This has also been seen on social networks, becoming an urgent topic.
From Military-Patriotic Propaganda to Militarization of the Public Mind
Aggressive propaganda, however, gives its results. It’s a pity, but the fact is that the nation-army concept is sincerely believed by a considerable part of the society, who cannot be suspected in fierce
support of the authorities. This outcome was recorded due to prevalent and widespread propaganda. The slogan of the Nation-army was not only totally implemented in universities and schools, but even in kindergartens and now has new social horizons, breaking into restaurants and other places of leisure.
All this is nothing less than militarization of the public opinion.
Of course, there are also opinions about the adverse effects and dangers of militarization of the public opinion.
“The guarantor of the country’s security is not the army but the school,” writes documentary filmmaker Varduhi Simonyan. “The army is not the guarantor of the country’s security. the country’s security guarantor is school, education. Look for the root of all our tragedies today. This new civilization will punish those who will try to compensate their lack of knowledge with weapons. Not only the statehood, but also their identity, will be taken away from such peoples. Today, the whole world is at an identity war. There is no need to panic, about the fact that we are being drawn into it, especially with the burden of the unresolved conflict. Our security guarantees can not be neither our son standing at the border, and even less so the supplier of the weapon that fires on us, in whose army there may always be an oligophrenic who can “mislead” the weapon against our families… Identity becomes vulnerable not because of a dissatisfied neighbor’s crazy moves, but when for decades we do not have a clear concept of education, when we are afraid of new ideas, and especially their bearers, when the state cadre bank is filled with morally and physically wrecked piles.”
During the expert survey conducted within the framework of the “Public Expertise of the Nation-Army Concept” project, the majority of the participants (15 prominent experts participated in the survey) paid attention to the negative conse- quences of public opinion militarization. “The term militarization symbolizes the ideology that forms and serves public demand for militarization in the country,” one expert thinks. “The “Nation-army” concept is nothing else than the preparation of public consciousness, the formation of demand in the context of militarization. In militarized societies, rulers and their supporters are above the law. This is the real goal.”
“It is a publicity campaign for the militarization of the society and consolidation around the supreme leader, which has nothing to do with the real security of the country,” another expert claims. “Moreover, this propaganda becomes a smokescreen that conceals the fact that no real struggle is taking place against the inefficiency of the state system and widespread corruption.”
“The main axis of the country’s top leadership has been the military component, especially in the context of unity. They all used the security factor as a tool for political reproduction”, another expert is convinced.
According to one expert, the concept of “Nation- army” is nothing more than militarization: “It is in contradiction with the institute of citizenship and I think that the existence of such a concept destroys the basis of civil society bases and is organizing the society around the institute of violence.”
The Government Moves from Words to Deeds
After the military patriotic artillery preparation, the authorities started their work. The government has developed a strategy for military-patriotic upbringing of schoolchildren. On e-draft.am website on March 28, the draft resolution was published, which states that among the goals of the strategy are to increase the attractiveness of the military profession, the awareness of national values, the protection of the homeland from the enemy, and so on. The project was presented by the Ministry of Education and Science.
The document also points out the challenges that this strategy is trying to solve. They are divided into two parts: external challenges in the world and in neighboring countries, which include raging terrorism and wars, and internal challenges, which include the presence of non-willing citizens in the defense of the homeland, the tendency to communicate with foreign cultural values. Among the internal challenges are also disobedience and sexual promiscuity.
The Church will also participate in military- patriotic upbringing. The strategy notes that high school students will have talks-discussions with priests in churches on topics such as “Church and Family”, “Armenian Family as a Guardian and Heir of Spiritual-National Values”.
The strategy of military-patriotic upbringing has polarized the Armenian society. Judging from social networks, negative reactions were far too numerous and included the various social and political layers.
For instance, Vahram Soghomonyan, a member of an educational-civic initiative, has the impression that this is a Stalinist document, since this was how they tried to raise the military-patriotic spirit at the times of the Soviet dictator. Soghomonyan is sure that they try to occupy the youth and distract them from the problems in the country. “This is a political project and it is aimed at brainwashing the younger generation so that suddenly no freedom of thought, critical thinking or discussion platforms are created in school, and people focus on totalitarian, specific ideology.”
The new strategy was not only severely critici- zed, but also became the subject of irony and sarcasm of the public.
The Concept of «Army-Nation» and Human Rights
Some experts consider the concept of “Nation- army” in terms of human rights limitation.
But today, they are nothing more than a voice of a hermit. The voices of those who call on the nation- army concept to be publicly discussed, those who have a critical approach to the concept, and even those who say that the concept should be modified so it would best serve the interests of the public, are drowned by the systematized and purposeful campaign that calls for the punishment of the critical voices.
Does the «Nation-army» Concept Need the Opinion of the Nation?
Experts have pointed to the strange circumstance that the government has perceived any public
debate and criticism of the “Nation-Army” concept in a perplexing way, which at least puts under doubt “nation” component within the “Nation- army” concept, because it could be assumed that the «nation-army» concept should have involved nation itself, i.e. the public, in the discussion of the initiative, in order to ensure sufficient public trust for the initiative.
One of the participants of the expert survey conducted within the framework of the “Public Expertise of the Nation-Army Concept” said that “One of the aims of militarist patriotism was to drown sober voices and to accuse them of being unpatriotic or traitors, hide the real problems of the army, such as corruption, nepotism, a closed system of procurement, and to show that the authorities are patriotic.”
Moreover, consistently the idea is put forward that the state should punish those who have a negative or even unkind attitude toward the nation-army concept.
As a result, an additional barrier is created to the public agenda of the public discussion on the topic of the public agenda, leaving only the agenda of the issue in the arena.
The worst thing is that the need for militarization of the public mind is getting rooted in the conscious- ness of new layers of the society. This promotes the bellicose and anti-Armenian rhetoric of the Azerbaijani authorities. It is being used in Armenia for the purpose of militarizing the public mind, fetishizing the military component of security and underestimating the political component of its security once again.
«Любите Родину, Мать вашу!!!» Who is Tempted by the Concept?
The propaganda of the “Nation-army” concept is accompanied by military-patriotic “pathos”. And the noteworthy thing is that it is directed to the public and only to the public. The same public, who repeatedly had proven its patriotism, last time during the four-day war, the public that had not spared anything for the security of the homeland and showed that it could forget its humiliation by the authorities, its broken hopes, its hard and miserable life, moreover, showed that it was ready to sacrifice anything for the sake of the homeland. Taking this into account, it is at least unreasonable to speak to the same community with the propagandist patriotic pathos, like in the famous joke “Lubite Rodinu, Math vashu !!!”
And most importantly, the government, the initiator of the propaganda toward homeland, is left out of this imperative of love, with all its mistakes and guilt, which have led to the pre-April situation in the army during the recent years. Like one of the most prominent intellectuals in one of the government’s debate has said, we are forced to become a military state, regardless of the number of palaces and regardless of who owns these palaces. Thus, through the mediation and efforts of his intelligentsia, the government removes the nation- army concept from its mistakes and flaws and diverts it from the principle of social justice, thereby strengthening the vicious system and providing indulgence for the authorities.
During the panel discussions, attention has also been paid to the question, for whom are ulti- mately the army-related programs, which are the components of the “Nation-army” concept. Imagine the reaction of an oligarch or his wealthy son to this proposal «you can serve in the army for 3 years, and at the end of the service you will have a serious capital of 5 million drams, thanks to which you can have the initial capital required for marriage and entrepreneurial activity». It is clear that this proposal can be attractive for the representatives of socially vulnerable groups, which are the main targets of the nation-army concept.
Strong Army is, Of Course, a Must, but the Public has Something to Say
During the expert survey, it was commonly accepted that the country needed a powerful and efficient army, that is to say, the presence of a powerful and efficient army was beyond all doubts, due to a number of obvious circumstances. What was a subject to discussion and disagreement, were the questions of who were the ones implementing the concept of “Nation-army” aimed at having such an army, whether it made sense and what goals it pursued – whether it was a public agenda or not. There were more than enough grounds for such a “suspicious” attitude. As one of our experts noted, “The fact that Armenia is not Luxembourg and will not become Luxembourg in the near future, as they say, is a medical fact and consequently Armenia should have a strong army. This is an axiom. It is a fact that our government is not a good one, it is a medical fact, and that such a bad government should be perceived badly by the society is also a fact. But this does not mean that society should not do what it should.”