We all live in bubbles, don’t we? No matter who we are, where we are, we have our own circle of friends, family, community, work or school, maybe a club of this or an association of that. We create an immediate society around us, which forms part of society taken more broadly. I guess problems arise when the immediate circle becomes impervious – a more rigid, opaque bubble, divorced from broader society.
Living in Yerevan, I am very conscious of the bubble in which I find myself. It is often Diasporan, English-speaking, shared with people with disposable income. Not exclusively so, but more often than not that is the case. Spending free time in cafés and shopping malls, it is not hard to pretend to be in some other part of the world. Even though I find this to be expected – and, in fact, I am happy to note this kind of development in the country – I also find it bothersome to sense that I am at a remove from broader society in Armenia.
The ongoing dispute over Crimea has led more than one person around me to welcome power politics and decisiveness in the use of force internationally, as opposed to negotiations. My own education leads me to believe that diplomacy and respect for international legal frameworks are not only highly valuable as such, they are the only means for stability and security in the long term. Here’s why.
Guns are important. They are very important, in fact. But no state would be willing to use them unless absolutely necessary. Troops are expensive, and every life counts, especially in those countries where there is accountability and free and fair elections: no-one is going to vote you back in power if you caused someone close to them to die. Ever since 1945, international use of force has been outlawed, except if approved by the UN Security Council, and in self-defence until the Security Council takes up the matter. Humanitarian intervention (the “Responsibility to Protect” or “R2P”) is a new category that has been slow to gain currency internationally, as opinions vary widely on recent cases, such as Libya. States as sovereign entities have thus agreed to ban the use of force by adopting the UN Charter. What is more, there is no provision to leave the UN in its charter. Almost all states signed on to this agreement after the Second World War, and new states ever since have been quick to join the UN. Statehood and UN membership are more or less synonymous today. Therefore, use of force has ceased to be a value in international affairs. War is no longer a glorious, patriotic undertaking, the way it was portrayed in centuries past.