Why doesn’t Armenia have an army?
— Because everyone wants to be the General.
That was a joke told to me by my father in 1991. It wasn’t very funny, it has to be said, and given that it coincided with the Armenian military engaging neighboring Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh, it also wasn’t particularly factual. Indeed, such prowess did the Armenian military show on the battlefield compared to groups of disorganized units on the other side, usually under the command of warlords more concerned with protecting their financial interests in Baku, that it wasn’t long before Armenia took control of just over 16 percent of what the international community considers sovereign Azerbaijani territory.
Over 25,000 people were killed in the fighting that followed and over a million forced to flee from their homes. Even today, dozens are killed in cross-border skirmishes every year and a lasting peace remains elusive.