Born in Caesarea (Kayseri), in Armenia Minor, Vahan Cardashian was of middleclass parentage. He arrived in the United States in 1902, knowing little English but determined to make a living.
Soon after his arrival in 1902, Cardashian met and married a wealthy American widow who was a prominent women’s rights activist. (They divorced in 1916.) With her help, he gained admittance to Yale University Law School in 1904 and worked his way through school.
Cardashian quickly became an excellent writer and during his law school years displayed signs of things to come with his book The Ottoman Empire of the Twentieth Century and his article “A Brief Commentary on the Eastern Question,” both strongly anti-imperialist in content. After law school, Cardashian moved to New York City, where he opened a private law practice. During World War I, he left his practice to become Secretary at the Ottoman Embassy in Washington, in 1911. In that capacity, he represented the Ottoman government at various functions and met prominent public figures with whom he developed lasting friendships.
The turning point in Cardashian’s career came in 1915, when news of the Armenian massacres reached his ears. He quickly became disillusioned with the Turkish government, submitting scathing criticisms to his superiors, as a result of which he was fired. Thereafter, Cardashian became a sworn enemy of the Turkish government and a ceaseless supporter of the Armenian Cause.
Using his own personal resources and connections, Cardashian opened an Armenian Press Bureau in 1918, intended to educate American public opinion and high official circles about the Armenian Question. In his capacity as director of the Press Bureau, Cardashian authored numerous letters and newspaper articles, sending them to hundreds of groups and persons who could play a role in shaping American policy toward Armenia. A persuasive speaker, Cardashian also spent considerable time lecturing to Armenian and non-Armenian gatherings about the Armenian Cause.
Soon after the creation of the Armenian Press Bureau, Cardashian felt it imperative to form a larger structure around it. That structure eventually became the American Committee for the Independence of Armenia (ACIA), composed of prominent Americans and university-educated Armenian-Americans who worked as volunteers, often lending their names to efforts that Cardashian himself would orchestrate.
Prominent ACIA board members included former Secretary of State Elihu Root, Near East Relief Chairman Cleveland Dodge, and Senator Henry Cabot Lodge (who, ironically, would later oppose a US mandate for independent Armenia because of political ambitions).
The ACIA existed from 1918 until 1927. Cardashian guided its efforts in a determined yet flexible manner, varying his tactics in accordance with Armenia’s ever-changing geopolitical position.
Although he never joined the ARF, Cardashian worked very closely with the party leadership and received considerable funding from the ARF to carry out the ACIA’s work. He developed a particularly close relationship with ARF leader Dr. Garegin Pastermajian (Armen Garo), Independent Armenia’s Ambassador to Washington.
After the disbandment of the ACIA in 1927, Cardashian continued to work tirelessly as an individual, submitting papers, memoranda, etc., and investing most of his personal funds into the effort to publicize the Armenian Cause.
Cardashian died a pauper in 1934, and the ARF solicited funds from the community to pay for his funeral. At the time of his death, Cardashian was the lead defense lawyer for the seven men put to trial for the 1933 assassination of Archbishop Ghevont (Leon) Tourian in New York City.
Force—actual or potential—is the initial basis of government. Rarely in history has an independent State ever been set up except by force, and by a demonstrated ability to use force.
Inadequate force—or misdirected force—is a waste, and often results in great, perhaps lasting, damage.
Force—particularly, collective force—should never be resorted to except (a) when all other processes have failed to preserve a vital right; (b) as a reprisal against governmental terrorism and lawlessness, and (c) as a demonstration of will and power to defend a vital right.
Threat is ordinarily a confession of weakness. Threat by one who is reputed or regarded as being powerless, is an empty gesture, and is harmful.
Force alone can achieve independence, but it alone cannot keep it. Sound leadership, good diplomacy and economic independence, plus force, retain political independence. Geographical position and change in international alignments determine, prolong, or shorten the life of a State which possesses force, but which is, otherwise, lacking in the essential element to the maintenance of an independent State.
From “Force and Diplomacy,” Armenian Review, Vol. 22, Number 1 (Spring 1969)