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Abstract

Scrutinizing and questioning contentious and failed policy decisions should result in discussing ‘ifs, buts, and maybes’, particularly when there are policy alternatives. This article scrutinizes and questions the British decision to reject Armenian proposals to form a legion of Armenian volunteers in 1914 and 1915, especially since in late 1916 the French, with British approval, established an Armenian legion (until 1919 called the Legion d'Orient); and because the first proposals for a legion were connected to British considerations, also overlooked, to land a force at Alexandretta. Nothing of substance has been published on the initial proposals to form an Armenian legion, and on its connection to the Armenian genocide and the proposed British landing at Alexandretta. By focusing on why the British rejected the proposal to form an Armenian legion and the implications, if any, for the Armenian genocide and the Allied discussions on where to attack the Ottoman empire during the first four months of 1915, this article offers important new insights into why the British and French failed to do anything to prevent the Armenian genocide, and got it wrong with their decision to land forces at Gallipoli in April 1915 instead of at Alexandretta. Imperialism lies at the heart of the explanation.