PARIS -- Europe's demands -- ostensibly aimed at ensuring that Greece can service its foreign debt -- are petulant, naive and fundamentally self-destructive. In rejecting them, the Greeks are not playing games; they are trying to stay alive. The Greek government is right to have drawn the line. It has a responsibility to its citizens. The real choice, after all, lies not with Greece, but with Europe.
ATHENS -- The IMF and Greece's other creditors have assumed that massive fiscal contraction has only a temporary effect on economic activity, employment and taxes, and that slashing wages, pensions and public jobs has a magical effect on growth. This has proved false. Indeed, Greece's post-2010 adjustment led to economic disaster -- and the IMF's worst predictive failure ever.
ATHENS -- Moralistic objections to helping Greece abound, denying its people a shot at achieving their own renaissance. Greater austerity is being demanded from an economy that is on its knees, owing to the heftiest dose of austerity any country has ever had to endure in peacetime. No offer of debt relief. No plan for boosting investment. And certainly, as of yet, no "Speech of Hope" for this fallen people.
BERLIN -- Tsipras squandered Greece's opportunity, because he and other Syriza leaders were unable to see beyond the horizon of their party's origins in radical opposition activism. They did not understand the difference between campaigning and governing. Realpolitik, in their view, was a sellout. Of course, it is precisely the acceptance of necessity that marks the difference between government and opposition.
ATHENS -- The current disagreements with our partners are not unbridgeable. Our government is eager to rationalize the pension system (for example, by limiting early retirement), proceed with partial privatization of public assets, address the non-performing loans that are clogging the economy's credit circuits, create a fully independent tax commission and boost entrepreneurship. The differences that remain concern how we understand the relationships between the various reforms and the macro environment.
The important point to remember is that the United States cares far more about the health of the European Union and the global financial system than it does about Greece. If the Tsipras government continues to seem aggressively ambivalent about its desire for rescue within that system, the U.S. government will watch from the sidelines as it sinks.