There has been a lot of talk about who has won and who has lost in the recent negotiations on the Greek debt crisis, about who is strong and who is weak in Europe, who is cruel to whom and who has dictated what. This whole discussion, in my mind, misses the point. Europe, especially Germany, wants a strong Greece.
In 1867, then Prime Minister of Prussia Otto von Bismarck (who, with parallels today, maintained German hegemony over Europe) famously said that politics is the art of the possible. If you don't have to deal with a political opponent, you can dream up the perfect policy. But when you have an opponent, you have to set aside the dream and consider the political possibilities. This week, from Iran to Greece to Cuba, the world both celebrated and protested the politically possible. (continued)
Arriving by boat to Santorini, the theatrical C-shaped island in Greece's Aegean Sea, means first entering the strange purgatory of the port, which of course sits at sea level, 1,200 feet below the villages atop the cliffs that everyone is here to see.
BERLIN -- At its core, the criticism articulates an astute awareness of Germany's break with its entire post-WWII European policy. Germany's stance on the night of July 12-13 announced its desire to transform the eurozone from a European project into a kind of sphere of influence.
It's no surprise that the powerful both set the rules and break the rules with impunity. The world system isn't presided over by Miss Manners. For small countries like Greece, there's not much room for maneuver between the regulations of the EU and the general parameters established by globalization. There isn't much room for democracy either, as Greek citizens discovered when they voted in Syriza and attempted to vote out austerity in the more recent referendum. Iran, a larger country that plays a strategic role in the Middle East, has considerably more room for maneuver than does Greece. But it too cannot unilaterally remake the rules of the game. It can only negotiate the best deal it can. In the end, it must open itself up to the kind of inspection regime that more powerful countries would never tolerate.
Let's tell it straight: "Europe" committed suicide last weekend in Brussels. It was an assisted suicide. The IMF wrote the original story line and set the scene; the European Central Bank provided the revolver and ammunition; while Germany unrelentingly urged that the suicide was a necessary act of moral redemption that was imperative to save the EU from eternal damnation.
I'm traveling back to my country dominated by a feeling of sadness. There is no more depressing thing for someone than to see his nation be stagnated in misery and depression caused by the high unemployment rates and lack of any light of hope for a better future.
MYKONOS -- The island blinks from afar like the most expensive jewel of the Mediterranean, an oasis distant from the turmoil of Greece's economic crisis.
After three weeks on the brink of collapse, Greek banks have finally reopened marking the return of some form of normality. However, strict capital controls remain in place for the foreseeable future, as does the general state of political and economic uncertainty.
Like many people following the negotiations between Greece and its creditors, I was inclined to see Wolfgang Schauble, Germany's finance minister, as the villain of the story. Schauble did not argue for throwing Greece out of the euro simply as a punitive measure, although he quite obviously disapproved of the way Greece had run its budget and its economy.
There are good reasons to keep your vacation plans to Greece, and good reasons to break them. But don't overlook Greece next summer.
Germany's disregard for Greek lives didn't begin during WWII. It can also be traced back to WWI. For Germany, any policy that advanced its economic or commercial interests, no matter how horrendous and inhumane was and, apparently, still is acceptable.
BRISTOL -- Populism appeals to the "will of people" but is actually profoundly undemocratic. Democracy is about the negotiation of competing interests and the balancing of different values. Populism, in contrast, is a kind of mob rule. Where there is complexity, it offers simple solutions. Instead of seeking common ground, it looks to exaggerate the differences between them and us.
In its policies toward Greece, the "Troika" -- a new shorthand for the combined will of the European Commission, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund -- has actively and enthusiastically embraced Maggie Thatcher's social and political philosophy, memorably captured in her chilling assertion, "There is no such thing as society."
I simply want to tell you the naked truth as I see it. The truth is always radical. After that, I can only hope you will summon the courage to step over the smoldering garbage heap we've left for you to clean up, to forgive us, and to get on with the job.
The Greek debt crisis offers another illustration of Wall Street's powers of persuasion and predation, although the Street is missing from most accounts. The crisis was exacerbated years ago by a deal with Goldman Sachs, engineered by Goldman's current CEO, Lloyd Blankfein.