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The EU and the U.S.
The Missing Ingredient

Edward Luce has an important article out this morning looking in part at just how badly the United States was MIA during the unfolding Greek crisis. “In the left’s demonology, the US is an overbearing superpower that equates might with right,” he argues. But “on Europe, the US has been neither strong nor wrong, but weak and right.” He notes that the U.S., like the IMF, was on Greece’s side, and it even wanted Europe to give the country debt relief. But for all that, it has played no real role while the crisis has unfolded.

This should have been a slam dunk for the Obama Administration: helping a left wing government avoid austerity through diplomacy and creative finance? No bombs here, no dangerous geopolitical minefields, no guns, no bullets—but it matters as much to American security as all those big hairy military crises sprouting up around the planet. If there was ever an opportunity for an American leader to use smart diplomacy and soft power to heal America’s alliance relationships while easing the painful rigors of capitalism, this was the one.

But instead we have been missing in action, occasionally making speeches that no one pays any attention to, or dropping copies of old Paul Krugman columns from aircraft over Berlin.

People pay the most attention to errors of commission, where things (as in Libya) go spectacularly awry. But over time the errors of omission usually cost you more: it’s the little things you don’t do that hurt you most in the long run. The United States missed a real opportunity here to play an important constructive role in an important international crisis that deeply concerns our vital interests.

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  • Andrew Allison

    The headline of the Luce piece is,”The U.S. is a helpless bystander on Greece”, and describes the situation exactly. There is nothing the US can or should do about this internal Eurogroup problem. FWIW, there is mass confusion about what has really been going on, which is establishing the terms for NEW debt. Anybody with half a brain know that the existing debt will not be repaid; the best that the Eurogroup can hope for is that it will be kept current and permit the “extend-and-pretend” game to continue.

    • JR

      I don’t think so. The actions of Germany and the hard-liners from Baltics and Eastern Europe seem to suggest that they have resigned to the fact that the debt is pretty much worthless. They just want to kick Greece out of the euro as payment. Interesting times….

  • Pete

    “This should have been a slam dunk for the Obama Administration: helping a left wing government avoid austerity through diplomacy and creative finance? ”

    Ah yes, ‘creative financing’ — what’s that, a behind the scenes FED bailout for Greece or some other way to avoid the financial reality of the situation???

    Greece is Europe’s tar-baby, not ours.

  • Fat_Man

    “it matters as much to American security as all those big hairy military crises sprouting up around the planet”

    Utter rubbish. As I have pointed out in these pages, Greece and what happens there has absolutely no impact on the security or prosperity of the United States.

    Greece has no natural resources worth mentioning. Its agricultural products have no role in US markets, not even olive oil. The wines are terrible, unless you are a connoisseur of paint thinner. It manufactures nothing. It was a strategic entrepot in the Middle Ages, but the silk route hasn’t been in operation for hundreds of years.

    Strategically, Greece is on the way to no place in particular. The countries around Greece, Albania, Macedonia (FYROM), Bulgaria, and Turkey, are with the exception of Turkey, even more irrelevant that Greece. Turkey is only relevant because its Islamist regime is a key player in the destabilization of the Middle East, where it has been a thorn in the side of American interests for almost 20 years. I.E. Turkey’s relevance is negative and in another geopolitical area.

    Greece is Germany’s problem. One that they get to solve all by themselves. The United States is a spectator with no role. Thank God.

    • f1b0nacc1

      Comparing Ouzo to paint thinner is absolutely unfair….to paint thinner.

      • Fat_Man

        Actually, I was thinking about retsina.

        • f1b0nacc1

          Even worse

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