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.