Greece is no stranger to shallow US-bashing. It was kind of understandable after the fall of the military dictatorship and the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. Washington’s backing of the generals and Henry Kissinger’s Turkey policy were enough to justify Greek anger. But after a point, anti-Americanism was no more than a fad; and an alibi.
It became fashionable because it was a good sell. Any scenario or headline hinting at some CIA involvement was enough to grab people’s attention. Meanwhile, it was an alibi for all those supposedly progressive gurus who posed as foreign policy experts while staying busy behind the scenes squandering the wealth of the nation.
Did all that US-bashing pay off? At best, it allowed us to vent some of our frustration. However, foreign policy must be guided by reason, not sentiment and all that anti-Americanism did nothing to promote Greek interests. Experienced diplomats warned the late Constantine Karamanlis of the disastrous consequences of an exit from NATO’s military command. But few could resist the tide of populism at the time. It was interesting to see the late socialist leader Andreas Papandreou promise to remove US military bases from the country when he never really intended to do so, which was probably the worst possible attitude. Instead of seeking to openly convince the people about the policy that was being pursued, he taught them how to be irresponsible.
Now that anti-Americanism is out of vogue, Greeks seem to have discovered a new villain: Germany. As the populist agitators know, the product is very “in” right now, especially if you top it up with a bit of Hitler and Nazi talk.
There are two questions here: First, is all that German-bashing justified? Berlin did look like it was trying to punish Greece, especially with the first memorandum. One may question Germany’s economic recipe and the way it has been enforced across Europe, but there is no excuse for over-the-top reactions and vulgar populism.
A second question is, does German-bashing serve Greek interests? Sure, it’s important that we strengthen ties with the US, China and even the European South, but trying to do so by alienating Germany seems counter-productive. In fact, a populist reaction here could spark a German backlash.
We need to be pragmatic and decisive. Like yesterday’s US-bashing, today’s German-bashing is an offshoot of the populist wave that has swept through Greece over the past 30 years. It will get us nowhere. Instead, it is the perfect alibi for those who fail to see that what should come first is rebuilding our nation with respect to our history and to our children rather than passing the blame onto someone else.