The ‘committed ally’

The ‘committed ally’

In the parliamentary clash Thursday over the Greece-US defense agreement, the leader of the main opposition party, Alexis Tsipras, repeatedly accused Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of having made the country a “committed ally” of America (with the implication that it can be taken for granted by the superpower). SYRIZA’s basic argument is that the government has “given everything” to the United States and not only did it not get anything in exchange, but Washington is encouraging Turkey’s violation of Greek rights. Ratification of a defense agreement with Greece’s most powerful ally always demands serious debate as this will determine, to a great extent, the framework for the country’s defense and foreign policy. The debate allows parties to set out their policies and reveals how serious the level of discussion is: Do the participants have an understanding of the world or do they create a virtual reality for their supporters? 

Presenting the concept of the “committed ally” as something to be condemned once again confirmsthat SYRIZA is sticking with a self-serving oversimplification of how foreign relations and politics work. In this world, political rivals are dangerous either because of incompetence or evil intentions, always ready to sell out national rights and the people themselves to the benefit of foreigners. On the other hand, the accusing side is made up of patriots with the will and ability to force superpowers to do their bidding while forcing enemies to back away. In SYRIZA’s worldview, the “committed ally” is the equivalent of the accusation that the government is “indifferent” to the people’s pain on the domestic front while serving only its “friends.” This mix of simplicity and cynicism has served demagogues well since the establishment of the Greek state, driving debate on serious issues into meaningless quarrels and dead ends.

This mentality does not allow awareness that the others (the United States and Turkey, in this case) might have their own complicated bilateral relations, their own aims and the will to achieve them. In the real world, the “non-committed ally” is not the self-confident charmer who gets his way but no ally at all: He lacks credibility, is uncommitted and unreliable. He thus frees others from any commitments and trade-offs, so that they have even fewer scruples about using him when they need to and leaving him to his fate later. 

In government, SYRIZA discovered what it means to negotiate, with all the related commitments and exchanges. And yet, the party persists with fantasies, as if these have no consequences.

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