Facing the future

Eight days after the American-British attack on Iraq, events have not lived up to expectations of a lightning-fast victory. The Iraqis’ patriotism has overcome their opposition to the dictator and their combativeness is delaying the progress of US and British forces, despite the latter’s overwhelmingly superior arms and air power. The attackers are responding by intensifying their bombardment and striking urban targets, as in Yugoslavia, and they will need increasingly larger reinforcements, so military operations may be protracted. And when they cease, a prolonged state of instability may follow, with American-British control focused on managing wealth-producing resources and the productive potential of Iraq rather than on re-establishing political «normality.» This would accentuate the value clash between the US and Europe-Russia, protract economic uncertainty, and deepen the gap between the Europhiles and the Washington camp. Governments, including that of Greece, must adapt their political and economic planning to the likelihood of a relatively protracted war, and an even more protracted period of instability in the Middle East and the global economy. As for political planning, Greece and the other smaller countries of Europe may face the dilemma between Europe weaning itself from the North Atlantic alliance, and a quasi-decline into a second-speed club within the European Union. As for the economy, the consequences and the need to adapt policy may prove much more immediate, not only due to the likelihood of unfavorable developments in the cost of oil, but also because of the repercussions of any prolongation of general economic uncertainty on a market that is already ailing. Though National Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis made some timid comments about possible measures, the government is not abandoning its view that the economy is not in trouble, nor does it seem willing to resist the counter-temptations of electoral planning, especially when public opinion polls show it lagging well behind the opposition New Democracy party. The likelihood of lasting economic pressure is so serious, however, that it does not allow anyone to rely on an optimistic scenario nor to yield to inertia in the hope that matters will soon clear up. The country needs careful planning which takes the worst-case scenario into account.

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