Beyond sentiment

Typically sentimental Mediterranean characters, Greeks react mostly from the gut and not according to some unfaltering logic. This was made evident during the war in Serbia and is again manifest with the war on Iraq. The Greek public reacted strongly to the bombardment of the Iraqi cities, sympathizing with the frustration of the civilians and deeply moved by the sufferings of war. Ordinary people have opposed the reasons behind this war in a clear and unwavering fashion. Passionate protest rallies have been repeatedly held throughout the country. Anti-war demonstrations have been massive and spirited, attracting even small children. Justified and spontaneous as this reaction was in the early days of the conflict, it soon overstepped the mark as it became subject to political expediency and objectives. If the first protest rallies were permeated by a genuine, spontaneous atmosphere, the later ones, culminating in yesterday’s protest rally – which was joined by the civil servants’ union ADEDY and the private sector union umbrella group GSEE – were merely bad imitations that contributed to little more than paralyzing the cities and adding to the problems of daily life for the vast majority of residents. Athens, in particular, has repeatedly been reduced to the status of a barbaric, underdeveloped capital. The course of the war and its pending outcome should put the brakes on Greek impulsiveness. From now on, everyone must think of the day after and make plans on a more pragmatic basis. The outcome of this war seems to have been decided – or will be in due time. This certainty is drawn from the developments on the battlefield and from the stance of most countries, especially the European states which first expressed their opposition to the war. Germany, Russia and France, as well as the US and Britain, the belligerent states, are seeking to mend fences. They are searching for common ground and are hammering out policies according to their interests in the nascent context. In light of this, Greece does not have the luxury of shaping its policy in line with its benign feelings but must pay heed to its broader long-term interests, which are determined by the country’s sensitive geopolitical location, threats to national security and alliances that protect this precious commodity which is often taken for granted. Unfortunately, history teaches us that we cannot take national security for granted.