I sometimes feel that we have become so accustomed to our state of decline that nothing surprises us anymore. We are like people who have learned to live with a bad smell in their homes.
The events that unfolded last week at the Defense Ministry, for example, were anything but ordinary. No state that experiences such a debacle can say with certainty that it is safe. But the worst thing is the loss of prestige suffered by the armed forces at a time when Greece is experiencing such an overwhelming crisis. One issue at the bottom of the incident is salaries. It?s shocking that a graduating cadet starts on a salary of 900 euros a month and the chief of staff earns just 2,500 euros. As devoted as they may be to the job, can we really demand that they put themselves on the line for this kind of money?
There are, of course, military officers who still have a lazy civil servant?s mentality, and a succession of administrations that have avoided reorganizing the armed forces so they are more efficient. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court recently issued a decision allowing the unionization of the armed forces, something that was prohibited in the past in order to keep politics out of the equation. That decision, in combination with rising anger among the ranks of the military, may deal a serious blow to the guiding principle of the armed forces: discipline. The idea that the military can be run with the contribution of unionists may well undermine a decades? old tradition.
Moreover, the fiscal crisis in combination with new arms procurements has created enormous problems in regards to the maintainence, technical support, supply of parts and training for existing equipment. Also, the reduction in the mandatory military service has led to serious shortages in the staffing and operation of military bases, a problem that is compounded by the freeze on all new hirings of professional military personnel.
These problems are well known by our allies, but also by our foes, because nothing can stay under wraps for too long in this day and age.
What do the people in the military, from high ranking officers to soldiers assigned to an outpost and Navy engineers who do whatever they can to make a ship seaworthy, expect? Simply the support of the state, the recognition of society and, of course, a political and military leadership that they can respect.
Greece is suffering but there are some things, some institutions, that must be protected by all means because their demise not only means the further demise of the country, but could also lead to future calamities.