OPINION

Misguiding information

A US Department of Defense handbook has since 1999 included a map in which the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) is shown to have an Aegean coastline. It also presents Thessaloniki and Halkidiki as being under Greek occupation. The Greek government launched a formal complaint with Washington, prompting the US authorities to announce that the next edition of the handbook will include an accurate version of the map. In other words, as of 2005 the Pentagon will no longer recognize a part of Greece’s mainland as «occupied Macedonian territories.» Some political commentators in Athens condemned the map incident as a provocation. This is certainly one way of interpreting the situation. Without doubt, some ultra-nationalist circles in Skopje were pleased to learn of the highly original map published by the US Defense Department. However, it is the Pentagon that should be most concerned over the incident. If the US administration is dependent on staff in the Defense Department who provide such distorted information on «Macedonia» to those deployed in the various Balkan missions, then senior officials in the intelligence service have good reason to worry about the quality of their service to their country’s political leadership. Even if we accept that the map indicating supposedly Greek-occupied territories of FYROM was meant to promote some dark military objectives for the future of the Balkans, the nature of the (confidential) intelligence being passed on to American officials was the product of weak executive minds. The only accomplishment of the Pentagon’s intelligence unit was to misguide its military personnel, upset an ally and, finally, to acknowledge that its map is wrong and needs to be corrected. What a dismal performance.