The pursuit of national interests

Many differing opinions have been put forward regarding an unusual meeting between Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and US Ambassador Charles Ries, lasting one hour, regarding the USA’s lively interest in the purchase by Greece of F-16 aircraft. Some described the meeting as unacceptable, claiming that the USA was exerting pressure on – if not actually blackmailing – Greece into buying the US aircraft. In fact, they drew attention to the forthright manner in which the USA had asked its ambassador to raise the issue directly with the prime minister and not the foreign minister or some other official. Yet others thought the incident natural, claiming that these days international diplomacy has given way to commercial transactions which are carried out by ambassadors, ministers and even heads of state. There is no doubt that every country’s foreign policy is aimed at protecting and promoting its national interests, whether these be sovereign rights or economic prosperity. Nevertheless, the emphasis in each foreign policy doctrine differs according to the size and power of the individual state. A small state tries above all to defend its national interest while a large country, on the basis of the same doctrine, usually tries to broaden that national interest. So we arrive at the question as to how important, in the greater scheme of things, is the unilateral, complete implementation of that doctrine by the world’s only remaining superpower. Personally, I think it is worthwhile mentioning this issue for one more reason: Several of my commentaries on «sterile, prejudiced anti-American» behavior, which usually has its roots in the traumatic experiences of the communist Left, have been reprinted or commented on favorably in the US media, particularly since the September 11 terrorist attacks. So those of us who believed in, and were somewhat vindicated by, the US’s role as «the leading power in the Free World» after the Second World War, precisely in the name of freedom of thought and of speech, were certainly not seized by a sterile, prejudiced, pro-American fervor. So I wonder how far the USA, under its current administration, can live up to its role as the sole superpower with regard to keeping the peace, promoting democracy, defending human rights, seeking economic and social equality. How valid can all these principles be when they are defending – and in an absolute manner – the national and economic interest of the superpower? We will not refer to the US veto of all proposals and agreements by the international community on environmental protection due to the potential harm to American industry, even though that country is to blame for most atmospheric pollution and environmental damage; nor will we cite the recent wars and invasions waged on the basis of false arguments and the invocation of non-existent threats. What we will emphasize is the US ambassador’s desire that we should «prefer» American to European fighter aircraft. The financial burden of buying F-16s is a heavy one indeed for Greece, but means very little in terms of profit for the US economy. However, it is precisely that huge difference that reveals the great importance current US administrations are putting on promoting American interests. This observation leads to yet another concern. Greece’s heavy outlay on defense is mainly due to Greek-Turkish disputes. If these are resolved, the two countries will be relieved of the burden of arms purchases that have been such an obstacle to their economic growth. Such an outcome naturally would not promote the USA’s economic interests in these two countries, precisely the opposite, in fact. Consequently, how much sincerity and credibility can there be in US mediation (unsolicited or otherwise) in every Greek-Turkish crisis? How can the USA’s mediation be scrupulously fair and not biased when Turkey’s arms requirements and potential for economic exploitation are far greater than Greece’s? What is the point in being thankful to the USA for averting a military confrontation (as happened during the Imia crisis) when perpetuating the Greek-Turkish dispute is more in line with the interests of the American arms industry? Naturally these questions do not arise solely in terms of Greek-Turkish differences, but have elsewhere in the world called into doubt the principles and values promoted by what was once the «leading Free World power.» Today, as the sole superpower, no one can dictate that its leaders restore those principles. That can only happen through the intervention of the healthy forces in the American nation – and fortunately these do exist and have already begun to realize that the famous American dream is at risk of becoming an American disgrace.