What if…?

It’s always interesting to ponder on the small and big «ifs» of history. There are small ifs, like what would the future hold in store if Akis Tsochatzopoulos, not Costas Simitis, had been picked by the parliamentary group as premier. But there are also big ifs, like what would have happened if the Communist party (KKE) had occupied Athens in December 1944. History is full of such crossroads, where the smallest turn would have led to disastrous results. In light of the Soviet experience, for instance, who can deny that if KKE won the battle of Athens, Greece would perhaps be now joining the EU together with Romania and Bulgaria after decades of communist rule. Or what would have happened if the late Constantine Karamanlis had held a referendum on Greece’s entry to the European Economic Community. Under the sway of populism at the time, with PASOK adding its voice to communist skepticism, the people may have rejected it. Greece could indeed have had it so much worse. International politics prompt similar thoughts. For who can doubt that we would be living in a whole different world had Al Gore won the 2000 US elections? He would definitely have handled 9/11 with more wisdom and most probably avoided the Iraq fiasco. George W. Bush, on the other hand, came with a lot of baggage, including an inferiority complex regarding the elites whom his father represented as well as with a strong desire to be more of a hardliner on «tough issues.» Gore’s defeat in the presidential race and Bush’s victory may prove to be one of the decade’s worst events in terms of human cost and the impact on a volatile region. Studying the ifs of history can be useful. You see history through a fresh perspective. But knowledge of history can also give you prudence for the crossroads ahead.

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