Stuart J. Hooper
21st Century Wire
While this would undoubtedly be a controversial foreign policy choice, it may very well just work. Moreover, desperate times call for desperate measures.
Watch a video of this report here:
Greece has gotten itself into quite the conundrum. After holding a referendum where over 60% of the population said it did not want to accept a new bailout, the Syriza government went ahead and accepted a new bailout, along with all of its harsh, neoliberal economic restructuring conditions, anyway. We might attribute this not to a betrayal of their previously defiant stance, but, instead to the lack of any viable alternative.
Many of us had high hopes for the Syriza government when it came to power and some Western leaders were definitely frightened by their potential to reject neoliberalism. But, we now have to acknowledge that Syriza has not lived up to their potential. Why exactly that is, laziness or naivety perhaps, does not matter at this point; the past is the past for a reason. Greece needs that viable alternative policy route – and it needs it right now.
We can look to a recent historical case study of a successful example of a country receiving a huge debt write-down, which is still relevant in the current geopolitical context, to be something that Greece could potentially replicate.
Will the Parthenon have to be sold? (Photo Credit: Steve Swayne)
In 2003, after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the newly formed Iraqi government found itself saddled with the immense debts the dictator had incurred during his reign over the country. Iraq was able to restructure its debts on incredible – almost unbelievable terms, with an 80% write-down of their debts. Incredible. Bear in mind, total Iraqi debt in 2003 was estimated to be in the region of $125-300 billion. The most compelling argument used to achieve such a dramatic result was based upon security.
Political stabilization in Iraq was thought to only be achievable with a quick economic recovery, which coincided with the (still on-going) ‘War on Terror‘ and national security objectives of almost every Western nation. Therefore, a debt write-down was required. The United States actively lobbied on behalf of the Iraqi government to achieve this goal. Former Secretary of State James Baker, appointed by President George W. Bush as Special Envoy, was successful in his talks with the UK, Japan, China, France, Germany and Italy. Even Russia, under President Putin, agreed to substantial debt write-downs for Iraq on the basis of national, and international, security.
The only problem that presents itself in replicating this sequence of events is that Iraq received the highest levels of political support from the U.S. in the process. However, the precedent for a massive debt write-down due to national, and international, security concerns was still set nonetheless.
Saddam was gone but his debts were not. (Photo Credit: Joseph Dwayne)
It is entirely possible for Greece to make similar national security based arguments to achieve a debt write-down from its creditors. This year, Greece has surpassed Italy for the total number of refugees arriving from North Africa and the Middle East on its shores. The EU is now accused of having an ‘abysmally slow’ response to this problem, and financially-doomed Greece is in no position at all to be dealing with the estimated 77,000 arrivals; with 1000 more arriving each day.
Former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi prophetically claimed that the Mediterranean would become a ‘sea of chaos’ should the Libyan state apparatus be allowed to fall. He could not have spoken truer words, and now many have feared that the exponentially expanding Islamic State will use the migrant crisis as a ‘gateway to Europe‘. Earlier in the year this writer attacked CNN for attempting to frame Greece as an ’emerging hub for terrorists’, but now, that might be exactly the image Greece needs to portray.
Greece could use the migrant crisis to exploit the Western obsession with terrorism and ‘national security’. The Syriza government could begin to issue statements that it can no longer fulfil its international security obligations, due its debt crisis. It should show, in graphic detail, the extent of the chaos the migrant crisis is causing and that it literally cannot afford to do anything about it. Moreover, the Greek government, or maybe those formerly associated with it, could begin to issue inflammatory statements, perhaps that it will not be long before ISIS is fully established on mainland Western Europe; which would not be entirely out of the realm of possibility. This would be no different to the outlandish statements Western leaders have made in the past, but this time they would actually do some good.
The ‘sea of chaos’ Gaddafi warned us of. (Photo Credit: U.S. Navy)
Whether or not you believe the West and NATO are truly concerned with international security does not matter. What does matter, is that publicly that is their number one goal. Whether or not you believe ISIS is going to invade Europe through Greece does not matter. What does matter, is that the mainstream media and Western officials have already arrived at that conclusion. Force NATO and the West to adhere to their ‘values’ and let the mainstream media claim they were right and provide 24/7 coverage of the ‘Greek National Security Crisis‘ caused by the debt. Not only will Greece get a solution to its debt problems, but the nation will also be able to better assist the struggling migrants.
The political headache this would cause for the creditors would be immeasurable and unparalleled by almost any other action. Greece, by following this national security argument, would be supported by history and substantiated by current geopolitics. If the West still does not budge, the Greeks could explicitly state that either Russia or China is going to help them if nobody else does. There have already been credible rumours of a Russian bailout of Greece. If the thought of an ISIS base in Greece does not move the creditors to action, the geopolitical embarrassment of being upstaged by the Russians or Chinese certainly will.
Follow me here: http://twitter.com/StuartJHooper