Back in 2003, the cooler heads did not prevail. The ‘institutions’ (the United Nations & the International Atomic Energy Authority) wanted more time. So did most of the allies. But the hard-liners (aka the so-called ‘neo-cons’) were restless: they were facing an untrustworthy partner in the negotiations, and this particular partner – Iraq – had past ‘form’.
The issue, of course, was the US decision on whether to invade Iraq, or whether to give ‘the institutions’ more time to conduct weapons inspections. You probably know what happened: the invasion went ahead even though ‘the institutions’ had not been given enough time to do their job. Most people regard the US decision to go to war as a poor one, needless to say, and particularly given what happened subsequently.
In 2015, it is the Euro zone – with Germany as its largest member – that faces the somewhat analogous decision of what to do about Greece. There was no 9/11 atrocity in the case of Greece, of course: merely that in 2009, the region’s Debt crisis began – when the new Greek government admitted to past indiscretions with respect to its fiscal accounts – and in 2011 that the problems were compounded, as a result of its debt swap.
For their part, its Allies beyond the Eurozone seem virtually unanimous in pleading for more time for negotiations. ‘If you were really as close as you said, what on earth are doing abandoning talks now’, they’re saying, whatever the personality clashes and bruised egoes. But, like the US neo-cons before them, some of the region’s most ardent hard-liners (we might call them ‘neo-ords’, perhaps) seem to want an immediate show-down. In Germany, the hardest of the hard-liners appear to be Bundesbank President Weidmann and Finance Minister Schäuble.
Of course, the advice of ‘the institutions’ in the current Greece crisis is a lot less clear-cut than it was with respect to the Iraq War, and the weapons inspections. People do talk a better game nowadays with respect to institutional transparency, but the actual results tell a rather different story. Is the IMF a peace-maker in this crisis, or is it fomenting discord, for example?
The big issue is this: will cooler European, and German, heads prevail in 2015 with respect to Greece than they did in the US in 2003 with respect to Iraq? Or are the hard-liners destined to win, again? And what collateral damage might be done this time? If Iraq was anything to go by, of course, it wasn’t just in Iraq that the big changes subsequently occurred.
One assumes, of course, that it isn’t already too late to stop the Greek crisis, what with Greek referendum ballot papers already in the printer and all. I mean, if there was one thing policy-makers should have learnt from the Global Financial Crisis, it was the need to have fire-breaks in the system. They did install some here in Euro-land, didn’t they?