When the Roman armies of Julius Caesar and Pompey met in 48 BC near the Greek city of Pharsala the Athenians made the mistake to side with Pompey. Following Pompey’s crushing defeat Caesar advanced his legions towards Athens where he was met by a citizen delegation who pleaded to him for mercy. Caesar famously retorted: “How often will the glory of your ancestors save you from self-destruction?” (Appian, Civil Wars, 2.88).
Fast-forward two thousand years later and the self-destructive Greeks face the wrath of a new foe: the markets. Siding with socialism, the Greeks had made one more historical mistake. What is different this time is that (a) they have not yet realized their mistake, and (b) they are not pleading for mercy. Not yet. But if events unravel the way they seem only probable, Greece will be in the throes of an economic meltdown within weeks. The West, descendants of Caesar, must make up their minds once again; will they let the marching legions of default, hyperinflation and societal collapse finish Greece off? Or will they, in a renewed show of exasperated magnanimity, step in and save Greece from its historical tendency for self-destruction?
Even if the Eurozone survives a Greek exit the geopolitical fallout from a failed state in the Aegean will be enormous. It will mean that Greece will no longer be part of the West for the first time since Greek Independence in 1830. This will create a potentially dangerous imbalance in Southern Europe, as Russia will see the opening to the Aegean it has been seeking for centuries. In the absence of western protection over Greece Turkey might be tempted to apply hard force in order to upset the status quo in the Aegean. Israel will be further isolated from the West, since Cyprus and Greece will no longer be there to provide a geopolitical “bridge” to Europe. Analysts have been concentrating to the hypothetical domino effect of a Greek exit from the euro as affecting economies to the west of the country. There is however a little analyzed geopolitical domino effect that affects countries to the east as well. This, in a time of great instability in the Middle East, with the United States having no stomach for military adventurism in the Arab/Islamic neighborhood, and Europe lacking a concise foreign policy.
Greece, inexorably, must be saved.