RIEAS | Research Institute for 
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On September 2, terrorists parked a minivan packed with explosives outside the Athens bourse and, shortly before 6 a.m., delivered a huge blast. This latest “Baghdad bomb” only a short distance from the heart of Athens produced a rumble audible to many southern sections of the city; caused serious damage to the bourse and surrounding buildings; and demolished parked cars located as far away as 200 meters from the “epicenter” of the explosion. A female passerby, several blocks away, was slightly cut by flying glass.

Despite the seriousness of the attack, and other than thanking the invisible higher forces for the absence of human casualties, Greek authorities, politicians, and media took everything in their stride. There was little immediate indication that the blast triggered the kind of focused, maximum-revolutions investigation that is routine in other countries when a terrorist incident of this (or even lesser) magnitude occurs. Indicative of the well established mindset, not to say the unbroken “format,” surrounding the supposed pursuit of domestic terrorists in Greece, media interest in the bourse bomb dissipated as quickly as the smoke from the explosion, overwhelmed as it was by the proclamation of early elections some 24 hours later.

Summertime in Greece is traditionally a period of letting sleeping dogs lie, a time when most people retreat into the slumber associated with the holidays and the general slowdown across the spectrum.

This is the time when unpalatable facts and figures are generally removed from broadcasting the “news”, with program schedulers going en masse for inane “human interest” topics; the latest on the price of ferry boat tickets; and such volcanically important announcements as the latest trysts of popular female reality television hosts and the saucy developments in the bottom feeder “glamour” sub-culture populating Greece’s “glittery” islands.

Greek governments in recent years have missed no opportunity to declare how "strong" Greece is and how "respected" she remains among friends and foes alike.

Real facts of course tell a different story. Whether it is the Balkans, the confrontation with Turkey, EU politics, or her "strategic partnership" with the United States, Greece appears limited in her reach and largely ineffectual in achieving outcomes she, herself, has defined as desirable or, even, strategically vital. Greek foreign relations often stumble on basics, miss the target altogether, or are easily flanked by the manipulations of others, some of whom are "minor actors" by every standard in the book.

In this interconnected, world-wide webbed, "globalized" era, countries, like real life persons, live under an avalanche of information. Pace in the "information society," and the amounts of raw data being spewed by innumerable "content generators," are such that even the keenest, most hard working information gatherers are hard pressed to keep up. On a national policy level, being up to date and exploiting the flow have become strategic demands policy makers ignore at their peril.

Greece remains among the stragglers in this global information race. Greece's "techno lag" is a common, if painful, secret. Greeks, in their majority, keep off modern communication technologies. Greece has one of the lowest computer penetration rates in the EU. Similarly, most Greeks make no use of the Internet or, even worse, have no idea of what the Internet is. While the younger generation has created pockets of educated users here and there, the big picture remains disappointing, to say the least, with trend watchers warning that it may take many years before Greece can catch up with its more advanced European partners despite announcements of grandiose get-every-house-connected schemes with big budgets and even bigger bureaucracies instantly created to manage them.

Not too long ago we highlighted the importance of abandoning the peculiar idiom of “Greek-Turkish rapprochement,” a linguistic contraption that is wholly of Greek manufacture, as part of purposefully re-defining symbolism in the battle against the Turkish threat. In this present phase of "no war, no peace" so deftly manipulated by our neighbors, words and gestures are almost as important as bullets. And effective symbolism remains a key weapon in parrying Turkish thrusts calculated to sow fear and anxiety among Greek "policy makers," who have delivered, over time, ample examples of hesitation, miscalculation, division, and confusion. To remember Liddel Hart's apt words: "The profoundest truth of war is that the issue of battle is usually decided in the minds of the opposing commanders, not in the bodies of their men."

The summer of 2009 is rapidly turning into yet another extended period of Turkish provocations in the Aegean through demonstrations of military force. In the middle of a supposed, mutually agreed summer moratorium on military training exercises, Turkey dispatches almost daily armed warplanes to make low, very loud passes over small inhabited Greek islands lying near the Asia Minor coast. Turkey has announced oil exploration inside the boundaries of the Greek continental shelf southeast of the Greek island of Kastelorizo. And Turkish coast guard vessels carve "innocent passage" patterns inside Greek territorial waters with complete immunity and, even, make "honest mistakes" that, in one recent case, brought a Turkish patrol boat at the mouth of the harbor of Kalymnos, the famous Dodecanese island home of sponge divers. The Turkish skipper, with incredulous Greek coast guards watching from a distance, disarmingly apologized over the radio for reading his charts wrongly!

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