The modern Greek state is not known for its swift and rational adjustment to changing conditions in general. The draft has been in the sights of politicians and various political party “youth” organizations, student unions, and various other fringe political groupings, for decades and for purely political reasons. Never was opposition to the draft combined with an earnest debate on the requirements of Greek defense and the longer-term strategy of the Nation in facing potential threats. And unfortunately for the stuffed shirt politicians and the various other illiterates in questions of defense, who pose as “experts” in this country, the two -- the draft and a national defense strategy -- go inseparably together.
The fall of the junta in 1974 gave the impetus for the generalized discrediting of the Armed Forces in the onslaught of “democratization” that ensued; abolishing the draft became, early on, a banner issue of this new “progressive” era in Greek politics, although generally avoided by the big parties during election campaigns.
Surrounded by this “anti-militaristic” climate, the Greek Armed Forces followed inevitably in the footsteps of the rest of the public sector in becoming bureaucratized and cumbersome. Relentless political interference and partisan infighting came to dominate the officers corps, with the senior military reduced to a mere “advisory” role in all vital questions of national security, not to mention defense procurement, a field that has produced some of the most persistent and all-pervasive political corruption ever seen in this country.
Abolishing the draft, therefore, has inadvertently again pushed to the fore the real broader issue of Greece having gradually distanced itself from the very notions of national defense and the possibility of needing to go to arms to safeguard sovereignty and territorial integrity. This is something that very few in this country would dare broach, but facts are relentless. Greek politicians, including many top-tier ones, have spent more man-hours in declaring in every direction that “war is simply not a conceivable alternative” than in actually trying to build a credible national defense and security strategy. Our broken education system has invested heavily in inculcating the country’s young with a deep aversion to defending anything that even distantly smacks of “patriotism” and trying to keep the country intact against potential threats. Things are further complicated by the huge influx of illegal immigrants and the establishment of “multicultural” generations on Greek soil for whom recognizing the Colors, let alone defending them with the possible demand of the ultimate sacrifice, isn’t among their urgent priorities. With “integration” of these uninvited newcomers an enormous social problem, things seem bound to get worse before they get any better, if ever.
Greece has neither the size nor the resources to accept aping the defense systems of much larger, much more powerful countries which have moved to all-volunteer forces for a variety of political and security reasons. Greece’s effective defense cannot hinge on the whims of a volunteer force, whose members look for a “job” and career skills they cannot obtain elsewhere without prohibitive cost. Greece simply does not possess the demographic, economic, and social “depth” that would allow for an even marginally functioning such force to assume the country’s defense without fallback. But, equally, recycling amateur, bored, loafer soldiers through a system of fatigued national conscription, which generates mass but hardly any quality, isn’t a solution either.
So, where’s the alternative?
Ideally, Greece must, first and foremost, recalibrate its entire concept of defense and national security. That requires political will and social cohesion. Both qualities seem in short supply nowadays. Without this recalibration though, any further talk of “reform” escapes directly into the drain.
If such will and cohesion could be somehow found and harnessed, Greek leaders will need to redefine their assessment of the threat and recognize unequivocally that we do not live in the stable heart of western Europe but in a region full of “uncertainties”. Once that is achieved, the puzzle falls into place and defense capabilities acquire a practical hue emphasizing hands-on readiness.
Such readiness cannot be achieved but through universal military training of both men and women with the aim of creating and maintaining a meaningful, combat-worthy reserve -- and international experience in this department is irrefutable. Unnoticed by our politicians and ever-blabbering “experts,” Greece is already a country without any such reserves save some few, brave soldiers who have served in special purpose units.
The current hubbub about the draft, therefore, is again akin to galloping at windmills when the real enemy remains unrecognized and unappreciated lest the Greek polity -- placid, artificially fattened in the stall, recursive, fearful of losing comfort, with junk national consciousness, and deaf and dumb for all intents and purposes -- feels pain and instinctively lunges at those who dared suggest the king is bouncing about nude.
The play has been staged unfortunately too many times through history for us to ignore its concluding scene of the Catharsis.
And Catharsis is rarely kind to those who think they have cheated Fate and blinded the Gods.