US Foreign Policy In The Eastern Mediterranean: Power Politics And Ideology Under The Sun [1st Edition] 3030368947, 9783030368944, 9783030368951

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US Foreign Policy In The Eastern Mediterranean: Power Politics And Ideology Under The Sun [1st Edition]
 3030368947,  9783030368944,  9783030368951

Table of contents :
Introduction......Page 5
Contents......Page 9
1 Introduction......Page 12
2 A Continental Country That Thought to Be an Island......Page 13
3 The Three Pillars of Success......Page 17
3.1 Individualism......Page 18
3.2 Mobility......Page 20
3.3 Exceptionalism......Page 23
4 The Hamiltonian School of Thought......Page 28
5 The Wilsonian School of Thought......Page 30
6 The Jeffersonian School of Thought......Page 34
7 The Jacksonian School of Thought......Page 36
8 The Obamian School of Thought......Page 41
9 Conclusions......Page 44
References......Page 45
1 Introduction......Page 51
2 The U.S. and the Eastern Mediterranean: A Long and Steady Entanglement......Page 52
3 The Barbary War of 1801–1805......Page 58
4 The Truman Doctrine and the Eastern Mediterranean: The Beginning of a New Era......Page 62
4.1 The Greek Case......Page 63
4.2 The Turkish Case......Page 66
4.3 Together We Stand......Page 71
5 The Suez Crisis: New Ways vs. Old Habits......Page 72
5.1 The Egyptian Conundrum......Page 73
5.2 War Drums in Suez: The Climax of a Crisis That Never Meant to Occur......Page 77
6 The Cradle of Democracy in Chains and the American Nonintervention......Page 87
7 The Greek Junta and the American Nonintervention......Page 89
8.1 A Problematic Relation Since the Early Beginning......Page 97
8.2 Greece and Turkey: Parallel Courses of Profound Decadence......Page 99
8.3 Imia: A Deep Interstate Crisis and the American Intervention......Page 101
9 Conclusion......Page 104
References......Page 105
1 Introduction......Page 112
2 The Arab Spring: A Conceptual Analysis......Page 113
2.1 Second Image Analysis......Page 117
2.2 Third Image Analysis......Page 122
3 The U.S. and the Arab Spring in the Eastern Mediterranean: A General Approach......Page 124
3.1 Even Monkeys Fall from Trees......Page 125
3.2 Neither Able Nor Willing......Page 128
4 The Egyptian Spring......Page 131
5 The Libyan Spring......Page 138
6 The Syrian Spring......Page 145
7 Conclusion......Page 155
References......Page 156
1 Introduction......Page 163
2 The Greek Crisis: A Sisyphean Condition......Page 164
3 SYRIZA in Power: The Beginning of a New Start?......Page 169
4 The Role of the American Factor in the Greek Crisis: Leading from Above......Page 177
5 Conclusion......Page 184
References......Page 186
1 Introduction......Page 189
2 The Sino-American Competition in the Eastern Mediterranean......Page 192
3 Russia vs. the U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean: Moscow’s Sui Generis Revisionism......Page 200
4 The Turkish Neo-Revisionism in the Eastern Mediterranean......Page 207
5 Conclusion......Page 215
References......Page 217
Epilogue......Page 221
Index......Page 224

Citation preview

Spyridon N. Litsas

US Foreign Policy in the Eastern Mediterranean Power Politics and Ideology Under the Sun

US Foreign Policy in the Eastern Mediterranean

Spyridon N. Litsas

US Foreign Policy in the Eastern Mediterranean Power Politics and Ideology Under the Sun

Spyridon N. Litsas Thessaloniki, Greece

ISBN 978-3-030-36894-4    ISBN 978-3-030-36895-1 (eBook) © Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are reserved by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors, and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. This Springer imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland


I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear, Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong, The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam, The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work, The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck, The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands, The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown, The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing, Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else, The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly, Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs. —Walt Whitman ‘I hear America singing’

The idea for the US Foreign Policy in the Eastern Mediterranean: Power Politics and Ideology Under the Sun was given to me during a trip to the east coast of the United States of America. There, I was given the opportunity to conduct research in the field of the American Foreign Policy under the program “Study of the U.S. Institutes for Scholars” by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the State Department. For two months, in New  York, Boston, and Washington, I attended great lectures, met influential academics and politicians, and came in contact with the foundations of the U.S. Foreign Policy and some of the main reasons that brought this great nation at the avant-garde of the international structure. What triggered my interest the most was the fact that, unlike European states which seem more interested in trade, economy, technology, or culture, the U.S. operates in the international system with the deep knowledge that the foreign policy can be either the tip of the spear or the Achilles’ heel for a state. Unlike academics who prefer to bring a Max Weber’s essence in International Relations Theory, or politicians who still claim that It’s the economy and nothing else matters, I prefer a more traditional approach that many opinion makers in the U.S. seem to share. A nation will not be able to produce wealth by international trade if its foreign policy is not v



effective, or if its cultural capacity will never reach that climax to be able to produce an effective soft power, if its foreign policy mechanisms are not fully functional with the international structure. The U.S. is perhaps the only state in the world, until today, that gives so much importance to its foreign policy. This perhaps is America’s true secret of success. Through failures and successes in the international scene, America trained itself to be active, to learn how to preserve its interest, and to set new ambitious goals globally. This book focuses on the U.S. Foreign Policy in the Eastern Mediterranean since the First Barbary War in 1805, until today. The U.S. is a naval nation, and thus the Eastern Mediterranean played, and still plays, an influential role in shaping its foreign conduct since the dawn of time. This close connection between a nation that perceives itself to be an island with the Sea, offered me the inspiration to produce a monograph about the American Foreign Policy in the region of the Eastern Mediterranean. The Eastern Mediterranean is a region that since the dawn of time, attracted the interest of politicians, soldiers, prophets, pioneers, and ordinary people from around the world. A region that magnetizes those who set their eyes upon it for the first time, or they lend their ears to its eternal sounds, like the song of the Sirens which tempted Odysseus and his companions, to their deaths, on the way back to Ithaki from the shores of Troy. This is the region where the United States of America decided to search for new horizons, in order to trade and seal diplomatic relations; the region where the U.S. established its overseas economic and military presence; the region where the U.S. verified its great power status; the region where America will be able to evaluate its status to the next day’s geostrategic and socio-political necessities of the multipolar international structure. As a matter of fact, this ­monograph is all about the aspiration of the U.S. to follow its naval instincts under the bright sun of the Eastern Mediterranean from 1805, until today. In the first chapter, I present a thorough analysis of the main schools of thought of the U.S. Foreign Policy, while I also add one more school contributing to the already existing typology. In the second chapter, I approach the First Barbary War, the Truman Doctrine, the Suez Crisis, the emergence of the Greek junta and the Imia Crisis. All these episodes, gave Washington the opportunity to exit its comfort zone and enter the Eastern Mediterranean, with the urge to play an upgraded role in the socio-political and geostrategic affairs of the region. In the third chapter, I present the U.S. Foreign Policy during the Arab Spring, a period that has been characterized by many analysts as one of the most unfortunate and less inspirational periods of the American Foreign Policy since the emergence of the nation in the international system. In the fourth chapter, the U.S. Foreign Policy in the Greek economic crisis is presented as a great success because it managed to keep Greece within the Eurozone and not disrupt the existing status quo in the Eastern Mediterranean; while the rise of a new multipolar era for the region and how China, Russia, and Turkey affect the American presence there, is presented in the fifth chapter. The main goal of this monograph is not just to comprehend how the U.S. moves and functions in the Eastern Mediterranean. It is to combine a thorough foreign



policy analysis with the fundamentals of the International Relations Theory. My aim is to give the reader the opportunity to comprehend the main changes that the region has been through and to evaluate the role of Washington in this evolutionary process. This is not a normative target. On the contrary, the habitual political instability of the region blends, not always harmoniously, with the geostrategic targets of Washington, producing a dynamic mixture that in order to be presented correctly, it has to be seen not as a historical narrative but as a part of International Theory itself. Whether the task was fulfilled by the writer, remains to be identified by the reader at the very end of this book. Writing is a lonely process, underlying the true magnitude of the well-known motto “Publish or Perish.” However, the writer does, or must, not live in a bubble. For this reason, I have many people to thank, that supported me during the whole process. I must begin with Professor James Ketterer, who was kind enough to have a look at Chapter 1 and share his thoughts with me. I also would like to thank Professor Nikos Zahariadis, because during a coffee session in Thessaloniki, he put my thoughts on track regarding this book, and also for reminding me of the lyrics of the Marines’ Hymn about the “shores of Tripoli.” It was a great push to take the first step, and as every academic knows “well begun, is half done” according to Aristotle. I would also like to thank Katerina Sokou, a Greek journalist that gracefully balances between academia and media, for her help on the Greek economic crisis and the American role in the whole process. For their eagerness to discuss with me about their contribution to the U.S. Foreign Policy in the Eastern Mediterranean, I feel the need to thank Ambassador Thomas Michael Tolliver Niles and Ambassador David Duane Pearce. Their kindness went way beyond the customary diplomatic amiability. I would also like to thank my students at the University of Macedonia, mainly because they continue to stimulate my mind and keep me hungry for knowledge. Keep it up and seek excellence in the four corners of the world sons and daughters of Greece! Lorraine Klimowich, my editor, should also be included in this list because she made me feel welcome once again at Springer Publishing. I also have to thank Dr. John Kittmer for always being available to give his valuable comments and views. It also gives me great pleasure to acknowledge the contribution of Robert H. Palm, Jr. Captain U.S. Navy (Ret.) to this monograph, who thoroughly read every single page while it was written, offering me his valuable comments and remarks all the way through. Robert has a profound love for the Eastern Mediterranean, a deep knowledge on international politics, a genuine kindness and generosity, and I feel that through the writing of this book, I earned a good friend. Captain Palm has all those qualities that make America a truly great nation. Last but not least, I thank my lovely wife Lena for her patience, for her unconditional love, her endless patience and support, especially when days were not bright, and there are many throughout the writing of a book. Like everything I have produced after her birth, this monograph is dedicated to Elena, my daughter. The most enjoyable time of my day throughout the writing of this book was, when she was asking me about the progress of my research, and also when she was reminding me with her unique way that first and foremost I am her



father, thus I had to spend quality time with her instead of dealing with the perplexities of international politics in the Eastern Mediterranean. I thank her every day because being her father is the greatest achievement and the most praiseworthy title I will ever earn. Thessaloniki, February 2020


1 The Theoretical Foundations of the U.S. Foreign Policy������������������������    1 1 Introduction����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������    1 2 A Continental Country That Thought to Be an Island������������������������    2 3 The Three Pillars of Success��������������������������������������������������������������    6 3.1 Individualism��������������������������������������������������������������������������    7 3.2 Mobility����������������������������������������������������������������������������������    9 3.3 Exceptionalism������������������������������������������������������������������������   12 4 The Hamiltonian School of Thought��������������������������������������������������   17 5 The Wilsonian School of Thought������������������������������������������������������   19 6 The Jeffersonian School of Thought ��������������������������������������������������   23 7 The Jacksonian School of Thought����������������������������������������������������   25 8 The Obamian School of Thought��������������������������������������������������������   30 9 Conclusions����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������   33 References����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������   34 2 The U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean: Historical and Political Considerations��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������   41 1 Introduction����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������   41 2 The U.S. and the Eastern Mediterranean: A Long and Steady Entanglement��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������   42 3 The Barbary War of 1801–1805����������������������������������������������������������   48 4 The Truman Doctrine and the Eastern Mediterranean: The Beginning of a New Era��������������������������������������������������������������   52 4.1 The Greek Case����������������������������������������������������������������������   53 4.2 The Turkish Case��������������������������������������������������������������������   56 4.3 Together We Stand������������������������������������������������������������������   61 5 The Suez Crisis: New Ways vs. Old Habits����������������������������������������   62 5.1 The Egyptian Conundrum����������������������������������������������������   63 5.2 War Drums in Suez: The Climax of a Crisis That Never Meant to Occur����������������������������������������������������������   67




6 The Cradle of Democracy in Chains and the American Nonintervention����������������������������������������������������������������������������������   77 7 The Greek Junta and the American Nonintervention��������������������������   79 8 The Imia Crisis and the Goal of Nonviolent Friction ������������������������   87 8.1 A Problematic Relation Since the Early Beginning����������������   87 8.2 Greece and Turkey: Parallel Courses of Profound Decadence ������������������������������������������������������������������������������   89 8.3 Imia: A Deep Interstate Crisis and the American Intervention ����������������������������������������������������������������������������   91 9 Conclusion������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������   94 References����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������   95 3 Obama’s Foreign Policy and the Arab Spring: The Cases of Egypt, Libya, and Syria ����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  103 1 Introduction����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  103 2 The Arab Spring: A Conceptual Analysis ������������������������������������������  104 2.1 Second Image Analysis ����������������������������������������������������������  108 2.2 Third Image Analysis��������������������������������������������������������������  113 3 The U.S. and the Arab Spring in the Eastern Mediterranean: A General Approach ��������������������������������������������������������������������������  115 3.1 Even Monkeys Fall from Trees ����������������������������������������������  116 3.2 Neither Able Nor Willing��������������������������������������������������������  119 4 The Egyptian Spring ��������������������������������������������������������������������������  122 5 The Libyan Spring������������������������������������������������������������������������������  129 6 The Syrian Spring ������������������������������������������������������������������������������  136 7 Conclusion������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  146 References����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  147 4 The Greek Crisis of 2015: A European Drama and an American Deus Ex Machina ��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  155 1 Introduction����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  155 2 The Greek Crisis: A Sisyphean Condition������������������������������������������  156 3 SYRIZA in Power: The Beginning of a New Start? ��������������������������  161 4 The Role of the American Factor in the Greek Crisis: Leading from Above ����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  169 5 Conclusion������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  176 References����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  178 5 The U.S. Facing the Challenges of the Twenty-First Century in the Eastern Mediterranean: The Different Cases of China, Russia, and Turkey������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  181 1 Introduction����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  181 2 The Sino-American Competition in the Eastern Mediterranean��������  184



3 Russia vs. the U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean: Moscow’s Sui Generis Revisionism��������������������������������������������������������������������  192 4 The Turkish Neo-Revisionism in the Eastern Mediterranean������������  199 5 Conclusion������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  207 References����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  209 Epilogue������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  213 Index������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  217

Chapter 1

The Theoretical Foundations of the U.S. Foreign Policy

The law of the past cannot be eluded, The law of the present and future cannot be eluded, The law of the living cannot be eluded—it is eternal, The law of promotion and transformation cannot be eluded, The law of heroes and good-doers cannot be eluded … Walt Whitman ‘To Think of Time’

1  Introduction This chapter argues that the United States of America is utterly influenced by the English tradition that penetrates the core of the nation, not only in cultural aspects but also in various details that have a direct link with the American foreign policy. This will lead the analysis to the three pillars of the American success in the steep paths of the international arena. I argue that (a) individualism, (b) mobility, and (c) a constant sense of exceptionalism not only make the U.S. unique among all the other states of the globe but they also attribute to the nation’s outstanding capacities and motivation to perform with great confidence and effectiveness in the international arena. Nevertheless, this performance does not take place in void. On the contrary, it firmly rests on five schools of thought, (1) the Hamiltonian, (2) the Wilsonian, (3) the Jeffersonian, (4) the Jacksonian, and (5) the Obamian. These five different approaches construct a unique armor for the U.S. in the international arena, revealing the scientific way that the U.S. designs its foreign policy and functions accordingly. This makes the study of the fundamentals of the American foreign policy a fascinating spin among the theory of international relations, American and European history, and political philosophy too.

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 S. N. Litsas, US Foreign Policy in the Eastern Mediterranean,



1  The Theoretical Foundations of the U.S. Foreign Policy

2  A Continental Country That Thought to Be an Island It may seem as an oxymoronic approach, yet the United States of America, or at least parts of its political, economic, and academic elites, identifies itself as an island lying between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. For example, Robert Kaplan (2017: 135) argues in his most recent book combining Halford Mackinder’s normative geographical analysis with his sharp socio-political approach: If, as I must repeat, you think of Afro-Eurasia as the “World Island”, in the words of the great British imperial geographer Halford Mackinder, then North America is the greatest of the satellite landmasses able to influence this World-Island.

This particular feeling is shared by a large number of the Americans regardless of where they live, either in the costs of the Atlantic or in the Pacific oceans or in the American inland (e.g., Yamashiro 2014). This rather sui generis mentality can be identified, if not even before, in the way the American society has framed itself in the international arena since embattled farmers “fired a shot heard round the world”1 against the British infantrymen at Concord’s North Bridge on the night of 18 April 1775, and from the early days of the establishment of New England after Mayflower reached Cape Cod. The sea was the route that brought the first English settlers to the shores of North America, carrying with them not only bold hopes for a new beginning on a new continent, but also an islander’s outlook. It may seem a bit cliché, but the United States’ fate is closely connected with the sea, not only in the early settlers’ days where the ocean was the only route of communication with civilization, but also today where the preservation of the free status of the sea routes around the globe is one of the most vital issues for the United States’ ontological survival. The American collective identity can be mainly identified in the way that the U.S. has formulated its foreign policy since the early days. Fundamental qualities and habits of islanders which an experienced anthropologist or an attentive tourist can identify in the code of conduct of an Englishman, a Corsican, a Sicilian, or a Greek can also be found in an American citizen as well. They are excessively fond for the land, have an amplified pride for historical past, hold a distinctive code of honor, and have an exceptional passion of freedom that can be either an appetite for unobstructed view of the big blue sea or a primordial desire to fight with the waves. The following poem of Timothy Dwight, written in the last pre-revolutionary period, reveals a rise of nationalism within the colonies which goes far beyond a mere tax collision between London and the North American British dominions, blended with a profound aura of naval expansionism that resembles more to the ancient Nordic hymns: Hail land of light and glory! Thy power shall grow Far as the seas, which round thy regions flow; Through earth’s wild realms thy glory shall extend, And savage nations at thy scepter bend. And the frozen shores thy sons shall sail, Or stretch their canvas to the ASIAN gale.

 This is a verse of the famous Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Concord Hymn that was sung at the completion of the Concord Battle Monument in July 4, 1837. 1

2  A Continental Country That Thought to Be an Island


No wonder why one of the pillars of the American literature is Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Many popular American shanties of the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries are about brave American sailors and the affinity the Americans feel about the great big ocean (Cohen 2008; Knapp 2005). Perhaps, the most distinct socio-­ ideological feature of the U.S. is that the oceanic connection can be equally felt as an essential part of the collective American identity, by disparate groups: a direct descendant of the first settlers of Jamestown; an offspring of the Afro-American slaves from the cotton plantations of the South; a Jewish survivor of one of numerous pogroms of the nineteenth century in Europe who found shelter in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights; a Greek, a Muslim, or an Armenian surviving the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after the end of the WWI; and a moist e pluribus unum by sea breeze and the hopes for a better life in the New World. The inhabitants of the new Shining City on a Hill regardless of their ethnicity or cultural or religious origins were eager to make a new beginning, simply by searching for a new life in this continental island, separated from the Old World with a vast trench of blue, hard-to-­ cross, water. The adoption of an islander’s endurance, one that promotes a fearless appetite for taming the unknown, would have surely seemed as an authentic endorsement for a new beginning by the newcomers in this part of the globe. Islanders feel the urge to control the sea surrounding their ontological existence, like Ernest Hemingway’s protagonist Santiago in the “Old Man and the Sea”. The same can be said for the U.S., too. It is a state with the instinct of an islander, with the urge to fight with each and every wave surrounding its entity. Even during late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the era of high friction with Britannia, the ruler of waves, America set as one of its main goals the use of the Atlantic Ocean as a naval trade route to import and more important to export goods to the rest of the globe. That goal soon enough became an existential need and a political reality when in 1793 France declared war on Britain and it simultaneously opened its West India Trade to Americans (Slaughter 2016: 27). The first period of the U.S. as a nation state, immediately after the end of the War of Independence, was characterized by the military and political attempts of the Americans to acquire the Trans-­ Appalachian West from the British and the Native Americans (Furstenberg 2008; Zemler 2014). Simultaneously, the new state applied considerable pressure upon London to secure its de jure presence in the Atlantic waters. Characteristically, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, and John Adams negotiated hard, and eventually succeeded, in securing grant concessions to the American fishermen in Canadian Waters by the British in the Treaty of Paris, September 3, 1783.2 The signing of the Treaty was a spectacular achievement of the American delegation, showing that from the early days, unobstructed access to the seas represented one of the main goals of the American foreign policy. As Peter Swartz (2017, 2, 3) notes, showing the great importance the U.S. was giving to its naval policy since the very early days:

 The Treaty of Paris ended the American War of Independence, granting the status of a sovereign state to the newly born nation. For more regarding the political and legal significance of the Treaty of Paris not only for North America but for Europe as well since the Treaty also put an end to hostilities between Britain and the European powers that supported the rebels see Jedson (2006). 2


1  The Theoretical Foundations of the U.S. Foreign Policy The United States has used its Navy as an important tool of national security policy since the very earliest days of the Republic. The Navy has participated significantly in all the nation’s wars, since the American Revolution through Operation Enduring Freedom. It has also served as a significant tool of American diplomacy and international economic policy during times of prolonged peace. America is used to thinking of its Navy as one of its leading institutions, and calling upon it to carry out a wide range of diplomatic, information, military and economic policies. These are fundamental bases of the American use of naval power—and while not unique in the world, they differ markedly from the experience of many other nations.

By having access to the Canadian coasts, the American side profited in many aspects, i.e., fishing rights and trading goods, yet the most important was that the new state did not experience a period of naval isolation. Both the public opinion and the administration elite considered the Atlantic Ocean as an extension of the American sovereign territory and not as a natural frontier. It was never felt that beyond that line only the great European powers had the capacity and the “right” to be actively involved; therefore it can be argued that the newly born nation never developed a syndrome of geostrategic inferiority. It goes without saying that the transformation of the U.S. into the mightiest naval power took time, consumed immense amounts of public money, required innovative thinking, sacrificed American lives, to name a few. Nevertheless, the maritime arena had been considered by the Americans, since the early days, as a venue of creative competition and fierce antagonism for the strengthening of the state. This detail played a decisive role in the way that the fundamental strategic orientations of the U.S. were to be shaped (Daughan 2008, 2011; Symonds 2016: 12–22). As I have already mentioned above, since the early days, the U.S. showed an old sea dog’s instinct deriving from its English roots. This was fully revealed by the fact that for the American trade vessels and warships, access to the Atlantic Ocean soon proved insufficient for the nation’s naval ambitions. Thus, few years after independence the Star Spangled Banner began to waive under the Mediterranean breeze in almost every major port. Yet, what led the American navy to include the region of the Mediterranean and in particular the eastern part of it to its greater strategic imperatives? The first reason can be found in the undisputable fact that the Mediterranean Sea is geographically the actual extension of the Atlantic Ocean, even in terms of natural resources, since the 71% of the Mediterranean water comes from the latter as a surface current, creating a sui generis form of interdependency (Phillips 2000: 5). Geography verifies the geostrategic dictum that in order for a state to impose its naval presence in the Atlantic Ocean it has to be strong in the Mediterranean Sea and vice versa. The examples of Elizabethan England (Nelson 2001: 82–123; Leyland 2011: 27–28), Phillip II’s Spain (Martin and Parker 1999; Hanson 2004), and later on Louis XIV’s France (Dull 2005) concerning the states’ intense efforts to become formidable naval powers by simultaneously imposing their presence in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea underline the ­continual geographic interconnection between the two seas, a fact that is still producing various economic and military phenomena of balanced and asymmetric interdependencies as well. The second reason has to do with the early postrevolu-

2  A Continental Country That Thought to Be an Island


tionary days of the U.S. and the orientation of the new state in the international arena. Undeniably, the newly born nation-state aimed to achieve an atypical form of political and military protectionism by keeping itself away from the European conundrums, yet not disconnected from the European socioeconomic developments.3 Thus, it proclaimed a complete form of neutrality.4 The new state was aware that in order to survive economically it had to, within a limited period of time, be a part of the world economic system. However, in order to survive politically and militarily it had to keep away from the European arena and begin to expand its hard power. Thus, the economic survival of the state entailed the establishment of an offshore naval trade, e.g., with China (Johnson 2012), as far and as soon as this was possible, while in parallel the avoidance of military frictions with the major international actors of that time became a pivotal goal. Perhaps, this sui generis blend of an atypical protectionism, coupled with the vigilant form of naval dynamism, substantially added to the American collective efforts to show the flag in the open seas. Since the early days the American navy had established its presence in the seas in a much more systematic way than the power leverage of the state should have had permitted. It is hard to tell if this was the result of the esoteric call of the sea for the Americans, deriving from their inherent islander’s psyche, or it was the product of a rational decision-making of the American political elite to build a formidable naval presence in order for the new state to be able to stand on its own feet in the international arena. Most probably, it was a combination of both. It was an utterly successful attempt of the U.S. to construct its appearance within such a limited period of time. This naval effectiveness gave the opportunity to America to establish a premier access for its commodities in all the major ports in the North Sea and in the Mediterranean as well. American goods were reaching some of the most prominent ports of that time: Barcelona, Marseilles, Venice, Genoa, Alexandria, Beirut, and Constantinople. This offered the opportunity to the newly established state to grow market share from the most prestigious part of the world’s naval trade of that time, and establish an efficient trade connection with the rest of the globe. Last but not least, through the naval presence of the U.S. in the Atlantic Ocean and in the Mediterranean Sea, the state gradually established diplomatic, political, and cultural relations with the Middle East and the Black Sea regions, thus creating a cosmopolitan aura for itself that up until that moment was the privilege only of the great naval European powers. It also allowed the U.S. to maintain its prospects open for future geostrategic developments. 3  According to the conclusions of a Congressional Committee back in 1784 “The fortune of every citizen is interested in the fate of commerce … for it is the constant source of industry and wealth; and the value of our produce and our land must ever rise or fall in proportion to the prosperous or adverse state of our trade” (Adams 1997: 160). 4  Characteristically, in his 1796 farewell address to the Americans, George Washington stated, “Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence therefore it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships, or enmities” (Avlon 2017: 303).


1  The Theoretical Foundations of the U.S. Foreign Policy

In essence, America managed the absolute rise in international politics. Though a fragile state immediately after the end of the War of Independence, it managed not to be a protectorate of any of the Great Powers of that time, though most of them were much more powerful. Furthermore, despite the fact that the U.S. proclaimed its unwillingness to be actively involved in the world politics of that time, it succeeded in showing and maintaining a naval pro-activeness, so much so that it was not restricted only in the Atlantic coasts of North America, but it reached the Eastern Mediterranean’s major trade ports. As Bradford Perkins (1993: 7) in the Cambridge History of the American Foreign Policy rightly argues: In the nation’s early years, foreign commerce was an extremely important factor in the economy. Although what was essentially subsistence farming remained predominant, a market economy steadily developed, and foreign markets quickly became an important part of the system. At no other time has such a high proportion of the national product been exported, and the price level of many important commodities was essentially determined by export prices. At least until John Quincy Adams’s presidency, every chief executive devoted much of his attention to the fostering of trade and the vibrant merchant marine that carried it.

It goes without saying that by investing substantially in its naval policy the U.S. immensely assisted the national economy to adopt an extroverted orbit in accordance of the world’s capitalist system (Weaver 2016: 25–46; Walton and Rockoff 2017: 111–119). For this, the international developments immensely helped as well. The international balance of power, and in particular the outbreak of the French Revolution, kept the European powers preoccupied with each other giving space to the U.S. to efficiently grow fast. Accordingly, this offered the opportunity to the U.S. to promote its national interests without provoking the geostrategic reflexes of the main international actors nor generating multiple security dilemmas.5 However, this did not undermine the innovative skills of the American people or the political instinct and the profound merit of the early American political elites. Sometimes, as an ancient Greek proverb says, luck helps the bold ones. Yet, almost always, it willingly gives a hand to those who truly deserve it. The U.S. was, personally I strongly believe that it still is, the home of the bold and the land of the competent where opportunities are transformed into effective policies allowing the U.S. to elevate itself to the highest levels of international structure. This unprecedented structure of collective success does not derive from a superior DNA, but from an extrovert and dynamic way of perceiving the world affairs which has its roots in the early days of the Republic (Booth and Wheeler 2008).

3  The Three Pillars of Success I still remember the summer of 2015, when I visited the North-Eastern coast of the U.S. as a fellow of a program of the State Department for scholars from all around the world, specialized on U.S. foreign policy. I asked each speaker in the program 5  For more regarding the theoretical dimensions of the security dilemma in international politics see Tang (2009), Booth and Wheeler (2008), and Bourne (2014: 93–114).

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what has been the secret of the American success. Interestingly, most of them were surprised and taken aback by this question, and in their response they avoided using of the word “success.” I believe that it is time to give a reply to my own question, but first it is important to understand the theoretical dimensions of the word “success” in international politics. Before continuing with the United States’ secret of success, it is important first to clarify that overall a successful state is usually the one which commits the least number of failures. This is mainly due to the fact that the expectation of complete success in politics, domestic or international, is rarely met (McConnell 2010: 346). Therefore, a state that is able to commit fewer mistakes, either because it is highly observable and learns from the mistakes of other states, or able to draw useful lessons from positive foreign experience, or because it has the capacity to absorb its own failures by not harming vital state functions, is usually the one that is being attributed by the other states the successful label. From a general and at the same time utterly idealistic point of view, success in international politics can be seen as the sum of those policies that redress power imbalances and reduce inequalities (Taylor and Balloch 2005; Pawson 2006). From a more specific and realistic point of view, success in international politics is an act which is amenable to positive identification, first by the citizens of the state that implements this and second by other states too. Nevertheless, the ultimate test for a state in order to prove, first to itself and then to all the others, that it is successful is to maintain in its highest form and level the instinct of survival.6 An interesting fact about the American secret of success is that the U.S. foreign policy meets all the above criteria in the international environment with the utmost positive outcome. For example, if someone monitors the territorial expansion of the U.S. after the end of the War of Independence, or the economic growth that had been achieved almost immediately after the birth of the American nation-state, then he/she will be able to notice that three main elements played a crucial role in transforming the U.S. into a major element of today’s international system and the architect of the sociopolitical system that the Western world enjoys since WWII. These three elements are (a) individualism, (b) mobility, and (c) exceptionalism.

3.1  Individualism The concept of individualism is widely acknowledged and analyzed in concepts related to the American culture (Girgus 1979; Naylor 1998; Turner 2012), focusing upon the idea that one provides for oneself and one’s family (Barlow 2013: 186). The American identity was heavily influenced by individualism, affecting in turn the way economic and foreign policy narratives evolved in this part of the American 6  According to Kenneth Waltz (1979, 126) survival is the attempt of the states to maintain their position in the anarchic international environment. For more about the implications of survival policies see among others Odysseos (2002).


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continent. However, why is American identity so closely connected with individualism? I argue that American individualism is closely connected with pioneering, the exploration of the American continent by small groups of internal immigrants that were required to move to the undiscovered vastness of the region in order to economically survive or thrive. Pioneering offered the opportunity to the Americans not only to tame the wild nature of the newly born state, but also to establish rural and urban centers deep inside North America. Thus this movement succeeded in establishing a rich economic diversity in the state’s growth model. Individualism does not disregard law and order, nor the Hobbesian principle of the need to form a collective base in order to attain survival from the state of nature (Wright 2004: 70–72; Bates 2012: 63–79). In this particular framework, individualism does not constitute a lack of sociability or nonobservance of prescribed laws. On the contrary, I argue that in the American collective identity, individualism plays the role of an indirect, yet intentional, incentive, since it offers the validation to those who believe that they have the skills to step forward and lead without having to engage with calcified bureaucracy and institutions, which may also require gaining approval against established social norms and paradigms. In other words, individualism can be seen as the capability of one to play the role of an avant-garde in order to pave the road for those who want to follow his/her lead. Perhaps, this is not easy to be fully understood by a European or an Asian where narcissistic historical analysis, collective identity, or strong religious ideas play focal role in the construction of national identities. On the contrary, Americans do not follow that pattern. For example, in 2014 during a Global Attitudes survey by Pew Research Center 57% of Americans disagreed with the statement “Success in life is pretty much determined by forces outside our control” (Gao 2015). This reveals a nation that strongly believes in its own abilities, a society that does not perceive itself as a whole body, but as a positive sum of individual will and ability. The American society instead of worshiping the post-rational dimensions of metaphysics, or giving credit to the postmodern rule of prevailing masses, seems to be much more inclined towards the two last verses of William Ernest Henley’s Invictus: “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” This specific aspect of the U.S. national identity can also be seen as a distinguishable approach of the American foreign policy in the frequently inhospitable alleys of the international system. The U.S. has played the role of the avant-garde in the international arena many times in the past, sometimes more reluctantly than some others and vice versa. However, especially since WWI the U.S. excessively made use of this individualistic approach in its foreign policy, to find a way out from the existing conundrum every time the legal, logistic, or political implications within the Western collective defense and security structure act as an obstacle, e.g., Operation Vittles during the Berlin airlift or the implementation of Truman Doctrine. It is important to note that this individualistic approach functions as the driving force for the establishment and

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the perseverance of an effective and reliant capitalist system in the States7 and serves as the cornerstone of a vigorous and efficient foreign policy especially after the end of the American Civil War (Fischer 2008; Perkins 1994). Last but not least, individualism can also be seen as the main ingredient for the sui generis mixture of the two other main characteristics of the American identity, mobility and exceptionalism.

3.2  Mobility Next element after individualism is mobility. The concept of mobility can be identified as the inner desire of the American people to discover new places, to establish new settlements, and to achieve growth and prosperity for family, the group, or the nation. Many analysts underline that the U.S. is a nation of immigrants. It is also a nation of pioneers. Those who explored the vastly unknown territories of the new state, in a quest to exploit, in their own favor, the great resources and the endless opportunities that America had to offer, could not be intimidated by the unknown. As Luther Ely Smith urges his compatriots: You will recall … there has grown up a new school of history in this country which has turned its eyes away from the exclusive attention that was formerly given to the Atlantic seaboard and has realized that the character of America was made not on the coastal plain of this great country but was forged in the frontier as the pioneers went out to grapple with the conditions which confronted them … We owe this debt to the pioneers, to Jefferson … to Daniel Boone and every one of these great men who trod this sacred soil … Let us pay back the debt we owe to the American pioneers who gave us the American nation and gave us the American character (Bodnar 1992: 189).

For pioneers, no obstacle was insurmountable. Immigrants had an earnest understanding that this country was their last chance in this life, and that their survival depended on their successful explorations of new lands to accommodate them and their families. This urge to discover new opportunities, new power resources, and new territories also creates a constant mobility in the American foreign policy too. New ideas, new trends, new norms, and new doctrines arrive daily in the U.S., making the state a great melting pot not only of different ethnicities, but also of new beliefs and new practices. This emphatic belief in cosmopolitanism, consciously or unconsciously, constantly invigorates the American society. Perhaps, it 7  This can be seen as the result of the combination of two different aspects of the individualistic methodology. On the one hand, as Yuxian Zhang (2013: 38) says, “Traditional Americans possess a strong sense of personal independence. They think of themselves as independent individuals. Of course, family and collective attention are important, but personal independence and individual rights are supreme.” While he continues, “Individualists advocate that the social intervention to the private behavior should be limited to a minimum degree.” The strong sense of personal independence and the equally strong detest towards social intervention upon private behavior can be seen as the womb and the cradle of the “laissez-faire” economic ideal which is the cornerstone of capitalism.


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is the bounty of ideologies which unites the nation instead of dividing it during times of high necessity. Or maybe this mobility urge opens opportunities in the international arena, constituting the deep meaning of Richard Hofstadter’s words that Americans do not embrace ideologies because America is an ideology (Lipset 1997: 18). Nevertheless, the result shows that from the early days of the Republic up until today, the nation managed to be a leading actor in the international scene by transforming the mobility urge into a fundamental doctrine of the U.S. foreign policy. From time to time, the conviction, or perhaps the fulfilling prophecy, emerges that the U.S. becomes a “dispensable nation” (Nasr 2013). A characteristic example of that specific thought comes from Ian Bremer (2013). As he argues: Since midway through George W. Bush’s tenure, there’s been a steady hum from the pundit class that America’s best days are behind it. An overreaching foreign policy, rising public debt, and a growing wave of outsourced jobs means that America will soon lose its status at the world’s preeminent power. America was quickly on its way to becoming Rome.

However, I argue that the U.S. is not declining. Perhaps the globe does not evolve anymore within a unipolar shell and hence multipolarity is the current systemic reality. Yet, the U.S. still is one of the leading actors in international politics and the most prominent Western state (Jones 2014; Kagan 2013; Nye 2012; Mead 2012a). The reason for this cannot be found solely in the unparalleled American hard or soft power. It has also to do with the fact that America is a nation of formidable collective narratives, and also a polity that reinvents itself through the formation of new ideas. It is the only nation in the world that failure, in any level, of the individual or in the collective manner, is not the end as long as the failure will be immediately replaced by a new effort. Once again, mobility is in the first line of the nation’s core ontology. The right of the individual to preserve, promote, and protect its own ideology is sacred for the American state and one of the pillars of its institutional order as it can be seen in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Therefore, it is not surprising for someone familiar with American politics to see people marching in favor and against gun control, for example, at a very close distance to each other. This is the product of an exemplary constitutional tolerance that it may have on various contradictory implementations in micro-societal issues. Nevertheless, this institutional boost for free thinking and expression of beliefs allows to a large part of the American society to be open to anything new appearing on the horizon, thus establishing the foundations for mobility and progress on a social level. Mobility can also be identified in the U.S. foreign policy as a constant search for the establishment of new spheres of American influence around the globe (Hybel 2014). It can be argued that the U.S. was the first power that adopted a “think and act out of the box” mentality many decades before this phrase acquired a ­comprehensible meaning in international politics. For example, the Louisiana

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Purchase8 of 1803 was a pivotal act of territorial transaction in the international scene. While Europeans were promoting and perpetuating war and the demise of thousands of young people in the “field of honor” as the only possible and moral way to promote their geostrategic and political claims in Old World style, Washington was testing every possible way to maximize the power capabilities and increase the territorial capacity of the nation as the Louisiana Purchase shows. In other words, while the Europeans for a long period of time were choosing to resolve their political issues through violent means, the Americans were opting for innovative diplomacy. Yet, this must not be seen as a perpetual revocation of violence from the American side. On the contrary, violence or the threat to make use of it when necessary to support the national interests was on the table every time that diplomatic persuasion was not sufficient. However, while the European powers were not paying attention to the friction that the use of violence was causing to their economies and societies the U.S. was trying to pursue with its strategic goals without disbursing its power in vain. The concept of mobility in the U.S. foreign policy was emphatically evident in those cases where America was achieving its political goals without resorting to violence. Perhaps, the most characteristic example of that specific approach can be found in Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry’s gunboat diplomacy towards Japan in the Bakumatsu period (1853–1854). The U.S. presented a rather persuasive ultimatum, do or accept the grave consequences, demanding from Japan to put an end to the 220  years of isolation by opening its gates to foreign trade. As a consequence, Japan became an influential international trade hub, a decisive step that caused deep political changes in Tokyo with the collapse of the isolationist Tokugawa shogunate and the restoration of the extrovert Meiji regime (Teo 2013: 31–33). It is important to note at this point that this mobility doctrine is not always popular in the White House, the Capitol Hill, the State Department, or the Pentagon. This systemic reluctance however towards this specific societal characteristic is being put in halt immediately when the U.S. feels that it is being challenged or that its established interests around the globe are questioned. For example, the American initiative to establish open diplomatic channels with the isolationist regime of North Korea, a decision being forwarded by Donald Trump’s administration, shows the intensity and the immense capacity of the U.S. mobility to its full potential. Why this intensity is taking place? Because the cornerstone of the American mobility in the international arena is the so-called American exceptionalism.

8  The failure of France to put down a slaves’ revolt in Tahiti led to the surrender of the French colonial authorities on November 9, 1803; the British naval blockade of France and the French fragile economy forced Napoleon to offer Louisiana for sale to the U.S. After continuous negotiations that lasted for some months the two sides agreed on the transfer of the Louisiana Territory, some 828,000 square miles of land for $15 million. For more see Bush (2014).


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3.3  Exceptionalism Many students of the American studies think that Alexis de Tocqueville produced a eulogy for the U.S. in his study about Democracy in America. In reality, the French writer tried to produce a well-balanced analysis able to introduce the American political system to the European readers. Despite the fact that de Tocqueville sincerely admitted the American political system and the American society by attributing the word “exceptional” to the way the nation was established, he also noticed an unprecedented American nationalism that seemed to trouble him. According to his analysis (1835: vol. II, part III, Chap. XVI): The Americans, in their intercourse with strangers, appear impatient of the smallest censure and insatiable of praise. The most slender eulogy is acceptable to them, the most exalted seldom contents them; they unceasingly harass you to extort praise, and if you resist their entreaties, they fall to praising themselves. It would seem as if, doubting their own merit, they wished to have it constantly exhibited before their eyes. Their vanity is not only greedy, but restless and jealous; it will grant nothing while it demands everything, but is ready to beg and quarrel at the same time (as cited by Restad 2015: x, xi).

However, the notion of exceptionalism was being attributed to the people of this corner of the globe much earlier than the Sons of Liberty decided to meet their destiny in the harbor of Boston. In 1630 the Puritan settler John Winthrop addressed his fellow pioneers, borrowing the idea from the Gospel of Mathews’ (5:14) description of the kingdom of God in earth, “wee shall be as a City upon a Hill, the eies of all people are upon us” (as cited by Camissa 2006: 29). Obviously, this form of pious exceptionalism was for internal use only among the first settlers, in order to boost their morale and to persuade those amid themselves who had second thoughts about their choice to leave England to reach the other side of the Atlantic that this decision was God’s will. However, as the decades passed since Winthrop delivered the above sermon, this almost hybrid form of religious exceptionalism had been blended with sociological and political elements producing a new theoretical foundation for the identity of the settlers and the character of their collective entity. For example, in its difficult decision to move against the mighty Great Britain, the American revolutionaries attempted to rationalize it as the direct intervention by the favorable divinity to their cause. As George Washington declared in his first inaugural address in the city of New York in April 1789: Every step by which [the United States] have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency (as cited by Weeks 2013: 34)

Someone would be right to comment that it is not the first, nor the last time, that a group of people attribute their revolution to a divine call. The same aura of metaphysical call can be sensed in the Greek Revolution of 1821 against the Ottoman Empire, in the Risorgimento or the Italian Unification (1815–1871), or even in the Mujahideen’s insurgency against the invading Soviet Army in Afghanistan in 1979. However, unlike all the other cases, the American rhetoric promoted the ideal that the pursue of liberty from the British did not happen just for themselves but it also

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concerned the rest of the globe. Thomas Paine (1776) openly suggested this in his notorious revolutionary pamphlet “Common Sense” when he stated, “We have it in our power to begin the world over again” (Kayne 2005: 3), while John Quincy Adams clearly proclaimed in 1821 that the U.S. “goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy … glory is not dominion but liberty … She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all” (Dyer 2012: 33). I attribute to American exceptionalism both the element of a collective behavioral process and this of a sui generis political practice for the U.S. in the area of foreign policy. American exceptionalism can be perceived as the moral civic pillar for the U.S. since the beginning of the War of Independence. On the one hand, it appears as a clear attempt of the American people to differentiate themselves from the common European practices and mentalities in the spectrum of international politics. As McEvoy-Levy (2001) accurately describes it: Defined in contrast to the Old World of feudalism, aristocracy, and intolerance, the United States was a new order based on reason, freedom, virtue, and equality before the law.

Since the early days, the U.S. worked hard to construct and promote internally all of these valuable and practical principles in economy and politics. These operated as a means of clear distinction between the European past of the population and its American future. While the Old World was governed by divine right monarchies and by prevailing hereditary aristocracies, the U.S. denounced all of these and established the first Republic in the era of modernity by promoting an alternative political system that the people held the role of the constitutional cornerstone and establishing a “natural aristocracy among men the grounds of which are virtue and talents” as Thomas Jefferson wrote to John Adams on October 28, 1813 (Vindex 2004: 123, 130), meaning that the finest and the most enlightened members of the American society were to be promoted to top positions in politics and governance. In addition, a genuine liberal economic system became the predominant model for primary wealth production, where the state refrained from interfering in the financial activities of the citizens,9 while the foundations for a public education for both sexes were also constructed during the early post-revolution days (Neem 2011). Therefore, in a theoretical dimension, the concept of exceptionalism reveals a noble struggle of the ex-settlers to deviate from their past to initiate new practices in domestic and international politics. American exceptionalism is another element, perhaps the most important one, of the multidimensional national identity of the 9  This truly progressive behavior of the American central government, at least during the first decades after the end of the War of Independence, was not only a matter of ideological choice of the Founding Fathers but also the result of the weakness of the new state to establish a firm control upon the financial activities of the American citizens. In reality, it was a combination between the ideological choice of the post-revolutionaries not to commit the same mistakes as London did with the colonies and of the unfitness of the new establishment to implement a strict control over the American society, especially since many citizens of the new state perceived the American War of Independence not as the birth of a new nation but as the establishment of a libertarian society with loose connections between its members. For more see Richman (2015) and Ferguson (2011: 115–128).


1  The Theoretical Foundations of the U.S. Foreign Policy

people who revolted against their ethnic, political, and cultural roots, in pursuit of a novel start. Thus, it must not be confused with any form of a supremacist ideology predominating Europe or Asia since the dawn of times. Perhaps, Alexis de Tocqueville attributed to the American citizens a forceful version of nationalism, yet this is not the U.S. I came in contact with. I witness during my visits in the States, or in the frequent discussions with colleagues from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, diplomats or politicians, individuals who constantly feel the need to apologize for the U.S. edge in the international system projecting everything else but a superiority syndrome. I remember once, during a round table at Tufts Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, that I had to remind the audience that many times during the past, the U.S. had to militarily intervene due to European unwillingness or inability to deal effectively with its resident problems, e.g., the Greek Civil War, the Suez Crisis, the Indochina War, and the Yugoslav Civil War. I am not suggesting that American society is chauvinism free. Yet, I maintain the view coming from personal experience that compared with the rest of the globe, the American society is the most cosmopolitan and least nationalistic collective. The Americans are proud of what their forefathers achieved by abandoning their old countries and arriving in their new home with the desire to make a new beginning and offer a better future. This I call a sui generis form of patriotism, being heavily influenced by the sparkling aura of American exceptionalism, instead of the customary European or Asian chauvinism. This notion has mainly to do with the fact that unlike the typical form of nationalism penetrating world politics, American patriotism derives from the moral commitment of the American society to act as an international role model instead of considering itself as the chosen one.10 In other words, American patriotism absorbs pride from its deeds in the domestic or the international level, instead of feeling itself a supreme ethnic group in the world as other societies feel or used to feel during the past (Hayes 2017; Breen 2006; Craige 1996; Hansen 2003). Additionally, American exceptionalism also fully reveals its sui generis nature in the area of implementing foreign policy. The U.S. is a normal state, constantly striving to protect its national interests, thus following the paradigm of other great powers of the past. I am referring to this aspect because it is crucial to comprehend that exceptionalism does not transform the U.S. into an irrational actor of the international system or into a Don Quixote tilting at windmills. Nevertheless, I argue that the implementation of a foreign policy based on exceptionalism develops into two directions. The first evolves in the way in which the U.S. behaves with its allies. It is the first time ever in history where a great power treated its own allies not as simple disposable pawns in the international chessboard, but as equal members knowing that if one collapses then the others will follow and this will affect the American international status. American exceptionalism in this particular approach refers to the fact that the U.S. had taken a rational decision, especially after the end of WWII, to treat its allies by following the primus inter pares approach instead of

 For well-established opposite arguments see among others Billig (1995: 154–173), Lieven (2004), Smith (1997: 197–242, 286–346), and Bonikowski and DiMaggio (2016).


3  The Three Pillars of Success


the European or the Asian common practice to implement a primus solus policy. It goes without saying that this sui generis American approach is in accordance with the theoretical analysis of international relations arguing that alliances with a more flexible bonds last longer than those which function under the iron grip of the state in charge. Thus, the American primus inter pares is the fundamental reason why NATO is the most successful defense alliance in human history, compared with the failing paradigm of the Warsaw Pact, which perished due to Soviet inflexibility.11 Nevertheless, the abovementioned form of American exceptionalism has been negatively affected by the attitude of Trump administration towards America’s NATO allies. Yet, due to the short period which this kind of an approach is being operated by the White House the harm on American exceptionalism is not yet permanent or able to hurt Western unity. The other reason has to do with the fact that the U.S. is the only state in modern times that public opinion plays a fundamental role in the way its foreign policy is being shaped and implemented (Holsti 2004; Sobel 2001). Since 1648, the emerging nation-states have drawn a line between the process of conducting their foreign affairs and their domestic matters. While, in various cases, taxation or construction of a new public building or road in the capital was a matter of public consent, in matters of foreign policy and in particular for the formation of an alliance or the declaration of a war the people’s opinion was never asked. This elitist behavior can still be traced in European politics today where governmental accountability is almost never asked in cases of foreign policy or national security. Citizens in the European Union today are usually being asked on economic, education, public, and private health issues. Yet their opinion is never being asked for matters of high politics such as the signing of a peace treaty or the declaration of war. On the contrary, the American public opinion frequently determines high politics decision-making of the state. I am not suggesting that the American public is not the subject of special spinning when the political will of a government tries to implement a specific policy in the areas of diplomacy or of defense. From WWI to the Afghan war against the Taliban and the Iraqi war of 2003 the American public opinion is under constant spinning in order for its own will to be in accordance with the political goals of the state. The nexus of such spinning of the American public opinion is performed by the famous lobbying industry, which thrives in every major urban center in the country (Drutman 2015). This influence sector does refer to not only corporate or religious policies, but also issues of foreign policy through the operation of ethic lobbies. Yet, this form of American exceptionalism in the area of foreign policy does

 During the Cold War two major internal incidents put the unity of the alliance into question. On June 21, 1966, France withdrew its troops from NATO, while on August 14, 1974, Greece followed the French example. I am not interested here in the reasons that led to these political decisions but I am focusing on the American reaction that was utterly peaceful. The Soviet Union approached the two major crises within the Warsaw Pact, the Hungarian Uprising of 1956 and the Prague Spring of 1968, by making extensive use of force. The comparison between the four cases reveals the difference between the American and the Soviet methodology in dealing with their alliance networks.



1  The Theoretical Foundations of the U.S. Foreign Policy

not always have positive results for the national interests of the state. In various cases, the U.S. foreign policy adopts a more sentimental or romantic approach due to the influence of the public opinion, or in other times populism wins over rationality, since in the end of the day politicians seek votes to hold their offices. Hence, they are often hesitant to disregard the opinion of their voters even in matters where the widespread collective conviction is against the national interest or moves in an opposite direction from the American international obligations and goals. Populism never blends well with international politics; thus the role of skillful diplomats, national security advisors, or secretaries of the department of state is always pivotal in order to erect a wall between the public pressure and the political necessities deriving from the need to exercise a rational foreign policy. This blend between the aura of populism and American exceptionalism is often disregarded by European analysts regarding the understanding of the U.S. foreign policy, for reasons that have to do with the difficulty of the representatives of the Old World comprehending the influential role of the American public opinion in matters of foreign policy (Berinsky 2012; Mead 2012b: 55–66). I am not suggesting that the U.S. functions in a more democratic way than France, Germany, or the Netherlands, for example, just because the public opinion of the former plays a greater role in influencing the foreign policy of the state itself. Nevertheless, the role of the public opinion in shaping the foreign policy is a vital difference between the two sides of the Atlantic Ocean, an element that makes the functioning of American exceptionalism more noticeable in the area of foreign policy. The three abovementioned elements that influence deeply the operation of the state and American foreign policy itself can be seen as the cornerstone of the U.S. structure in the international arena. They also, as it will be analyzed in the following paragraphs, deeply shape the five main schools of thought and practice of the U.S. foreign policy. These schools of thought derive from the political implementations, as well as from the decision-making process of the American political elites and also from the interactions with the American public. Thus, it is important not only just to refer to them but also to study their theoretical and empirical proportions in order to comprehend their impact on the shaping of the foreign policy of the United States of America. Nevertheless, before continuing it is important to note here that for four out of five schools of thought that are going to be presented I am following Walter Russell Mead’s analysis.12 The reason for choosing to follow Mead’s analytical pattern derives from the fact that I consider his method a breakthrough in the theoretical aspects of the American foreign policy. The fifth school of thought is my own contribution to the wider theoretical process, adding a new element to Mead’s approach.

 It is important to note at this point that are few more approaches regarding the origins of shaping the U.S. foreign policy besides that of Walter Russell Mead, very informative and interesting too. For more see Kennan (1951). Perkins (1952), McDougal (1997), Kissinger (2015: 234–329), Amstutz (2014), Quinn (2010), McDougal (2016), and Farr (2008).


4  The Hamiltonian School of Thought


4  The Hamiltonian School of Thought The first school of the American foreign policy is the Hamiltonian (Mead 2002: 99–131). It is named after Alexander Hamilton, one of the most prominent figures of the War of Independence, a founding father of the States and the first Secretary of the Treasury (Brookhiser 2000). The Hamiltonian school is the closest version to the fundamental principles of classical realism (i.e., Thucydides, Hobbes, Carr, Morgenthau) in the American foreign policy. For this reason, Hamiltonians are fervent supporters of the continual enhancement of the American hard power, in particular of the military’s naval power of the state as a means to ensure that the free access for American merchants to maritime trade will not be suspended due to the violent intervention of another power wishing to compete with the U.S. in the open seas. Preserving the free merchant passage for the American ships, Hamiltonians set the goal to protect the U.S. national interests on the one hand, and the principles of free-market economy on the other. This interconnection can be explained through the way that Hamiltonians approach international politics. The unobstructed functioning of global economy which is closely connected with the open naval routes of the oceans is observed by the Hamiltonians as one of the cornerstones for the American might and progress. This strong tie between the naval trade and the American national interest is visible since the early days of the newly born American nation. As Kenneth Hagan (1991: 389) writes: Two centuries ago, in the first decade of constitutional government, the U.S.  Congress shaped a navy to suit the national purpose. Intended to keep open the trade routes of the Mediterranean in the face of North African piracy and to counter French incursions on the United States maritime trade in the West Indies, the navy was small, fast and bold.

By promoting a more energetic stance in the seas, the U.S. was testing the waters in order to build up an effective deterrent mechanism against potential aggressors. In addition, it was sending the clear message to the rest of the international system that it was willing to act against any force that was questioning its right to participate in the global free trade, and thus preserve the economic and cultural connections with the Old World. I support the view that this particular goal, a necessity and at the same time a great challenge for the U.S., derives from the mobility element that characterizes deeply the Hamiltonian school of thought. Any protectionist policy that is being adopted in the international scene goes against the Hamiltonian practice and its openness towards international trade. According to this particular approach, the U.S. national interests are being much better protected by the aptness and the willingness of the state to be actively involved in international affairs, primarily to those fields which have a direct connection with naval trade and free-­ market economy. I argue that this almost unique combination of a realist evaluation regarding the concept of national interest, on the one hand, and of a profoundly extroverted national character, on the other, comes from the English foreign policy of which the Hamiltonian school of thought openly embraces. The Hamiltonians are not only blatantly in favor of a special relationship between the U.S. and the UK but they also


1  The Theoretical Foundations of the U.S. Foreign Policy

consider their nation as a guardian of the Anglo-Protestant heritage at the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. This connection not only does refer to the obvious link between two nations that hold the strategic importance of dominating the seas, but it also relates to the common sociopolitical practices, religious beliefs, and cultural bonds. Samuel Huntington (2004: 59) writes: America had always had its full share of subcultures. It also has had a mainstream Anglo-­ Protestant culture in which most of its people, whatever their subcultures, have shared. For almost four centuries this culture of the founding settlers has been the central and the lasting component of American identity … America’s Anglo-Protestant culture has combined political and social institutions and practices inherited from England, including most notably the English language, together with the concepts and values of dissenting Protestantism …

The Hamiltonian school of thought welcomes challenges and opportunities in the international arena, promoting the very fundamental idea of the mobility element that a state has constantly to strive diplomatically, militarily, and economically in order to seize new sources of power that will allow either the continuation of the existing status quo or the establishment of a new balance of power in favor of its interests and goals. For the Hamiltonian school of thought, international organizations and diplomatic agreements are a necessary part of the international game, yet rules can always change or even be ignored in case all these de jure arrangements prove to bring a negative result to the international status of the U.S. In addition, in front of the everlasting dilemma ethos vs. power, Hamiltonianism, as a genuine representative of classical realism from a theoretical point of view, always endorses what promotes the American national interest without taking into consideration the moral or the political repercussions. For example, the U.S. has never been restrained from taking the warpath by a nonunanimous decision at the UN Security Council when war serves the nation’s goals, nor is it a state party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (Grossman 2004). Yet, whenever it is necessary Washington refers publicly to those rogue states who defy international law and condemns those who commit crimes against humanity. Thus, it comes as no surprise that the Hamiltonians do not renounce violence as a political tool in the international arena and do not hesitate to obliterate the pacta sunt servanda in diplomacy when the American national interests are in stake or in the case that a great opportunity has arisen for the American international status. Perhaps, one of the most characteristic cases in the U.S. history was the promise that the U.S. Secretary of State, James Baker, gave to the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev about the non-­ expansion of NATO towards the ex-Warsaw Pact members or the Baltic States and the collapse of that promise as soon as conditions allowed (Braithwaite 2016). Unlike the moral issues that the Russian side today brings on the surface the reality is that international politics is a domain of harsh decisions and Hamiltonians know that very good. Through NATO’s enlargement towards the east the U.S. secured the geostrategic advantage of the Alliance in European affairs, while it also safeguarded the fragile post-Cold War balance of power in the Old World during the last decade of the twentieth century.

5  The Wilsonian School of Thought


In addition, when the President George H. W. Bush, a well-known supporter of the Hamiltonian school of thought, decided to hit hard Saddam Hussein with the Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm and drive the Iraqi army out of Kuwait to bring to an end the emerging global oil crisis and the undermining of the American status in the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean, he was acting according to his Hamiltonian beliefs. Many academics, or even members of the American political establishment, did not understand Bush’s decision not to chase Saddam Hussein until his collapse. However, G. H. W. Bush was much more practical and did not want to put in danger the life of one more soldier, or to spend one more penny of the American tax payers’ money, after the political goal to push the Iraqi army away from the oil field of Kuwait had been achieved. The Hamiltonian practice will not seek for a confrontation that may not produce clear benefits for the state, yet it will not hesitate not even for a moment to mobilize the U.S. military force in order to put an end to a situation that openly undermines the American interests, high, medium, or low.

5  The Wilsonian School of Thought As it has already been mentioned above, the U.S., both as a collective sociopolitical entity of the Pluribus that gave birth to the Unum and as a foreign policy implementation mechanism, is characterized by the profound sense of exceptionalism. This can also be clearly seen in the second American foreign policy school of thought, the Wilsonian Mead (2002: 132–173). Despite the fact that various analysts misinterpret Wilsonianism with idealism (e.g., Steigerwald 1994; Winkelmann 2014), a thorough analysis on the fundamental principles of the former will show an opposite direction. Before starting with the analysis of the Wilsonian school of thought, it has to be noted that while the Hamiltonians, as it was shown in the above paragraphs, can be labeled as followers of classical realism, the Wilsonians follow a customized form of realism based on their fundamental ideological beliefs. For example, Wilson’s biographer Arthur S. Link (1971) attributes the label “higher realism” to the former’s foreign policy, while Francis Fukuyama (2006) argues in favor of the formulation of “realistic Wilsonianism” in the U.S. foreign policy. The Wilsonian perspective has its roots in the influential role of the American missionary tradition in the U.S. diplomatic relations around the globe. American missionaries had and still have a very active presence all around the globe, especially in places facing economic failure or political instability. American missionaries are mainly associated with Protestantism, a religious denomination that within the context of Christianity follows a more liberal or perhaps less traditional course of action compared with that of the Orthodox Christian Church or of the Roman Catholic Christianity. This Protestant character offers to the American missionary movement a profound dynamism and a sincere will to offer to the non-privileged ones. Thus, unlike the Christian Orthodox missionary expeditions that were operating under the


1  The Theoretical Foundations of the U.S. Foreign Policy

flag of the Byzantine Empire in a clear attempt to advocate the imperial interests, or the Catholic ones that were advancing the political goals of the Vatican, the American missionaries in general did not have a hidden political agenda. On the contrary, they were genuinely offering solutions to the local predicaments as long as the people which were receiving the missionaries’ help were willing to adopt their moral and religious convictions. While European missionary web functioned mainly as a means to promote the economic or territorial claims of the European states, the American missionary nexus was characterized as a vehicle for promoting the American cultural concepts (Harris 1991; Ryu 2001). It goes without saying that this course of action does not constitute an apolitical process but rather an alternative method that combines politics with moral beliefs and a genuine desire to provide to those who are in need, as long as the latter are ready to abandon their old habits and methods of conduct. As Robert Woodberry underlines (2012: 244): … conversionary Protestants were a crucial catalyst initiating the development and spread of religious liberty, mass education, mass printing, newspapers, voluntary organizations, most major colonial reforms, and the codification of legal protections for nonwhites in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The American missionary movement set the goal to establish or improve the American national prestige all around the globe, building the foundations for a concrete soft power policy under the label of Missionary Cosmopolitanism.13 This is exactly how the Wilsonian school of thought operates in the dark alleys of the international arena, with an apparent and sometimes aggressive missionary manner every time that a sign of oppression or a humanitarian crisis appears on the horizon and becomes recognized by the American public opinion, the media, or the academic and political elites. Wilsonians will not hesitate to act violently, if this is necessary, in order to protect or establish liberal democracy all around the globe, on the one hand, while on the other, they see as their highest duty to preserve peace even through war operations. These two main goals of the Wilsonian school of thought, including all the related oxymoron aspects, will be described in the following paragraph. The unreserved support of the Wilsonian foreign policy to democracy may sound at odds; however it is not. It goes without saying that when Wilsonians refer to democracy they primarily mean the right of the people to choose for their own governments and be able to decide for their own future by freely casting their vote in fixed periods of time. Despite the fact that this in terms of political philosophy or of constitutional law may sound quite unrefined, still it aims to recognize for humanity the right of political choice. Thus Wilsonianism is openly against any form of tyranny, despotism, or every political unit aiming to disturb the democratic procedures  As David Hollinger (2017: 291) writes about the concept of Missionary Cosmopolitanism, this is a blend deriving from the Wilsonian dream of a world order based on American notions of liberal democracy and from the progressive flank of Ecumenical Protestantism and it is “opposing colonial empires, vigorously supporting world government, and enthusiastically embracing human rights. Missionary Cosmopolitanism helped shape the formal commitments of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” 13

5  The Wilsonian School of Thought


within a state at an international level. This particular school of thought is utterly puritan in terms of collective representation, while it also presents an unconditional antithesis to colonialism as a political practice. For the Wilsonians, democracy, in every form but especially in its liberal dimension, represents a unique feature of the American national identity and of the values that characterize the American political system, mainly due to its anti-monarchic political evolution. This is why the fervent support for democracy must be seen not only as a political systemic preference of the American collective mentality but also as a tool to establish closer ties with other states and communities around the globe. Under its sui generis realistic methodology in foreign policy, the Wilsonian school of thought promotes specific aspects of asymmetric interdependence14 at an international level in economy or in cultural bonds. While Wilsonian exceptionalism accepts multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism in international politics and appreciates alien ideas and views, it promotes American values and liberal democracy as almost compulsory ingredients in order to build strong and sincere diplomatic ties with other elements of the international arena. This is a clear attempt to construct an enduring multidimensional network of communication and cooperation with other states or communities, with more to share than just common military goals. This is the main reason for poor relations with nondemocratic regimes when a new President arrives at the White House with an appreciation for the Wilsonian ideals. On top of that, Wilsonianism aims to export and protect the democratic ethics because it firmly believes that states sharing common sociopolitical values can cooperate more easily and form endurable alliances with each other. According to this approach, these connections are not restricted just in matters of economy or of hard power cooperative schemes but also refer to issues of soft power too. The Wilsonian school of thought is clearly influenced by the Ancient Greek city-state of Athens. Athens was making use of its political structure both as a promotion tool of the vigor of the city and as a diplomatic apparatus in order to attract, or force, other states to enter the prestigious Athenian hegemonic network, the Delian League. It goes without saying that common political values help mutual understanding and coordination in foreign policy decision-making as the example of the harmonious cooperation of the U.S. with the Western European states shows during the Cold War. This fundamental Wilsonian tool for the promotion of the U.S. foreign policy fully justifies the American decision to invest heavily in capital and effort in order to promote a democratic way of political operation in Iraq and Afghanistan too. President George W. Bush, a prominent Wilsonian in the post-Cold War era, wanted to secure these two states in the Western camp in order to achieve the withdrawal of the U.S. military forces. According to his approach, the best way to have positive permanent results regarding the sociopolitical orientation of the Iraqi and the Afghan societies was the introduction of democracy in these two states in order to establish  Asymmetric interdependence of nonmilitary source in international politics is when the state A and the state B have already established relations, yet B is more dependent from this connection than A, while it is in the A’s interest to maintain the connection with B which offers a kind of a leverage to the latter too. For more see Keohane and Nye (1997: 10–15) and Touval (2002: 157).



1  The Theoretical Foundations of the U.S. Foreign Policy

a liberal democratic, therefore pro-Western, political order. The failure of Bush’s policy on transforming Iraq and Afghanistan Muslim liberal-democratic heavens had mainly to do with the fact that both Sunni and Shia Islam, the predominant religious denominations in Afghanistan and Iraq, are incompatible with democratic values. Democratic peace theory (Rasler and Thompson 2005; Halabi 2016; Litsas 2012) that G. W. Bush aspired to implement in order to cope with the Taliban regime and with the rise of the jihadists in post-Saddam Iraq proved to be one of the most expensive and nonproductive policies that had been ever implemented by the White House. Frequently, Wilsonianism, as other schools of foreign policy do too, has its eyes fixed on the final goal without first scanning the existing framework or seeing the big picture itself with its potential negative results. The failure of the democratic peace theory to deliver what was promising proves it. In addition, as it has already been referred to, the Wilsonian school of thought is willing to resort to violence in order to protect global peace and order. Despite the fact that this sounds as one of the most oxymoronic concepts in international politics, someone has to perceive it for its content rather than for its connotations. For sure, when Wilsonians declare that they are prepared to resort to organized violence in order to protect global peace they sound as a hawkish candidate in the World Beauty Contest. However, what they stand for is the preservation of the international status quo when this is in favor of the American national interests. Quite frequently when a politician promises for a set of policies that will protect global peace and order the public thinks that he/she is referring to the ideal international condition that will put an end to the organized violence and will transform the international arena into a venue of open communication and cooperation between its members. Nevertheless, for reasons that have to do mainly with the nature of international politics and also with human nature, such promises are unachievable and the politician who promotes this narrative either chooses to deceive the electoral body by resorting to populism or simply refers to the preservation of the existing international status quo instead. Wilsonianism is in favor of protecting the existing status quo only when this favors the American national interests. The protection of the status quo may be achieved either through the use of organized violence or through the establishment of international institutions that will increase cooperation and will be able to regulate international competition or antagonism. For example, the commencement of the Korean War in the summer of 1950 can be seen as an American decision that was unfolding under the Wilsonian eagerness to preserve the postwar status quo, while the creation of the League of Nations under President Woodrow Wilson’s encouragement is another case that brings on the surface the status quo nature of the Wilsonian School of thought. Democracy and preservation of peace are the fundamentals of Wilsonianism in the U.S. foreign policy but only as a means to strengthen the American values and interests in the international system. Therefore, the Wilsonian school of thought in U.S. foreign policy must not be confused with the idealist school of thought in International Relations Theory.

6  The Jeffersonian School of Thought


6  The Jeffersonian School of Thought The Jeffersonian school of thought (Mead 2002: 174–217) is named after one of the most influential figures in American politics, Thomas Jefferson. He was one of the Founding Fathers of the American state, the main author of the Declaration of Independence, the third President of the U.S., and the instigator of the American exceptionalism (Cogliano 2006). The Jeffersonian school of thought is one of the most influential approaches in the American foreign policy due to the fact that the public opinion seems to be more in favor towards its principles and practices. This popular preference may primarily derive from the profound lack of sophistication that characterizes this particular approach. For example, while the previous two approaches promote a realist conduct in international politics, Jeffersonians perceive the states’ course of action in the international arena as a set of parallel monologues instead of a complex set of multidimensional interstate correlations. They do not perceive the international arena as a venue of constant and complex political and economic interdependencies, but as a venue where states may remain secluded into their own microcosmos. As Walter Russell Mead explains during his public conversation with Harry Kreisler (2003) at the Institute of International Studies of the University of California, Berkeley: … the Jeffersonian view which says the United States government should not go hand-in-­ glove with corporations. That will undermine democracy. It’ll get us involved with despots abroad … So you look at somebody Ralph Nader as a Jeffersonian, who sees the World Trade Organization (WTO) as a corporate, big government plot against democracy at home and democracy abroad. But at the same time, this Hamiltonian goal of a grand, global order gets us involved in conflicts with people overseas. We're involved in the Middle East, so people hate us in the Middle East, so they come and attack us as on September 11th. “If we’d never set foot in the Middle East, we wouldn't have these problems,” say Jeffersonians. That’s the logic of antiwar movements, and we've certainly seen a lot of Jeffersonian [values] over the generations

This particular approach does not mean that the Jeffersonian school prioritizes the domestic affairs of the state, as it will be shown later on that Jacksonians do. Jeffersonianism supports the view that any interference with the Hobbesian international arena will affect negatively American exceptionalism by bringing upon the key principles which sustain the American political model damage beyond repair. A Jeffersonian would think that the city upon the hill will not be able to preserve its glowing status if it will decide to play the role of a deus ex machina and be involved in every international crisis. While such a posture maintains an emphatic pretentiousness, resembling more the attitude of an overindulged Olympian god than a state, it has to be said that it holds a fundamental position in the American collective consciousness. George Washington in his farewell address in 1796 offered to his compatriots his version of Jeffersonian foreign policy by arguing: It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it,


1  The Theoretical Foundations of the U.S. Foreign Policy therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them. Taking care always to keep ourselves by suitable establishments on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.

The Jeffersonian school does not promote a profound phobia for the international domain because it is in favor of a self-sufficient economy (Irwin 2005; Beard 2017). As a consequence, it holds a negative stance to international overexposure because as it argues the state compromises its independence by burdening itself with public expenditure or sovereign loans in order to pursue its foreign policy. The example of the anti-war movement before the U.S. entrance in the WWII under the name America First or the even more controversial Mother’s Movement is the characteristic paradigms placing the Jeffersonian rhetoric at the epicenter of their course of action (Sarles 2003; Jeansonne 1996). In addition, the Jeffersonian economic philosophy moves away from enormous expenditure schemes or any other form of exaggerations regarding the tax payers’ money in order for the state to subsidize its overexposure in the international environment. According to Jeffersonianism, international overactivity requires for a larger and well-equipped army and also for a substantial diplomatic and cultural presence all over the globe, which demand for extensive public spending. In order for the public expenditure to be continued, higher taxes must be put in place, creating a more centralized, thus forceful, state administration and a weaker society. Jeffersonians are in principle libertarians. Thus, any form of de jure or de facto development that adds value or extra strength to the government finds the Jeffersonians in the opposite direction. According to their own ideological stance, governments operate against the people or their pursuit of the fundamental liberties to act, live, and work free from the state’s inelastic institutional control. This may sound controversial for a polity that did not inherit its statehood but fought for its independence, yet Jeffersonians are individualistic in nature, opposing the ratio of the Hobbesian Leviathan imposing its collective will upon the single unit. Many times, a large part of the American public opinion opposes to the sending of U.S. Armed Forces to a distant and utterly destabilized corner of the earth in order to establish a nonviolent status quo. The rest of the world may think that these voices promote pacifism and conventional noninvolvement but in reality they comie from the libertarian Jeffersonian school of thought which opposes in principle the international overexposure of the state and the manifestation of the pursuits of the polity at the expense of the citizen’s will. The strong objections of the American Jeffersonians against the exposure of the state in the Vietnam War, or in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria today, move under the abovementioned ratio of this specific school of thought. The Jeffersonian influence on the foreign policy decision-making of the state does not have to do with the alleged accuracy of this specific approach but with the fact that the public sentiments and numbers play an advanced role in the way that the White House moves in the international arena. As it would have been well expected, the American political and economic elites are not fervent supporters of the Jeffersonian school of thought in foreign policy. This approach, not openly declared in most of the cases due to the popularity of the

7  The Jacksonian School of Thought


school, has mainly to do with the fact that the Jeffersonian school of thought is anti-­ bourgeois, while it also develops a rather skeptical approach to the operation and to the overall utility of the big corporate institutions, central government included. On issues of foreign policy, the American public rallies around the Jeffersonian ideas, consciously or unconsciously, whenever a case of U.S. international involvement arises, especially when American state of affairs have not been attacked directly or are under threat. Thus, the American elites simply try to subtlety overcome the Jeffersonian objections by disregarding their negative reactions, but without openly objecting the core of Jeffersonian philosophy. However, if the sentiments of the Jeffersonian public opinion are ignored for a long period of time and the American political elite will pursue with policies that expose the U.S. in the international arena then the public pressure will begin to increase to the point that the directions of the American foreign policy will have to be readjusted in order to meet the rising public demands and conclude the venture akin to the well-known slogan of bring boys back home. The anti-war movement, especially during the last phase of the Vietnam War and with direct consequences on the American military presence in Indochina, saw the emergence of the well-known Vietnam Syndrome. This may offer a comprehensible conclusion regarding the true nature of the Jeffersonian school of thought—it is raw, simplistic, egocentric, and above all popular (Hall 2012; Wells 2005; Zimmerman 2017; Simons 1998; Peterson 2014: 81–83). It has to be noted at this point that the Jeffersonian approach is so strong among a large part of the American masses that the Vietnam Syndrome, since the fall of Saigon, appears every time U.S. military forces are exposed in boots-on-the-ground operations [BOTG]. I am not sure though whether this collective postwar trauma that reappears in the social structure of the U.S. with Afghanistan, Iraq, or Syria is a normative return to the darkness of the past, or it is a cultivating development from the influential anti-systemic Jeffersonian pressure groups. The result however is the same and it is never positive for the American foreign policy.

7  The Jacksonian School of Thought Jacksonianism (Mead 2002: 218–263) has been named after the seventh American President, Andrew Jackson (Brands 2006). In general terms, Andrew Jackson was a politician who worked in favor of the common citizen against amoral elites. Additionally, his main preoccupation was the preservation of the union which was under both constant strategic and economic pressure from external forces, such as Great Britain, and also from internal elements such as fiscal corruption derived from U.S. credit institutions. While the Jacksonian school of thought does not limit itself only to the personal convictions of Andrew Jackson, it maintains an emphatically unconventional approach in the field of U.S. politics including the area of foreign policy that comes very close to his views and convictions. The first aspect of this unconventionality can be identified in the sociopolitical synthesis of the Jacksonian followers inside America. Like the Jeffersonian school


1  The Theoretical Foundations of the U.S. Foreign Policy

of thought the Jacksonian approach is extremely popular among the American citizens, while it is equally disliked by American elites. Someone can identify a follower of the Jacksonian school of thought in every American rural or urban center, or may witness a pure dialogue among Jacksonian enthusiasts either at a posh hotel lobby in Manhattan or in a humble diner along Route 66. The simplicity of the Jacksonian school of thought regarding the perplexities of the international environment is what makes it very popular to large American audience. It basically promotes a zero-sum game approach to international politics, thus not giving a high credit to the art of diplomacy as a tool to promote national theses, while crude populism in domestic politics plays a great role regarding the Jacksonian widespread approval. Everything that does not have to do with the internal affairs of the state is being considered as a waste of time and of national resources for the Jacksonians, since only the elites and in particular their economic ventures can be benefited by international volatility and risk-taking. Why the U.S. decided to invade Iraq in 2003? For a Jacksonian the answer is very simple and has to do with the vindication that the American elites found a great way to maximize their gains as war profiteers. This is the exact same argument that dictates the American public opinion every time the country is being involved in a conflict since the American Civil War.15 The average Jacksonian is convinced that the main obligation of the U.S. is to enforce internal law and order and increase prosperity to the American citizens, and that every intervention of the state abroad weakens the ability of the administration to improve the living conditions of the people. This particular approach makes the well-educated and cosmopolitan elites of the U.S., mainly supporting either the Hamiltonian or the Wilsonian school of thought, to regard the Jacksonian approach not only as a pure source of populism like the Jeffersonian school of thought, but also as the predominant force of isolationist ideas within the American society. It opposes globalization, free-market economy, and cultural exchanges with other states, choosing the model of a state-fortress instead of an open state with liberal principles in economy and politics. Nevertheless, these arguments do not succeed in minimizing the popular support of Jacksonianism. The great numbers who support the Jacksonian approach, many times without even knowing that they are “Jacksonians” or without being aware of the other three schools, make it politically robust, since the majority of the American society, regardless of their ideological identity, tend to rally around the Jacksonian ideas and practices in every international event that the U.S. is being  The most famous phrase that reflects the Jacksonian spirit regarding war is the one of Smedley D. Butler, a retired U.S. Marine Corps Major General and two-time Medal of Honor Recipient, who after his retirement in the early 1930s made a nationwide tour arguing that “War is a Racket.” Based on that specific phrase in 1935 he also published a book under the same title arguing, “War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small ‘inside’ group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes” (2003: 23).


7  The Jacksonian School of Thought


involved. In general, Americans do not want their state to be the World’s Policeman and they are ready to support whoever is willing to keep such a promise.16 The popularity of Jacksonianism literally obliges the American political and economic elites to pay attention to what this specific school of thought believes and promotes on various issues about the U.S. foreign policy. One of the most characteristic examples regarding the firmness of the Jacksonian reaction which demonstrates the unfitness of the American elites to face a massive Jacksonian opposition is the failure of Woodrow Wilson to establish the U.S. in the League of Nations as a full member, despite the fact that the creation of the League of Nations was his own political idea and achievement.17 Another example of that particular direction can be found in the way the Obama administration formulated a rather naïve or passive foreign policy towards the emergence of the Arab Spring in the Middle East and North Africa as is extensively discussed in Chap. 3. Many IR academics and analysts have rightly held responsible the reluctance of the Obama administration to be more actively involved in the volatile terrain of the MENA region in order to control the rise of jihadism there, or the enhancement of the Russian presence in the region (Walt 2017; Kirkpatrick 2018; Rogin 2016; Dershowitz 2017. For a well-structured opposite view see among others Lynch (2016). However, I maintain the view that Obama’s failure to deliver a more active U.S. foreign policy in the region was not due to a so-called ignorance of the perplexities of international politics, or because Obama is a follower of the Jacksonian school of thought, but because his administration due to the enormous economic problems that the U.S. was facing in the aftermath of the 2008 economic crash did not want to authorize a new international exposure of the nation. This would have provided easy ignition fodder for the formidable Jacksonian view that the U.S. should not have been involved in a multidimensional mega-crisis, such as the Arab Spring, that it had nothing to gain from. Obviously, Obama and his administration saw the U.S. as having more limited capacity than realized and this had a tremendous cost for the American foreign policy in the Eastern Mediterranean. Unlike Jeffersonianism, the Jacksonian approach has nothing to do with a libertarian approach to politics. It presents, sometimes in the most blatant or atavistic way, an interest to protect the U.S. from international interventions when it is not clear what the nation will gain from. The Jacksonians are free from the moral  The argument that America must stop being the world’s policeman was one of the main pillars of Donald Trump’s pre-electoral program on the U.S. foreign policy, as being presented in his interview in New York Times on July 21, 2016. 17  During the Jackson Day Dinner in January 1920, an annual major event of the Democratic Party, William Jennings Bryan, a prominent political figure of the Democratic Party and the 41st U.S. Secretary of State, publicly stated that the President had to bow to the majority of the Senate and reject the Treaty of Versailles together with the inclusion of the U.S. in the League of Nations. One of the major reasons for opposing the entrance to the League of Nations was that a large part of the American public opinion under the influence of populist isolationist preachers was seeing such a development either as the end of the American nation-state and the entrance of the U.S. into a superstate or as the invention of the capitalists in order to maximize their profits against the economic interests of the American people (Siracusa and Warren 2016: 76–77). 16


1  The Theoretical Foundations of the U.S. Foreign Policy

d­ ilemmas that Wilsonianism or Jeffersonianism assumes or promotes in the international conduct of the U.S. In addition, it does not follow the conformist Hamiltonian demeanor in the international arena. For the Jacksonians only self-help policies are rational steps for a state in order to successfully bypass the perils of the international system, while any international intervention of the state has to produce financial or geostrategic gains. As Walter Russell Mead characteristically argues (2002: 231): Real Americans, many Americans feel, are people who make their own way in the world. They may get a helping hand from friends and family, but they hold and keep their places in the world through honest work. They don’t slide by on welfare, and they don’t rely on inherited wealth or connections.

Indeed, every time the U.S. was politically or militarily involved in a crisis, without having something to expect as a return on the effort, the burden of losses in human lives was very heavy to accept by the Jacksonian masses.18 The Jacksonians are most willing to consent to the involvement of the U.S. military forces in a crisis abroad only if such a decision can and will protect the American national interests and may also contribute to a further expanding of the state’s power capacity. In addition, Jacksonians have a great respect for the U.S. Army and for its role in shaping the modern image of America abroad. Every loss of human life that may occur during a military operation abroad is not just a number in a statistical list for the Jacksonians, but a loss of one of their own since the prevailing narrative, utterly unfounded and emphatically populist, among the American masses regarding nation’s military operations is that only members of the working class support the national cause with their own lives. Meanwhile, the sons and daughters of the upper class find various ways to escape from their duties to the country. Therefore, according to Jacksonianism, these sacrifices of the sons and daughters of America must contribute to the greatness of the nation and not just to some vague moral principles that support American exceptionalism but not the well-being of the blue-collar force which is the spine of the American society. In this particular case, Jacksonianism comes very close to the meaning of the well-known phrase of Otto von Bismarck that the whole of the Balkans region is not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier. Yet, as a Jacksonian would have added, if this sacrifice is to lead to specific “spoils of war” then it must be perceived as a justified means to achieve a higher end. However, regardless of the profit involved, Jacksonians are always in favor of the use of organized violence when an external element, state or a non-state organization, discredits the American national prestige with degrading actions, such as a non-provoked attack against an American military target or even worse a terrorist attack against American civilians. In this case the Jacksonians fervently demand from their political elites to strike back and to strike harder than the received blow,  In 1992 the U.S. launched a series of peacekeeping operations in Somalia in order to put an order in the chaos of the civil war that was destroying the state since 1991. In October 1993 two U.S. Black Hawk helicopters were shot down in Mogadishu leading 18 Americans to death. The reaction of the U.S. public opinion was so strong that 6 months after even the U.S. Army evacuated Somalia. For more regarding the U.S. involvement in Somalia see Dougherty (2012: 150–176).


7  The Jacksonian School of Thought


modifying the well-known axiom of the lex talionis from “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” to “a life for an eye and a life for a tooth.” This rejection of proportionality in the use of violence for Jacksonianism does not represent a form of constructive deterrence in order to avoid analogous strikes in the future. Punishment, in this case, must be strict, prompt, and paradigmatic when national honor is under attack, especially when this is implemented with disgraceful acts. Perhaps, the rest of the globe was taken by surprise with the U.S. decision to drop two nuclear bombs against Japan at the end of WWII. However, for the Jacksonian masses that was the only suitable punishment for the sneak attack in Pearl Harbor in 1941. The same stands for the immediate and superlatively violent reaction of the U.S. towards the Taliban regime and Al Qaeda immediately after 9/11 with the Operation Enduring Freedom. One of the most characteristic reactions of Jacksonianism, showing its rage in cases that it assumes that the U.S. national interest is being affected through amoral ways, can be found in the Fort Mims massacre in 1813. More than 500 soldiers and civilians, among them infants and children too, were massacred by Creek warriors after an attack of the latter against Fort Mims in Alabama (Waselkov 2006). The news of the massacre outraged the American public opinion that immediately demanded not just revenge but the steeliest punishment for the Creek Native Indian tribe. Andrew Jackson, Major of the U.S. Army at that time, led a military force against the Creeks and after a series of several battles where the U.S. Cavalry was literally taking no prisoners he achieved a decisive win at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814 that led to the death of 1000 Creek warriors. This also led to the signing of the Treaty of Fort Jackson where the Creeks were forced to cede 23 million acres to the Government of the U.S. and 1.9 acres to the Cherokee tribe that fought against the Creeks by the American side. The circle of punishment had been concluded in a Carthago delenda est style of approach since the Creeks had been militarily defeated, while their physical presence in the American framework was drastically undermined in perpetuity. When national pride is hurt, or when its notion of security is breached, the normally reluctant Jacksonians are motivated to abandon their houses and their daily lives in mass to become a formidable iron fist. Perhaps the most characteristic statement that shows the political power of Jacksonianism in U.S. foreign policy comes from President Woodrow Wilson immediately after the sinking of Lusitania by Germany, when the Jacksonian masses abandoned their apathy of what was happening in Europe, rallied around the Stars and Stripes, and forcefully demanded for the ultimate revenge by entering WWI against Kaiser’s Germany: It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilization itself seeming to be in the balance (Kissinger 2011: 48).

The Jacksonian reaction in cases of national crisis resembles a roar that comes directly from the dark depths of the collective unconscious of the American masses, which acts as Nemesis without worrying about the direct and indirect consequences of hubris.


1  The Theoretical Foundations of the U.S. Foreign Policy

8  The Obamian School of Thought The last American foreign policy school of thought will be named after a pivotal political figure for world politics, Barack Obama (Gormely 2015). I argue that Obama’s true political merit can be found in his nonconformist personality but also in the fact that his entrance in the White House as the first Afro-American President of the U.S. signified the successful closing of the civil rights’ circle which had been opened by Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.19 I have decided to introduce to the scientific dialogue over the theoretical dimensions of the U.S. foreign policy the establishment of a new school of thought of the U.S. foreign policy under the Obamian label for various reasons. First, it was Obama’s administration that dealt with so many critical issues in the international arena since the end of the Cold War, leading the U.S. and the rest of the Western world to a new systemic era, that of multipolarity. Second, it seems that there are various different views in categorizing Obama’s foreign policy, according the four abovementioned U.S. foreign policy schools of thought. It is proved to be theoretically difficult to put just one label on Obama’s philosophy in formulating the American performance in the international arena. As a matter of fact, while Matt Stoller (2017) supports the view that Barack Obama is a Hamiltonian, Michael Clarke and Anthony Ricketts (2017), Jack Holland (2017: 40–54), or George (2013) support the view that Barack Obama is a Jeffersonian. In addition, Tony Smith (2017: 267) supports the view that Barack Obama is a liberal internationalist in the Wilsonian tradition, a view that Robert Kagan also shares (Kagan 2009). Max Boot (2016) attributes to Obama a “quasi-­isolationist” or “noninterventionist” approach that is common in both Jacksonianism and Jeffersonianism traditions. Thirdly, I choose to introduce the Obamian school of thought because Barack Obama systematically tried to introduce a new set of values, ideals, and practices in American foreign policy by not simply following the example of his predecessors but by marking his own distinguishable course in the international arena. It has to be said that this attempt did not always led to positive results. On the contrary, Barack Obama’s foreign policy was a failure in general terms compared with his domestic policies, but his eagerness to follow an original line makes his foreign policy suitable for a new entry in the study of the theoretical dimensions of the U.S. foreign policy. In addition, the Obamian school of thought is extremely useful in a wider approach of International Relations Theory. Quite frequently, academics and students of the discipline tend to forget that failure in international politics is more common than success, and that the former produces deeper and more catalytic results than the latter. The Obamian school of thought and its implementation in the Eastern Mediterranean are excellent validation of the wider theoretical analysis.

 The Emancipation Proclamation or Proclamation 95 changed the federal legal status of the AfroAmericans of the south from slave to free. For more see among others Woog (2009) and Gulezo (2004).


8  The Obamian School of Thought


The first thing that comes to the mind of the analyst that tries to comprehend the Obamian school of thought is its bipartisan magnetism with its followers coming either from the center-right section of the Democratic Party or from the center-left section of the Republican Party. This unique feature for every state in a peace period was not a random incident but a strategic choice of Barack Obama who tried to establish the so-called bipartisan consensus on American power in his 2015 National Security Strategy (Beauchamp 2015). In addition, the qualitative data regarding the support he enjoyed derived from the popularity of the principles he promoted in his foreign policy, such as globalization, cosmopolitanism, ecological awareness, and self-constrained interventionism preaching the “leading from behind” military doctrine (Quinn 2017; Dueck 2015). Obamians accept the fact that the U.S. has not just the right to lead the Western world that derives from the U.S. military and economic capabilities, but it has also been given the moral obligation to lead the globe to calmer seas ahead. Nevertheless, this political and moral obligation to lead responsibly and humbly must be implemented through the usage of rules deriving from International Law. Obamians are not classical realists who denounce the utility of international law in international politics; however they expect their moral obligations to the rest of the Western world to be met from their allies with analogous positive moves in issues that relate with the transatlantic unity. For example, it was Barack Obama who on many occasions strictly reminded to the rest of the NATO states the responsibility to spend 2% of their annual GDP on defense, yet he never questioned the principle of collective defense of Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty as for example his predecessor President Trump has done few times up to now. The main goal that Obamianism sets for the U.S. foreign policy is the necessity to establish a specific framework of rules that will not simply advocate to the rest of the world the American supremacy but also to set the paradigm for the other great powers in their attempt to safeguard their own national interest. This is why America under Obama’s administration entered the Paris Agreement, the most important international agreement in order to tackle climate change, or tried really hard to negotiate free trade agreements in the transpacific and the transatlantic areas, two strategic decisions that promoted the U.S. international status by advancing the moral duty of the U.S., deriving from the concept of exceptionalism, setting the example in the international sphere. Obamians have strong convictions on how the world must be functioning, instead of adjusting the U.S. foreign policy in the way that the international system functions. However, Obamianism shows a great respect for the American tax payer’s money, and thus it openly objects every short of extravaganza in foreign policy or in defense. For example, it was under Obama’s administration that the costliest project that has ever been implemented by America, the well-known Human Terrain System, came to an end (Sims 2016), while a retrenchment policy, which was emphatically necessary for the American economy in order to effectively face the aftermath of the economic crisis of 2008, had also been implemented during the same period (Dolan 2017; Sestanovich 2014: 301–324). This Obamian stance does not follow the example of Jacksonianism. While the latter still approaches international politics through the traditional paradigm’s approach of self-help, the former


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is in favor of a rational economic policy in foreign policy or in areas of security and defense because it fervently supports the argument that most of the times nations collapse first from within due to irrational financial schemes. This is why economic prudency must go hand in hand with political rationalism, offering the opportunity to every state which follows that specific path to be successful in the international arena and maximize its international status. For the Obamian school of thought, the U.S. has an undisputable military capacity that derives mainly from its technological advancement. However, the Obamians comprehend to a great degree than all the other schools of thought of the American foreign policy that hard power is not enough by itself to preserve the primacy of the state in international affairs. According to the Obamian approach, unlike Jacksonians, international affairs do not function through a zero-sum game but through a multidimensional process of asymmetric interdependencies where soft power matters the most. In this specific aspect Obamianism comes closer to Wilsonianism. However, while Wilsonianism promotes liberal democracy as a cornerstone for interstate communication, for Obamians the conversion of the other states to free-market economy and to humanitarianism is of a prime importance. According to this approach, the end of the Cold War led towards the establishment of the so-called American system of economic methods and to the prevalence of the Western soft-­ power values. Today, capitalism is the undisputable economic model of producing primary wealth for each and every state in the international system, except North Korea. In addition, it is the main political tool that promotes cosmopolitanism and creates enduring networks of open communication through the states. Thus, the main goal for Obamianism is not simply the U.S. to be the prime state in the international arena, as this has already been materialized after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but to preserve and develop even further the functioning of the American system of values and principles. By this, the U.S. will maintain its primacy and limit its exposure in international calamities as well. Therefore, the strengthening of the American soft power and the fortification of the nation’s economy from malfunctions like the subprime mortgage crisis back in 2008 are the main tools in order to protect the U.S. international position and the post-Cold War international status quo, even if the systemic balance of power of the international arena evolved from the semi-unipolar condition after 1991 to today’s multipolar systemic reality. Obamianism comprehends that despite the fact that the U.S. is not alone anymore to the apex of the international scale of power, it is the most formidable power, and thus stands in favor of the preservation of the existing status quo. The interesting fact that rises up from the way the Obamians implement their soft-power policies is that at the center of this procedure an alluring process is being placed with the political head of the state leading the whole process. Obama, during his presence in the White House, implemented these enticing procedures in order to win the hearts and minds of foreign societies. Characteristically, Obama’s official visits in Cairo in 2009 and in Athens in 2016 were met with great enthusiasm by large parts of the societies there, offering a strengthening boost to the American prestige in two traditionally anti-American states. Although this specific approach is a feature of Obamianism, U.S. foreign policy analysts encountered it before during the

9 Conclusions


p­ residency of John F. Kennedy. He was also very keen to strengthen the U.S. soft power across the globe even though the cruel realities of the Cold War demanded from the political heads of the states to be more military strategists than positive influencers of the international reality. Yet, Barack Obama had a longer presence in the White House and due to the emancipation aspect is being selected to give his name to the fifth school of thought instead of the equally charismatic, much more unfortunate though, J.F.K. Last but not least, the Obamian school of thought following the Jacksonian philosophy in this specific aspect is in favor of the hard punishment of those who hurt the state and its people, especially those who achieved this through villainous ways. It was Operation Neptune Spear, against Osama bin Laden’s compound at Abbottabad, Pakistan, in 2011, that led to the Al Qaeda’s leader death and his burial in the sea within 24 hrs (Bowden 2012). This is a characteristic paradigm regarding the decisiveness of Obamianism to play the role of the Nemesis, when this does not implicate the general course of the nation. At the end of the day, the Obamian school of thought detests longterm commitments for the nation in the international scene, preferring more the short yet forceful interventions in order to preserve the national interests intact.

9  Conclusions The ideological pillars of the U.S. foreign policy influence deeply the empirical implementation of the state’s decision-making, as well as the diplomatic and military operations at the international level. This is absolutely significant for the thorough understanding of the way the U.S. behaves in the international sphere, while it is also a useful analytical tool in order to be able to compare and contrast the American process of placing itself in the international arena with the norms of other pivotal international actors. For example, while Europeans appear to be much more practical, in the sense that only the protection of their national interest influences their way of deciding and acting at the international level, the U.S. relies heavily on ideology and on specific beliefs and practices, in order to preserve or enhance its national interests. Russia comes closer to the European ways, while China follows the American footsteps without the ideological diversity though in the theoretical dimensions that influence the Sino foreign policy. This clear distinction, besides from setting apart U.S. practices from the rest of the other states’ applications, brings to the surface the key element of exceptionalism in the American foreign policy. This comprehension will prove extremely useful in the following chapters, even though most American Presidents and their administrations combine the ideas and practices of the five aforementioned schools of thought when creating their approaches to represent in the best possible way the American interests at the international level. Despite the fact that this representation is not always successful, the U.S. managed to make a great contribution to the shaping of the sociopolitical and economic past and present of the Eastern Mediterranean region as it will be shown in the following chapters.


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Chapter 2

The U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean: Historical and Political Considerations

As I sit with others, at a great feast, suddenly, while the music is playing,To my mind, (whence it comes I know not,) spectral, in mist, of a wreck at sea,Of the flower of the marine science of fifty generations, founder’d off the Northeast coast, and going down—Of the steamship Arctic going down,Of the veil’d tableau—Women gather’d together on deck, pale, heroic, waiting the moment that draws so close—O the moment!O the huge sob—A few bubbles—the white foam spirting up—And then the women gone,Sinking there, while the passionless wet flows on— And I now pondering, Are those women indeed gone?Are Souls drown’d and destroy’d so?Is only matter triumphant? Walt Whitman ‘Thoughts’

1  Introduction This chapter presents the special connection between the U.S. and the region of the Eastern Mediterranean. It emphasizes on the First Barbary War, the Truman Doctrine, the Suez Crisis, the emergence of the Greek junta, and lastly the 1996 Imia crisis in the Aegean Sea. My main goal in this chapter is to underline the main methodological formulas of American foreign policy in the Eastern Mediterranean from the beginning of the nineteenth century up until the end of the twentieth century. By examining these episodes, the geostrategic transition of the region and the role the U.S. played in this protracted procedure will be shown. Today, with the American fixation for the strategic developments in the East Asia dominating the primacy of U.S. foreign policy, this strong connection may seem to have lost some of its luster. Nevertheless, back in the early days of the nineteenth century, the ideals of the American revolution offered the opportunity for imagining a new world that was to be built on the ruins of the old colonial rule, including the Eastern Mediterranean. For example, the Greek War of Independence in 1821 made use of the writings and ideas of the Founding Fathers in order to develop its own distinct ideological characteristics, while the American War of Independence and George Washington are referred as bright examples against tyranny in Dionysios Solomos’ Hymn to Liberty, an epic poem that was written in 1823 and from 1865 is the National Hymn of Greece. This close interconnection remained active, with © Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 S. N. Litsas, US Foreign Policy in the Eastern Mediterranean,



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high and low moments, as it will be shown in this chapter, until the end of the twentieth century. Thus, studying the U.S. foreign policy in the Eastern Mediterranean offers a clear image of the American political system, its decision-making processes, and the genuine desires of the American collective regarding the placement of the state in the international arena.

2  T  he U.S. and the Eastern Mediterranean: A Long and Steady Entanglement At the end of the War of Independence, the newly born state decided to attend to the following two issues which had been considered as pivotal for its survival. First, the U.S. felt the need to organize itself as a modern nation-state by implementing a new political and bureaucratic structure compatible with the fundamental ideological and moral principles of the Declaration of Independence. In 1787, a Constitutional Convention was held in Philadelphia in order to address the question about weak central government that existed under the Articles of Confederation, which was negatively affecting the prospects of the new state due to misgovernment. In order to face this institutional frailty, the Convention passed for the first time in human history an extended structure of checks and balances by dividing federal authority in the Legislative, the Judicial, and the Executive branches of government, to collectively exercise supreme control over the 13 states. The ratification of the Constitution eventually was passed in 1789 (Thelen 1999; Edling 2003; Klarman 2016: 126–256) and the U.S. began to behave as a modern nation-state, the creative process which was only concluded after the final victory of the Unionists in the Civil War in 1865. Secondly, the new state had to make its maiden steps as an independent entity in the international system of the late eighteenth century. One of the first high priorities was to construct a viable mechanism to produce wealth for the state, while an equally important task was to “show the flag,” to promote the nation’s prestige and proclaim its ontological existence beyond the natural limits of the American continent. The goal of showing the flag was an utterly rational political act, and not the signaling of the establishment of an early narcissistic behavior of the newly born nation. Primarily, it was set up to create the support of American exceptionalism, and to provide further sustenance for the new state as a distinct example of collective structure in the international arena (Rossignol 2004: xix–xxii; Kaufman 2010: 32–40). Furthermore, the urgent socioeconomic needs of the American society, plus the early fragile unity of the federation, demanded the effective adoption of all necessary steps to achieve a functional economy with a convincing growth model, which would serve as the bonding material between the 13 federal states. However, regarding the main economic direction for the newly born state, only the sea was able to offer the additional wealth which would enable the U.S. to fulfill its domestic and foreign goals. In the previous chapter, I argued that the U.S. developed a national

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and cultural collective identity constructed upon the ontological pillars of existence of parental English nation. One of the main features of this “Englishness” was the naval instincts that the U.S. had prior to obtaining its independence, a fact that attributed to the new nation both mobility and vigorousness which would help to face the early difficulties in the international system of that era. It was an almost natural development for the new state to develop an ambitious maritime grand strategy from the very early independence period and also to invest in an extroverted naval trade policy to serve simultaneously the economic and foreign political agendas of the U.S. Therefore, American interest for naval trade in the Mediterranean Sea appeared almost immediately after achieving its independent status, not hesitating to enter with a profound self-confidence and decisiveness in a region where the great European powers of that time, Great Britain, France, and Spain, had been in constant antagonism to maximize their influence, establish new colonies, or seal new naval trade agreements with the local communities. The U.S. decided to enter the Mediterranean environment searching for trade partners, with no desire whatsoever to militarily challenge the far stronger European powers. The notorious American efficiency, coming mainly from the extensive practical knowledge in pioneering (as I have already argued in Chap. 1), began to bear fruit from the early days of the arrival of the American vessels in the Mediterranean. Within a short period of time, American commercial ships were sailing in the Mediterranean, while the Betsy Ross was waiving in all the major ports achieving the “show the flag” goal. As Andrew Oliver (2014: 45) writes: After the Treaty of Paris in 1783, ending the American War of Independence, ships from ports on the eastern seaboard—Salem, Boston, New  York Philadelphia, Baltimore and Charleston—resumed or initiated trade in Gibraltar, Malaga and Barcelona in Spain, Marseilles in France, Genoa, Leghorn and Naples in Italy, Palermo and Messina in Italy, and Trieste at the head of the Adriatic. American consuls or consular agents were resident in most of these cities from as early as 1800.

Despite the various problems that were constantly arising home and abroad, whether the problematic coexistence of the U.S. citizens with native American tribes or the dominant British presence in the northern regions of North America and in the Atlantic Ocean, the U.S. Navy succeeded in establishing a presence at the heart of the European naval merchant activities, the Mediterranean Sea. In 1793, while the barrel of the guns of the War of Independence were still smoking, the U.S. established a consulate in Livorno, a major Mediterranean port of the time, in order to promote the American trade rights in the wider region (Antonucci 2010: 81). Such a rapid progress was unparalleled, revealing that the newly born state had a clear picture regarding its goals in the international system. America had the political maturity to comprehend that in order to survive among the European giants, it had to transform itself rapidly to a “sea leviathan.” This goal had been achieved within a limited period of time by the American side, compared with the long enduring efforts that the European nations were fully committed into for many centuries, even before the rise of modernism in 1648. For the U.S., expanding itself and the American economic transaction in the Mediterranean Sea was a pivotal goal. First,


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if the new state were to retreat to isolationism, then it would have had given the opportunity to the British control to re-emerge in the old colonies through economic penetration. Second, a basic economic growth model that was dependent on agrarian small and medium venture would have had limited the range of activities of the American state. Transforming the shiny city on the hill into a conventional agrarian town signified that mere survival, instead of mastery, would have been the only feasible perspective for its people. After all, as I have already argued in Chap. 1, the U.S. firmly connected its fate within free market economy; this contains the concept of international mobility in foreign policy, and transoceanic naval trade. At the end of the day, one of the strongest convictions and goals of the early American political elites was that the newly born nation had the duty, as well as the opportunity, to leave its mark in the international arena and create a new world system of ethos and thus inventively bestow upon the area not only free trade, but enlightened diplomacy as well (Onuf 2000: 2, 25, 57). Thus, the U.S. commenced unlimited naval trade in Western and in Central Mediterranean but it also managed to convincingly establish itself in the Eastern Mediterranean too, a region with particular difficulties. The first American merchant ships visited the key port of Smyrna1 in the Eastern Mediterranean in 1797 (Panzac 1992), while in 1824 the U.S. made its presence in the area noted by opening a consulate in the city. From 1850 until the demise of the Sublime Porte, the Ottoman administration established a close relationship with the U.S. by granting special trade rights to the American vessels. Additionally, the Ottoman military purchased ships and guns from American suppliers, giving the opportunity to the U.S. ship-building industry to strengthen considerably (Akalin 2015; Howard 1976). The most important decision of Washington was the maintenance of a permanent American presence in the Mediterranean, through the establishment of the U.S. Squadron in the Mediterranean in 1801 (Symonds 2016: 18–19). This was a commitment which convincingly revealed that from the early days America was considering itself not as a fragile nation, but as a newcomer with the potential to acquire the status of a Great Power. This gave the opportunity to the U.S. Navy not only to show the flag in the region and to open new trade routes for the American goods, but also to accomplish an exceptional connection with the multiethnic mosaic of the Eastern Mediterranean, a region gradually transforming into a prime

1  The port of Smyrna, known today as Izmir, was together with Piraeus and the port of Alexandria, the most important naval trade center in the Ottoman Empire. Smyrna was a predominantly Greek inhabited city with a rich history that begins in the seventh century BC. In 1919 the Greek Army entered the city under the provisions of the Versailles Treaty, while in 1922 the Turkish Army recaptured it, leading to the first genocide of the twentieth century, with hundreds of Greeks seeking for shelter in the neighboring Greek state, while thousands lost their lives in the troubles that followed the entrance of Kemal Pasha’s Army in the city. During those troubles of 1922 the aid of the U.S. Navy to the Greek refugees was vital as American ships evacuated thousands of Greeks from the port of Smyrna, rescuing them from the Turkish Army and also from the blades of the Tchetas, the Muslim armed irregular brigands in the Asia Minor that followed Kemal’s Army during the advance from Anatolia to the Aegean coast.

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zone of economic and missionary activity for the U.S., a move which fully reveals the pioneering character of the American foreign policy. From the very beginning America understood the strategic and economic importance of the Eastern Mediterranean. A prime example was in 1786, when an American-Moroccan treaty was signed in order to offer a safe naval passage for the American vessels to the region (Roberts and Tull 1999). The treaty, besides offering a de jure recognition to the American status from a non-European sovereign element, also boosted the prospects of the American naval trade into maritime terrain that was stretching beyond the Atlantic Ocean. Such a development offered the U.S. the opportunity to search for new destinations and establish trade relations with a completely new world, that of the Eastern Mediterranean. This region was important because it was not strictly under the political influence of the European powers due to the presence of the Ottoman Empire, and played a pivotal role in bridging the geographical gap between Asia, the Middle East, and South-Eastern Europe. By taking the decision to expand its presence into the Eastern Mediterranean the U.S. was not only strengthening its economic prospects through the naval trade transactions with the local elements, but also sending clear political signals, both internally and externally, that this newly born state was not to be isolated as a mere land force of the North American subcontinent. On the contrary, it was willing to pursue a prime grand strategy and be introduced to the international system of that time as a motivated naval power with a significant range of trade activities far beyond its geographical boundaries. This approach challenged not only its own expectations regarding the capabilities of the state, but also those of the other European powers which were closely monitoring America’s moves on the great chessboard of that time. Thus, the appearance of the American flag in the blue waters of the Eastern Mediterranean served a dual purpose: on the one hand, by opening new trade markets the U.S. increased its economic capacity, while on the other hand it sent the message to friends and foes that were determined to follow its moral commitment on the international scene. This last aspect is especially important for every state in the international system to witness, no matter the period of time it occurs, because it provides the nation with valuable self-esteem while also enhancing internationally the prestige of the state. As Richard Ned Lebow (2008: 16) argues regarding the importance of prestige in international politics: States are certainly not people, but we nothing implausible about describing their behavior in terms of the security and material needs of their population. Just as the drive for wealth and security inform international relations theory, so too must the drive for self-esteem.

Therefore, it is safe to argue that one of the main reasons for the special bond that the American citizens have since the early days of the post-independence era with their homeland derives from the collective high esteem that the successes of the U.S. in the international arena had created. Unlike European moral code, which frequently leads Europeans to consume pride for their homelands from a gracious defeat, American collective conscious accepts only first place as good enough for their homeland. While this in many cases proved to be catastrophic for American foreign policy because it created high demands for itself to perform, it also func-


2  The U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean: Historical and Political Considerations

tions as a constant stimulator for the nation’s performance in the international arena. Second, during the late eighteenth and for the whole of the nineteenth centuries the Eastern Mediterranean was the ideal region for the U.S. to establish its economic presence, formalize profitable trade agreements, and also lay the foundations for its political and military presence in an area far away from the familiar Atlantic Ocean. The main reason for the suitability of the Eastern Mediterranean regarding the American demands and capabilities was that the Ottoman Empire, the main geostrategic actor in the Eastern Mediterranean, was passing through a long period of existential frailty, and thus the Sublime Porte seemed not adept enough to diminish the American aspirations to establish a presence there. But on the contrary, it was seen as a brilliant opportunity to seal multidimensional co-operative schemes with the U.S. For example, as Berrin Akalin (2015: 4) shows, the Ottoman-American relations were very deep since the beginning of this interconnection: The U.S. government guaranteed to Sultan Mahmut II … that David Porter would provide all aids and support on the matters of buying and building of battleships. This commitment was fulfilled, and first, Henry Eckford and then, Foreman Foster Rhodes continued to build the battleships for Ottoman Navy until 1840. Bâbiâlî requested from America to charge the American officers in the Ottoman navy in 1836, but American Government stated that only the retired officers could be charged. Since 1850, the officers from Imperial School of Naval Engineering visited U.S. in order to learn the ship building; in this context, America had great contribution to the Turkish naval.

The decline of the Ottoman Empire was so profound that it literally opened the door to the U.S., allowing the latter to enter into the Eastern Mediterranean under favorable and unopposed terms. Characteristically, from the late eighteenth century until the end of the nineteenth century, the Ottoman Empire had lost the control of the largest part of its possessions in the Balkans and in Northern Africa and it was involved nine times in wars with Imperial Russia, most of which ended catastrophically for the Sublime Porte. All the while, political friction that was created between the supporters of the ancien regime and those who were demanding for the modernization of the Empire contributed to the intense diminishing of the institutional power of the Sultanate. Additionally, Constantinople seemed to welcome the American entrance in the Eastern Mediterranean, as unlike all the other Western powers, the U.S. did not represent a formidable threat towards the Ottoman sovereignty or its territorial integrity. In fact, the American anti-colonial status, in collaboration with the signing of the Monroe Doctrine in 1823, convinced the Ottomans that unlike the major European powers, the U.S. did not want nor did it have the strategic capacity to seize Ottoman territories. Nor could it take advantage of the continuous revolts of the Balkan Christian populations in order to produce a pro-­ American fifth column inside the Ottoman framework. Thus, it was a win-win situation for both sides, because the Americans found the opportunity to link their status with that of an imperial power in the Middle East and in North Africa, while the Ottomans were given the chance to establish relations with the new Atlantic actor. This resulted in the signature of the Ottoman American Treaty of Trade and Navigation on May 7, 1830. The Treaty established de jure the American trade

2  The U.S. and the Eastern Mediterranean: A Long and Steady Entanglement


p­ resence in the Eastern Mediterranean and in the Black Sea, allowing the American ships to pass freely the Straits, while it also proved that it helped the economies of the two states since in 1851 the volume of direct Ottoman-American trade reached the amount of $1 million, in 1868 it reached over $2 million, and in the following years it exceeded $5 million (Erhan 2004: 7). Third, through its osmosis with the sociopolitical conditions in the Eastern Mediterranean, the U.S. began to comprehend international politics as a venue of Hobbesian antagonism that the empowerment of the nation was more than a necessity and survival not a normative procedure. Washington understood that in order for the American economy or its political status to be competitive, a permanent strategic presence in the Eastern Mediterranean was obligatory. In 1830, the British Ambassador in the Ottoman Empire Sir Robert Gordon informed London that the U.S. was exploring the possibilities of buying Crete or Melos, while Cyprus also attracted the interest of Washington, as letters of the American Consul in Thessaloniki later in 1836 fully reveal (Erhan 2004: 9–10). Whether these reports were just the empty speculations of British diplomats about the U.S. plans to establish a permanent presence in the Eastern Mediterranean, or they were accurate analyses which unveiled a quasi-colonial feature of the American psyche, is a question that does not concern the analysis at this level. Nevertheless, it is not a coincidence that today one of the most strategically important military installations of the U.S. globally is found in the Naval Support Activity Souda Bay, near Chania, Crete. Washington never bought Crete, Melos, or Cyprus; however it managed to establish its presence in the Eastern Mediterranean and in the wider area of the Ottoman Empire through the hyperactive efforts of the American Protestant Missionary networks. The Ottoman administration was fairly tolerant towards American missionaries, introducing especially the Orthodox Christians of the Imperium to the American educational system and the Protestant denomination (Umit 2014; Gümüs 2017). Various Protestant communities thrive around the Eastern Mediterranean today, from Greek Evangelicals of Katerini in Greece to the Armenian Presbyterians in Istanbul. These are but some of the many examples which bring into light the effective work of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions during the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries.2 The Americans chose to establish their presence in the Eastern Mediterranean because this was feasible for the American capabilities and at the same time it did not alarm the Ottomans. The American presence in the region gave the opportunity to the U.S. to establish its trading activities with locations far beyond the Atlantic Ocean, while it also gave access to the American vessels to every major port of the early nineteenth century. Last but not least, that development was extremely important for the American Protestant Missionary units, since new vast areas with large Christian populations were opening their gates to religious teaching and philanthropic activities.

2  For more regarding the operations of the ABCFM in the Eastern Mediterranean see Makdisi (2008), Badr (2000), and Hutchison (1993).


2  The U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean: Historical and Political Considerations

By being able to include the Eastern Mediterranean in their educational and religious campaign, the U.S. was granted the opportunity to build its national prestige internationally by showing the flag, all while simultaneously securing its economic and political stance in a region that was the apple of discord for every major European power of that era. It is not an exaggeration to support the view that the U.S. foreign policy since the early beginning was closely linked with the sociopolitical evolution of the Eastern Mediterranean. Gradually, from the nineteenth to the twentieth centuries, the region had been transformed from a hospitable hub to an essential territory for the American geostrategic and economic interests. As the following paragraphs will show, the American presence in the Eastern Mediterranean effectively forged the character of the nation and at the same time it irreversibly sealed the fate of the region. From the first time the Star Spangled Banner appeared in the port of Smyrna, Alexandria, or waved from a flag post from the balcony of the American Embassy in Athens or in Cairo, the Eastern Mediterranean embraced America’s decisiveness to meet its historical destiny, while the U.S. was surrendered to the regions’ enchanting allure, beyond the stereotypical colonial etiquette.

3  The Barbary War of 1801–1805 One of the lines of the official hymn of the U.S. Marine Corps sings “… to the shores of Tripoli.” The specific lyric refers to the Battle of Derna in 1805, the first ever major international operation of the U.S., or in other words the first out of many times that America reacted with force in order to protect its naval trade routes in the Eastern Mediterranean and elsewhere around the globe. The First Barbary War of 1801–1805 was actually the first time that American foreign policy functioned by following the fundamental Hamiltonian dictum on the importance of free trade for the nation’s rising economy. As Thomas Paine wrote in the Common Sense, revealing the importance of the oversees trade for the U.S. and the strong links between the survival of the state and the capacity of the American merchant fleet to freely cross the Oceans: Our plan is commerce, and that, well attended to, will secure us the peace and friendship of all Europe; because it is the interest of all Europe to have America a free port, her trade will always be her protection and her barrenness of gold and silver, will secure her from invaders (Chalmers 2003: 466).

In addition, the Barbary War of 1801–1805, besides introducing the potentiality of the American hard power to the Eastern Mediterranean, was also one of the first wars which brought the spirit of modernity in the region, establishing the liberal economic ideals of free and non-obstructed naval trade as a geostrategic necessity. This war was not about the glory of a monarch as the European powers of that time were putting forward in their strategic conduct every time a conflict was about to erupt. It had to do with the American prestige, the endorsement of the peoples’ interests, and the nation’s ability to break free, through fire and iron, from the firm British grip to stand as a sovereign nation-state.

3  The Barbary War of 1801–1805


Immediately after the end of the War of Independence the newly established American political elite comprehended that in order for the American navy to be able to access the Mediterranean Sea, it was first necessary to sign a series of diplomatic treaties with the Barbary States [Tripolitania, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco]. These took the form of annual tributes in order to secure a safe passage in the Eastern Mediterranean after July 1785, when Barbary pirates attacked two American trade ships, Maria and Dauphine, capturing their crews (Lambert 2005: 15). These tributes raised a series of negative reactions in the U.S. A large number of those who few years previously had been successfully facing the mighty British Army now felt humiliated that they were forced to accept the demands coming from rogue elements on the far side of the world (Thorup 2010: 137–141). Thus, a thorough discussion began among the U.S. Government and influential Americans on the necessity of building a war fleet, one with the capacity to protect the American trade interests in the Mediterranean. For example, Edward Church, the American Consul in Lisbon, wrote to Thomas Jefferson, then Secretary of State, on September 22, 1793, on the basis of the signing of treaties with the Barbary States and the prospect of building a war fleet: When we can appear in the Ports of the various Powers, or on the Coast, of Barbary, with Ships of such force as to convince those nations that We are able to protect our trade, and to compel them if necessary to keep faith with Us, then, and not before, We may probably secure a large share of the Meditn trade, which would largely and speedily compensate the U. S. for the Cost of a maritime force amply sufficient to keep all those Pirates in Awe, and also make it their interest to keep faith (Naval Documents 1939).

It has to be noted that Thomas Jefferson was on the side of those who desired the naval empowerment of the state, in terms of an advanced U.S. Grand Strategy. Some years before Church’s letter, he communicated to Horatio Lloyd Gates the necessity for the U.S. to be able to exist as a naval power on the oceans by being able to face any given challenge. In December 13, 1784, Thomas Jefferson wrote: Our trade to Portugal, Spain, and the Mediterranean is annihilated unless we do something decisive. Tribute or war is the usual alternative of these pirates. If we yeild [sic] the former, it will require sums which our people will feel. Why not begin a navy then and decide on war? We cannot begin in a better cause nor against a weaker foe (Founders Online 1784).

Perhaps, Jefferson’s decision to fervently support the building of a military fleet sounds like a nontypical Jeffersonian approach, since it was going to entail a humongous cost for the state. Nevertheless, as Jefferson admitted to John Adams on July 11, 1786, the solution to commit state funds to the war naval project was much more honorable, more effective, and less expensive than paying tributes to the Barbary pirates or other actors in the international arena of that time (Founders Online 1786). Thus, it can be argued that the rationale behind the decision to build the first American war fleet was utterly Jeffersonian regarding the methodology and the political goals. The final decision to build a strong American Navy was finally taken in March 1794. The Congress approved the construction of six frigates, four 44-gun and two 36-gun, for the colossal amount of $688,8883 (Race 2016). The decision was based  In today’s dollars upward of $45 billion.



2  The U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean: Historical and Political Considerations

on the conviction that if the state were not able to safeguard the naval trade routes for its fleet, then such a vulnerability would have had affected its survival prospects in the international arena. After all, as it has already been mentioned in the previous chapter, since before the beginning of the War of Independence, the colonies had a well-established naval spirit that was immediately transferred to the collective consciousness of the newly born nation. Therefore, blocking American access to overseas ports was a direct challenge to the soul of the state. Nevertheless, the building of a war fleet did not put an end to the turbulent affairs of the U.S. with the Barbary States. From 1798 to 1801, the American nation was involved in the so-called Quasi War with France (Palmer 2000), and as a consequence the U.S. administration did not want to open another front in the Mediterranean during that period against the Barbary States. Thus, the Barbary pirates were continuing to harass the American trade ships that were crossing the Western Mediterranean towards the Eastern Mediterranean ports. In addition, the hit-and-run tactics of the Barbary pirates were not allowing the U.S. naval forces to be engaged in a decisive open sea fight. This situation changed completely in 1801. The Quasi War between France and the U.S. ended as suddenly as it began, while the White House had a new tenant, Thomas Jefferson. One of the most common practices in international politics is to test the reflexes of the newcomers in power with various methods, usually by applying a military challenge. Yusuf ibn Ali Karamanli, the Pasha of Tripoli, sent an official letter to the new President, demanding from him $225,000 annual stipend as naval trade tolls. In reality the letter was an ultimatum and either the American side was to pay the amount of money to the Tripolitanian side or Ali Karamanli would declare war on the U.S., targeting the American ships that were sailing in the Mediterranean. Jefferson delayed considerably his reply to the Pasha of Tripoli; thus the latter, in May 10, 1801, declared war on the U.S. by cutting down the flagstaff of the American Consulate in Tripoli while expelling the U.S. Consul. The war progressed between Ali Karamanli and the U.S. in a slow pace, mainly characterized by the blockade of the port of Tripoli by the U.S. warships and various hit-and-­ run actions from the pirates’ side.4 However, in 1805 things were about to take a much more critical turn, since for the first time in the U.S. history there was the installation of a puppet regime in the wider Tripolitania region to question Karamanli’s sovereign power and implement a divide-and-rule tactic. This move recognized the great influence of the British diplomatic tradition upon the U.S. foreign policy and the great emphasis that Washington was giving towards a positive

4  The most well-known incident during that phase of the war was the grounding of the frigate Philadelphia and the capturing of 307 man-crew by Pasha Karamanli. He repaired the vessel in order to make use of it against the U.S. fleet; however on February 16, 1804, the American side organized a suicide mission under the command of Lt. Stephen Decatur. The team got into the port of Tripoli after dark and set the frigate on fire without any casualties except one slightly wounded sailorman. The loss of Philadelphia was a serious blow for the American side, yet the undercover operation of Decatur and his men gave the opportunity to the American public not to give so much importance to the reduction of the U.S. fleet (Tertius de Kay 2004: 9–20; Allison 2000: 28–31).

3  The Barbary War of 1801–1805


outcome of the Barbary War to ensure the protection of the American oversees naval trade from military harassment. The American side understood that even in the case of defeating the enemy its status would had not been permanently secured. The nature of the Tripolitanian regime was the main reason; therefore, it was vital for Washington not just to defeat Yusuf Karamanli’s regime, but to replace it with a friendlier one. In 1796 the current Pasha succeeded in deporting his older brother and up until that time ruler of Tripolitania, Hamet Karamanli. In 1801 William Eaton, the American Consul in Tripolitania, communicated his idea to his superiors back home that to secure good diplomatic relations with Tripolitania, open gates of the Eastern Mediterranean, and end the war with the Barbary pirates, it was vital to deliver the restoration of Hamet Karamanli in the throne. This proposal had been approved by James Madison, Secretary of State, but it had been put into action in late 1804 for reasons that had to do with the slow political proceedings back in Washington, and the deficiency of the political establishment to comprehend strategic necessities thousands of miles away from the American capital. Eaton, after being deported from Tripoli by Yusuf Karamanli, was appointed by Washington as the Naval Agency for Barbary region, returned back to the Eastern Mediterranean in the fall of 1804, and began a search for Hamet Karamanli who was eventually found in Egypt. The American side helped Hamet to raise an army containing few hundred Arab and Greek mercenaries. These, along with the assistance of a U.S. Marines’ unit under the leadership of Eaton, captured the port city of Derna in eastern Libya in May 1805. The capture of Derna was extensively celebrated in the U.S. due to the fact that this was the first victorious battle abroad since the formation of the state. Nevertheless, Washington understood that it would have been very difficult to continue the war against Yusuf Karamanli without jeopardizing the lives of the crew of Philadelphia who were still imprisoned in Tripoli. In addition, an open attack against the capital city of Tripolitania would have been a mission impossible as the U.S. had neither the military capacity for the implementation of such a strategic move nor the sufficient supply lines in order to withstand the cost of a lengthy siege of the city. The American side took advantage of the fact that it held the city of Derna and also the appearance of Hamet Karamanli and proposed direct talks with the Pasha. It was obvious that neither side wanted the continuation of this war that in reality had little to offer them. The Barbary side, especially after the commencement of the naval blockade of Tripoli by the U.S. war fleet, had a restricted access to the Mediterranean Sea and thus to its looting “enterprise,” while the American side knew that it would have had ruined its national prestige to sacrifice the crew of Philadelphia and accept heavy casualties in order to win a war that could have been ended through a mutual settlement. Thus, negotiations between the two sides began in late May and in early June all the 307 sailors of Philadelphia were released for $60,000, while Hamet Karamanli and the U.S. Marines safely left Derna few days later (Whipple 2001). The First Barbary War left a sweet taste in the mouths of the American people. The nation, just few years after its appearance in international politics, proved to


2  The U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean: Historical and Political Considerations

friends and foes around the globe that it was prepared to fight oversees in order to safeguard its national rights, protect its national branding as a naval power, and, most importantly, not tolerate direct insults to American sovereignty. This war revealed the great importance that the U.S. showed, and still shows, for the protection of the sea-trade routes all around the globe, and especially in the Eastern Mediterranean. Nevertheless, despite the victorious aura around the First Barbary War, this war did not resolve the Barbary pirate issue for the U.S. In 1815, only 10 years after the peace settlement with Tripolitania, America faced once again the Barbary States in a new war, proving that the first effort was not enough to terminate the pirates’ challenge in the Mediterranean Sea. However, this does not diminish the true value of the first violent incident that the U.S. was involved away from the Atlantic coasts. The First Barbary War was a limited war with equally limited positive results to the American naval trade goals in the Eastern Mediterranean. Nevertheless, it explicitly set the red lines for the American foreign policy, portraying to everyone in the international system of that time that the U.S. was not prepared to accept any sort of harassment in its efforts to establish a robust naval trade network in the Eastern Mediterranean. In addition, it offered the opportunity to the American public opinion to produce the first national heroic saga, promoting the narrative about the bravery of the U.S. Marines and their ability to operate successfully abroad too. From the early days of the nineteenth century the U.S. showed that it was prepared to mobilize its hard power to establish and secure a presence in the region of the Eastern Mediterranean. The mid of the twentieth century would have had proven this commitment in a much more decisive manner.

4  T  he Truman Doctrine and the Eastern Mediterranean: The Beginning of a New Era As it has already been presented, the introductory overseas military involvement for the U.S. took place in the shores of the Eastern Mediterranean during the First Barbary War. However, the true initiation of America as the economic bandwagon and the political stabilizer of the Western world occurred, once again, in the Eastern Mediterranean through the implementation of the well-known Truman Doctrine. It was in the blue waters of the Eastern Mediterranean that the U.S. was baptized as a global superpower. Both Greece and Turkey held the geographical keys for the control of the Eastern Mediterranean and also parts of the Middle East too. While the Middle East was crucial for the American interests mainly for the rich crude oil reserves, the control of the Eastern Mediterranean offered the guarantee for the unobstructed move of American goods from the east coast of the Atlantic through the Suez Canal up to the Indian Ocean. The region’s geostrategic value was of great importance too in the post-WWII international politics because of the Souda Bay in Crete, the Turkish Straits, and the ports of Piraeus, Thessaloniki, Alexandroupoli, and Izmir. In other words, Greece and Turkey were the key factors in order for the

4  The Truman Doctrine and the Eastern Mediterranean: The Beginning of a New Era


U.S. to secure a prominent positioning in the Eastern Mediterranean, as they possessed strategically advanced locations from a geographical point of view, while both states could have been used as a natural barrier against a possible Soviet desire to expand its presence beyond the Black Sea into Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Therefore, it was vital for Washington to work diligently to politically and economically stabilize both Greece and Turkey in order to keep the Soviet influence at a minimum.

4.1  The Greek Case It was not a normal Friday for the British Embassy in Washington on February 21, 1947. The reason was because Sir Archibald Clark Kerr, the well-experienced British diplomat and head of the British diplomatic mission in the American capital, had the unpleasant task to visit the Department of State and announce that after a century of continuous presence and direct involvement in Greek politics,5 London was no longer in position to support the official Greek state in the civil strife against the Democratic Army [Δημοκρατικός Στρατός] of the Greek Communist Party [Κομουνιστικό Κόμμα Ελλάδας / KKE]. Hardly anyone was surprised with this development. Britain, together with the U.S., was the undisputable winner of WWII, yet the British economy was utterly ruined (Elbaum and Lazonick 1984; Alford 1997: 186–211). Thus, continuing with the costly involvement in Greece was a Herculean task that fragile British economy was not able to withstand. Characteristically, in 1945–1946 alone British military aid to Greece amounted to £132 million6 (Blair 2015: 35) while economically London was trying to keep its head out of the water.7 The Greek political crisis between the national and the communist sides was not a new one. In 1943, while Greece was still under the Triple Axis occupation [Germany, Italy, Bulgaria], the two major guerilla organizations of the Greek Resistance, the National Republican Greek League [EDES / Εθνικός Δημοκρατικός Ελληνικός Σύνδεσμος] and the Greek People’s Liberation Army [ELAS /Ελληνικός 5  In 1825, during the Greek War of Independence, prominent members of the Greek side under the leadership of Prince Alexandros Mavrokordatos and Georgios Kountouriotis asked with a letter to be placed under the British protection. In 1824 and in 1825 the Greek side secured two loan packages from London in order to finance the struggle, while after the liberation one of the main political parties in Greek politics was the so-called English Party that acted as the official British agent inside the Greek Parliament, having to oppose the actions of the Russian and French Party, respectively. 6  In today’s money £5.6 billion. 7  Very briefly regarding the state of the British economy, between 1939 and 1945 the state’s cumulative account deficit amounted to £10,000 million, and thus it received £5400 million in lend-lease supplies and mutual aid from the U.S. and Canada. In addition, the UK sold £1000 million of its most lucrative pre-war foreign investment, while by the end of 1945 one-quarter of the country’s pre-war wealth had been liquidated (Kirby 2006:82).


2  The U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean: Historical and Political Considerations

Λαϊκός Απελευθερωτικός Στρατός], were in a violent confrontation with each other while they were also fighting against the Axis powers. Almost 2 months after the liberation of the Greek capital from the Nazi forces, in early December 1944, the Battle of Athens began between ELAS on the one hand and the anti-communist Greek establishment on the other (pro-Royal and Liberal forces) with the assistance of British Army units (Delis 2017). By early 1945 ELAS had lost the battle and a fragile cease-fire was agreed upon until the spring of 1946 where the KKE formed the Democratic Army of Greece and the civil war was officially started. From the early days of the Greek Civil War, London, as it was well expected, aimed to get the U.S. involved in the Greek crisis. That was mainly due to the fact that the British political establishment knew that it lacked the means to support the Greek state against the strong communist elements receiving support of the USSR and of the communist states in the Balkans region, as well as it had no capacity to deal with the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the urban centers and in the rural areas of the country (Christodoulakis 2014). The British side comprehended that in order for Greece to return to normality, the defeat of the communists was one of several essential requirements. The ruined Greek economy, due to the harsh Axis occupation in 1941–1944, needed an urgent boost, and London felt that it was lacking the means to support Athens. Lieutenant General Sir Frederick Edgworth Morgan KCB, the chief of staff to the Supreme Allied Commander [COSSAC], in 1945 warned that Britain alone could not militarily and economically support Greece ad nauseam, and that the American involvement was necessary (FRUS 1969a). The British attempts to persuade Washington to be more intensely involved in Greece targeted the highest possible levels of the American administration. For example, the British Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, with an official telegram to his American counterpart, James F. Byrnes, in September 1945, called for a joint involvement in Greece (FRUS 1969b). In early February 1947, the British Ambassador in Washington, Sir Clark Kerr, conveyed the message to George Marshall, the American Secretary of State, that in the following months Greece needed in order to survive £70–£80 million8 and that Washington would have to provide the lions’ share of that amount (Lykogiannis 2002: 208). From the way that the American administration reacted towards the British calls for aide of Greece, I conclude that the U.S. did not seek to maintain London’s presence there. This attitude was not due to an indifference towards the geostrategic value of Greece, nor because Washington decided that it was not interested in the Eastern Mediterranean anymore. On the contrary, Washington was more than willing to reinforce its presence in Greece both economically and militarily by stabilizing the national government against the communists. I promote the view that the American nonchalance towards London’s offer regarding Greece can be seen as another crucial blow against the traditional British colonialism in the Eastern Mediterranean from the U.S. Washington, under no terms, was eager to finance the British colonial presence in a region which was a top priority for the post-War

 In today’s money £2.3 to 2.68 billion.


4  The Truman Doctrine and the Eastern Mediterranean: The Beginning of a New Era


American foreign policy. Additionally, it also wanted to limit the prospects of a future British naval trade competition to the American merchant fleet in the Eastern Mediterranean. The American administration under Harry Truman made a purely Hamiltonian decision to limit British presence in the Eastern Mediterranean, ushering for the end to British colonialism in the region, and simultaneously establish itself as the primary political and economic center of reference. At the end of WWII, with almost every corner of the globe still experiencing British imperial presence, the U.S. as a genuine anti-colonial force applied considerable pressure upon the UK side to withdraw or to modify its institutional connection with its dominions (Louis 1985; Hubbard 2011). The significance and results of Britain’s decision to withdraw from Greece and what followed afterwards had a dual effect in international politics of the second half of the twentieth century and a positive result in the further establishment of the U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean. On the one hand, it signaled the end of a long period of Britain as the dominant power in the whole region. Undoubtedly, this development reduced the UK’s capabilities in the international scene, concluding the deterioration of the state from the highest positions of the international system after the end of WWII. On the other hand, the reaction of the U.S. after the British withdrawal from Greece certified that the Eastern Mediterranean was a strategic priority for the American foreign policy. The start of such a massive involvement of the U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean, following the last setting of the British sun over Greece, ratified the demise of imperial colonialism and the birth of a superpower in its place. The Soviet involvement in the Greek Civil War evolved in the most precarious way. Various analysts support the view that either the Soviet Union had no involvement or its association with the communist guerillas of Dimokratikos Stratos moved at the lowest level (e.g., Nachmani 1990; Painter 1999: 19; Iatrides and Rizopoulos 2000). However, things were not as simple as that. Despite the fact that in October 1944 Stalin had already agreed with Churchill that Greece was to be under the British influence, he tried to take advantage of the Greek communist’s extended power to challenge the British status in the Eastern Mediterranean (Vlavianos 1992). Additionally, Stalin offered his valuable support to the Greek communists by proxy, from Tito’s Yugoslavia and Hoxha’s Albania, both of which were under the Soviet influence back then. By this, Stalin was aiming at leading Britain to economic and political exhaustion while promoting the strengthening of the Soviet influence in Greece through the participation of the Greek communists in a post-­ Civil War multiparty government. Ironically, Stalin’s goals were not unfounded, since the Soviets were fully aware of the poor economic condition of the UK, and the Greek case was becoming an expensive open wound for Britain. What Stalin had not seen was the high level of the America’s determination not to share Greece with any suitor, especially with Moscow. Washington was not prepared to allow access to the Soviets to Greece, since such a development would have had undermined the American presence in the Mediterranean Sea, and closer to home, the Atlantic Ocean. In other words, if Greece were to be shared with the Soviet Union, not taking into account the probability of ending as a Soviet satellite due to the solid social


2  The U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean: Historical and Political Considerations

base of the KKE immediately after the end of the WWII, then the American Naval Grand Strategy would have been compromised by relinquishing unfettered Soviet access to the Eastern Mediterranean from the Black Sea. As the U.S. Ambassador in Greece, Lincoln MacVeagh wrote to George C. Marshall, on February 7, 1947: As of possible usefulness to the Department I enclose herewith a summary statement of recent guerilla activities in Greece…that the KKE (Communist Party of Greece) is accepted “as cooperating fully with the Slav Communist Parties” in an effort to bring about a situation in Greece which will call for Russian military and political intervention (FRUS 1971a).

If Greece were positioned inside the Iron Curtain, then Turkey would have had followed simply due to the geostrategic asphyxiation being surrounded by the Red Army and the Soviet satellites.

4.2  The Turkish Case Since the signing of the Armistice of Mudros,9 the fragile Bolshevik regime turned a cautious eye to the Straits of Bosporus, evaluating the strategic exposure that the control of the Dardanelles and of Bosporus by a non-friendly power posed to the survival of the Soviet Union. Therefore, the control of this strategic location became one of the top priorities of the Soviets as a form of a forward deterrence strategy, to limit the probabilities of a Western invasion to Moscow’s underbelly. For this reason, the Bolshevik regime started trifling with the Turkish guerilla forces that rejected the Armistice of Mudros and organized a violent resistance against the Entente Powers that had stationed armies in Anatolia and in the Asia Minor. This political flirting with the Turkish side had a double political significance for Moscow. On the one hand, it tried to charm the Sunni populations around the Caucasus area by making use of its close ties with the Turkish guerilla forces, while on the other it aimed at bringing the guerilla forces of Turkey into an anti-Western alliance that in practice would have meant that Turkey was to enter the Kremlin’s network, not as a Soviet Republic but definitely as a satellite (Pipes 1997: 158; Gökay 2006: 14–22). For that reason, Moscow stood by the side of Kemal Pasha, and his provisional government in Ankara that was fighting against the Entente Powers by providing it with guns and ammunitions, shipment of gold, and military advisors for training Turkish irregulars and all the while granting Kemal’s forces use of Soviet ground as

9  On October 30, 1918, the Ottoman Empire and the Entente Powers ended the hostilities of World War I. The signing of the Armistice took place onboard HMS Agamemnon in Mudros, the harbor of the Greek island of Lemnos. The significance of the Armistice was immense since the Ottoman Empire surrendered unconditionally to the victorious powers of the Great War, even granting them the right to control the strategic location of the Straits of the Dardanelles and of Bosporus (MacFie 2013: 173–181).

4  The Truman Doctrine and the Eastern Mediterranean: The Beginning of a New Era


regrouping base.10 The final settlement between the Turkish forces and Entente Powers did not bolster Moscow’s confidence. The Lausanne Treaty, July, 23, 1923, which worked out all the open issues that the demise of the Ottoman Empire created, enacted in article 1 of the Straits Convention: “the principle of freedom, of transit, of navigation, by sea and by air, in time of peace as in time of war in the Straits of the Dardanelles, and the Sea of Marmara and of Bosphorus,” while article 4 stipulated that the shores of the Bosporus and the Dardanelles and all the islands in Marmara with the exception of Emir Ali Adasi were to be demilitarized (Inan 2001). The free passage of the Straits together with their demilitarization left Turkey and the Soviets baffled, a development which intensified the strategic insecurity of Moscow and functioned as an obstacle regarding a possible diplomatic pact between Ankara and the Kremlin since it forced the Turkish side to maintain a cautious approach between the UK and the USSR. The post-Lausanne status of the Straits produced excessive volatility between Britain and the Soviet Union, with Moscow blaming London that was openly questioning the Russian security, while Turkey was assessing the emerging situation with the diplomatic cunningness that inherited from its Ottoman recent past. During the mid-war period, the Turkish approach regarding the Straits Question followed an ambiguous stance that attempted to maintain the close ties between both Ankara and Moscow. This attempt to balance between the Western and the Eastern world reveals the magnitude of the Turkish diplomacy, sending the message to London that it was ready to change sides and be a fully integrated part of the Western pole if and when the British would have decided to move beyond the Lausanne Treaty restrictions regarding the status quo of the Straits, and allow Ankara to unilaterally control the area (Koru 2017; Önis and Yilmas 2015). On top of that, Ankara was flirting openly with Berlin by establishing very close trade relations too, especially after the collapse of the Weimar Republic and the rise of the Nazis in power.11 Eventually, Ankara’s approach of presenting itself as the apple of discord in the Eastern Mediterranean produced positive results for the Turkish diplomatic goals. London decided to allow the remilitarization of the Straits by the Turkish army, while Ankara was also granted full sovereign status over them. It was obvious that London was trying to create a wedge between Ankara and Moscow, while it also aimed at publicly endorsing those  The Soviet assistance to the Turkish war efforts against the Entente Powers was so critical that after the establishment of the Turkish Republic Kemal Pasha or Kemal Ataturk as he remained known in Turkish history gave specific directions to Pietro Canonica, the famous Italian sculptor that was creating a monument at Istanbul’s Taksim Square that was dedicated to the founders of the Turkish state, to curve among the figures of Kemal Ataturk and his brothers in arm, the figures of Semyon Ivanovich Aralov, the Soviet Ambassador in Ankara during the War of Independence; Mikhail Frunze, a hero of the October Revolution; and Marshal Kliment Voroshilov as a sign of appreciation for the vital assistance that the USSR offered to the Turkish guerillas. 11  One of the first measures when Hitler rose to power was to transform the Balkans into Germany’s economic hinterland. Thus, by 1937 Germany supplied 78% of Turkish wool yarns and tissues, 69.7% of its iron and steel, 61% of its machinery and apparatus, and 55.4% of its chemicals, while Germany took 75% of Turkey’s new wool and 70% of its new cotton and chrome (Gökay 2006: 53). 10


2  The U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean: Historical and Political Considerations

e­ lements of the Turkish political elite opposing close ties with the Nazis. On 20 July 1936 at the Montreux Palace in Geneva, with the blessings of London, Turkey re-­ emerged as one of the pivotal strategic elements of the Eastern Mediterranean, controlling one of the most strategic important locations in the region (Ünlü 2002: 39–56). It goes without saying that this did not please Moscow as it was revealed immediately after the end of the Second World War. The Soviet attempts to modify the Montreux Convention in favor of its own foreign policy goals did not stop during the WWII. On the contrary, in almost every meeting that the Soviets participated with the UK and the U.S., Moscow always tried to promote Montreux modification, an issue that was understandably essential for the status of the USSR in the international reality that was to rise from the ashes of the War. For example, during the Tehran Conference, from 28 November to 1 December 1943, Stalin applied considerable pressure to the British side to accept a revision of the existing Straits’ status quo (MacFie 1989). As expected, the Foreign Office rejected any further discussion on the matter. During the Yalta Conference, from 4 to 11 February 1945, Stalin continued in the same pattern and again the British side rejected his claims. Stalin referred to the subject once again during a private meeting with Churchill in the afternoon of February 10, saying that it was unacceptable for the Soviet Union to be “at the mercy of the Turks, not only in war but in peace, and for Russia to have to beg the Turks to let her ships go through the Straits” (Plokhy 2010: 280). The American side did not object openly the Soviet claims during the Yalta Conference. On the one hand, Franklin D. Roosevelt was so weak and fragile by then. On the other hand, the American side was still pinned down in a deadly conflict with Japan, and Washington entertained that the Soviets could be convinced to enter the war against the Land of the Rising Sun in return for generous financial aid. Thus, a hard line at the highest level between the two leaders was something that Washington wanted to avoid. However, not only the U.S.-Soviet relations were met with a speedy deterioration immediately after the presidential change of guard in the White House. Moscow decided with the confidence that had acquired due to its position in the postwar framework to apply direct pressure to Ankara regarding the revision of the Straits’ status. After all, Moscow knew that its attitude was setting the example to the other communist parties and regimes around the globe. Thus, a defeatist stance from the Soviet side would have led to setbacks for Stalinism around the globe, undermining the status of the USSR within the ranks of the communist parties worldwide. Therefore, on June 7, 1945, Vyacheslav Molotov, the Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs, summoned the Turkish Ambassador in Moscow, Selim Sarper, handing him for the first time the official demand of the Kremlin for joint control over the Straits, the establishment of Soviet military bases in the Bosporus and Dardanelles, and the return of Karsh and Ardahan to the USSR (Kuniholm 1980: 303, 324–382). Molotov argued that the Soviet Union’s security in the Black Sea could not be left to Turkey’s will, and thus Moscow was asking to be given territorial access to the Straits. The meeting ended with the Turkish Ambassador asking for more time to convey the Soviet demands to Ankara. The two men met again on the 18th of June; this time the meeting was shorter and Molotov was much more aggressive, saying that he was not ready to negotiate on the demands

4  The Truman Doctrine and the Eastern Mediterranean: The Beginning of a New Era


that he set during their previous meetings. As it was well expected, the Turkish side immediately informed both Britain and the U.S. about the Soviet demands to ratify the Montreux Convention and acquire military bases in the Straits. The reply from Ankara reached Moscow only 4  days after the second meeting, rejecting all the Soviet demands (Coş and Bilgin 2010: 55–56). The status of the Straits re-emerged as a topic of discussion between Britain, the U.S., and the USSR during the Potsdam Conference (July 17–August 2, 1945). Joseph Stalin, as it was expected, made clear to the other two participants that the Montreux Convention undermined the Soviet interests. Hence, he demanded for its immediate amendment and for the establishment of Red Army’s military bases in the Straits. The British refused even to dignify Stalin’s demands by entering into a discussion over the Straits. However, the most engaging approach came from the American side. While the other two were captured in a traditional game of arm wrestling, Harry S. Truman stated that the Convention ought to be revised and that the Straits should had returned back to its international status. From Truman’s approach it becomes obvious that the U.S., as a free market economy and a champion of liberal democratic values, was showing vivid interest for the free movement of ships, goods, and ideas in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Obviously, Stalin did not want the last two, and thus he was not prepared to bring down the Kafka Castle12 he built since 1922 in the Soviet Union in order to secure his autocratic rule. The Potsdam Conference ended with no final agreement over the Straits status, since the three involved actors presented distant positions on the specific affair (MacFie 1987; Neiberg 2015). It is obvious from their respective positions that each of the three sides held during the Conference that the Soviets were interested only in securing the entrance to the Black Sea. The British were ready to object every Soviet proposal following their systematic anti-Soviet approach since 1917 (Kitchen 1986; Folly 2000). Meanwhile, the Americans were genuinely interested in the economic prospects of the region through the revision of the Straits’ status towards a more liberal direction. It is important to note that during that period the American confidence was rising as the U.S. arsenal held the ultimate weapon of mass destruction, the atomic bomb. Nevertheless, despite the fact that the Potsdam Conference did not generate a viable resolution on the Straits Question fate had already taken its own course. Mehmet Erdegün, the Turkish Ambassador to the U.S., died in November 1944. At that time the Turkish Government asked from the U.S. to send the body back on a battleship as a gesture of honor to the deceased diplomat. It was a brilliant move from Ankara that opened the back door to the American naval forces by taking advantage of this sad event. The American side responded accordingly. On January 25, 1946, Dean Acheson decided to send the body back with the USS Missouri which arrived in Istanbul on April 6, 1946 (Kuniholm 1980: 335–336). This long and a steady-pace sail gave the opportunity to the U.S. to show the flag once again  The Castle is Franz Kafka’s novel. It speaks about the nature of the tyrannical regimes and the dire consequences that this kind of autocratic ruling has in the minds and hearts of the people who are living under these horrific conditions.



2  The U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean: Historical and Political Considerations

in the Eastern Mediterranean and project, in the most convincing way, the American naval superiority to the people of the region.13 The Soviet side considered the entrance of the American naval force into Bosporus as a direct provocation, and in response on August 7, 1946, sent a telegram to the Turks demanding for a revised international regime for the Straits. Simultaneously, the Soviet fleet began naval maneuvers in the Black Sea and Red Army units assembled in the Turkish-Soviet frontiers in the Caucasus region. It was obvious by then that the Soviet Union opted not only for the control of the Straits with easy access to the Eastern Mediterranean, but also for the possible inclusion of Turkey in the Soviet satellite network of the Balkans. As it was expected the U.S. was not to consent on such a change in the balance of power of the Eastern Mediterranean. Few days later, on August 20, President Truman authorized the depart of the Task Force 125 and of the aircraft carrier USS F. D. Roosevelt from Norfolk towards the Eastern Mediterranean as a strategic deterrent against the Soviet provocations (Knight 1975). In front of the American decisiveness to keep the Straits away from Moscow’s control the Soviets withdrew their forces and Turkey took its place in the Western side. The Straits Crisis had the following results. First, it revealed that the U.S. was ready to be involved in a military confrontation over the Eastern Mediterranean against any power questioning American strategic interests in the region. Second, it was obvious by the way the crisis had been unfolded that the U.S. was taking the lead from Britain regarding the geostrategic developments in the Eastern Mediterranean. Since Turkey was being openly provoked by the USSR,14 American multidimensional support to the former was no longer a diplomatic option but a strategic imperative in order to control the Soviet expansionism. The Mediterranean Sea, according to the Vice Chief of U.S. naval operations, Admiral Forrest Sherman, was to be conceived of as “a highway deep into the heart of the landmass of Eurasia and Africa” (Gardner 2009: 19). The U.S. was not to voluntarily share this highly valuable strategic location with anyone, especially with its main rival in the international arena of that time.

 After Istanbul the USS Missouri sailed to Piraeus, Greece, where the Civil War had just begun, lifting up the spirits of the Royal and the Liberal sides. 14  The American approach towards the Soviet policy to Turkey can be fully revealed in the telegram that the U.S. Ambassador in Moscow, Walter Bedell Smith, sent to the Secretary of State, James F. Byrnes, on January 8, 1947. Smith insisted that the Soviet threat towards Turkey was constant for the following reasons: “Soviet policy with respect is motivated not only … by considerations of security but also by urge to gain independent access to Mediterranean and Arab world and by determination to sever British Empire jugular at Suez. To the Kremlin, Turkey represents both a corridor for attack on USSR and an obstacle to achievement of Soviet objectives. USSR will therefore not feel that it has either achieved security for its southwestern frontier or made a solid advance on its course of Near Eastern aggression until it dominates Turkey” (FRUS 1971b). 13

4  The Truman Doctrine and the Eastern Mediterranean: The Beginning of a New Era


4.3  Together We Stand From all the above, it becomes obvious that the British decision to withdraw from Greece created a power gap, giving the prospect to the Soviets to implement a wider destabilizing policy against Athens and Ankara, thus undermining the Western strategic and political status in the Eastern Mediterranean. The dynamic entrance of the U.S. in the picture was mandatory in order to keep the Soviets out of the region. Primarily, Truman held a meeting with General Marshall, Secretary of War Robert Patterson, Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal, Admiral Forrest Sherman, and General Lauris Norstad in order to assess the situation and decide upon the next steps in the Eastern Mediterranean. Thereafter, all the above (with the exclusion of President Truman and General Marshall) met with Dean Acheson, Loy W. Henderson, the Head of Near Eastern Affairs Bureau, and the Deputy Director of the Office of European Affairs John Dewey Hickerson for discussing the Greek and the Turkish cases. As Dean Acheson describes this meeting: We agreed … that it was vital to the security of the U.S. for Greece and Turkey to be strengthened to preserve their national independence, that only the U.S. could do this, that funds and the authority of Congress were necessary, and that State would prepare for concurrence by War and Navy specific recommendations for the President. General Marshall approving, Henderson and his staff worked with me preparing the recommendations (Acheson 1987: 218).

As a consequence, on February 27, 1947, the congressional leaders met with President Harry Truman at the White House (Satterthwaite 1972: 76–77). Truman asked for the meeting himself in order to test the reactions of those that eventually had to decide whether or not Greece and Turkey were to receive the U.S. financial and political aid or to be left all alone against Soviet expansionism. One of the participants asked the President if the American aid to Greece and Turkey meant that the U.S. was willing to pull Britain’s “chestnuts” out of the fire. Such a Jacksonian suggestion provoked a straightforward Hamiltonian reply from Dean Acheson, then the Under Secretary of the Department of State, who claimed that if Greece and Turkey were not assisted, then this could have led to the opening of three continents, Africa, Europe, and Asia, to Soviet influence. The analysis of the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean was presented in such an apocalyptic way, connecting the American international status quo with the final decision over Greece and Turkey, that after the meeting was concluded, Republican Senator Arthur Vandenberg said that he was willing to support openly Truman’s proposal and vote for it (The Truman Doctrine Research File, February 28, 1947). The climate was equally positive among the other congressional leaders. Therefore, Truman decided to proceed with his proposal for an organized economic and political plan to support Greece and Turkey, as to fill the gap of the British withdrawal. On 12 March, the President appeared in a joint congressional session in order to request $400 million15 aid for Greece and Turkey for the period ending June 30, 1948. It was a brilliant speech 15

 In today’s money $4,674,102,325.58.


2  The U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean: Historical and Political Considerations

showing in the most elaborate way how the “City on the Hill” was adopting the realistic dimensions of the superpower status which emerged from the ashes of WWII, and setting the tone of the American foreign policy for the rest of the Cold War. Harry Truman ended his speech with the following words: Should we fail to aid Greece and Turkey in this fateful hour, the effect will be far reaching to the West as well as to the East. We must take immediate and resolute action. I therefore ask the Congress to provide authority for assistance to Greece and Turkey in the amount of 400,000,000 for the period ending June 30, 1948 … The free peoples of the world looked to us for support in maintaining their freedom. If we falter in our leadership, we may endanger the peace of the world- and we shall surely endanger the welfare of this Nation (Bostdorff 2008: 6–7).

The Truman Doctrine paved the way for the implementation of the Marshall Plan few months later, assisting free Europe not only to withstand, politically and economically, the Soviet pressure but also to face the dire consequences of WWII in society, politics, and economy. The communists lost the Greek Civil War in 1949, Turkey fully entered the Western world, and the U.S. preserved its primary position in the Eastern Mediterranean. Once again, perhaps in the most assertive way ever, the U.S. proved that it was ready to make full use of its diplomatic, military, and economic capabilities in order to have a formidable voice in the shaping of the future of the region. The Truman Doctrine fully revealed the American commitment to react strongly against any element looking to alter the balance of power in the Eastern Mediterranean at Washington’s expense. The following paragraphs will show that this American commitment could be applied against allies as well in the most efficient way. At the end of the day, the American primacy in the region was not only a goal of the American foreign policy by then but also a cornerstone for the United States’ overseas presence.

5  The Suez Crisis: New Ways vs. Old Habits Immediately after the end of WWII one of the major questions that rose in the international scene was how to preserve the safety of the Jewish people. After the unprecedented barbarity that European Jews received from the Nazis in the death camps of Central and Eastern Europe under Endlösung, the desire of the majority of those who survived the Holocaust was to return back to the Holy Land and achieve the Zionist aspiration which started in 1881 with the First Aliyah (Troy 2018; Laqueur 2003). After a series of delicate diplomatic maneuvers between the British, Soviet, and American sides, the state of Israel was established in 1948, a development which led immediately to the outbreak of the First Arab-Israeli War. This was a conflict that ended a year later, and gave the opportunity for the state of Israel to fight successfully for its survival. The U.S. stance was not clear, mainly because on the one hand, Truman’s administration wanted to support the Israeli cause (the U.S. was the first to recognize its statehood in 1948), while on the other did not want to push the Arab world in the waiting arms of the Soviet Union. The cautious

5  The Suez Crisis: New Ways vs. Old Habits


approach regarding the state of Israel continued into the next decade, with the White House working between keeping the state of Israel alive, and not allowing the rise of the Soviet influence over the Arab world. On top of that, a Jacksonian consciousness shaped the U.S. foreign policy towards Israel during the early years of its existence, with the goal to avoid scenarios where the American armed forces would need to be sent to the Middle East to tamp down rising regional tensions. Nevertheless, this cautious approach did not mean that Washington would abandon the Israelis to their own fate. The U.S. guaranteed the economic survival of Israel through the issuance of loans and the support of the Israeli Bonds during the early post-WWII days (Gross 1995). At the same time, the U.S. was not willing to allow anyone in its orbit to open the Pandora’s box of the Eastern Mediterranean, and thus lead America to a multidimensional geostrategic conundrum. The Suez Crisis is the most characteristic case of that era which portrays the cautious U.S. foreign stance towards the political perplexities of the region. The 1948’s victory of Israel against the Arab League was a traumatic event for the Arabs, marking deeply the sociopolitical conditions in the Middle East. Various incidents reveal this: King Abdullah I of Jordan was assassinated by radical Sunnis at the entrance of the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem in 1951, Syria was facing a constant wave of political inconsistency with numerous regime changes within a short period of time as it will be fully analyzed in Chap. 3, while in Egypt the Prime Minister Mahmoud El Nokrashy Pasha was assassinated immediately after the end of the 1948 War by the Muslim Brotherhood. This particular act of violence opened the Pandora’s box for the Egypt political scene and eventually led to the Suez Crisis.

5.1  The Egyptian Conundrum On July 23, 1952, Lieutenant Colonel Gamal Abd al-Nasser with his antiestablishment group “Free Officers” operated a successful coup d’état against King Farouk I, sending the Egyptian monarch into exile and seizing the state (Jankowski 2002: 14–18). Nasser was a fervent supporter of Pan-Arabism, a nationalistic ideological narrative for the central role of the Arabs in the MENA region and the unification of all the Arabs in a single state (Rubin 1991). In addition, Nasser promoted Egypt’s neutrality in the Cold War framework, arguing that the nation had more to lose than to gain from choosing a side. As a consequence, Egypt, together with India and Yugoslavia, and after the 1960s Cyprus, led the nonaligned group of nations. Not the least, Nasser’s ideological stance also produced a fervent anti-colonial political agenda, turning openly against the British military presence in the Suez Canal.16 The military installation in the Suez Canal was the last stronghold of Britannia in the Eastern Mediterranean and a point of high friction between London and the new

 For the beginning of the British presence in Egypt see Mentiply (2009). For the British presence in Egypt and its sociopolitical results in the Egyptian society see Daly (1998) and Mak (2011).



2  The U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean: Historical and Political Considerations

Egyptian regime. Nasser demanded the withdrawal of the British forces from the Canal Zone, openly threatening London with a violent collision if they failed to respond. This rhetoric was deeply problematic for London, since the Whitehall comprehended that it would have been a large-scale financial catastrophe to be involved in a turbulent situation with Egypt all alone. Washington was also anxious for the developments in Egypt. The American side was afraid that a possible Anglo-­ Arab conflict would have had allowed the Soviets to take advantage of geostrategic crisis, and offer their services to Cairo with expected quid pro quo in terms of influence or territorial concessions in the Suez Canal. In order to assess the situation and establish a direct link with the new Egyptian establishment, the White House sent John Foster Dulles, the Secretary of State, in an official visit in the Middle East during May 1953, with a particular focus on Egypt. From his visit Dulles came to the following conclusions: the new Egyptian establishment was eager to modernize the Egyptian economy by securing American economic aid, and it was equally important for Cairo to witness the complete departure of the British from the Suez Canal. During an interesting conversation between the Egyptian Premier, Muhammad Naguib, Nasser’s puppet figure, and Dulles the former stated to the U.S. diplomat: Free us from the British occupation and we can then negotiate in good faith. At present however all our minds and feelings are aroused against the UK … All of the Arab states are waiting for Egypt to solve the Anglo-Egyptian problem … He [Naguib] welcomed aid and money from the U.S. but in connection with the latter the Egyptian remember and fear a repetition of 1886 when the British came in to collect the debts of Khedive Ismail … Egypt could not expose itself to the same danger vis-à-vis the U.S. (FRUS 1986a).

Washington followed an anti-colonial stance worldwide, trying to limit the British and the French influence over their pre-war dominions. However, it is important to note that Dwight D. Eisenhower was not a fervent anti-colonialist as his predecessors were. On the contrary, as an experienced soldier, he desired for the continuation of the status quo and for the avoidance of any sort of unforeseen activities that might lead to the increase of the strategic volatility in the Cold War environment. In 1951, when Ike was informed that Senator John F. Kennedy intended to propose a resolution in favor of Algerian independence he stated in a rather nontypical way for a member of the American elite (perhaps because in reality Ike never felt as a member of this prestigious club) that the “people of Algeria still lacked sufficient education and training to run their own government in the most efficient way” (Nwaubani 2003:525). As a matter of fact, Eisenhower and many of his closest associates regarded the rise of national awareness of the people in the Middle East, the Eastern Mediterranean, or the subSaharan Africa as the Trojan Horse for the advancement of the Soviet influence there. Thus, Eisenhower decided to counterbalance the rise of such nationalist movements through the implementation of a more open foreign policy, complemented with U.S. financial aid to states (Saunders 1996). Therefore, Washington seemed eager to satisfy Egypt in both of its main demands: first, on the removal of the British forces from the Suez Canal since this was in agreement with the U.S. anti-colonial grand strategy, and secondly Washington hoped to be able to control the rise of nationalism within the Egyptian society by establishing a ­framework of economic dependency for the transforming nation with an influx of American dollars.

5  The Suez Crisis: New Ways vs. Old Habits


Towards the abovementioned direction, the U.S. applied considerable pressure upon London for the signature of the Suez Canal Base Agreement of 1954, which provided for the gradual evacuation of the British garrison from the Suez Canal by June 1956. In addition, Egypt agreed to the principles of the 1888 Convention of Constantinople concerning the free use of the Suez Canal by all nations (Morsy 1993). The American role in all these developments was crucial. For example, if we may read between the lines of a telegram sent from President Eisenhower to the British Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden, we will be able to spot on the pressure that Washington applied to London to achieve a final settlement between Egypt and the UK over the Suez Canal Base. As “Ike” communicates in March 1953 to Eden: I was really disturbed this morning to find that the question I had personally raised about the planned Joint Conference in Cairo had obviously not been successfully answered … I am, of course, hopeful that the Egyptian tangle will be straightened out and that we can get forward with our negotiations. The proposed plan, if adopted, will operate to the advantage of Egypt and is in keeping with their just claims to sovereignty and equality. It will likewise give the free world assurance that the Canal will remain available for use. I feel certain that no justifiable criticism of the plan itself can be made;consequently it is doubly important that the methods we use do not defeat it … I once had a very wise commander who would use a very simple illustration to point out to me the difference between “command” and leadership. Maybe you can try it sometime on some your associates and assistants, just as I do on mine. It goes: Put a piece of cooked spaghetti on a platter. Take hold of one end and try to push it in a straight line across the plate. You get only a snarled up and knotty looking thing that resembles nothing on earth. Take hold of the other end and gently lead the piece of spaghetti across the plate. Simple! (FRUS 1986a [part2])

Few months later, in July 1953, the Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, communicated to the American Ambassador in Cairo that Washington wanted to see the withdrawal of the British forces from Suez in order to keep Egypt on Western orbit. According to Dulles’ directions to the head of the American diplomatic mission in the Egyptian capital: Call on appropriate Egyptian officials and stress importance we attach to continuation talks and our conviction necessity agreements. He should state we believe parties close together on substantive points and remaining differences capable adjustment. He should add that he has been instructed to request delay in break in order permit U.S. Government determine whether it able make any useful suggestions. Immediately after call on Egyptians Caffery should inform Hankey and advise him Embassy London approaching Foreign Office in same manner. Embassy London should act upon notification by Caffery of his call on Egyptians. FYI Although we believe U.S. should inject itself in talks only in extreme circumstances, our present thinking is we should be prepared to submit compromise formula in effort prevent breakdown talks (FRUS 1986b [part.2]).

It can be argued that the final agreement between Cairo and London was achieved mainly due to the continuous and skillful moves by the Americans. Washington aimed at minimizing the political and military volatility in Egypt between London and Cairo as a means to blockade any potential Soviet infiltration in the country. Besides the diplomatic pressure on London, the American side was also willing to meet the Egyptian demands for financial aid. Nasser’s main plan for the s­ trengthening of the Egyptian economy was the construction of a high dam at Aswan, which when completed would have increased arable land in the region by one-quarter. On


2  The U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean: Historical and Political Considerations

November 1955, negotiations commenced in Washington between the Egyptians, World Bank, U.S., and Britain to explore the granting of Western aid to finance the construction of the dam. The Americans knew that through the financing of the dam, Egypt would had been willing to keep itself away from Soviet influence, while the British hoped that by participating in the consortium they were to preserve some minimal presence in the country’s future developments. By the middle of December of the same year, a tentative agreement was reached. The total cost was expected to reach $1.3 billion17 with the World Bank giving $200 million, the U.S. $54 million, the UK $14 million, and Egypt $900 million (Parmet 2017: 479). Despite the preliminary agreement between the involved sides from the very early beginning, it was obvious that Nasser was not satisfied with the final deal, arguing that the Egyptian financial involvement was higher than he expected and that the Egyptian economy was incapable to undertake such a heavy financial burden. In a telegram sent by the American Ambassador in Cairo, Henry A. Byroade describes a private discussion between Nasser and himself, where the former questioned the details of the tentative agreement reached few weeks before in Washington. As the Ambassador informed the Under Secretary of State, Herbert Hoover Jr., Nasser: Could not agree that principle of international bidding must be maintained as far as Egyptian funds concerned. Based his objection on political grounds as well as conviction that doing bulk of job through consortium (to which American addition welcome) was most expeditious and practical way of proceeding. Matter could be worked out so that all our funds, and probably great deal in addition, would actually be used under competitive bidding arrangements (FRUS 1989a).

Nevertheless, from January until May, both the Americans and the British began to have second thoughts regarding the financing of the Aswan Dam. Washington and London were not sure whether their money would have been used for the construction of the project in Aswan or for the enhancement of the Egyptian hard power, a development which would have openly questioned the status quo in the Eastern Mediterranean and would have also imbalanced the relations between Israel and Egypt. It has to be noted here that these fears were not unfounded. In September 1955, Egypt sealed an arms deal with Czechoslovakia in the aftermath of the successful Israeli Operation Black Arrow in the Gaza Strip in February of the same year18 (Kober 2016: 212). The Egyptian administration came to the conclusion that the Israeli hard power was increasing and it was essential for Cairo to meet the ­challenge by purchasing technologically advanced weaponry. Nasser knew that the U.S. would have had denied Egypt access to its arms market, and therefore he turned

 In today’s money $12 billion.  On February 25, 1955, Arabs murdered an Israeli civilian in the town of Rehovot, just 20 km south of Tel Aviv. Israeli forces pursued and killed some of the militants, discovering in one of them papers that were linking the whole incident with the Egyptian military intelligence. Israel decided for a harsh response and on February 28 Israeli paratroopers attacked an Egyptian military base near the city of Gaza. 38 Egyptians died, many more were wounded, while the Israeli side had eight losses. The Operations Black Arrow humiliated the Egyptian regime and led to the further deterioration of the Egyptian-Israeli relations.

17 18

5  The Suez Crisis: New Ways vs. Old Habits


to the Soviet satellites which were always ready and willing to proceed in any kind of venture, to weaken the status of the Western world and please Moscow. Washington revealed this grievance to Cairo, yet the decisive blow regarding the financing of the Aswan project was given by the Egyptians when on May 30, 1956, Nasser’s regime granted official recognition to the People’s Republic of China. This was a blow against the Western world in favor of Mao’s China because it was opening the door to other Arab states to denounce Chiang Khaisek’s regime and embrace Communist China. The Americans were convinced that the Egyptians were pursuing with a procommunist agenda; therefore the U.S. economic aid to Cairo was terminated immediately (FRUS 1989b). London, as was expected, followed the American lead, and by the mid-July 1956 the financing of the Aswan project by the two Western states was frozen. Though it was not a permanent divorce between Washington and Cairo, the Americans wanted to send the clear message to Nasser that they would not tolerate a pro-Soviet turn. However, Washington continued to consider Egypt as one of the key elements for its presence in the Eastern Mediterranean for reasons that mainly had to do with the Egyptian status among the Arab states. Nevertheless, the State Department was caught totally unprepared regarding Nasser’s play. In a telegram from William Roundtree, the Deputy Assistant of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs, to John Foster Dulles, it is obvious that the American side was awaiting a different kind of a reaction from the Egyptian head, ideally withdrawing from Point IV Program19 (FRUS 1989c). As it will be argued in the following paragraphs, the handling of the Aswan project was a mistake of the U.S. administration, resulting from an underestimation of Nasser’s personality and also from the fact that the White House and the State Department allow various internal elements of the American political system to influence the U.S. international stance in Egypt.20

5.2  W  ar Drums in Suez: The Climax of a Crisis That Never Meant to Occur On July 26, 1956, Nasser, during a 3-h speech in Alexandria on the fourth anniversary of the 1952 coup d’état, proclaimed the nationalization of the Suez Canal Company in front of a quarter of a million exhilarated Egyptians:

 The Point IV Program was an American assistance for developing countries, aiming at the technological advancement of their agrarian or industrial production. The P4P was announced from President Harry S. Truman on January 20, 1949. 20  Since the first moment that the Eisenhower’s administration decided to finance the construction of the High Aswan Dam, the Southern cotton states’ senators made clear that they were openly against this move since the construction would have increased the Egyptian production. On top of that, the Senate Appropriations Committee informed the White House that it was willing to prohibit funds from going to the Aswan Project (Kunz 1991: 68). 19


2  The U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean: Historical and Political Considerations This, O citizens, is the battle in which we are now involved. It is a battle against imperialism and the methods and tactics of imperialism, and a battle against Israel the vanguard of Imperialism … Arab nationalism progresses. Arab nationalism triumphs. Arab nationalism marches forward; it knows its road and it knows its strength. Arab nationalism knows who are its enemies and who are its friends … At this moment as I talk to you some of your Egyptian brethren … have started to take over the canal company and its property and to control shipping in the canal—the canal which is situated in Egyptian territory which … is part of Egypt and which is owned by Egypt (as cited by Kissinger 1994: 530).

It is not clear whether Eisenhower forced Nasser to this move by withdrawing the U.S. from the financing of High Aswan Dam, or this was a pretext for the Egyptian leader to build bridges with the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact states. However, the result was all the same. The Eastern Mediterranean was in front of a new major geostrategic crisis that was undermining the American status. The first state to react after the nationalization of the Suez Canal was Britain with a statement the very next morning describing the situation as serious and linking the nationalization of the Suez Canal by Egypt with the evolution of the Cold War internationally. London implied that behind Nasser’s move was Moscow, in a clear attempt to exacerbate Washington’s primary fears on the prospect of Soviet expansionism in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East (FRUS 1990a). In addition, it was Britain again that first spoke in favor of economic and military retaliation, which would have forced the Egyptians to back down before the crisis could grow, and that would have had led to the re-internationalization of the canal (Pearson 2003: 22). France followed the British position, mainly because it regarded Nasser as one of the main supporters of the Algerian National Liberation Front [Jabhatu I-Tahriri I-Watani]. Paris thought that by giving a severe blow to Egyptian nationalism, this would have had acted as a deterrent against other nationalist movements in the region too. Secondly, France viewed the nationalization of the Suez Canal as a move against the French naval trade interests in the Eastern Mediterranean, and also as a direct insult against the legacy of the structure, as the Canal was of French construction and operated initially under French control. In a telegram from Douglas Dillon, the American Ambassador to France, to John Foster Dulles, the French determination to produce an organized violent hit against Nasser’s Egypt was more than obvious. As Dillon wrote regarding his discussion with Christian Pineau, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs: Pineau said that French Government takes most serious view of the affair and likens it to seizure of Rhineland by Hitler. Pineau said that French Government felt it was essential to react strongly so as to prevent Nasser from getting away with this outrage. Without such action Pineau said that inevitable result would be that all of Middle Eastern pipelines would be seized and nationalized within the next three months and Europe would find itself totally dependent on the goodwill of the Arab powers. This was obviously unacceptable situation (FRUS 1990b)

Both the UK and France saw the nationalization of the Canal as a brilliant opportunity to form a front against Nasser’s regime, sending the clear message to the rest of pan-Arabic elements in the region that their actions were to be met with a strong joint response by the two main European powers.

5  The Suez Crisis: New Ways vs. Old Habits


Washington though was not willing to follow its European allies. On the one hand, the U.S. was sensing that a violent conflict with Nasser would not have been an easy task, nor was it desirable. On the other hand, Washington considered also that a violent collision may have had led towards the structural change of the status quo in the Eastern Mediterranean. The worst-case scenario for Washington would have been a united Western front against Egypt without the American consent, and for Moscow to exploit the opportunity to officially proclaim itself as the champion of the Arab anti-colonial emancipation. This would have elevated the Soviet prestige among the Arab circles, affecting negatively the Western position in the Eastern Mediterranean (Warner 1991). On top of that, the U.S. was not willing to allow the two traditional European colonial powers to exercise their old habits in a region that Washington was trying hard to send the message that a new air was blowing in the post-WWII geostrategic status. Regardless of Eisenhower’s proEuropean stance, the White House knew that no administration would have survived politically in the court of the American public opinion (which was majority Jacksonian in its makeup) if it sensed the promotion or encouragement of British or French colonialism by its elected government. In addition, the American administration seemed not willing to commit the same mistake, as in the case of the Aswan Dam, in creating a new Dien Bien Phu21 in the Eastern Mediterranean. Thus, despite the fact that the U.S. Government was closely monitoring the situation in Egypt, the American reaction can be characterized as constrained. During a meeting on July 27 in the White House between Eisenhower and his top associates, the President showed that he was not willing to use force against Egypt unless American citizens were to be attacked. In addition, he made it clear to the British Premier, Anthony Eden, that diplomacy had to be exhausted before taking any other further action (FRUS 1990c). In Israel, Edward B. Lawson, the U.S. Ambassador, during a meeting with Ben-Gurion during the first day of the crisis, stressed the American desire for Israeli self-control (FRUS 1990d). The American side had the opportunity to make its position totally clear to all the involved sides, in particular during the Tripartite Conversations in London, from July 29 to August 2, with Britain and France. While the two European powers showed their cards immediately at the beginning of the talks by asking for military intervention in the Canal Zone, the U.S. did not share the same convictions. On the first day of the conversations the Under Secretary of State, Robert Murphy, opined: We believe that whatever action is decided should be taken only after a sober estimate of the facts and that the decision should take fully into account the effect of such action on world public opinion. We desire to have the closest affiliation possible with the United Kingdom and France but we believe that whatever action is taken should, if possible, have a broader basis than the interests, however important, of those three powers … The question of eventual military intervention does not seem to arise. It would depend on developments. For the present we believe it should be relegated to the background (FRUS 1990e)

 The Battle of Dien Bien Phu (13 March–7 May 1954) was the decisive confrontation that led France to withdraw from Indochina and the U.S. to be heavily involved in a new long fight with Ho Chi Minh, the Vietnam War.



2  The U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean: Historical and Political Considerations

President Eisenhower took a step further with measured diplomatic language, to portray to Anthony Eden that Washington was against any potential escalation of the crisis: Until this morning, I was happy to feel that we were approaching decisions as to applicable procedures somewhat along parallel lines, even though there were, as would be expected, important differences as to detail. But early this morning I received the messages, communicated to me through Murphy from you and Harold Macmillan, telling me on a most secret basis of your decision to employ force without delay or attempting any intermediate and less drastic steps … I have given you my personal conviction, as well as that of my associates, as to the unwisdom even of contemplating the use of military force at this moment. Assuming, however, that the whole situation continued to deteriorate to the point where such action would seem the only recourse, there are certain political facts to remember. As you realize employment of United States forces is possible only through positive action on the part of the Congress, which is now adjourned but can be reconvened on my call for special reasons. If those reasons should involve the issue of employing United States military strength abroad, there would have to be a showing that every peaceful means of resolving the difficulty had previously been exhausted. Without such a showing, there would be a reaction that could very seriously affect our peoples’ feeling toward our Western Allies. I do not want to exaggerate, but I assure you that this could grow to such an intensity as to have the most far-reaching consequences (FRUS 1990f)

It is important to note here that the direct consequences of the Suez Crisis were not as serious for the U.S. as it would be for Britain or France. Only a small percentage of American ships used the Canal, mainly due to the fact that they were bigger than the vessels that could move inside the waterway, and American investments in the Suez Canal Zone were negligible. However, the economic repercussions of a crisis in Egypt were not out of the American analysis. A military predicament with Egypt would have led to a wider rift with the Arab world, precipitating an oil crisis which would affect the American economy and more importantly the sensitive automobile industry of the Midwest. As Secretary Dulles pointed out during a discussion over the Suez Canal in the White House with the President and Eisenhower’s top advisers: … if Middle Eastern oil were lost to the West, rationing of oil in the United States would be an immediate result, with curtailment of automobile production, and a severe blow to the United States economy (FRUS 1990g)

Eventually and after careful diplomatic maneuvering, the U.S. managed to persuade London and Paris to give diplomacy another chance. On August 3, at the termination of the Tripartite Conference it was decided by all the participants to hold an international conference in London with the participation of the U.S., the UK, France, Egypt, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Spain, the Soviet Union, Australia, Ceylon, Denmark, Ethiopia, West Germany, Greece, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Portugal, and Sweden in order to find a common international settlement on the Suez Crisis through its internationalization. Nasser declined the invitation and sent instead Ali Sabri, his Chief of Cabinet, as an observer. Despite this setback, the American side did not show signs of distress. Washington’s goal to place the Suez Crisis on the frontline of the international interest as a matter of primary subject among many regional and international actors had been achieved. Of the 24 states invited to the London Conference to discuss the

5  The Suez Crisis: New Ways vs. Old Habits


Suez Crisis, only Greece did not attend. Athens, during that time, was in an open diplomatic confrontation with London due to the Cypriot Question and the unwillingness of the British side to allow the unification of the island with Greece. In addition, the Greek Government did not want to provoke the Egyptian side, since during that period Athens was trying hard to secure the status of the large and economically advanced Greek community in Alexandria which was inhabiting the city since the days of Alexander the Great. Yet, diplomacy had prevailed at this stage for the Eastern Mediterranean, the result of the effective American statecraft during the Suez Crisis. The national delegates were summoned in London from August 16 to 23 at Lancaster House in West End, with the Secretary of State Dulles leading the American delegation. The primary aim of the Americans was the de-escalation of the crisis by indulging the anti-colonial Egyptian position, yet without relenting entirely to Nasser’s nationalism concerning the status of the Suez Canal. Thus, Dulles proposed the establishment of a public international authority to be responsible for the operation of the Suez Canal (FRUS 1990h). A counter position arrived from India, that was a fervent supporter of Nasser’s thesis, that the Assembly had to recognize the Suez Canal as a part of the Egyptian sovereignty. New Delhi wanted to challenge the British position over the issue and at the same time to openly support Egypt as a member of the Non-Aligned Movement. While the Indian proposal satisfied Nasser’s position, the Americans went one step beyond trying to safeguard peace in the Suez Canal, by supporting the synthesized Anglo-Franco view, the necessity of the return of the Suez Canal back to its ex ante international status along with the Egyptian focal point to drive the British Army out of the Canal Zone. For America, the most important goal was to keep open the channels of communication between all the involved sides. A collapse of diplomacy would have had led to violence, with a clear threat to disrupt the status quo in the Eastern Mediterranean. President Eisenhower guided Dulles towards that direction by writing to him: Our Government has expressed the opinion that in this problem, the peaceful processes of negotiation should prove equal to the development of a satisfactory solution. We cannot afford to do less than our best to assure success … (FRUS 1990i)

At the end, the U.S. proposal was adopted by the decisive majority of the states in Lancaster House. The Soviet Union, Indonesia, and Ceylon rallied round India’s proposal in an attempt to offer an alternative suitable to the Egyptians. Though it was not a unanimous decision for support of the American plan of de-escalation, Washington’s main goal of nonviolence for the Suez Canal was still alive. Diplomatic efforts were continued under the American management through the dispatch of the Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies to Cairo on September 3, where he attempted to persuade Nasser to meet the Lancaster House’s proposals somewhere in the middle. It was obvious that the U.S. was buying time, hoping that the crisis would die out; however due to the inflexible attitude of all the involved sides, this strategy would not work. Washington started to become agitated with the British and the French attitudes towards its diplomatic initiative. In a telegram signed by the Under Secretary of State, Herbert Hoover Jr., sent to various American diplomatic


2  The U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean: Historical and Political Considerations

missions in Europe and the Middle East, one can sense that the American side was closely monitoring the British and the French moves, not willing to diverge from the “no-violence” status under any circumstance. As Hoover wrote: We view with deepest concern reports and evaluations from Embassies London and Paris on attitudes and apparent intentions of UK and French governments regarding plans for direct military intervention in Egypt. Furthermore, reports from U.S. Missions Cairo and Amman regarding evacuation British and French nationals add greatly to critical nature of situation. U.S. press is giving widest coverage to these developments. U.S. is committed to endeavoring find peaceful solution to Suez issue and is doing all in its power to prevent outbreak of hostilities consequences of which might be incalculable. We believe discussions in Cairo … scheduled commence September 3 must be given every opportunity for success. If nevertheless these discussions are not successful we intend pursue efforts toward peaceful solution (FRUS 1990j).

Although Menzies’ dispatch to Egypt had no positive results, the American side quickly understood that the nationalization of the Canal by the Egyptians would not lead towards a global naval trade disruption as London or Paris was claiming. On the contrary, on September 14, Egyptian navigational pilots began to operate the Suez Canal, and within just few days the traffic proceeded normally again. Washington believed that the actual crisis was behind them, especially with the return of the efficient operation of the Suez Canal, which signified that the nationalization of the water passage had not brought a degradation to the status of the naval trade. Nevertheless, the U.S. failed to estimate correctly the keenness of both Britain and France to ignore the macabre sound of the colonial death rattle that was surrounding the international arena. In addition, no one anticipated the decisiveness of Israel to achieve another blow against Egypt. Israel, justifiably, was feeling directly threatened by the Egyptian behavior. Nasser’s Arab nationalism promoted an anti-Semitic approach with an anti-Israeli agenda. Since the formation of the Israeli state, the Suez Canal had been blocked for vessels carrying the Israeli flag. Similarly, Egypt has also restricted the Straits of Tiran for the Israeli vessels after two22 Egyptian coastal artillery batteries were installed at Ras Nasrani (Enazy 2017: 17). Hence, following the nationalization of the Suez Canal by Egypt, France and Britain were approached by Israel who suggested a joint military operation against Nasser. On 29 October 1956, Israel attacked Egypt, invading in the Sinai Peninsula. It was a decision that was put in action after Jordan, Syria, and Egypt signed on October 25 the Pact of Amman, which upgraded considerably the military co-operation of the three Arab states. The Israeli move infuriated the U.S. (as the Americans knew that France had already supplied Israel with arms) as this attack would open a door to the Soviets to interfere in the region. In addition, the Israeli invasion in the Sinai Peninsula sent the message to the rest of the Western world that the U.S. was unable or unwilling to control its own allies in the Eastern Mediterranean, harming the American prestige in a moment of a rising

 Other researchers argue that the Egyptians installed one coastal artillery at Ras Nasrani (e.g., Herzog 1990:3).


5  The Suez Crisis: New Ways vs. Old Habits


geostrategic crisis. As Colonel Goodpaster described in the meeting in the White House as soon as Eisenhower had been informed about the Israeli invasion: The President was saying that the prestige of the United States and the British is involved in the developments in the Middle East. Last spring, when we declined to give arms to Israel and to Egypt, we said that our word was enough. If we do not now fulfill our word Russia is likely to enter the situation in the Middle East. In his opinion, the United States and the United Kingdom must stand by what they said. In view of information that has reached us concerning Mysteres and the number of messages between Paris and Israel in the last few days, the President said he could only conclude that he did not understand what the French were doing (FRUS 1990k).

From the above, it becomes clear that there was an American intelligence gap, since the White House had not been properly briefed about the British role regarding secret talks between Israel, France, and the UK for a military operation against Nasser. Perhaps, this is the missing detail regarding how things evolved rapidly when Paris and London entered the frame of the Suez Crisis together with the Israelis. As a matter of fact, few days before the beginning of the Israeli attack, on October 14, the British Premier Anthony Eden met with the French General Maurice Challe and the French Minister of Labor, Albert Gazier. Eden had been briefed regarding the willingness of Paris to support the Israelis against Nasser and he endorsed the plan for a joint strike from the three states. According to Eden’s private secretary, Anthony Nutting (1967: 94), who was present during the meeting: The Prime Minister had … made up his mind to go along with the French plan … and we were to ally ourselves with the Israelis and the French in an attack on Egypt designed to topple Nasser and to seize the Suez Canal … we were to take part in a cynical act of aggression, dressing ourselves for the part as fireman or policeman, while making sure that our firehoses spouted petrol and not water and that we belabored with our truncheons the assaulted and not the assaulter.

During the early phase of the Israeli attack against the Egyptian forces in the Sinai, Britain and France knew that the Egyptians were not willing to accept any kind of an ultimatum, primarily for reasons of prestige. This was London’s and Paris’ preferred method to promote their own military designs against Cairo, to demand from Nasser under military threat his consent for the occupation of key positions in Port Said, Ismailia, and Suez in the Canal Zone as a return for imposing a cease-fire between Israel and Egypt. Eisenhower, in a most Wilsonian demonstration of crisis management but with a pure Hamiltonian ratio, bypassed his Western allies and took the issue of the Israeli invasion in the Sinai Peninsula to the UN Security Council. That was a big step for Washington since it was taking a clear anti-Israeli stance by internationalizing the Suez Crisis. On October 30, the Security Council convened to consider the American draft resolution, calling upon Israel to withdraw behind the established armistice lines of 1949, and requested from all UN members to refrain from the use of violence in the Middle East. Obviously, Eisenhower’s decision must be approached not from the angle of an epiphany of a veteran regarding the context of international law, but as a brilliant move of a skillful politician to internationalize the crisis in order to decompress the military crisis between Egypt and Israel while blockading a possible Soviet intention to assist Nasser. Ike was


2  The U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean: Historical and Political Considerations

fully aware that the Security Council was not able to offer a viable solution to the crisis beyond a resolution calling for peace, yet what the American President sought was to gain time while proving to the Soviets and to the rest of the globe that the U.S. was not hiding behind the Israeli violent move against Egypt in order to eventually control the Canal for its own geostrategic goals (FRUS 1990l). Not surprisingly, the resolution was vetoed by France and Britain, which projected a lack of unity of the Western world over the balance of power in the Eastern Mediterranean. The European colonial establishment seemed unwilling to accept that international politics had entered a new evolutionary phase since the end of the WWII. Despite the disagreement, the American goal had been masterfully achieved. The Soviet Union aligned with the U.S. on the Suez Crisis; after all Moscow had no other choice but follow the American pro-Egyptian approach, giving the opportunity to Washington to turn its attention on Britain, France, and Israel and to control their appetites on Egyptian territory that was openly expressed with the commencement of the Anglo-French Operation Revised on October 31. Eisenhower, as an experienced soldier, understood that since Soviet involvement in the Suez Crisis was not on the cards anymore the next important step was to achieve the end of hostilities in the Sinai Peninsula without inflicting major damage upon the Western unity. He knew that if he would have humiliated Britain, France, and Israel, then the war would continue with Egypt, as any or all of them would adopt an insubordinate stance against Washington’s directions. Thus, on November 1, he proposed to Eden an elegant way to exit the Egyptian crisis, by following a specific pattern of political moves: one, instantly call for a cease fire in the area; two, clearly state the reasons why you entered the Canal Zone; three, announce your intention to resume negotiations concerning the operation of the Canal, on the basis of the 6 principles agreed by the United Nations; four, state your intention to evacuate as quickly as the Israelites return to their own national territory, and Egypt had [sic] announced her readiness to negotiate in good faith on the basis of the six principles (FRUS 1990m).

Eisenhower appealed again for a new resolution over the Suez Crisis, this time from the UN General Assembly, asking for an immediate cease-fire, the withdrawal of all forces behind the armistice lines, a ban on all military aid to the belligerents, and finally the reopening of the Suez Canal. Egypt accepted the American proposal for cease-fire, and a majority of the UN Assembly, 64 states, voted in favor of it. Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Britain, and France voted against while Canada, South Africa, Belgium, Laos, the Netherlands, and Portugal abstained. As it was expected, the decision of the General Assembly of the UN did not lead immediately to crisis resolution. The White House knew that very well. Yet, it strengthened the American image around the world, since the U.S. was presented as the prime element which arduously worked to find a peaceful settlement in Egypt. On November 6, Operation Musketeer began with a great success for the British and the French forces, since within few hours Port Said and Port Fuad were under their control. However, this was a Pyrrhic victory, especially for London. Britain was not united over the combat operations against Nasser. The Labour opposition accused Eden of conducting an unnecessary war which was prejudicial to Britain’s position

5  The Suez Crisis: New Ways vs. Old Habits


in the international system, the Tories’ cabinet was divided over Eden’s methodology to promote the British interests in the Suez Canal, the unity of the Commonwealth was walking on a thin ice, while the British special relationship with the U.S. was compromised. The British press was even more ferocious, questioning Eden’s ability to implement a foreign policy line that was in accordance with the national interests. Some newspapers were suggesting that Eden was dragging Britain into a deep military and diplomatic crisis due to his personal dislike towards Nasser, while other journals were asking for Eden’s resignation questioning his physical and mental ability to govern (Brown 2001; Kyle 2011: 500–514). The problem of British internal unity was one side of the coin. The other side had to do with the critical condition of the British economy during the Suez Crisis. On the very same day the British Special Forces were setting foot on Port Said, Harold Macmillan, Chancellor of the Exchequer, informed his Premier and the cabinet that the run on the British sterling had reached a critical point, and the drop on gold and dollar reserves had reached $279 million. When Macmillan contacted Secretary of the Treasury George M. Humphrey seeking for U.S. economic aid, he was plainly told that the Secretary would be available to communicate again with his British counterpart only if London accepted Washington’s proposal for a cease-fire in the Sinai Peninsula (Boughton 2001; Kelly 2000: 172–173). As Robert Cooper (2008: 298) presents: … Macmillan told the Cabinet at the meeting on 6 November that there had been a serious run on the pound (‘viciously orchestrated in Washington’) and that there had been a dramatic fall in the reserves in the previous week. On telephoning the U.S., Macmillan was told that only a ceasefire by midnight would secure U.S. support for an IMF loan to support the pound. Though Macmillan claimed that it was not the run on the pound that precipitated the retreat from Suez, the weight of opinion of eminent contemporaries was that it was decisive.

In order to preserve the British industry from a sudden collapse due to the loss of hard currency and oil shortages caused by the blockade, Macmillan appealed for financial aid to the International Monetary Fund (Clift and Tomlinson 2008). Macmillan’s call to the IMF received a direct reply from the U.S. Government, saying that there would be no support to the British appeal without a prior agreement on a cease-fire. Britain was presented with the prospect of an economic collapse, while its most powerful ally was monitoring the dire situation for the UK from the side lines, refusing to lend a hand until peace and order was restored in the Eastern Mediterranean. Britain agreed to the cease-fire, in order to save itself from a financial catastrophe. France followed course knowing that it would have been an almost impossible task to maintain an open front in Egypt without the British support. Additionally, French presence in Algeria and the violent clashes with the National Liberation Front were draining its resources, meaning that Paris could maintain a second parallel military front. By the end of December, both British and French forces were withdrawn from Egypt, and the British military installations in the Suez Canal were completely evacuated. Persuading Israel to evacuate from Sinai was much more difficult for Washington. The Israeli economy was not in the same condition as the British was, while both the political parties and the public opinion were rallied round the flag over the Sinai expedition. Nevertheless, by March the Israeli


2  The U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean: Historical and Political Considerations

Defense Forces had evacuated Sinai since David Ben-Gurion and his government understood that Washington was not to tolerate the continuation of a military crisis in Suez and that it was vital for Israel to maintain the annual American economic assistance. However, unlike Britain and France, Israel was the only side managing to have gains from the crisis. First, the Israeli Defense Forces had secured freedom of movement in the Tiran Straits for ships bearing the Flag of Zion, and second the UN Peacekeeping forces were permanently placed into the Sinai Peninsula bringing an end to the Egyptian attacks against the neighboring Israeli settlements. Someone may support the view that the commencement of the Suez Crisis was Washington’s mistake, which undermined Nasser’s nationalism by stopping the funding of the Aswan Dam. No one can truly tell if the financing of the project with American dollars would have preserved peace in the Suez Canal. Egypt’s open flirtation with the Soviet Union, in collaboration with Nasser’s extreme anti-Israeli agenda, was the explosive ingredient leading to a strategic collision in the volatile Eastern Mediterranean. In addition, Nasser was not a political figure who gave credence to long-term alliances; hence it is difficult to assess his true intentions. Perhaps the White House made a serious mistake in the case of the Aswan Dam, yet Nasser’s unpredictability was making him an element with hard-to-predict next moves. On top of that, Washington was right not to tolerate Cairo expanding its hard-power capacity by buying arms from Soviet satellites while American dollars were supporting the construction of Egyptian infrastructure. It has to be said that the de-escalation of the Suez Canal crisis was not a random event, but a direct result of the brilliant effort that Eisenhower and his administration put forward to face the crisis. The U.S., quite rightly, did not want to see the entrance of the Soviet Union in the Eastern Mediterranean, while at the same time Washington’s efforts to put an end to the colonial aspirations of the British in the Suez Canal presented a diplomatic conundrum. Eisenhower, in a purely Hamiltonian methodology, applied pressure to London by exploiting the fragility of the British economy, while through the implementation of a brilliant Wilsonian move bought valuable time and thus blockaded possible Soviet involvement through the inclusion of the United Nations as a negotiation venue. Throughout the unfolding of the Suez Crisis, Eisenhower was also in the middle of an electoral campaign, with the election on the very same day which Operation Musketeer began. This important detail adds even more significance to the leadership skills and qualities that Ike showed throughout the crisis, as he managed to avoid the escalation of the crisis and preserve the American status in the Eastern Mediterranean. In addition, he managed to block the Soviet Union from entering the Suez Crisis in order to assist the Egyptians against Britain, France, and Israel, all the while leading British colonialism to its final end in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Suez Crisis was beyond any doubt one of the finest diplomatic moments of the U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean since the First Barbary War. Yet, as it will be shown in the following paragraphs, in some occasions the shining city on the hill decides not to shine as a brilliant and unique exemplification of democracy in the international system. Instead, it tries to preserve the existing status quo, even if this specific conduct is against its fundamental ideals and principles, but

6  The Cradle of Democracy in Chains and the American Nonintervention


still serving its national interests. Nevertheless, in the case of the Suez Crisis, I argue, Hamiltonianism blended perfectly with Wilsonianism, producing an utterly successful approach for the American interests in the Eastern Mediterranean and also for the peace status in the region.

6  T  he Cradle of Democracy in Chains and the American Nonintervention As Greece managed an exit of its catastrophic Civil War, it preserved its territorial integrity from the separatist plans of the Greek Communist Party, maintained a functioning civic structure thanks to firm American financial and political support, and moreover achieved a reentry into the international system, again thanks to the encouragement of Washington. In 1952, Greece became a full member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization23 (Chourchoulis and Kourkouvelas 2016: 32–33; Hatzivassiliou 2006: 24–27) while in June 1961 the Association Agreement between Greece and the European Economic Community was signed (Lavdas 1997: 99–125; Urwin 2014: 116–117). Despite such extrovert behavior in the international scene, at home the state showed clear signs of a profound distress to put the Civil War trauma behind and continue without diversions to construct a more efficient bureaucracy and a concrete rule of law. It goes without saying that the Greek Civil War extensively poisoned the nation’s political life, with ultra-radicalism, social partitioning, and creation of ideological zealotry, all remaining at the epicenter of every sociopolitical activity of the state. Two examples fully reveal the explosive situation of the early post-Civil War era: the electoral rise of the Unified Democratic Left [EDA/Ενωμένη Δημοκρατική Αριστερά], which was controlled by the illegal Greek Communist Party and its self-exiled leadership in Moscow,24 and second the rift between King Konstantinos ΙΙ and the Premier Georgios Papandreou25 in 1965 [Iouliana] over the fundamental question of who would control the army. In both  Athens, since the establishment of NATO in April 1949, wanted to be a part of the Western defense structure. For various reasons that mainly had to do with the American way of operating things, i.e., one step at a time, the Eastern Mediterranean was not included in the first wave of the state—members that were mainly from central and Western Europe. However, both Greece and Turkey were accepted during the second accession process in 1952 showing that the U.S. was particularly interested in strengthening the region that is geographically adjusted to the Black Sea and to the Soviet territory. 24  In the general elections of 1958 EDA moved up to the second position of the Greek political scale by obtaining 939,902 votes (24% of the Greek electorate) under tremendous pressure from the deep Greek state. 25  Georgios Papandreou is one of the most important political figures of the twentieth-century Greece and a prominent member of the long Greek liberal tradition. He served three times as the Prime Minister of Greece [1944–1945, 1963; 1964–1965], elected for the first time in Parliament in 1923, and he was the founder of the Center Union [Enosis Kentrou]. He died in 1968, during the first months of the Greek junta, and his funeral became the first major anti-junta rally in Athens. 23


2  The U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean: Historical and Political Considerations

cases, as it is fully understandable, Washington was alarmed. Regarding the rise of EDA, Washington realized that despite the defeat of the communists in 1949, a large part of the Greek public still supported Marxism–Leninism and viewed Moscow as its champion. Yet, Washington’s policy remained oriented towards the support of the Greek economy (FRUS 1993a) and the stabilization of the political scene,26 combined with the implementation of various policies to counteract communist influence—mainly by bringing the Greek society into contact with America’s pop culture, Rock n’ Roll, and Hollywood movies. Regarding the political crisis of 1965, Washington followed closely the developments which had created a big gap between the democratically elected government of Papandreou and the Palace; however it was obvious that despite the rumors that Washington was supporting the latter, the Americans tried not to be involved in the toxic micromanagement of the Greek political life. In a cable that fully reveals the American Embassy’s tensions of not to be involved in the constitutional crisis, the dismay of the Deputy Chief of Mission, Norbert Anschuetz, regarding the rumors around the American role, is seen in his missive to the State Department: Given incredibly sensitive political acoustics in Athens and virtuosity of Greek talent for misrepresentation and distortion, Embassy position is constant subject for local exploitation. For example: King has been quoted as saying I discouraged Stephanopoulos from forming or joining government following Papandreou resignation; rightist elements have charged that U.S. is no longer interested in fighting Communism; Andreas Papandreou told me he knows Americans are saying that he must go. This spectrum of commentary suggests that although our attempt not to become involved may not prove to be completely successful, the effort is at least a valiant one (FRUS 2000a).

It goes without saying that the main goal of the U.S. diplomacy since 1947 regarding Greece was to prevent at any expense the transformation of state into a Soviet ­satellite mainly due to Greece’s strategic position in the Eastern Mediterranean. Beyond this, Washington had little or no desire to be involved in the daily developments of the volatile Greek political scene, or be a part of the multilevel problems suffocating the fragile Greek polity. The Americans opposed the political elements keeping the Greek political life trapped in the Civil War conundrum, for example the continued running of concentration camps for members of the Greek Communist Party who did not withdraw behind the Iron Curtain after the end of the Civil strife  Interesting and utterly characteristic of the nonjudgmental American democratic culture, Washington appeared to be in favor of the reoperation of the Greek Communist Party as a legal political entity for the Greek political scene. In a State Department’s Operations Plan for Greece few days after the elections of 1958 it became obvious that Washington was in favor towards such a development that would have signaled the full normalization of the Greek political environment. According to the note: “U.S. officials should appraise carefully and move towards legalization of the KKE (Greek Communist Party). Following the banning of the KKE in 1947, the party’s leadership as well as many of its adherents went behind the Iron Curtain. Since 1949 there has been a gradual acceleration of propaganda designed to have the KKE made legal once more in a deliberate campaign of ‘forgetfulness’ and ‘normalcy’. Successive Greek governments have relaxed the laws dealing with communism in Greece, but no government has, to date, seriously contemplated legalization of the KKE. However, the success of the Communist-front EDA in the May, 1958, elections may raise the issue again” (FRUS 1993b).


7  The Greek Junta and the American Nonintervention


in 1949. The U.S. Embassy argued in favor of the termination of the operation of these camps; however Washington was to openly intervene in the Greek political life only in cases where the unity of NATO in the Eastern Mediterranean was in danger, either due to a degradation in Greek-Turkish relations or due to the Cypriot Question—where the worsening of the relations between Athens and London was threatened to the point of no return after 1955 due to London’s inflexibility towards the Greek Cypriots’ Enosis demands.27 Interestingly enough, working to remain outside domestic crisis, however without compromising the close link with a valuable ally, is an example of a combination of both Jeffersonianism and Jacksonianism. Reduced exposure to the problematic domestic conditions meant less direct involvement for the American state and the tax payers; however this reticence did not signify Washington’s loss of prestige in Greece. This kind of an approach, giving importance to the big picture and not to the domestic details, mirrored the American conduct during the emergence of the Greek junta in 1967.

7  The Greek Junta and the American Nonintervention The emergence of the Greek junta of 1967 is a dark page of the modern Greek history, one of the many coup d’états that penetrated the political ontology of the state since its establishment in 1830.28 The violation of the democratic values by a small, tightly connected group of middle-rank Army officers, who managed to suspend the operation of the Parliament, blockade the political actions of the Palace, imprison or exile almost every major political figure from the left to the right, and moreover  In 1955 the largest community of Cyprus, the Greek, commenced the Enosis struggle which was demanding from London to evacuate Cyprus and allow the island to be unified with Greece. For more regarding the Enosis struggle and the political implications over the Cyprus Question see Holland (1998) and (French (2015). 28  There have been numerous coup d’états since the early days of the Greece, showing that the political and institutional foundations of the state were weak. More analytically: in 1831 Admiral Andreas Miaoulis revolted against the Greek Government and burnt the two Greek frigates, Elli and Hydra, while in the same year the first Governor of Greece, Ioannis Kapodistrias, was assassinated. On August 15, 1909, a military coup was staged against the government of Dimitrios Rallis. On September 11, 1922, a military coup against the Greek King Constantine I took place, following the collapse of the Minor Asia campaign of the Greek Army. On October 11, 1923, a failed military coup occurred from a team of pro-Royalist military officers. On June 25, 1925, a military coup brought General Theodoros Pangalos to power. On August 22, 1926, a coup led by General Kondylis overthrew Pangalos’ regime bringing him to power. On March 6, 1933, General Plastiras organized a coup that overthrew General Kondylis, while on March 1, 1935, General Plastiras and Eleftherios Venizelos organized a failed coup against the pro-Royalist government of Panagis Tsaldaris. On October 10, 1935, a coup d’état organized by General Kondylis led to the restoration of monarchy in Greece. On August 4, 1936, General Ioannis Metaxas established his fascist regime by suspending the Greek Parliament with the consent of King George II. On May 30, 1951, a group of right-wing military officers attempted with no success to overthrow the government of Sofoklis Venizelos. For more regarding all the above episodes of the modern Greek political life see Kalyvas (2015), Gallant (2001), and Kostis (2018). 27


2  The U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean: Historical and Political Considerations

impose their presence with no reaction whatsoever from the Greek public, still functions as a trauma for the Greek collective memory. Due to the negativity of this event, the origins of the military junta of 1967 offer a brilliant opportunity for the generation of many conspiracy theories. Hence the violation of the Greek democracy, as many other episodes in Greek history after the end of the WWII up until today, was attributed to the U.S. as the pivotal player behind the colonels who were preparing and orchestrating the coup d’état of 1967.29 In the following paragraphs, I will argue that this is not accurate, since the U.S. had no role in the preparation of the junta, while on top of that for the first critical hours of the coup d’état the U.S.  Embassy in Athens had no information about who were behind the Greek camarilla. As previously discussed, Greek political life was full of continuous constitutional and communal crises, which affected in a negative way the parliamentary stature as well as civic stability of the polity.30 Political instability was further intensified after 1961 due to the arrival of a Greek academic from the U.S. who had been self-exiled there since 1939 in order to avoid arrest from the fascist Metaxas’ regime due to his Trotskyist ideas, and who played a leading role in Greek politics up until his death in 1996. The academic was Andreas Papandreou, the son of Georgios Papandreou. Andreas Papandreou had been a Professor of Economics at Harvard, Minnesota, Berkeley, Stockholm, and York in Canada and became a charismatic statesman with a taste for radical socialist ideas. In 1961 Papandreou returned to Greece after the invitation of the Conservative Prime Minister Konstantinos Karamanlis, a sworn rival of Georgios Papandreou, in order to organize and lead the newly established state think tank Center for Programming and Economic Studies. After a short period in that position he was allured by Greek politics. Therefore, in 1964 he participated in the Greek elections under the banner of his father’s party the Union of the Center and he won a seat in the Greek Parliament. Within few months  Anti-Americanism in Greece comes from both the left- and the right-wing sections of the ideological scale of the state. Even today someone can find an orthodox Marxist who traditionally promotes an anti-American stance as a source of nostalgia for the Cold War era, ultraright wingers who accuse Washington for the failure of their nationalist aspirations, or even politicians, journalists, or academics from the center-left or the center-right establishment who cover their almost metaphysical anti-Americanism behind a vague and at the same time hyperbolic Europhile position. However, the most profound and violent form of anti-Americanism comes from the left. Characteristically, every 17th November in Athens, the day that commemorates a student’s uprising against the junta back in 1973, a large parade containing Socialists, Communists, Leftists, and Anarchists reaches the American Embassy in order to protest against the alleged role of the U.S. in the establishment of the colonels’ tyranny in Greece. For more about anti-Americanism in Greece see Botsiou (2007: 277–306) and Staviridis (2007). 30  The most characteristic, yet not the only ones, incidents of that period were the following: (1) the execution of Nikos Belogiannis and Nikos Ploumbidis, two leading figures of the Greek Communist Party, in 1952 and 1954, accused for treason and espionage against the Greek state; (2) the assassination of Gregoris Lambrakis, an MP that was elected in the Greek Parliament under the flag of the United Democratic Left, in 1963 by extreme-right-winger thugs; and (3) the killing of Sotiris Petroulas, a student and member of the youth movement of the United Democratic Left, in 1965 during clashes with the police in Athens. 29

7  The Greek Junta and the American Nonintervention


Andreas Papandreou became the de facto leader of the socialist fraction within the party, forcing the Palace, the Conservative ruling party of National Radical Union [ERE/Εθνική Ριζοσπαστική Ένωσις], and the American Embassy in Athens to turn against him (Draenos 2012). The source of the official resentment of the American side towards Andreas Papandreou mainly had to do with the fact that many American officials felt that the famous academic betrayed their trust and open-arm policy towards him. As a matter of fact, the U.S. had welcomed Papandreou following his flee from Greece in 1939 in order to avoid arrest from the Metaxas’ fascist regime due to his openly declared Trotskyist ideas. As President Johnson said once in an intimidating way about Papandreou’s decision to give up his American citizenship (to be able to take part in the Greek national elections as a parliamentary candidate): We gave the son of a bitch American citizenship, didn’t we? He was an American, with all the rights and privileges. And he had sworn allegiance to the flag. And then he gave up his American citizenship. He went back to just being a Greek. You can’t trust a man who breaks his oath of allegiance to the flag of these United States (Blum 2003: 217).

In addition, Washington’s bitterness was a result of Andreas Papandreou’s extensive anti-Americanism following his election as a member of the Greek Parliament in 1964. Outside of the political bubble, Papandreou was not anti-American, but as a genuine populist he made use of excessive anti-American rhetoric to win the hearts and minds of the socialist voters who were opposed to U.S. principles and ideals. He especially chose this stance to persuade the Greek electorate that he was not Washington’s puppet, as his political opponents accused him of.31 As Robert Keeley says about Andreas Papandreou’s attitude towards the U.S.: … his former status as an American handicapped him in Greek politics; some Greeks even considered him an American agent who had been infiltrated into Greece, or if they did not believe it, they spread the story to discredit him and to try to keep him from succeeding his father as party leader over the heads of many other senior Center politicos. Perhaps Andreas struck anti-American postures to prove that he wasn’t an American stooge (2010: 28)

Due to Papandreou’s attitude the American establishment developed a negative stance towards the young Greek politician. The former Under Secretary of State George Ball once called him “evil” and he was convinced that Andreas was playing into the hands of the Soviet bloc, a preposterous accusation, while the Former Secretary of State Dean Acheson described him as “young rascal” (Draenos 2012: 109).

 One of the most common accusations against Andreas Papandreou was that he did not return back to Greece to fight against the Italian and the German army back in 1940–1941 but he preferred instead to serve in the U.S. Army as a hospital corpsman at the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland. However, it has to be said that this was not an option for Andreas Papandreou since he had been exiled from Metaxas’ fascist regime in 1939 due to his pro-Trotskyist ideas and if Papandreou would have had returned back in 1940 he would have been probably imprisoned together with the majority of the communist, Trotskyist, and anarchist Greeks.



2  The U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean: Historical and Political Considerations

However, the American side was not the only element that had a negative opinion about Andreas Papandreou. The Greek deep state was also ill disposed towards the talented Mr. Papandreou, mainly because it considered him as a radical element who was quick to clash with the establishment in order to promote his political career and popularity. Under the fear of Andreas Papandreou being the true Prime Minister of Greece after the certain electoral win of his father in the planned elections of May 28, 1967, King Konstantinos was preparing a military intervention with high-ranking officers loyal to the Palace. On April 9, 1967, the King shared his concerns about Papandreou with William Phillips Talbot, the U.S. Ambassador in Greece, to assess Washington’s willingness to support a Royal coup d’état. Talbot agreed with the King that the possibility of a government under Andreas Papandreou was deeply concerning to Washington, yet he stressed out “the inability of the U.S. Government to give assurances of support [to the King] and noted our [the American] traditional opposition to dictatorial solutions” (Miller 2009: 132–133). However, the King’s will to intervene in the constitutional affairs of the state and prevent Andreas Papandreou from forming a government seemed to be trapped in the chaotic trajectory of the Greek political life. On April 21, 1967, a military junta, not sanctioned by the Palace but prepared and implemented by midranking military officers of anti-communist beliefs, put the political life of Greece in detention for the next 7 years. Almost immediately, the prevailing opinion among the Greek public was that the U.S. was behind the junta. The anti-Papandreou position of the U.S. Embassy in Athens sent the false sign that the American side orchestrated the junta just before the national elections to blockade Papandreou’s rise in power. Another equally popular view was that the leaders of the coup d’état had close ties with the U.S. Embassy in Athens, and they allegedly functioned as puppets of Washington. As a matter of fact, after the collapse of the junta and the trial of the dictators, it was Andreas Papandreou himself that during his testimony stated that the conspirators had received orders from abroad, pointing at without clearly naming it the U.S. (Kassimeris 2010: 58–59). Interestingly enough, John M. Maury, a CIA agent that was stationed in Athens during those days, openly admitted in Washington Post that the U.S. Embassy in Athens had been preparing a covert operation against Andreas Papandreou. Yet, this operation did not accommodate the prospect of a military junta in Greece, but rather the support of moderate, pro-western electoral candidates who would have strengthened the anti-Papandreou forces at the polls, and thus attempted to prevent the latter from assuming power. As Maury (1977) publicly underlines: … some embassy staffers suggested the possibility of a covert CIA operation to encourage the candidacy of moderate pro-Western elements to strengthen the anti-Papandreou forces at the polls. The initial reaction of American ambassador Phillips Talbot to the proposal was ambivalent. For a deep believer in both the evils of military dictatorship and the sinfulness of CIA covert operations, it was not any easy choice. However, as tensions mounted and rumors multiplied senior members of the “country team” met in January, 1967, to examine the problem and concluded that a Papandreou victory would seriously damage vital U.S. interests in the eastern Mediterranean, weaken NATO’s southern flank and seriously destabilize Greek-Turkish relations, then strained by the Cyprus situation. These conclusions were reported to the ambassador who, after some prodding by members of his

7  The Greek Junta and the American Nonintervention


staff, agreed to recommend to Washington a modest covert program to support moderate candidates in a few “swing” districts. In late February, National Security Council representatives in Washington considered but ultimately disapproved these proposals. The argument was that the United States was already heavily committed in Southeast Asia and that the time had come for the Greeks to take care of themselves.

Thus, it is clear that the U.S. side did not want to establish a military rule in Greece, nor in the end did the anti-Papandreou covert operation proceed. Moreover, it is a fact that the majority of the leaders of the Greek junta had connection with the American side. One of the main figureheads of the junta, Lt. Colonel Georgios Papadopoulos, served for years as the liaison officer between the Greek state’s Intelligence Service [Κρατική Υπηρεσία Πληροφοριών] and the CIA, while during the 50s, he underwent military training in the U.S., as did another of the junta leader, Brigadier Stylianos Pattakos. Given these close professional ties and their openly declared anti-communist ideals, various speculations suggested that the Greek coup d’état was a CIA operation designed to minimize the rise of the Left in Greek political life. Despite the fact that conspiracy theories always produce the most easy-toabsorb explanations, the reality was much different. Professional ties, as social relations, cannot be the only source of evidence for attributing the military junta to the U.S. On the contrary, the American side did not want to lead the fragile Greek democracy to the altar of a junta, because it knew that such a disturbance would have had negative effects in the general status quo of the Eastern Mediterranean and in the efficient operation of south-eastern flank of NATO. In reality, at this stage of the Cold War, where Washington was preparing the ground for the realization of the Détente with the Soviet Union, the rise of political tensions inside Greece would create more problems than they would solve. Washington was concerned primarily with the big picture regarding the international system, and much less with domestic issues. Louis Klarevas gives an excellent analysis on the ties between leading members of the Greek junta and the U.S.: … all of the junta’s leadership had known ties to the American security community. The argument, however, that familiarity with someone makes you responsible for their actions is about as convincing as the argument that college professors are guilty for their students’ crimes. The implication is that, because some American representatives had professional connections to the junta leaders, the United States must have had a role in staging the coup; guilt by association (2004: 15).

As a matter of fact, the American side was utterly taken by surprise when on April 21, 1967, heavy-armored fighting vehicles appeared in the streets of all the major Greek urban centers, Greek politician were detained, and the land where democracy was born entered a long period of authoritarianism and populism. In the early hours of the 21st of April ultraright-wing military officers initiated with a relative ease a coup d’état. The success of the conspirators can be justified by two elements: first, the majority of the Greek Armed Forces supported the conspirators primarily with the tradition of ultraconservatism within Greek Army ranks, and also because the Army did not want to come under Andreas Papandreou’s political


2  The U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean: Historical and Political Considerations

control in case he were to form a government after the elections of May 1967.32 Second, no one in Greece truly believed that a junta was to take place, or in order to be more precise, no one in Greece during this particular time believed that an organized group had the capacity to challenge the King and the forces that were loyal to him. Perhaps, the most striking proof for this collective lack of contact with the political reality Greece was experiencing was the front page of AVGI [The Dawn], the only legally published daily journal of the Left, that on the day of the coup d’état, 21st April 1967, was released with the title “Why there is not going to be a Junta.” Interestingly enough, it was not only the Greek society which was trapped in a cloud of vagueness and of poor information—the U.S. Embassy in Athens had a similar problem. The first telegram from Athens to the State Department signed by Philips Talbot, the head of the U.S. diplomatic mission, highlighted that the Embassy had little information on what was happening in the streets on the night of the 21st of April. According to Talbot: On basis still fragmentary information I have formed tentative impression that coup was triggered this morning by small army group not including High Command, King or civilian political leaders. Service Chiefs of Staff, faced with question of whether they would cooperate, all appear to be joined and to be actively participating in planning next steps. Military command seems united and now fully committed to coup. King also appears no longer to fear possible arrest as he did when Defense Attaché talked with him at 0415 local time but rather to have joined with military leadership in considering where to go next … We have been told most members of Kanellopoulos government in protective custody. Andreas Papandreou reported in  local military prison. Because we had heard rumors that some political prisoners might suffer harm, I had Chief JUSMAGG and Defense Attaché call on General Papadatos to convey messages any such actions would greatly increase complications of already complicated situation. So far as we know, Athens, Thessaloniki, Crete and all other parts of the country are quiet now (FRUS 2000b)

If the U.S. had been behind the coup d’état, then Talbot would not have had this uncertain manner in channeling Washington with fragmented information regarding the situation in Greece during the first hours of the junta’s outbreak. The ambiguity continues in another of Talbot’s cables to the State Department during the first day of the events, where it is more than obvious that the American Ambassador in Athens did not have a clear picture regarding the faces behind the Greek camarilla. As he reported back to Washington:

 Besides the ultraconservative stance of the Greek Army, a political scandal within the Army ranks created an explosive sentiment of the Greek officers against Andreas Papandreou. In 1944, officers of the Free Greek Army that was fighting in the Middle East against the Nazis established IDEA [Sacred Bond of Greek Military Officers], a secret anti-communist organization that played an important role during the Greek Civil War. IDEA was loyal to the Palace and after the end of the civil strife fully controlled the Army. In 1965, the right-wing press accused Andreas Papandreou that he created a secret fraction inside the Army under the name ASPIDA [Officers Save the Nation, Ideals, Democracy, Meritocracy]—a rather smart abbreviation since in Greek the word Aspida means shield—in order to take control of the Armed Forces and use them as a battering ram against the Palace and the ultraright-wing political establishment. This infuriated the Army officers who approached the establishment of IDEA as another Papandreou’s plot to eventually govern Greece and introduce his radical ideas to the state.


7  The Greek Junta and the American Nonintervention


Gen Spandidakis broke in to report, as we knew, that telephone communications have been restored and other communications would return to normal tomorrow. In response to my question regarding well-being of people arrested today, Spandidakis stated former PriMin Kanellopoulos, Papaligouras, and other people in ERE govt would be released tonight immediately after our conversation or at latest Saturday morning. He said that George Papandreou, but not Andreas, would also be released, although he did not specify when. Spandidakis assured me that none of detainees would be physically harmed…Observing both Kollias and Spandidakis tonight, I was confirmed in my impression that PriMin is merely front-man and that real power rests with military. Question is which military (FRUS 2000c).

The American side was very much in the dark, together with everyone else in Greece besides the Colonels, and therefore the various accusations that Washington was pulling the strings of the clique are not only unfounded, but moreover a convenient tale which helps to exacerbate the trend of anti-Americanism among the Greeks, which lasts to this day. This trend continues to poison the Greek public opinion even until today, while it also offered the moral stance for the birth to one of the bloodiest leftist terrorist groups in Europe, the 17 of November (Kiesling 2014; Lekea 2014; Kassimeris 2013). Widespread anti-Americanism among the Greeks was and still is (though to a decreased degree in the past few years) giving the impression to the majority of Greek society that behind every negative event for Greece, an American involvement may be traced. Greek populism builds a gigantic image about the U.S. that according to the popular belief is always moving under the sun finding ways to harm the Greek state and its people. No rational explanation can be given for this silly belief besides the fact that since 1830, the year of the establishment of the modern Greek state, the Greeks are always blaming “τους ξένους”33 for every major or minor failure that occurs in their collective existence instead of the real source of their problems which is more difficult to admit and is no other than the weak state institutions that they built. Within this specific framework, again following the end of the Greek Civil War, the Greeks portray the U.S. as the usual scapegoat. Another approach of the same direction is that the American side can be held accountable for the junta in Greece because it did not force out the conspirators through a direct military intervention which could have restored democracy, or by issuing sanctions against the autocratic regime. Nevertheless, this is an oxymoron. In the Greek case, Washington had been accused for not being directly involved in the internal political development of a sovereign state. Yet, when the U.S. tried to do the same in other cases both allies and foes did not react in a positive way. The argument that this kind of intervention would have taken place against a nondemocratic regime is not very persuading, since many times in the past Washington ­intervened against autocratic regimes, Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Muamar Gaddafi in Libya, and Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, and still had been accused for its actions against rogue elements. For Washington, Greece’s safe positioning inside NATO was and still is one of its main foreign


 The foreigners.


2  The U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean: Historical and Political Considerations

policy goals in the Eastern Mediterranean. If an American unsuccessful military intervention would have taken place against the Greek junta this would have risked to place Greece, both de jure and de facto, outside of the North Atlantic framework. As it can be easily understood, such a development would have had produced a series of negative events for the U.S. presence in the Eastern Mediterranean, and also for Greece. Stability and continuity inside NATO were paramount for the U.S. and this fact, frequently, demands concessions of morality and ideology. The U.S. openly supported the return of democracy to Greece during the 7 years of the constitutional anomaly in the country. Nevertheless, the most critical task for the State Department was to keep Greece out of the path of a new civil war between the pro-junta and the pro-democratic sides, and to preserve the pro-Western orientation of the state. This can be clearly sensed in a telegram sent by the Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, to President Johnson, underlining that during the talks that the President was about to have with the Greek King, just few months after the coup d’état, the former had to clarify the American position to Konstantinos that the U.S. was in favor of the return of constitutionalism but not through the use of violence: King Constantine is coming to Washington at his request. While the main purpose of his visit is to explain the aims of the Greek Government which came to power in the April 21, 1967 coup and to obtain U.S. understanding and support for the Government, at the same time he will seek Presidential assurances of U.S. backing in any confrontation he might have with the Greek junta … We share the King’s view that he can play a constructive role in encouraging the Greek Government in the direction of constitutionalism. However, we believe we should caution him against pushing the regime to the point of provoking a confrontation, since we do not want to see armed conflict in Greece and would not wish to intervene militarily in his behalf (FRUS 2000d).

Many times reality gets lost, and the fervent idealistic rhetoric regarding the role of the U.S. as a global guardian of liberal democracy obscures the fact that the shiny city on the hill in reality is a normal state simply seeking to establish and safeguard its national interests first in the anarchic international domain. No matter if Wilsonian ideals were always appealing to the code of ethos of the American political elites, at the end the realistic dimensions of Hamiltonian thought will always prevail as long as the Jeffersonian awareness and the Jacksonian instincts of the American masses are not aroused by the White House or the Capitol Hill. In the case of the Greek junta, the American decision for an open-door policy to the dictators was sustainable as long as the tyrannical military regime of Athens did not harm or undermine the overarching U.S. interests in the Eastern Mediterranean, nor compromise Greece’s role in NATO’s framework. History may blame Washington for extra doses of realism in the Greek case of 1967; however this does not signify America’s fabrication or protection of the Greek junta. The necessities of the Cold War era and the strategic importance of the Eastern Mediterranean for the U.S. foreign policy were proven much more important for Washington than dealing with the domestic problems of the Greek political scene deriving from the constitutional volatility of the state, the irresponsible and narcissistic character of some of the main actors of the Greek political scene, and also Colonel’s raw populism and ultranationalism that were tolerated by a large part of the Greek society up until 1974 and the Turkish invasion in Cyprus.

8  The Imia Crisis and the Goal of Nonviolent Friction


8  The Imia Crisis and the Goal of Nonviolent Friction Since the end of the WWII and despite the fact that both Greece and Turkey, since 1952, belonged to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the diplomatic relations between Athens and Ankara faced a steady course of deterioration. Two elements were to be held accountable for this development. The first was a sui generis revisionism that proved to be well rooted in the Turkish consciousness and will be further analyzed in Chap. 5, while the second was the American effort to maintain a balanced approach towards both Athens and Ankara. This equal-distance policy by the U.S. has been extensively affected by the importance of the Eastern Mediterranean for Washington, a stance which Ankara has adroitly understood that every American President was always willing to excuse and tolerate any sort of toxic Turkish behavior to enable the veneer of unity in NATO’s south-eastern flank.

8.1  A Problematic Relation Since the Early Beginning Since the approval of the Lausanne Treaty, the diplomatic agreement which ended the war between Turkey and Greece on July 24, 1923, Ankara never willingly accepted to suppress the ambitions for a greater role in the Eastern Mediterranean (Oran 2014: 26–32). Despite the fact that under the Treaty the new Turkish state was obliged to protect the life and properties of all minority groups within its national framework, Ankara was responsible for operating two organized pogroms against the Greek community in Istanbul. The first was in 1942 where under a draconian and discriminatory tax law, the well-known Varlik Vergisi, every minority non-­ Muslim citizen was obliged to pay a new tariff in cash for every fixed asset they possessed within 15 days in cash, else they would face either imprisonment, property confiscation, or in many cases hard labor in concentration camps of Anatolia. Varlik Vergisi was a de jure act of aggression against each and every non-Muslim citizen in Turkey; however it mostly affected the Greek community both because of its high numbers in Istanbul and because of the fact that the Greeks had formed a compact upper middle class in the Turkish social mosaic (Exertzoglou 2003). As Nadir Nadi Abalioglu, a well-known Turkish journalist, confesses about the true intentions of Varlik Vergisi: … according to a more specific explanation, which was whispered from ear to ear, or even at times declared out loud, a second objective of the tax was to free the market from the control of the minorities and open it to Turks … our Jewish, Greek Orthodox and Catholic citizens who were proud of being Turkish citizens had to sell out their property and wealth for nothing (Weisband 1973: 232).

The second incident occurred during September 1955, amid the commencement of the Greek Cypriot struggle for Enosis of the island, with Greece and the Tripartite Conference in London between Greece, Britain, and Turkey to determine Cyprus’ status quo. In the afternoon of September 6, a large number of Turkish mob, totally


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unchallenged by the police, attacked Greek residencies, businesses, and Christian churches in Istanbul, while there were also reported heavy injuries, deaths of 15 Greeks and 1 Armenian, and various sexual assaults against members of the Greek community. The pogrom began after an explosion occurred in the courtyard of the Turkish Consulate in Thessaloniki, Greece, adjacent to the house where Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, was born. This bombing was an act of sabotage, organized and executed by the Turkish Government,34 yet the mob considered it as a national insult and turned against the Greek community of Istanbul under the silent encouragement of the authorities (Mills 2010: 54). The result was that the Greek community in Istanbul never managed to recover from the blow that derived from The Septemvriana. In order to save their lives and protect their families thousands of Greeks emigrated from Greece to the U.S., Canada, or Australia leaving behind their properties and an uninterrupted presence in the shores of the Propontis Sea since 667 BCE. Since the pogrom against the Greek community in Istanbul, the diplomatic relations between Athens and Ankara never returned back to normality, while the Cypriot Question was another issue that divided the two states. The Turkish side opposed every realistic prospect that could have led to the unification of the island with Greece, arguing that this would have had undermined the future of the Turkish Cypriot minority there. In reality, Turkey did not want to see the strategic island of Cyprus come under Greek control, despite the fact that the vast majority of the Cypriot population identified itself as Greek. As a matter of fact, on July 12, 1956, at the 290th meeting of the National Security Council the then U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon briefed the Council on his official visit to the Far East. During the briefing, Nixon referred to the Turkish approach over Cyprus: Apropos of his visit to Turkey, the Vice President said that he was amazed to find that the Turks had a positively pathological attitude on the Cyprus problem. The Prime Minister had even gone so far as to suggest that if Cyprus was joined to Greece, the Turks would go to war to prevent it. He had subsequently modified this statement. The reason for Turkish alarm over Cyprus, said the Vice President, was rather the closeness of the island to the Turkish mainland than concern for the Turkish minority living on Cyprus (FRUS 1989: vol. XXIV)

The tension between the two states reached a violent climax during summer 1974, where Turkey invaded the island twice within few weeks. Turkish armed forces succeeded in occupying the northern part of the island and establishing thereafter in 1983 a pseudo state which had been recognized by no other member state of the United Nations besides Turkey (Fouskas 2001). The U.S. did not intervene, neither during the first Turkish invasion in July 1974, nor during the second one in August 1974, to stop the landing and the advancement of the Turkish armed forces into the interior of the island. The reasons for this exaggerated neutrality are many. First of all, Washington clearly wanted to undermine the political authority of Archbishop Makarios, the first President of the Cypriot Republic since 1960. During the Enosis  During the 1960/1961 trial of the Prime Minister Adnan Menderes and Foreign Minister Fatin Zorlu it became known that the explosion in the Turkish Consulate in Thessaloniki has been carried by Turkish agents under the orders of the Turkish Government (Zayas 2007: 138).


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struggle of the Greek Cypriots Washington had established close links with Archbishop Makarios, one of the undisputed leaders of the Unification Movement. However, relations between the two sides deteriorated after the appearance of Cyprus as a sovereign entity in international politics in April 1960. One of the first moves that Makarios did as the leader of Cyprus was to set an autonomous foreign policy course for the fragile Republic. In 1961 Makarios participated in the founding meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement in Belgrade, sending the clear message that Cyprus was not to follow the Western orientation of Greece or Turkey. However, after some years in power the Archbishop showed signs of political immaturity, unable to grasp the Cold War balance of power in the Eastern Mediterranean. In 1972 Makarios ordered $2.5 million in small and medium arms from Czechoslovakia in order to equip a militia loyal to him as a self-protection move, against the wishes of the Greek junta that was planning to neutralize him in order to control the political development in the island (Warner 2009:132). Makarios’ opening towards Czechoslovakia convinced Washington that the Cypriot President was not to be trusted, as he was willing to open the door of the island to the Soviets in order to safeguard himself from Athens, a development that would have had immensely undermined the U.S. policy in the Eastern Mediterranean. Second, during the two Turkish invasions of Cyprus, Greece decided not to be militarily involved in the crisis, except for the stationed Greek Armed Forces in Cyprus [EL.DY.K], because of the volatile political situation the state was in facing a transition from the junta days to the birth of the Third Greek Republic (Kassimeris 2008). In addition, Athens knew that its military capabilities, after 7 years of the junta in power, were limited. Athens’ decision to not to declare war against Turkey was a big relief for Washington and a continuous source of national embarrassment for Greece. Due to Athens’ decision to escape from its geostrategic responsibilities to protect the Greek Cypriot community of the island from the persecutions of the Turkish Army, the U.S. did not have to intervene in order to pacify two NATO members and it only had to monitor the developments in the Eastern Mediterranean, not to allow a military spillover effect to affect negatively its status in the region. It goes without saying that the preservation of the advanced American status in the Eastern Mediterranean was the primary goal of the U.S. foreign policy, especially since Cyprus was a non-NATO state. During the summer of 1974, it was emphatically reaffirmed that Washington would intervene to resolve a crisis only in case that Greece and Turkey were about to collide with force.

8.2  G  reece and Turkey: Parallel Courses of Profound Decadence In the following paragraphs, it will be clearly shown how the U.S. successfully maintained peace and Western unity in the Eastern Mediterranean during the latest serious military crisis between Greece and Turkey back in 1996 over the Imia Islets.


2  The U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean: Historical and Political Considerations

As it will be argued, the U.S. showed a blend of Hamiltonian realism along with Wilsonian creativity, which proved to be clearly decisive for the nonviolent de-­ escalation of the crisis, despite the fact that even until today the legal status over the Imia Islets is vague and, as a result of the crisis, Greece had fatal casualties. Nevertheless, this gives an edge to the widely accepted argument that the U.S. never claimed to be a judge of international crises but is constantly trying to protect its national interests with as much integrity and ethical approach as the Hobbesian international environment allows. As it was expected, the end of the Cold War did not ameliorate the Greek-Turkish relations. On the contrary, it can be argued that the relations between Athens and Ankara were rapidly deteriorating. The main reason for this was the rise of nationalism on both sides of the Aegean Sea, not necessarily in equally shared proportions. Greece was totally unprepared to host millions of economic migrants from the ex-­ Warsaw Pact countries and neighboring Balkans, who poured into the state striving to find a place under the sun after decades of political suppression and economic deprivation behind the Iron Curtain. On top of that, the Yugoslav Civil War and the appearance of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as an independent entity created an explosive domestic socioeconomic environment for Greece with great doses of populism and nationalistic slogans. This toxic environment deeply affected Greek politics too. For example, in 1993 the liberal government of Konstantinos Mitsotakis collapsed under the pressure of one of the most prominent members of his government, Antonis Samaras, who opposed the sincere efforts of the former to find a viable solution in the diplomatic dispute between Athens and Skopje to safeguard the sensitive balance of power in South-Eastern Europe (Tziampiris 2011; Zahariadis 2005). The majority of the Greek people were persuaded that the survival and sustainability of the Greek state were under direct threat. This sense of insecurity was intensified by the rise of raw populism from politicians like Antonis Samaras and also by the constant challenges in the Aegean Sea from neighboring Turkey. The end of the Cold War found Turkey in a confusing position about its role and its true potential in the Eastern Mediterranean. On the one hand, the pivotal strategic and political changes that were taking place in the region gave Turkey the impression that it was the right timing to fulfill its hegemonic aspirations, a feeling that influenced collective consciousness since the first days of the state, which was also synonymous with a fitting territorial revisionism towards all the neighboring states, especially against Greece and Syria.35 On the other hand, during the early post-Cold War era, Turkey went through an unprecedented political and economic crisis that questioned the fundamentals of the state. Politically, the beginning of the 1990s revealed a well-guarded truth that the Kemalist deep state was unable to contain. In  Ankara, immediately after the signing of the Lausanne Treaty, began to develop a concrete revisionist stance that was targeting the legal status quo of the Aegean Sea, while it also managed to annex the Sanjak of Alexandretta, the today province of Hatay, from Syria under the consent of the French administration in 1939. Regarding the Alexandretta case see Pelt (2014: 35–37) and Bein (2017: 90–104).


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the general elections of 1991, the Islamic Welfare Party [Refah Partisi] formed an alliance with the ultranationalists of the National Movement Party [Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi] and along with the ultraconservatives of the Reformist Democracy Party [Islahatçı Demokrasi Partisi] they secured 16.9% of the Turkish electoral body, signaling the rise of political Islam in an institutional environment in which since 1923 Kemalist regime had de jure curtailed Islamism from the public sphere. However, the domestic political quakes continued at a steady pace in the years to follow. In 1994 the young and promising member of the Welfare Party, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, managed for the first time since the formation of the Turkish state to be elected as the first Islamist Mayor of Istanbul, while in 1995 the Welfare Party under the leadership of Necmettin Erbakan became the first Islamist ruling party in Kemalist Turkey through a government coalition with the center-right Dogru Yol Partisi [True Path Party] (Rabasa and Larabee 2008:42–43). While the rise of political Islam applied immense pressure upon the Kemalist deep state, the national economy was stuck between a rock and a hard place. During the 1990s, the Turkish economy faced continuous crises deriving from the fragile banking sector, a weak currency, and a highly corrupted political establishment. All of these contributed to growing fiscal deficits, to lack of foreign investors’ confidence, and to continuous severe austerity programs (Macovei 2009). The rise of political Islam in concert with the economic instabilities of that period created an explosive internal situation. In the country where Kemal Ataturk was still being worshiped as a quasi-deity, and his words and deeds as divine commandments written on stone, the rise of political Islam was intensely disturbing to the deep state. This toxic internal atmosphere, which was poisoning the Turkish daily life, created a fertile ground for opportunistic and revisionist policies against its neighbors and in particular towards the other side of Aegean Sea.

8.3  I mia: A Deep Interstate Crisis and the American Intervention On Christmas Day, 1995, the Turkish cargo vessel Figen Akat ran aground on the Small Imia, an uninhabited rocky islet at the northern edge of the Greek Dodecanese chain. It is not my intention to present a detailed analysis regarding the legal status of Imia36 as the ontological aspects of this particular case had been explicitly set

 For the historical record it is important to quote at this point the words of the U.S. Ambassador Niles who was the head of the American diplomatic mission in Athens during the Imia crisis. His account of the events has a particular interest because it shows the validity of the Greek legal claims over Imia and therefore over the Aegean Sea: “We did not really have a clue of the legal background. We had never heard of Imia. We set our lawyers to work on the historical record. The Dodecanese islands had been Turkish from the early sixteenth century (recall that Rhodes was seized from the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem in 1527, thus the story of the ‘Maltese Falcon’) until 1911, when they were seized by the Italians, who kept in theory through 1947, when they were



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within the Treaty of Paris in 1947, which asserts inhabited Dodecanese islands and all the adjacent islets to Greece (Athanasopulos 2001: 75–77). In addition, my objective is to demonstrate that the Imia crisis was purely a diplomatic and a military zero hour; therefore it must be approached by focusing on the geostrategic aspects of the incident only. After all, in International Law it either takes two to tango or one of the two must be exceptionally powerful in order to impose its own will upon the other. Turkey since its establishment has no desire to dance under the tunes of International Law, while Greece has not given the attention it should to its ontological development to be able to impose the letter of International Law when this is needed. When Figen Akat’s naval accident occurred in the Greek territorial waters, a Greek tugboat appeared first to Imia in order to exercise a typical search-and-rescue operation. Nevertheless, the Turkish captain of the freighter informed the Greek side that the tugboat was in Turkish waters, and that Turkish tugboats were coming to assist him and the crew. The next day the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed the Turkish side that Figen Akat was under the immense danger of being sunk in case it was not to be drawn to the closest port. In December 27 the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement that openly questioned the Greek sovereignty over the Imia islets. The incident was quickly forgotten due to the holiday season; however a month after that the then Mayor of Kalymnos, Dimitrios Diakomihalis, accompanied by the local Chief Constable Georgios Riolas and two more went to the Small Imia and raised a Greek flag. Obviously, this move gave the opportunity to the Turkish side to escalate tensions according to its own will. Two days later, two journalists from Hürriyet, a major daily Turkish newspaper, arrived on Small Imia and filmed the lowering of the Greek flag and the raising of the Turkish flag instead. The direct provocation pushed the crisis further in a negative direction. On January 28, a small group of Greek Special Forces was sent to the Small Imia to guard the islet, while between 30th and 31st January Turkish Special Forces landed on the Large Imia bringing the prospect of a violent clash between the two states even closer. In fact, at 5:30 on January 31st, a Greek military helicopter

ceded to Greece under the Treaty of Paris. In January 1932, the Italians and the Turks concluded a treaty that delineated that area. The Turks accepted Italian sovereignty over the Dodecanese Islands, which they had never done before. In December of 1932, the Italians and the Turks signed a Protocol to the January 1932 Treaty in which the Turks agreed that a designated list of smaller islands, which included Imia, were also Italian. It was clear that what they had done was to follow the three-mile limit. Anything in the Dodecanese area that was outside three miles from the Turkish coast was recognized as Italian. Imia is four miles from the Turkish coast, and as I said, Imia was mentioned in the Protocol as belonging to Italy. The Turks claim that the Protocol was not registered with the League of Nations, as international agreements were supposed to be at that time, and was therefore invalid. Under the Wilsonian doctrine of treaties being freely negotiated and publicized, i.e. no secret treaties, there was the League of Nations requirement that treaties be registered with that body. Turkey and Italy registered the basic Treaty of January 1932. Our lawyers said that because the basic Treaty had been registered, the Protocol did not need to be registered in order to be regarded as valid. That was the Greek position. Moreover, as they pointed out, both Turkey and Italy treated the Protocol as valid up until the end of WWII” (Niles 1998: 305).

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on mission crashed in the Aegean Sea, killing all three members of the crew.37 The two sides of the south-eastern flank of NATO were on the brink of starting a new Greco-Turkish war. On the one hand, the Greek side under the government of Kostas Simitis seemed completely lost and unable to get a grip of the rapidly deteriorating situation, while for the Turkish side the crisis provided a window out of the gloomy domestic scene to take societal attention away from the daily problems. A military episode against Greece was a great opportunity for Turkey to operate a rally round the flag move, strengthening the position of the government that during that period was hardly beaten by the media for economic scandals and mismanagement (Bayar and Kotelis 2014; Hickok 1998; Raftopoulos 2000). Since the very beginning of the crisis, the U.S. closely monitored the developments between Athens and Ankara. As the American Ambassador in Greece during the Imia crisis, Thomas Niles, recalls about these days: On the morning of the January 29, 1996, we learned that Greek forces had landed on Imia. I called the Minister of Defense and he confirmed that troops had landed on Imia. I told him he needed to get them out and he replied that he could not remove the troops from Greek territory. I called the Prime Minister and repeated my position, warning that the Turkish response might be unpredictable. I also alerted the Operations Center and my counterpart in Ankara that we might be in for a rough ride (Niles 1998: 304).

It goes without saying that the primary political goal of Washington was to de-­ escalate the tension and not to allow the two NATO members to proceed towards a direct collision. As Niles continues with his description during these critical moments for peace and stability in the Aegean Sea: All hands were on deck. Mark Grossman [the U.S.  Ambassador in Ankara] was doing essentially the same things. I was in the office about 1:00 a.m. President Clinton had been on the phone with Simitis [the Greek Prime Minister], Secretary Christopher had been on the phone with Pangalos [Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs], I was in touch with both of them, and Dick Holbrooke had been in touch with everybody (Niles 1998: 304).

Washington knew that in case Greece and Turkey were to clash, then the future status quo in the Aegean Sea would have had been in a constant chaotic condition returning back to the days of the summer of 1974. American foreign policy, instead of playing the gauche role of Superman, concentrated on the realistic aspect of the crisis. The State Department searched for an appropriate course of action to rapidly decompress the situation between Ankara and Athens instead of getting in the middle between the two. It was the right decision, allowing the American side not to be absorbed by the crisis itself, so as to maintain a distance in order to find a way out of the geostrategic conundrum between disgruntled allies within NATO. Eventually, the crisis began to wind down mainly because on the one hand Turkey got what it wanted out of the Imia deadlock, that is, the two islets became a “no-go” spot both for the Turkish side and for the Greek one, while the Greek side avoided a catastrophic war against Turkey, despite the fact that it was clearly the

 Commander Christodoulos Karathanasis; Commander Papagiotis Vlachakos; Ensign Ektoras Gialopsos.



2  The U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean: Historical and Political Considerations

defeated side. From the American point of view, it was a successfully diplomatic intervention. The two sides withdrew from the Large and Small Imia islets without additional direct violent confrontation. The Greek Premier, Kostas Simitis, publicly thanked the American side for its role in acting as an arbitrator during a stormy session in the Greek Parliaments, where every other side of the House was accusing the government for betraying the nation and its sovereign rights over the Imia islets. It goes without saying that the American role was pivotal in preserving the peace in the Aegean Sea. Greece and Turkey did not go to war, the unity of NATO in the Eastern Mediterranean was preserved, and the U.S. was not forced into the difficult position of having to openly choose one NATO ally over another. From a Greek point of view, the Imia case was a negative development for national interests. Greece, for the first time since the catastrophic and humiliating war against the Ottoman Empire in 1897, lost national territory since today the area around the Imia islets is a no-go area for both states. Nevertheless, Imia before the crisis was a Greek territory, which clearly put Greece on the losing side. The Imia crisis and its sui generis conclusion gave the opportunity to Ankara to intensify its revisionist agenda in the Aegean Sea, while it also gave a critical blow against Greece’s national credibility. As I have argued regarding the Imia crisis, following this episode, Greece accepted a severe blow on its national prestige, since the state’s mobilization collapsed under the geostrategic pressure (Litsas 2014). Once again, the American side chose to safeguard the balance of power in the Eastern Mediterranean and its foreign policy in the region at the expense of one of its allies, this time Greece. As Ambassador Niles confesses: We knew by the time we took this position that the Greeks were right on the sovereignty argument. The Turks knew that we knew their position was very weak. When we refused to take a position it sent a signal back to the Turks that we prepared to countenance or not do anything about aggressive Turkish behavior toward the Greeks on the territorial issues in the Aegean. We did not want to offend an important ally, Turkey, but what this led to was a succession of Turkish claims and statements about the Aegean territorial issues that poisoned the relationship with Greece even further (Niles 1998: 306).

The Imia crisis and the Suez Crisis are two most characteristic incidents that show the true importance of the Eastern Mediterranean for the American side. This particular region is not just another geographic location which is highly valued from the White House and the State Department for its undisputable geostrategic value. Both the Imia and the Suez Crises demonstrated that the U.S. can take the initiative in times of high tension, and to force its own rules regarding the evolution of affairs in the Eastern Mediterranean.

9  Conclusion Since the early days of the Union, even before acquiring the capacity to play a central role in the international affairs, the U.S. showed its vivid interest for the Eastern Mediterranean. The first overseas military expedition that the newly born state put



forward took place in the shores of Tripolitania; the first major economic and diplomatic commitment of the U.S. took place through the implementation of the Truman Doctrine in Greece and Turkey; the first time that the U.S. behaved not as a benevolent hegemon but as a superpower was during the Suez Crisis towards Britain, France, and Israel; the first time that the U.S. behaved as a Pontius Pilate, washing its hand over diplomatic necessities instead of promoting its democratic ethos, was in Greece during the coup d’état in 1967; and the first time that the U.S. decided to keep an equal distance from both the aggressor and the bullied was in the Imia crisis of 1996. In all these cases, the U.S. behaved as the enchanted knight on a white horse that is willing to sacrifice everything in order to be able to continue to have mastery over his favorite dominion, i.e., the Eastern Mediterranean. In the next chapters it will be seen whether or not this almost metaphysical connection between the U.S. and the Eastern Mediterranean continues up until today, and what are the main future directions of the American foreign policy in the region.

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Chapter 3

Obama’s Foreign Policy and the Arab Spring: The Cases of Egypt, Libya, and Syria Who has gone farthest? for I would go farther And who has been just? for I would be the most just person in the earth, And who most cautious? for I would be more cautious … Walt Whitman “Excelsior”

1  Introduction This chapter covers Barack Obama’s foreign policy in the Eastern Mediterranean and in particular in three main cases of the Arab Spring: Egypt, Libya, and Syria. There are many reasons why I have decided to dive into the stygian depths of the Arab Spring. On first look, this sociopolitical phenomenon still continues to deeply influence the Eastern Mediterranean by questioning the established status quo of the Arab states. And more importantly, the Arab Spring proved to be the most serious foreign policy test for Barack Obama and for the American establishment in the MENA region. Perhaps, for the first time during the U.S. presence in the Eastern Mediterranean, Washington failed to produce positive results for American national interests and for the status quo of the region, playing the graceless role of a distant observer in many cases. This failure, as it has already been labeled in the theoretical analysis of the wider Arab Spring phenomenon, is utterly interesting and at the same time crucially important, since it sets the foundations for the next day in the Eastern Mediterranean. Additionally, the study of Barack Obama’s foreign policy in the region has another point of interest: to comprehend how such a talented and charismatic politician of high global caliber failed not only to minimize the negative aspects of the Arab Spring in the Eastern Mediterranean but also to protect the American status in a region of high importance for U.S. foreign policy. Was it a matter of a systemic breakdown of the American antennae? Was the Arab Spring a more complex and durable phenomenon, both in context and substance, than the Western world in general thought it to be? Was Barack Obama perhaps unwilling, unable, or unprepared to first accept the responsibility of preserving the U.S. foreign policy in the Eastern Mediterranean, and to do so with the same skill as his predecessors © Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 S. N. Litsas, US Foreign Policy in the Eastern Mediterranean,



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­ anaged during previous times of high global political tensions? All these quesm tions led me to the writing of this chapter, one of the most interesting moments for the U.S. foreign policy in the twenty-first century, beyond a doubt. In addition, this chapter provides a second1 and a third image2 analysis regarding the origins of the Arab Spring, as well as a conceptual approach regarding this multidimensional phenomenon that still affects a large part of the sociopolitical and ideological developments in the Eastern Mediterranean, including the U.S. foreign policy in the region.

2  The Arab Spring: A Conceptual Analysis For various reasons, that mainly have to do with the natural inclination to illusionary or pretentious conditions, we humans believe that history proceeds mainly through the exclusive participation of the elites in the sociopolitical developments of the globe, as this privileged engagement is taking place in the mega metropoles of the world, or at least in the suburbia of the great powers. Yet, unlike epic poems, best-­ selling historical fiction, or blockbuster movies, history (or at least a large part of it) is being mainly forged in the dark alleys of our planet, having as protagonists the most ordinary next-door personalities. History, as Martyn Lyons (2010: 59.2) or as Tim Hitchcock (2004: 295) argue convincingly, is mainly a product from below, meaning that it is a direct result of the grassroots movements, constantly reaching the political surface of humanity either as organized actions of disobedience towards an existing status quo or as indirect consequences of random developments which penetrate the daily fragile existence of simple people. I am not sure that this antiheroic approach shall be applied to every aspect of the historical evolution of humanity. After all, my classical training in school on Ancient Greece, Rome, and the Byzantine Empire, the three main pillars of historical tutoring for every pupil in Greek primary and secondary education during the mighty 1980s and the fascinating early 1990s, gave me a different direction. It was the brave generals from the aristocracy, the deceiving politicians, or the treacherous Emperors, who were producing history with their brave achievements on the battlefields or with their despicable actions in the Agora, Senate, or the dark alleys of the Royal Court. However, this history from above is not visible in the Arab Spring, which has already deeply shaped, and still continues to decidedly exercise its influence on the sociopolitical, military, and economic physiognomy of the Eastern Mediterranean. In order to produce a much more balanced theoretical approach regarding the friction between “history from above” and “history from below,” I 1  The second image analysis, developed by Kenneth Waltz (1959: Chap. 4), may be used as a variable in explaining the foreign policy of a state by focusing on the internal ingredients that form the ontology of a state. 2  The third image analysis according to Kenneth Waltz (1959: Chap. 6) may be used as a variable in explaining the foreign policy of a state by focusing on the structural ontology of the international system.

2  The Arab Spring: A Conceptual Analysis


maintain the view that the first spark which quickly became a wild fire for the whole of the region of the Eastern Mediterranean had certainly not been generated by a member of the elite. The first sign of the Arab Spring, which was soon to be felt as an unmanageable firestorm in both the Middle East and North Africa, was proffered by an ordinary Tunisian citizen who never dreamed, and most probably never wanted, to hold the leading role during the opening act of the modern drama unfolding still in every corner of the Arab world. The beginning of the Arab Spring is beyond any doubt a product of “history from below,” where the scientific analysis usually does not occur up until the moment that a great-scale violent eruption occurs. The chain of events commences at the rather infamous Tunisian city of Sidi Bouzid,3 an urban center with a profound lack of architectural grace or of natural beauty, situated in the center of Tunisia, with a population of 45,000. The protagonist was a 26-year-old Tunisian male. Not handsome, nor ugly, not tall or very short, he was an ordinary person, making a living by working hard as a street vendor in the narrow alleys of a Tunisian town in the middle of nowhere. Mohamed Bouazizi, the name of this leading actor of the Arab Spring drama, was forced to drop out of school at a very young age following the death of his father. He was forced to work in the streets so that he could bring money back home to his mother and to his six younger siblings. The morning of December 17, 2010, was not different than any other before. Bouazizi took his cart out in the streets to sell his fruits and vegetables. As the hours were passing by, people in the streets were not particularly interested in what he was selling. Perhaps he had time to think the worries of his life, or about the loan of $200 he took from a neighbor in order to buy more stock, assess the daily needs of his poor household which relied on him, and contemplate the sad reality that the majority of times he was not able to meet their expectations. Maybe these dark thoughts pushed him to take his cart out of the narrow streets of downtown and onto the Avenue Mohamed V. Usually he was avoiding this route, as the patrolling police would stop him for a check, meaning that he would have had been fined as he had been many times during the past. The police were always asking for his permit to sell fruits in the streets, one that he did not have because it was very expensive and difficult to obtain. Yet, he had to sell fruits in order to return back home not with empty hands. Soon enough however, he would be in the hands of Kleio, the muse of history according to Ancient Greek mythology, and together with him the whole of the Arab world. As soon as he entered the Avenue Mohamed V, he was stopped by a police foot patrol. During those days, the city was full of policemen, since some violent protests had been held against the Tunisian Government of President Ben Ali. Protests started against the Tunisian political establishment due to the asphyxiating high prices in commodities, rising unemployment among the youth, and prevailing systemic corruption, which were producing a toxic societal environment. Bouazizi probably hoped that because of these troubles and because the police would have to 3  The only historical reference that is being associated with Sidi Bouzid is the battle that occurred there in 1943 between the German 10th and 21st Panzer Divisions and the U.S. first Armored Division and 168th Infantry and it was the opening act of the famous Battle of Kasserine Pass.


3  Obama’s Foreign Policy and the Arab Spring: The Cases of Egypt, Libya, and Syria

deal with these violent protests, he and his cart would have passed unnoticed. Alas, he was wrong. The police foot patrol stopped him and asked for his permit, already knowing probably that the poor young guy did not have one. Among the patrol, a policewoman became very aggressive with Bouazizi for no obvious reason as some passersby later said on TV cameras. Though Bouazizi felt humiliated, he restrained himself, trying to find a way out of this pressing situation, but to no avail. In the end, despite Bouazizi’s pleas, the police decided to confiscate his two electronic scales and to issue him a fine. This act of draconian implementation of law outraged the young man, who appealed to the office of the governor of the province hoping to find justice and perhaps empathy. Nevertheless, in states where a humanitarian dimension of the rule of law does not exist the humiliation of the weaker members of the society by those who have the right to exercise any form of authority is a frequent event. Bouazizi’s attempts were doomed to fail. The governor not only refused to return the confiscated electronic scales, but he also declined Bouazizi to present his case. The ordinary Tunisian street vendor left the governor’s office shouting outside of the governor’s office, “if you don’t see me I’ ll burn myself” (The Times 2011). No one thought that this ordinary guy was serious with his threat. Alas, he was! Within less than an hour he returned back to the governor’s headquarters, he shouted outside of the building that the governor does not allow him to make a living and then he was doused in petrol and set himself alight. The fact that self-­ immolation in Islam has no political or doctrinal credentials (Khosrokhavar 2012; Afsaruddin 2018) underlines the amount of psychological stress Bouazizi was subjected to during that time. It also fully reveals, on a wider scale, the level of the social conundrum Tunisia was facing under the despotic and fully corrupted rule of the President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.4 Peaceful demonstrations in Sidi Bouzid began almost immediately, and soon were spread throughout the whole country until January 4, 2011, when Bouazizi died in hospital. His death outraged Tunisians, who took the streets again. This time they were not only protesting in Bouazizi’s memory, but violently also demanding for Ben Ali’s resignation. The effect of Bouazizi’s episode cut so deep into the Tunisian collective consciousness that nothing was to be the same again in Tunisia for Ben Ali and his state apparatus: When Mohamed Buazizi, distraught after authorities shut down his vegetable stall for operating without a license, set himself on fire in the city of Sidi Buzid … the act was so dramatic—so beyond the parameters of normal experience—that for some Tunisians the cost of continuing to behave as if they approved became unbearable. These were the first ­protestors, who rioted in the streets of Sidi Buzid. Their actions triggered bandwagoning by thousand

4  Ben Ali, a former military officer, was appointed as a Prime Minister of Tunisia in 1987 and few months later through a coup d’état organized by himself he declared himself President of the state. A charismatic politician that tried to liberalize the Tunisian political system up to a certain extent, however he did little to tackle state corruption or to establish a social mobility system in Tunisia that would have had given the opportunity to the youth to have a better prospect for its own future. In general Ben Ali was not a blood-thirsty tyrant to the caliber of Gaddafi or of Bashar al-Assad. Yet, he proved to be unable to control the social tsunami that Bouazizi’s self-immolation had created. For more regarding Ben Ali’s governing in pre-Arab Spring times see Murphy (1999) and Borowiec (1998).

2  The Arab Spring: A Conceptual Analysis


more who joined the demonstrations, emboldened by the sight of their fellow citizens daring to confront the regime (Penner Angrist 2011).

Ten days after Bouazizi’s death, the Tunisian President fled to Saudi Arabia in order to save his life, while the poor street vendor was voted as the person of the year of 2011 from The London Times and from The Jerusalem Post. While during his short and difficult life the street peddler from Sidi Bouzid barely managed to keep his head out of the water, following his death he became the catalyst for the political future of Tunisia and moreover for the Arab world. The Arab Spring, named first as such by Marc Lynch (2011), was a large-scale social unrest that began first in Tunisia and soon affected the whole Arab world. Though created from the burnt flesh of Bouazizi, it still carries the distinct elements of desperation, agony, and pain of the one individual or of the millions who strive for a better life in this part of the world. Approaching the whole phenomenon from a more theoretical point of view, it is evident that the Arab Spring was primarily and still remains a domestic sociopolitical phenomenon that penetrated the Arab world from side to side (Beck and Hüser 2012; Dupont and Passy 2011; Kienle and Louër 2013). In addition, due to its mega impact, it still produces a great level of influence on the regional developments that occur not only in North Africa but in the Eastern Mediterranean as well (Hinnesbusch 2016; Gutkowski 2016; Tziampiris 2019; Stivachtis 2019). At the same time, mostly due to the strategic importance of the region, the Arab Spring became also an issue of international significance, raising the tensions and provoking the involvement, direct or by proxy, of the major players at an international level. Thus, from a theoretical point of view, the Arab Spring is a distinctive event of many divergent legs, combining both the domestic and the international level of analysis. Consequently, if an analyst wishes to dive into the perplexities of the Arab Spring then it is important to see it as a second and a third image phenomenon5 making use of the methodological tools of structural realism, on the one hand, and neoclassical realism on the other. Though the Arab Spring is a general label referring to each and every turbulent event in the post-Bouazizi era in the whole of the Arab spectrum, there are some common features enabling analysts to comprehend its multidimensional ontology. The most significant link interconnecting all the miscellaneous events composing the nucleus of the Arab Spring is that each of its chapters embarks from the stasis dimension. How stasis is defined? According to Thucydides, stasis is an internal revolution that justifies deeds that defy nomos [the law] leading the most of the times to a civil strife (Zumbrunnen 2008: 28–29; Lebow 2008). In addition, Adam Watson

5  According to Kenneth Waltz, the father of the three image analyses, every political event and most of all every war that is the most complicated political event in the conceptual pyramid of international theory can be analyzed by probing the decision-making process of a state under the influence of the human nature and in particular through the role, negative or positive, of the individual leaders (first level), by scrutinizing the character, institutional, political, and ideological, of the state or the states that are involved in the construction of the phenomenon (second image), and last but certainly not least by thoroughly studying the structure of the international system during the period that the phenomenon begins, matures, and completes its orbit (third level). For more see Waltz (1954), Suganami (2009), Wilmer (2002: 1–24), and Wagner (2007).


3  Obama’s Foreign Policy and the Arab Spring: The Cases of Egypt, Libya, and Syria

(1992: 52) describes stasis as “the use of armed force inside a city to alter the way it was governed. It involved revolution and counter-revolution, a resort to arms against one’s fellow citizens. The bitterness engendered by stasis is always very high.” Evidently, stasis aims to a regime change. It rejects the existing establishment, the rules and ethos of the ruling political elite, while it also openly defies the future prospect of the state as they are being set up by the prevailing political guard. I argue, regarding the essence as well as the primary political goals of the stasis6: Stasis is a violent political event that may be well planned long before its commencement or may arise abruptly under the pressure of social hardship, a defective administrative system, a corrupted political elite, or a profound rapture between peoples’ desires and politicians’ intentions, thereby leading to internal violent clashes between the supporters of the existing status quo and the insurgents. The aim of Stasis is straightforward, namely the overthrow of the existing regime and the construction of a new political framework with novel ideological shape, rhetoric and symbols of authority. Because of its violent nature, the phenomenon of Stasis usually takes place in a non-democratic and represents the last resort of the oppressed in order to change their fate in the most radical way, namely through a violent attack against the de jure authority … During Stasis, society turns into a mob, reaching its most primordial instincts … The focal goal of Stasis is to take over control and exercise sovereignty’s monopoly (Litsas 2013: 363).

The complexity of the stasis refers mainly to the fact that the known other, i.e., the neighbor, brother, or friend, is the opponent that takes the form of the main obstacle for the success of the rebel side, or for the crushing of the insurgents by the counterinsurgency mechanisms. Animosity towards the other is primordial because the political end can only be met if the goal of the absolute domination will be fulfilled. Thus, the level of the required violence is immense and the circle of blood closes only when the other side is totally defeated, reminding the words of Arno Mayer (2000: 323): “if war is hell, then civil war belongs to hell’s deepest and most infernal regions.” The Arab Spring meets all the above criteria in an appealingly stygian way. Yet, what are the origins of the Arab Spring?

2.1  Second Image Analysis Mainly due to the strategic position the Eastern Mediterranean has as a corridor between Europe and Asia, the European powers, especially Britain and France, showed a vivid interest in building bridges with the Arab world, especially after the

6  The most characteristic stasis is the so-called Nika Riot or the Stasis of Nika that occurred in January 532 CE at Constantinople during the reign of the Emperor Justinian. The two main factions of that time, the Blues and the Greens, that were constantly competing each other in the popular chariot races surprisingly formed a pact against the Byzantine Emperor and occupied the streets of the capital asking for the overthrow of Justinian. The end of the Stasis of Nika occurred when the loyal to the Emperor generals, Velisarios and Mundros, entered the city slaughtering 30,000 people, a number that represented 10% of the total population of Constantinople during that time (Evans 2005: 15–20).

2  The Arab Spring: A Conceptual Analysis


mid-nineteenth century due to the waning of the Ottoman Empire, to impose their presence in the region through economic and military means. The Arab lands were either incorporated into the colonial structure of the European powers or remained under their high supervision as puppet states. However, the result on the international balance of power was the same. The anti-colonial sentiments which developed within Arab societies produced large quantities of extreme radicalization for the local communities. This radicalization process led the majority of the Arabs towards either political extremism or religious zealotry that was mainly related with the conservative parts of Sunni Salafi Islam. As Lahouari Addi (2017: 12) underlines regarding the results of this radicalization process in the Arab sociopolitical nucleus: The struggle against colonialism mobilized the resources of identity, of which religion was one, leading to the ideological incoherence that might eventually prevent the post-colonial state from bringing peace in the political sphere.

The processes followed by European states to evacuate their colonies under the U.S. encouragement or direct pressure, as shown in Chap. 1, differed from case to case. However, in all these different cases in the Arab world there was a common consequence that had to do with the domestic balance of power in the early postcolonial era. As a matter of fact, after the departure of the colonial powers, Arab societies were in a long transition phase of systemic conflict: economies were in ruins, and civic institutions were either dysfunctional or regarded as part of the ancien regime and thus were terminated. The decolonization process inside the Arab world, for reasons that had to do with the sui generis structure of the societal pyramid, was a period that for the masses proved to be utterly dramatic, though partially emancipating. The only formidable cornerstones for the building of new states, after the end of the colonial rule, were Islamic religion and raw coercive military power, which dimmed the prospects of laying solid foundations for the transformation of these Arab states into democratic, tolerant, multireligious, and liberal hubs. This result, negative from every point of view, derived both from the historical legacy of the Arab ontology which for centuries remained under the benighted Ottoman and then the firm European control. However, it also has to be said that the contribution of the Islamic religion towards this result proved to be equally instrumental as well. Islam, both as a religion and as a sociopolitical structure, is conservative in substance, promoting absolute obedience to a higher divine authority as the only acceptable and pious way for an individual or for a collective entity to function effectively. The two only acceptable sources for the political administration of an Islamic society are the Quran and the Sunnah, with its jurisprudent structure deriving from Sharia. Social and gender segregation was, and still is, a fundamental doctrinal task, with society functioning through an inflexible patriarchal system. As well, ultraconservatism rejects any dimension of technological or scientific advancement—contrasting the days of the so-called Arab Islamic Glory Age between 786 and 1258 CE, when the Arab world pioneered physics, chemistry, algebra, and cartography (Huff 2017: 53–75). This then promotes an anti-egalitarian social structure, where raw power and coercion are considered to be God’s will. Successively,


3  Obama’s Foreign Policy and the Arab Spring: The Cases of Egypt, Libya, and Syria

these primeval forms of collective structure work to incapacitate any sense of checks and balances within the civic Arab structure, encouraging and promoting instead corruption, demagogy, mediocrity, and nepotism. Even in those cases within the Arab world where secular regimes imposed through violent methods their dominance, the influence of Islam and its profound conservatism remained robust, not at a metaphysical level, but at the level of political practices and social beliefs. At this point, I open a parenthesis to my analysis to refer to a personal speculation. I have been studying Islam and the Arab societies for decades now, since my early undergraduate years. I had always been astonished by the sociopolitical underdevelopment that penetrates some Arab societies not only as a political trend but also as an institutional consequence. I object these views that rationalize this form of domestic negativity through the essence of the Islamic religion itself. I have reached the conclusion that this selective Arab backwardness originates from local reactionary regimes, which impose their will upon people by persuasively rationalizing this form of societal and ideological primitiveness through religion to present an abstract result, a decision from above that associates any organized political or intellectual attempt to modify ideas, practices, and methods with acts against God. As Mehdi Mozaffari (1988: 115) argues successfully: … it should be clear that Islam is not such an omnipotent force as can impose itself or obstruct the evolution of the structures of Muslim society by the irresistible power of its concepts alone. Yet it is equally true that in the world of actual fact, of the social structures and institutions erected in the name of Islam, Islam is indeed quite able to erect obstacles to this evolution. But the structures of the society are, if they are anything at all, the products of society itself. There is no evidence that Islam qua faith is capable of producing these structures in society’s stead.

Like the Ottoman case, where Young Turks failed soundly to lead the imperium into a modernizing evolutionary phase, the Arab world also failed in that aspect too. The modernizing process within the Arab world was a long and drown-out affair, consisting of sound socioeconomic failures during the continuous rise and fall of authoritarian regimes, which tend to work not in favor of the unity of the Arabs but for the endorsement of their regimes. Thus, I argue that the main source of failure for postcolonial Arab administrations, besides their immovable anti-Semitism that put them against Israel in an almost perpetual circle of raw violence and zealotry, is found in their negligence to lead their states and societies into a transitional modernizing process. As it will be presented in the following paragraphs, the Arab Spring was such an attempt to lead the Arab states towards this long-delayed modernizing process. Yet, it also gave the opportunity to radical and conservative elements within the Arab societies to either violently object to these modernizing attempts or question the existing establishments and promote their extremist ideas through prolonged campaigns of sectarian violence. The end of the Cold War, with the establishment of the American soft power as the mainstream global social trend, along with technological advancements achieved mainly with the establishment of the World Wide Web as a focal point of the post-­ Cold War era, functioned as a mega-booster to put forward a dynamic process where various cultures, people, and states were coming closer—not necessarily in the dip-

2  The Arab Spring: A Conceptual Analysis


lomatic sense of the word but in a more sociological and aesthetic meaning. As humanity passed the twenty-first century’s threshold, a teenager in Cairo or in Damascus had the opportunity to establish daily instant contact with a teenager in Boston or in Chicago, monitoring the political and cultural developments in the Western world, and thus could compare and contrast these with the daily occurrences that were taking place in his/her own country. In addition, the impressively constructive work of Western institutions, such as the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Fulbright, British Council, Institut Francais, and Goethe-Institut, provided opportunities for young people worldwide to come in contact with Western political values and ethos, or even to live and study in Western metropolitan centers. As it can be understood, all these fundamental changes in societal communication and interconnection did not only change the perspectives of the people around the globe, but they also raised the expectations and the demands of younger generations to live in democratic, open, and economically prosperous states like those in the Western world that they observed during their student years or through a smartphone screen. The World Wide Web not only challenged the status quo, but many of the collective priorities, ideas, and stereotypes in less developed countries that up until that moment had no means to communicate with the rest of the globe. As Elizabeth Hanson (2008: 1) underlines, in an attempt to elaborate on the importance of the Information and Communication Technologies in international politics: … an array of new information and communications technologies (ICTs) is affecting not only the relations of the nations in war and peace but also human activity at every level and, indeed, the nation—state system itself.

The Arab world, even if not riding atop the first digital wave, was also a part of this wider transformative process, the global technological revolution that redefined ideological identities and individual expectations, as the events during the Arab Spring fully proved. I argue that each and every chapter of the Arab Spring, following the first spark in Tunisia, is part of a wider process of social, ideological, and in some cases religious disobedience towards the political and economic establishments since the Cold War period. The crowded marches, or the violent demonstrations against the postcolonial Arab regimes, all derived from the political and economic failures of the local elites to construct well-governed and socially progressive states. Instead, the Arab deep states were providing third world sociopolitical conditions, trying to convince the masses that this general decadence was the global standard and not the result of their sound failures and ill performances. Perhaps such an attempt of deceiving public opinion could have had been successful during the Cold War era, with the masses ready to accept this kind of populist rhetoric due to poor i­ nformation regarding the condition of other states. Yet, in the new digital era of constant information flow and worldwide connectivity, these attempts were doomed to failure, as it happened. Therefore, the main origin of the Arab Spring can be found in the general political and economic failures of the Arab states in general, plus that those


3  Obama’s Foreign Policy and the Arab Spring: The Cases of Egypt, Libya, and Syria

regimes witnessed declining social support and approval because they were regarded by their citizens as major sources of corruption and political inefficiency.7 Nevertheless, this is just the one side of the coin. As it has already been argued, the Arab Spring was, and still is, a struggle by the progressive and liberal parts of the Arab societies against the failing, autocratic, regimes of the region. However, the other side of the coin refers to the complete opposite, juxtaposing the most religiously radical and ultraconservative parts of the Arab world against these regimes. In many cases of the Middle Eastern conundrum, following the end of the colonial era, the gap that appeared in these underdeveloped societies was filled by new political mechanisms that were attracting power from the Armed Forces, from rogue organized social subgroups, or from grassroots anti-colonial movements. In particular, the establishment of Baathist8 regimes in various Arab states (i.e., Iraq, Syria), or the prevalence of Nasserism in Egypt and Gaddafism in Libya, created a rather oxymoronic political situation, one where newcomers openly targeted the status of Islam or, following the Kemalist methodology, limited Islamic influence upon societies. In some cases, this goal was fully justified by the great appetite of the newcomers to eradicate internal opposition and to quickly acquire absolute authority over the state, including its weak institutions and society. Islam could emerge as an obstacle to their political designs due to its great public appeal, and thus it either had to be banned from public life through the introduction of secular institutional amendments or had to place its operation under the state’s financial and administrative control. Nevertheless, in many cases, large parts of the population openly rejected to these processes. For example, the continuous friction between the secular nationalist regime in Egypt and Muslim Brotherhood after the 1952 Revolution and the violent clashes between Hafez al-Assad’s regime and the Sunni majority in Syria in the late 1970s reveal the political instability that efforts to limit Islamic influence on sociopolitical developments produced. This grassroots friction between large parts of the Arab societies and their postcolonial regimes functioned as the motive for  Characteristically, in the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 2017, 19 of 21 Arab states score below 50 in the capturing levels of corruption in the public sector (Fatafta 2018). In addition, the global report on multidimensional poverty by UNDP and OPHI in 2018 suggests that nearly one-fifth of the Arab region’s population, i.e., 65 million people, are extremely poor (Abu-Ismail and Al-Kiswani 2018). Last but not least, the Arab world is being penetrated with one of the highest rates of nepotism and at the same time the highest global percentage of gender discrimination that refers to the downgraded status of the female populations inside the Arab states (Sidani and Thornberry 2013; Manea 2014). 8  The Baathist ideology was one of the prevailing political doctrines in the postcolonial Arab world. Strongly believing in Arab unity, the awakening of the masses, Arab socialism, and one-party system would have had been able to lead the masses towards progress and economic prosperity. Anti-Western in principle and approaching Islam as a revolutionary idea rather than a religion the Baathist ideology was established in Iraq and Syria, despite the fact that it enjoyed great collective support in other Arab states as well since it had been regarded as the vehicle that was to lead Arab societies to a modernizing phase of constructive transformation and empowerment. Theoretical founding fathers of the Baathist ideology were the Syrian Zaki al-Arsuzi and the Syrian Michael Aflaq. For more see Brooker (1997: 171–174) and Devlin (1991). 7

2  The Arab Spring: A Conceptual Analysis


religious radicalization by those who objected either the secular transformations or the attempts of the authorities to place religion under their iron grip. It is important to note at this point that today’s Islamic radicalism that penetrates modern Sunni Islam derived from the abovementioned socio-ideological friction between organized social groups and deep states’ mechanisms. Interestingly enough, for an extended period of time and due to the fact that the Cold War developments were monopolizing international developments, the Arab world was getting through a process of existential transitions that were remaining unnoticed by the rest of the globe. Thus, while the Western world was just perceiving the first signs of the Arab Spring as an attempt of the Arabs to exclusively liberalize their states, it did not pay attention to the role and actions of extreme Islamic religious groups who were making use of the Arab Spring as their Trojan Horse aiming at the institutional radicalization of their states. From the above, it becomes evident that the second image analysis regarding the origins of the Arab Spring combines two totally different political and ideological factors trying to establish their own methods in the post-Cold War Middle East and North Africa. On the one hand, there are liberal or modernizing elements, who deeply desired to see their states progress to the future, leaving all the bad habits of the past behind. On the other hand, opposing them are religious zealots who consistently take up the initiative and lead their states straight back to the past, when Islam was the single dominant religion, with Sharia as its single well-approved tool, to organize the way that people interacted, fought, and died. It goes without saying that this systematic effort to halt progress and revive the past was, and still is, utterly toxic for peace and order in the wider region as the cases of Libya and Syria show.

2.2  Third Image Analysis The end of the Cold War brought the international system to a structural readjustment after 50 years of functioning under bipolarity. Since 1991, a new world order emerged with the U.S. at the epicenter of the international system. In reality, the U.S. was and still is a hegemonic power not seeking conventional global domination, as had the Roman Empire, Napoleon, Hitler, or the USSR would have all done in the case they had been the victors of a major antagonistic process such as the Cold War. On the contrary, the main American political goal immediately after the end of the Cold War was the establishment of a dominant Western soft-power structure, and the safeguarding of the free naval routes for the unobstructed continuation of global trade. On top of that, Washington knew that Russia was emerging from the Cold War economically and politically ruined, though it still was a nuclear power with the capacity to maintain its hard-power structure. In addition, in the post-Cold War era was emerging another influential variable, China. China is a nuclear power too, and economically viable. China’s profound appetite to make use of some of the main ingredients of the capitalist system allowed Beijing to elevate its status in the post-Cold War global economy.


3  Obama’s Foreign Policy and the Arab Spring: The Cases of Egypt, Libya, and Syria

In general, systemic volatility is less in bipolar systems, mainly due to the fact that political uncertainty at an international level seems to be much lower compared with that in multipolar systems. As, for example, Kenneth Waltz (1954: 168) argues: States are less likely to misjudge their relative strengths than they are to misjudge the strength and reliability of opposing coalitions. Rather than making states properly cautious and forwarding the chances of peace, uncertainty and miscalculation cause wars … In a bipolar world uncertainty lessens and calculations are easier to make.

The reduction of systemic uncertainty lessens international volatility because as Jack Donnelly (2000: 108) underlines: Bipolar superpowers are less likely to stumble into war because their close focus on one another induces an iterative process of relatively mutual adjustment.

Following the same approach, Andrew Hanami (2003: 201) supports the view that systemic volatility is reduced in bipolar international systems mainly due to the fact that conflicts between the main actors are less frequent: In bipolarity, major confrontations being rare and their prevention by the action of lesser states was not possible, the international system below the level of the superpowers was, in a sense, frozen in time. Their maneuvers mattered less because it was the potential top tier movement that held the greatest leverage. Thus the orbit of state actions took place within a relatively immobile, stable and patterned bipolar world, as structuralists have predicted.

Finally, John J.  Mearsheimer (1990: 37) argues that the bipolar system is more peaceful because only two factors are involved in the systemic competitive procedure: Deductively, a bipolar system is more peaceful for the simple reason that under it only two major powers are in contention. Moreover, those great powers generally demand allegiance from minor powers in the system, which is likely to produce rigid alliance structures. The smaller states are then secure from each other as well as from attack by the rival great power. Consequently (to make a Dick—and—Jane point with a well-worn social—science term), a bipolar system has only one dyad across which war might break out.

While bipolarity enjoys extended systemic stability, multipolarity exists through constant, high, and multidimensional competition, thus producing intense systemic volatility (Litsas 2016: 13). Due to this main feature of high volatility, various analysts such as Hans Morgenthau (1993), Edward Gulick (1967), Jack S. Levy and William R. Thompson (2007), and Karl Deutsch and David Singer (1964) support the view that under multipolarity the international system is structurally more stable. This means that while states are constantly trying to comprehend with systemic volatility, they are less equipped to modify the structure of the international system due to the high friction of a multipolar format. I argue that the systemic transition from a bipolar to a multipolar system, plus the continuous political and military volatility that occurred in the international system after 9/11, created a major sub-systemic gap in Arab sociopolitical build-out which generated the emergence of the Arab Spring. For many decades the Arab world remained in limbo. This was due to the fact that immediately after the end of WWI, the international system began a rapid transition from a Hobbesian multipolar entity

3  The U.S. and the Arab Spring in the Eastern Mediterranean: A General Approach


to a Machiavellian bipolar reality that was fully put in place when the destructive course of WWII concluded its elliptic orbit. During the bipolar era the Arab world found itself between a rock and a hard place, trying to breath freely from the asphyxiating embrace of the colonial powers and play a hard bargaining process with the two superpowers for a more advanced role for them in international politics. Yet, bad governing, systemic corruption, cronyism, and obsessive anti-Semitism produced negative results for the majority of them. However, after the rapid collapse of the Soviet Union and the narcissistic feeling of the U.S. that the world was to follow its lead without major divergences simply because there was no other state to turn to, without noticing the rise of jihadi Islam within various rogue states, the Arab world found the opportunity to look carefully at its unfinished image to the systemic mirror. Obviously, it did not like what it saw and tried to modify it, perhaps not the whole structure but just scattered fragments. Yet, no analysts understood prior to the beginning of the Arab Spring just how interconnected the Arab world was, and thus every attempt to bring a change to a single element was to lead to a mega transformative process to the whole picture. Perhaps this approach does not offer a satisfying answer to the question why Bouazizi’s death gave the spark to the outbreak of the Arab Spring.9 We may consider Bouazizi’s death as a pretext, and not as the major reason, for the cataclysmic phenomenon which penetrated the Arab world and changed in perpetuity the sociopolitical evolution of the Arab world along with balance of power in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Arab Spring has such a magnitude and a complexity that can only be compared with other fundamental systemic events of the nineteenth or the twentieth century, to wit, the rise of nationalism in the Balkans in the nineteenth century or the emergence of Marxist-nationalistic movements in Latin America in the twentieth century.

3  T  he U.S. and the Arab Spring in the Eastern Mediterranean: A General Approach The Obama administration had a successful record in effectively facing global crises. In particular, during the early days of Barack Obama in the White House, the 2008 Financial Crisis emerged, threatening to break beyond repair not only the U.S. economic structure, but the European one as well (Krugman 2009). Barack Obama, with a series of rapid decisions and with a long-term plan of action that was labeled as “The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act” [ARRA] succeeded in 9  No one can really say why Bouazizi’s death was the sparkle that created a still-burning wildfire not only in Tunisia but also in general in the Arab world. This rhetorical question becomes even more engaging by the following fact that refers to Tunisia again. Mohamed Bouazizi was not the first Tunisian who self-immolated. Few months before Bouazizi’s tragic incident, in March, in the town of Monastir at Sahel another Tunisian citizen Abdesslem Trimech, a street vendor too, selfimmolated (Ryan 2011). However, the result of his death was not the same as Bouazizi’s.


3  Obama’s Foreign Policy and the Arab Spring: The Cases of Egypt, Libya, and Syria

partly stabilizing the American economy, without, however, leading it to a full recovery mainly due to the magnitude of the structural conundrum itself and also because of the extensive American military exposure in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is not an exaggeration to claim that Barack Obama managed to save the American economy and together preserve the Western sociopolitical and economic structure as well. On the contrary, as it will be discussed in the following paragraphs, the reaction of Obama administration to the emergence of the Arab Spring was not successful. In reality the U.S. foreign policy towards the Arab Spring was a plain failure, which undermines the American status in the Eastern Mediterranean (Walt 2017; Dershowitz 2017; Hamid 2015). In the next paragraphs I will analytically approach the following question: How did one of the most successful U.S. Presidents in the nation’s history (for sure the most emblematic since Abraham Lincoln’s presidency as No. 44 contributed immensely to the deepening of nation’s emancipation process owing to the fact that he was the first African-American president) produce one of the most failed approaches in the American foreign policy, committing consecutive mistakes in attempting to handle a multidimensional riddle which was reshaping the physiognomy of the Eastern Mediterranean.

3.1  Even Monkeys Fall from Trees10 In general, it has to be said that Washington underestimated the depth of the Arab Spring (Selim 2013; Hassan 2015). At the beginning of the antiestablishment protests in Tunisia, the U.S. did not consider these to be the opening of a major series of events or that an aura of insubordination was soon to include the whole of the Arab world. However, at this point it is important to pose the following question: How could the U.S. have predicted the true magnitude of such an event? Personally, I am an enthusiast of Werner Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, which underlines the fact that since the position [x] and the momentum [p] of a particle cannot be measured with absolute precision, the more accurately we know one of these values the less accurately we know about the other—thus any sort of prediction in social sciences is a speculation of probabilities and hypotheses rather than precise ­prognostication (Saperstein 1997; Haven and Khrennikov 2017: 7–10). It is absolutely normal that the State Department’s mechanisms could not have foreseen something so sizeable, and at the same time so chaotic, as the Arab Spring. However, the underestimation of the widespread unrest penetrating the Arab world within a short period of time after Bouazizi’s death in the hospital’s bed had to do with the fact that Obama administration approached the Arab Spring as a one-dimensional event instead of a complicated and multidimensional sociopolitical phenomenon. The following paragraphs endorse this argument.


 Old Japanese saying, meaning that even the most skilled ones are making grave mistakes.

3  The U.S. and the Arab Spring in the Eastern Mediterranean: A General Approach


On June 4, 2009, Barack Obama addressed a landmark speech from Cairo under the broader title “A New Beginning,” aiming to set the U.S. Muslim relations on a new course. That was a brilliant decision, and quite rightly the American President chose to make his speech by making use of an Arab floor, in front of an Arab audience, instead from inside the Oval Office or during an event of a prestigious Washington’s Think Tank. Everything was well prepared, and the State Department proved, once again, its unlimited capacity to take care of every little detail in order to magnify a President’s message. The theme of the speech was carefully chosen in order to transmit to the Muslim world, especially to the Sunni majority, that the new administration wanted to make a new fresh beginning with the American-Islamic relations, plainly leaving behind George W. Bush’s doctrine of the Democratic Peace Theory11 that was exceedingly costly, on the one hand, and emphatically futile on the other. In order for Barack Obama to signal his commitment to the 2008 U.S.–Iraq Status of Forces Agreement12 that was signed between his predecessor in the White House and the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliqi, and honoring the promise he gave to the American public on February 27, 2009, from the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina regarding the complete withdrawal of the American combat troops from Iraq by August 2010 (MacAskill 2009), it was obligatory first to make peace with the Islamic world and second to end the emerging Islamophobia penetrating the American collective consciousness. As the American President said during his historic speech: I’ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles—principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings (The White House June 4 2009).

It must be said that Cairo was not a random choice. The State Department was fully aware that the city of Cairo and Egypt in general has a special position in the hearts and minds of the Arabs in general. The Egyptian status is highly respected within the Arab world, while the Mubarak regime was profoundly pro-Western and had excellent relations with the American establishment. Moreover, the venue had its own importance. The University of Cairo, where Obama’s speech was taking place, was a 100-year-old academic institution representing the well-established secular dimension of the state, while the Al-Azhar University, the other academic institution

 The Democratic Peace Theory argues that democratic states are not fighting each other. The theoretical concept of this approach belongs to the criminologist Dean Babst, while International Relations Theorists such as Michael W. Doyle, J. David Singer, and Rudolph J. Rummel or historians such as Melvin Small contributed to the qualitative conceptual analysis of the theory. Democratic Peace Theory was mainly used by Bill Clinton and also by George W. Bush in order to justify the U.S. foreign policy in the Balkans during the Yugoslav Civil War and in the Iraqi War of 2003. For more about this see Ish-Shalom (2013), Bass (2006), and Hill (2011). 12  The agreement referred to the withdrawal of the American combat forces from every major Iraqi urban center by June 30, 2009, and the complete evacuation of them by December 31, 2011 (Lynch 2009; Hurst 2009: 214–216). 11


3  Obama’s Foreign Policy and the Arab Spring: The Cases of Egypt, Libya, and Syria

that together with the University of Cairo was co-hosting President Obama, was one of the oldest in the Sunni world. Everything was set for success without a doubt. Obama shined brightly on stage, sending the clear message to every Muslim around the globe, and to non-Muslims also, that a new virtuoso was now residing in the Oval Office, able and willing to make a new beginning in the American-Muslim relations. However, during his speech, Obama added the following lines too: That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. These are not just American ideas; they are human rights. And that is why we will support them everywhere (The White House, June 4 2009).

Brilliant words from a visionary statesman that he fully believed in the power of the message which was being sent to the four corners of the globe. A truly Wilsonian approach from the leader of a nation that up until then seemed always perplexed between the ethical dimension that the “shining city on a hill” contained in its creed and the Hamiltonian realities that international politics bring on the surface for each great power with the magnitude of the U.S. With this speech Barack Obama was not only setting the framework of the Obamian school of thought in the U.S. foreign policy, but also sending the clear message to allies and foes that a different approach was to take the place of the aforementioned hesitancy between moral duty and national interests. Barack Obama, during his professional life and as a congressman, was a devoted Wilsonian, a true believer in the provisions of internal law. However, during his first presidential campaign and afterward as a President, he made a U-turn in his foreign policy beliefs, characterizing himself as a bipartisan realist following the legacies of George H. W. Bush, John F. Kennedy, and, in some ways, Ronald Reagan (Lizza 2011). Nevertheless, the gap that appeared in the White House’s approach from the early days of the Arab Spring had to do not with the selection of a theoretical school of thought of international relations but with the fact that both Obama and some of his key advisors sincerely thought that the uprising was coming from the liberal elements of the Arab societies. Under this misconception, it was decided to follow Obama’s open message during his speech at Cairo University and endorse the change of the regimes in every case such a demand was to meet with Arab public uprising. Yet, what Obama and his advisors failed to comprehend was that the Arab Spring was not a pre-booked venue only for those who believed that Islam could coexist with the Western liberal ideas to rebuild the Arab world on more stable and progressive foundations. At the back of the “venue” there were also those who believed that it was about time for Islam to return back to its roots and that by breaking every link with the West, the Arab world was to be able to meet its glorious destiny. Thus, as I argue in the following paragraphs, Obama administration failed to see the big picture of the Arab World and by countenancing an idealistic instead

3  The U.S. and the Arab Spring in the Eastern Mediterranean: A General Approach


of an apprehensive approach, it formulated an unsophisticated American stance towards the emergence of the Arab Spring. In addition, this emphatic misperception was not the only factor that influenced the U.S. attitude towards the Arab Spring, although it is one of the most characteristic cases which underline the need for every state to operate a rational foreign policy, instead of giving space to idealistic approaches which fail to safeguard the national interests or the maintenance of the existing status quo. As it will be discussed below, the White House found itself in the awkward position of having to consider not only the political impact of its own decisions in its foreign policy decision-making on the Arab Spring, but also the economic implications from a possible active engagement in the Arab conundrum.

3.2  Neither Able Nor Willing Since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. was the major target of jihadi Islam. On February 26, 1993, a truck bomb detonated below the North Tower of the World Trade Center which killed 6 and injured 1042 people. The attack was carried by Islamist terrorists that were connected with Al Qaeda. On June 25, 1996, the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, housing members of the U.S. Air Force 4404th Wing, was bombed and 19 Americans and 1 Saudi were killed, while 498 of various nationalities were injured. The attack was carried out by Hezbollah al-Hejaz with close relations with Hezbollah and Iran. On August 7, 1998, the two U.S. Embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and in Nairobi, Kenya, were simultaneously bombed, killing 224 and injuring more than 4000. The attacks were the product of the Egyptian Islamic jihad which had close links with Al Qaeda. On October 12, 2000, Al Qaeda bombed the USS Cole while refueling in Yemen’s Aden harbor, killing 17 U.S. military personnel and injuring 39. Nevertheless, none of these sort of hybrid terrorist hits were truly enough to prepare the American public, together with the rest of the Western public opinion, for the horrors of 9/11. Next-generation historians, free from partisan views and the tyranny of time, will be able to comprehend that the American reaction after 9/11 towards Al Qaeda was not a Hamiltonian or Wilsonian response reacting to an immediate threat. It was also an unrefined reaction deriving from an absolute, almost primordial type of fear, an absolute collective distress born from the horrific images of 9/11. American post-9/11 response can be characterized as purely Jacksonian that turned against not only the jihadists but also the ­metaphysical source of φόβος13 itself. Fear, after the first period of grief and mourning, gave its place to an almost intuitive need of the American establishment to send the message to the jihadists, and to the rest of the world, that Washington was ready to do whatever was necessary in order to protect its international status and national prestige (Butt 2019). The U.S., after 9/11, behaved like someone who after a nihil Φοβος/Phobos [fear] in Ancient Greek mythology was the son of Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty, and Aris, the god of war. Before major battles warlords offered sacrifices to Phobos in order to visit the opponents and make them flee the battleground.



3  Obama’s Foreign Policy and the Arab Spring: The Cases of Egypt, Libya, and Syria

istic encounter feels that the use of excessive violence is the only feasible mean guarantying survival. It was exactly this kind of absolute fear, pouring every pore of the collective body of the American society, which provided the incentive to the White House and to the State Department to fully mobilize the colossal American war machine to fight against Jihadism. Thus, for a long period, the financial burden and the human sacrifices accepted by the American people demonstrated the nation’s rally “round the flag process and Bush administration decisiveness to implement an effective strategy to conclusively defeat the Islamic zealots. From 2001 until today, the Afghan War has cost the U.S. $975 billion, and the base budget for the Department of Defense increased by $250 billion, while the Department of Veteran Affairs budget increased about $50 billion” (Amadeo 2019). Regarding the human sacrifices, through summer 2019, American casualties according to the U.S.  Department of Defense in Afghanistan in Operations Enduring Freedom and Freedom’s Sentinel reached 2289 with 20,464 wounded. In Iraq, until today, 4423 died in Operation Iraqi Freedom, while 31,957 were wounded. On top of that, the total amount that was spent for the American engagement only in Iraq, until 2018, was 5.6 trillion (Savell 2018). The American public at the beginning of the war against Jihadism fully supported the nation’s cause, especially the operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Despite various criticisms from influential opinion makers that openly and, sometimes, loudly expressed their open antithesis to the American war efforts, expressing excessive Jeffersonian views, this base of popular support remained relatively high until the beginning of the second term of Bush’s presidency, without however having a bipartisan embrace anymore. The Democrats in both houses in the Capitol Hill withdrew the support offered to Bush’s government over the 2003 Iraqi war. Yet, the majority of the people still supported the government’s choices in one of the most expensive and abrasive wars the U.S. had ever been involved into (Woodward 2002: 150; Jacobson 2010). Nevertheless, by the 2008 Presidential campaign, it was obvious that Americans were tired of paying, in both dollars and blood, for two wars on the other side of the world in places that the majority of them had never heard before. As a result, on a cold, cloudy, and windy St. Patrick’s Day of 2007, tens of thousands of American citizens marched on the Pentagon asking from the government to end the war in Iraq bringing back memories of the anti-Vietnam War movement (Bohan 2007). It was obvious from the large crowds attending the march that George W. Bush’s foreign policy over Afghanistan and Iraq was pushing the American public to its limits. After so many years of human sacrifices and high public expenditure Americans wanted peace. During his pre-electoral campaign, Barack Obama fully sensed that the American voters, the vast majority of the Democrats, and a large part of the Republicans, were ready to support a candidate for the White House who was prepared to work for the withdrawal of the U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Iraq. As a matter of fact, Obama promised, while avoiding specifics on the numbers and timetables, that if he was to be elected he would order the withdraw of the American forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. I fully support the view that this commitment

3  The U.S. and the Arab Spring in the Eastern Mediterranean: A General Approach


regarding the return of the U.S. troops from the two fronts was one of the main reasons for his electoral victory. As Victoria Carty (2009: 33) underlines: In the 2006 mid-term elections many republican incumbents were indeed replaced by democratic challengers who voiced their opposition to the war in Iraq. The 2008 U.S. presidential election further demonstrated how anti-war sentiment and a critical questioning of U.S. foreign policy was growing in the United States, as nominee Barack Obama defeated Hillary Clinton in the primaries, and John McCain in the final election in part due to his critique of both his challengers’ policy on Iraq.

It was the American public that openly expressed not only its fatigue regarding what was happening in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also its rejection to the continuous involvement of the U.S. in the Arab conundrum. The average American citizen was both exasperated trying to comprehend the political and religious perplexities of the Arab world and infuriated that the U.S. was the target of every jihadist in the globe. According to this kind of thinking, very simplistic to be accurate, the U.S. was under the jihadists’ attack due to the nation’s hyperactivity in the Islamic world and not because the U.S. is the leader of the free world which attracts the lethal interest of the jihadists because of what it represents. On top of this, the American tax payer was no longer willing to support U.S. military exposure in a part of the globe where war had turned out to be its second nature. Therefore, Obama’s decision to gradually limit the States’ involvement in the Arab world was welcomed by the vast majority of the American electorate, as the results of the 2008 presidential elections clearly showed. However, the unfolding of international affairs does not always respect domestic attributes and beliefs. In addition, a politician of the level of Barack Obama had to be much more decisive to resist the internal pressure he received from the American citizens, who truly expected that the U.S. Army would have had been able just to “return back home” from the Middle East, without affecting the nation’s status in the Eastern Mediterranean, or giving space to other international actors to fill the gap in the region. As a matter of fact, Obama’s decision, following the example of his predecessor, to limit numbers of the American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, aimed to gradually pass the responsibility for the protection of their states to the newly formed Iraqi and Afghan security forces which had been trained and subsidized by American sources. However, this proved to be an unrealistic goal. ISIS was born out of the inadequacy of the Iraqi forces to face them adequately, while the Taliban continues up until this moment to spread terror and death to the people of Afghanistan, with Afghan security forces unfit to face the challenge. Barack Obama decided to go “with the flow” and limit the U.S. involvement in the Middle East ­during the sensitive period of the Arab Spring. Therefore, I argue that Obama’s foreign policy in the Eastern Mediterranean failed to present a political and military stance which could respond properly to the special requirements of the Arab Spring, and accordingly offered the opportunity to Russia to firmly establish itself in the region. It was the first time since the establishment of the U.S. that Washington’s Eastern Mediterranean agenda was undermined by a lack of coordinated decisions from the White House. This process of poor decision-making regarding the American Eastern Mediterranean agenda during the emergence of the Arab Spring


3  Obama’s Foreign Policy and the Arab Spring: The Cases of Egypt, Libya, and Syria

significantly weakened the U.S. status in the region as it will be argued in the following paragraphs where the cases of Egypt, Libya, and Syria are presented.

4  The Egyptian Spring Khaled Mohamed Said was an ordinary Egyptian young man. Born and raised in Alexandria, he was typical of his generation. Not political, he considered the Mubarak regime as the utterly corrupt mechanism which kept Egypt in a social and economic stalemate. Khaled was only truly interested in computer programming and thus he rarely left his room in the house he shared with his mother. Not particularly popular, the single man was deeply involved in social media, where he frequently uploaded posts about music, the daily life in Alexandria, and news about computer coding. Alexandria, like every Egyptian urban center, suffers from frequent and lengthy power cuts during the long and exhausting summer days due to the excessive use of air-conditioning and a poor electrical network. When an access to the Internet was not possible due to power cuts, Khaled went to a cybercafe connected to a power generator. June 6, 2010, was one of these “power-cut” days, and thus Khaled went to the cybercafe to spend his afternoon. Suddenly, two policemen with no uniform entered the premises and demanded from Khaled to follow them outside. The young Egyptian asked if they had an arrest warrant, and their reply was to start to batter him in public view. Khaled was beaten to death, allegedly because, as his family claimed, he was possessing video footages which implicated policemen in drug dealing. During the night, Khaled’s family was called by the police to the morgue, where Khaled’s older brother Ahmed managed to snap some pictures of his dead brother’s heavily beaten face, which he then uploaded on the Internet. The pictures were almost immediately spotted by Wael Ghonim, an Egyptian Internet activist, who created a page on Facebook under the label “We are all Khaled Said,” in order to publicize the horrific event. As Ghonim (2012: 58) describes the moment he first saw Khaled’s photo: … it was a horrifying photo showing the distorted face of a man in his twenties. There was a big pool of blood behind his head, which rested on a chunk of marble. His face was extremely disfigured and bloodied; his lower lip had been ripped in half, and his jaw was seemingly dislocated. His front teeth appeared to be missing, and it looked as if they had been beaten right out of his mouth. The image was so gruesome that I wondered if he had been wounded in war. But by accessing Dr. Nour’s page I learned that Khaled Mohamed Said had apparently been beaten to death on June 6 by two secret police officers in Alexandria.

Unlike Tunisia, Khaled’s death did not have an immediate massive effect among the Egyptian population. Though Mubarak’s regime was much stronger than of his Tunisian counterpart, Egyptians did not pay particular attention to the death of a loner who according to the official (and utterly deceitful) position of the Egyptian police suffocated himself while trying to swallow a pack of hashish. However, months after Khalid’s murder, and in particular 30 min into 2011, there was a huge terrorist attack against the Coptic Church of Saint Mark and Pope Peter

4  The Egyptian Spring


in Alexandria. The attack killed 23 people, injured 12, and outraged the large Coptic community of the country, as this was the third violent hit that was taking place against a Coptic Church within a year. It was clear that the authorities were not able to protect the lives of the Christian Egyptians form jihadist attacks. Was there a connection between the murder of Khaled Mohamed Said and the terrorist attack against the Saint Mark and Pope Peter Church in Alexandria? It can be found in the negligence of the Minister of the Interior to control the extensive corruption within the ranks of the Egyptian police who was inadequate for tackling the attacks of the jihadists against the Christian population of Egypt. Soon enough, Khaled’s murder resurfaced as a proof of police’s incompetence and the moderators of the web page We are all Khaled Said organized a march against Mubarak’s regime, inviting both Muslims and Copts to participate, in order to put an end to the sectarian violence and the systemic corruption of the deep state. On January 25, 2011, Muslim, Copts, Liberals, and other citizens united in huge marches in Cairo, Alexandria, and other major urban centers on a day that was named as The Day of the Wrath. Three days later the march was repeated. This time the protesters clashed with the police and managed to secure the area of the Tahrir Square in the center of Cairo. The Egyptian version of the Arab Spring had just begun, and it was to be violent and utterly cataclysmic for the old establishment.14 As soon as the revolt began, despite the recent incidents in Tunisia, no one in Washington seemed to be alarmed. As it has already been said, Mubarak’s regime was much stronger than the Tunisian one, and better connected at an international level. Characteristically, on January 25, U.S.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that the assessment of the State Department “is that the Egyptian government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people” (Reuters 2011). This statement indicates that the State Department did not have proper feedback regarding the main reasons leading to the Tahrir uprising. Within just few days, the marches against police turned into massive protests against the regime, supported by almost every layer of the Egyptian society. Some analysts support the view that this wide social support had to do with the fact that social media assisted the first days of the uprising, transmitting a message of disobedience towards the Mubarak regime to every major Egyptian urban center (Shrinivasan 2014; Musa and Willis 2014; Tufekci and Wilson 2012; Preston 2011). Others claim that the social unrest was spawned due to the heavy and dire economic situation of the masses, and that Tahrir Uprising provided a decompressor valve for them. Characteristically, Jeff Rubin (2011) wrote in the Globe and Mail:

 Muhammad Hosni Said Mubarak became the Egyptian Vice President in 1975 and after President Anwar el-Sadat’s assassination in 1981 rose to the position of the President of the state. He played a positive role in establishing a peaceful modus vivendi with Israel and he was one of the most pro-Western Arab leaders in the MENA region; however his domestic policies were not as notable as his diplomatic initiatives. He failed to liberalize the Egyptian political system mainly because he did not want to share power; the Egyptian economy remained underdeveloped, insisting on an anachronistic agrarian growth model with mediocre touristic services; he failed in neutralizing the various jihadist elements that were operating within the state and especially in the Sinai Peninsula.



3  Obama’s Foreign Policy and the Arab Spring: The Cases of Egypt, Libya, and Syria

When 40% of your population lives on less than $2 per day, soaring food prices isn’t about cutting back on luxury spending. This is particularly telling when record prices include basic grains such as wheat, of which Egypt is the world’s largest importer. Suddenly, it becomes a lot more difficult for the roughly 30 million Egyptians living on that $2 per day to stomach their three-decade dictator, Hosni Mubarak

Nevertheless, I argue that the main reason for the intensification of the Tahrir uprising was that large and different parts of the nation wanted to put an end to the long-­ enduring Mubarak regime. On side, there was the Egyptian deep state and its supporters who were guarding their economic and political benefits. On the other hand, there was a majority of the Egyptian society longing for the opening of a new chapter in nation’s politics. The dynamics of change play a pivotal role in politics and in particular in revolts against long-enduring regimes. The hope for a better life, for more power, and the possibility of revenge against the establishment are all parts of a wider ideology promising a brighter future to those who are searching for it. In Egypt, this popular demand for change was vague and obscure, with the only linkage between the various groups which were side by side at the Tahrir square being the goal for the collapse of Mubarak. The challenge for the regime was to confront this broad, almost amorphous, social front. As the days passed, the protesters still held their positions, and a sentiment grew that the regime was now vulnerable in front of the people’s will. As Mona El-Ghobashy (2012: 22) argues regarding the main reason that made the regime unable to deal with the uprising: … there was a sudden change in the balance of resources between rulers and ruled. Mubarak’s structures of dominion were thought to be foolproof, and for thirty years they were. What shifted the balance away from the regime were four continuous days of street fighting, 25–28 January, that pitted the people against police all over the country. That battle converted a familiar, predictable episode into a revolutionary situation. Decades ago, Charles Tilly observed that one of the ways revolutions happen is that the efficiency of government coercion deteriorates.

Washington monitored closely the unfolding of the events in Egypt. With every passing day, people inside the White House were convinced that Mubarak had to step out of office and allow Egyptians to go to the polls in order to decide for their political future. Advisors to President Obama approached the Egyptian version of the Arab Spring incorrectly, seeing it as a liberal grassroots movement resembling the 1989 anti-Soviet uprising in Eastern Europe. They saw Mubarak as a tyrant that was not loved by his people, one who simply had to leave the stage as soon as possible for Egypt to find its way. They were not wrong regarding their analysis; ­however they failed completely to comprehend that a large part of those in the Tahrir square wanted to see Mubarak out of office because they considered him as a pro-­Western politician, not sympathetic to their radical Islamic views. A smaller group at the State Department and at Eisenhower Executive Office Building worried that Mubarak’s departure from office would have created an alarming power gap in the Egyptian political scene, offering the opportunity to radical Islamist elements to rise and to undermine links between Washington and Cairo. The division within Obama administration was deep, as it involved all the senior political figures in Washington responsible for the U.S. foreign policy. The crisis in Egypt was much

4  The Egyptian Spring


more complicated and weighty for the American interests in the Eastern Mediterranean and for the balance of power of the Arab world than the Tunisian case. The political aura existing during those days in Washington regarding the Egyptian case and the future of Mubarak is being brilliantly expressed by Geoff Dyer and Heba Saleh (Dyer and Saleh 2016): On January 28, a Friday, Egyptian police clashed with protesters … In Washington, it was the moment where the fissures within the administration about the emerging revolution started to become apparent. On one side in the situation room was a group of national security staff who had been with Mr. Obama on his election campaign … who had written the president’s 2009 Cairo speech offering a new opening to the Arab world … “We wanted to believe that this was a 1989 moment” says one official involved in the discussions … In contrast, Mrs. Clinton suggested that Iran was a more appropriate analogy. Supported by Mike Mullen, the chair of the joint chiefs of staff and Joe Biden, the vice president, she pointed out that the 1979 revolution in Tehran had been greeted as a liberal opening, only to end up in Islamic repression.

For reasons that mainly had to do with the strong conviction that the Egyptian uprising was to bring a better future for the people in the country, Obama decided to apply more pressure upon Mubarak in order to resign to lead to a de-escalation of the crisis. For this, he decided, following Hillary Clinton’s suggestion, to send to Cairo Frank G. Wisner, the former U.S. Ambassador in Egypt from 1986 to 1991. Wisner was a close friend to Mubarak and was dispatched to hopefully persuade the Egyptian President to resign (Rogin 2011). Mubarak listened closely to what the American envoy transferred to him, but he decided to go half the way towards Obama’s desire. Thus on February 1, on the eve of the Battle of the Camel,15 Mubarak appeared on live TV to announce that he was not to run again for President in the next elections to be in few months. Nevertheless, this was simply not enough for the masses in the Tahrir Square. They demanded for an immediate transition in power amid speculations that Mubarak was procrastinating in order to prepare for the installment of a puppet figure at the Presidency, such as Omar Suleiman the Vice President, a development which would have allowed him to continue his reign behind the scenes. Barack Obama decided that he needed something more drastic. Therefore, he officially denounced Mubarak by officially stating to the media that the transition in Egypt “must be meaningful, it must be peaceful and must begin now” (The White House 2011a). Obama’s statement sealed in the most binding way the future of Egypt. The uprising intensified, and the powerful Egyptian Army officially informed the nation that it was not willing to violently restrain the protestors. Finding himself totally isolated, Mubarak resigned on February 11 with a statement he made through his Vice President saying that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces had been handed all the authorities of President. Mubarak’s resignation ended the Tahrir uprising; however it did not lead Egypt to safer waters. From February up until national elections on November 21, there was a political power vacuum mainly due  One of the main succession battles of Islam after the demise of Prophet Muhammad that took place at Basra, Iraq, in 656 CE.



3  Obama’s Foreign Policy and the Arab Spring: The Cases of Egypt, Libya, and Syria

to the fact that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces that was responsible for the running of the state still was considered the cornerstone of the old establishment (Harb 2003; Black 2013). It was no surprise that November’s elections gave a spectacular win to the Islamist forces. The Freedom and Justice Party [Ḥizb al-Ḥurriyyah wa al-ʿAdala], strongly linked with Muslim Brotherhood,16 won 47.2%, while the Salafist al-Nour obtained 24.3%. As the Army opposed Egypt becoming an Islamist hub, the Supreme Council did not accept the electoral results. This decision led Egypt into a severe political storm, which sent for a brief period of time Muslim Brotherhood in office, while in 2013 the secular regime of General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi came in power by removing Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brothers. With respect to the Egyptian Spring, where can Obama’s policy mistakes be found? On the one hand, it is obvious that Obama did not want to get the U.S. directly involved into the Egyptian conundrum. Thus, he intervened from a distance by undermining Mubarak’s transition process, a development which brought the Muslim Brotherhood in office and the Army on the edge. It has to be said that the White House genuinely wanted to witness the liberalization of Egypt and the arrival of new political forces which could have led the country and its people to a new era. However, Washington’s decision to expose Mubarak caused the opposite results both inside Egypt and at international level. Perhaps, Barack Obama felt the same urge to achieve what some of his predecessors had achieved in other cases, to be the one to lead Egypt towards the ways of liberal democracy. However, the American President did not consider that, for example, in order for Harry Truman to lead Greece or Western Germany towards liberal democracy, he had to invest money and personal effort and offer military support. Leading from behind is not the proper way to apply politics when history, or your international status, demands you to be in front. For reasons that cannot truly be understood, Obama did not allow Mubarak to implement his transition plan, which would have had kept out the Muslim Brothers and other Salafist political groups, and that could have fostered a more balanced political process for Egypt. The final result was that for the first time in modern Egyptian history, radical Islamists managed to control, albeit for a short period of time, the fate of one of the most pivotal states for the Arab world. The fault for this negative development is assigned directly to Barack Obama and to his advisors, who did not pay attention to the counsel of Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden, advocating that Egyptian Spring was neither Romania nor East Germany circa 1989 but was closer to Iran in 1979 (Dyer and Saleh 2016).

 A Sunni Islamist organization that was founded in Egypt by Hassan al-Banna in 1928, combining an anti-Western stance with radical religious ideas. One of the fundamental principles of the Brotherhood is hizbiyya, the belief that parliamentary procedures were anti-Islamic manifestations of a pro-colonial stance, while the organization had a paramilitary unit, the al-Jihaz al-Sirri, that operated inside Egypt as a jihadist group and as a base of Islamist volunteers operating against British and Jewish targets in Palestine. Sayyid Qutb, one of the leading members of Muslim Brothers, is one of the most famous theoreticians of modern Jihadism. For more see Tadros (2012) and Al-Anani (2016).


4  The Egyptian Spring


Nevertheless, the American approach on Egypt turned out to be an immense blow to the nation’s prestige regarding how Washington behaves towards longtime allies. At this point, it is important to open a parenthesis to the analysis and dedicate few lines on interstate behavior. Classical realism rightly defines that there is no friendship between states, only a set of common interests defining the level of diplomatic communication or of joint actions. This defines, to a great extent, the relations between leaders or between the political elites of the states. Nobody expects the head of the state to approach a perplexed diplomatic situation with only instinct or empathy, showing a lack of care for the safeguarding of national interests. Despite that, the American president has to show that he values high alliances and those who steadily supported the state during the past. Lack of moralism does not go hand in hand with the promotion of a so-called exceptional image in international politics. Barack Obama should have refrained from publicly presenting himself as someone who did not care about Mubarak’s fate, but only about his own ideological preferences and convictions. Hosni Mubarak was the closest Arab leader to the White House since he rose to power. At the same time, often at his own personal political cost, he kept a rational stance during many of the Middle East predicaments, especially towards the Palestinian Question. For example, Mubarak’s role during the Iraqi-Iranian war was to openly support Baghdad, diplomatically and militarily (Ansari 1986: 241). Or, it was under Mubarak’s initiative that the Sharm el-Sheikh Conference took place in 2000 after the outbreak of the Second Intifada with the participation of Israel, the Palestinian Liberation Organization, Jordan, the U.S., and the United Nations. Mubarak was one of those personalities whose analysts faced great difficulty to categorize while they were ruling; however historians usually place them at the section of those who are missed greatly when they are finally gone as sources of structural stability. Mubarak failed completely to liberalize Egypt; however he kept the state away from the jihadist inferno and he proved to be a valuable and loyal ally to the Western world. It was exactly this level of loyalty towards the U.S. that made every Western, or Western-oriented, element in the international system, especially in the Arab world, object the way that the White House behaved towards the Egyptian President at the onset of the Arab Spring. Obama’s error was so severe that even Putin’s Russia managed to exploit this in favor of their personal image. Since Mubarak’s collapse, the Russian President capitalized on this chance to demonstrate that he alone stands by the side of his allies. The immense support that the Kremlin offered to Bashar al-Assad and to his regime, to the Sudanese autocrat Omar al-Bashir, or more recently to Venezuela’s dictator Nicolas Maduro had been promoted by the Russian propaganda as proof that Moscow, unlike Washington, stands by the side of loyal states. Characteristically, the Senator Andrei Klimov, a prominent Russian politician close to Vladimir Putin, stated to the Times’ Simon Shuster (2019), “We don’t toss any of our friends aside. In the West people often switch sides. They have different priorities.” Another example of the failure of American prestige comes from Aviad Pohoryles, a columnist in the popular Israeli daily Maariv, who described the American approach during the Tahrir uprising towards Mubarak as “A Bullet in the Back from Uncle Sam” (Hamilton


3  Obama’s Foreign Policy and the Arab Spring: The Cases of Egypt, Libya, and Syria

2011), or by Bruce Riedel (2013) who vividly presented how the Saudis felt about Obama’s attitude towards the Egyptian ruler: The Saudis were appalled at the downfall of Hosni Mubarak in 2011; Mubarak had been a longtime friend of the Saudis, who sent two divisions of troops to defend the Kingdom in 1990 from Saddam Hussein. The royals were even more dismayed when President Obama called for Mubarak to step down, which they saw as a betrayal of an American ally with ominous implications for themselves

Yet, it is important at this point to ask the following question: Was it possible for the U.S. to openly support Mubarak and his regime against the will of the majority of the Egyptians? The realistic answer is that it would have had proved to be negative for the U.S. foreign policy in the Eastern Mediterranean. On the one hand, everyone would have had expected from Washington to exercise a profoundly interventionist stance for every crisis in the region from that point onwards. It goes without saying that this was not a feasible option for the post-9/11 U.S. On the other hand, such a decision would have had set in motion a new wave of anti-Americanism in the Middle East, with the blame at Washington and Obama in particular that he was ready to embrace tyrants against the will of the many, in order to preserve the American interests in the region. The U.S. and in particular Barack Obama had nothing to gain from sustaining the view that Washington is ready to support any tyrannical regime as it had in the past with the Greek or the Chilean juntas, as long as the apparatus was ready and willing to serve the American interests. Additionally, was it feasible for the U.S. to secretly support Mubarak by undermining the Tahrir uprising? The answer is negative again. The crowds in Tahrir Square were coming from different social backgrounds and religions, as it has already been mentioned above; therefore any attempt to approach or manipulate this diverse mass would have been impossible. On top of that, I am not sure that during a period where Barack Obama was trying to convince the American public and the elites of the nation about the necessity of applying the Retrenchment Doctrine,17 the White House or the Congress would be willing to spend American tax payers’ dollars to compromise hundreds of thousands of people demonstrating against a ­nondemocratic regime in Egypt. Thus, I argue that Obama’s mistake in the Egyptian case was his public eagerness to declare Mubarak as obsolete as soon as the tides of fate seemed to change in the Pharaohs’s land. This sent a very negative message to everybody in the Arab world about the American commitments to stand by its allies, generating a profound lack of trust that quickly was spread all over the international system. This lack of trust is still emphatically visible in the conduct of Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s government, which today sits firmly on the fence between the U.S. and Russia. As a matter of fact, Henry Kissinger made a characteristic comment regarding Obama’s handling of Mubarak:  The Retrenchment Doctrine was one of the main policies that Barack Obama introduced during his administration. According to this, the U.S. implements policies at a lower cost than the ones that his predecessors were activating, without however changing the main goals of the nation’s policies in the international arena. These financial adaptations are necessary, due to the rise of a multipolar international reality (Wosniak 2015).


5  The Libyan Spring


When you are associated with an individual for thirty years, you do not just throw him over the side as if relationships have no meaning. Not that we owned him [Mubarak] ten years in office, but that we owed him a graceful exit (Harding 2011).

Mubarak had not been given the opportunity for a graceful exit by the American side, while the Egyptian transition in power led the nation to fall into the hands of Muslim Brotherhood, and to the wider convictions that the U.S. does not stand by the side of its allies when dark clouds appear on the horizon. In addition, as the unfolding of the Egyptian paradigm showed, there was no one who was able or willing to help the U.S. position in Egypt more than Hosni Mubarak, as he did for almost 30 years. Perhaps, as cynical as it sounds, the biggest mistake Obama made in the Egyptian Spring is that he led Mubarak to his fall without having secured first a stable transition process with a capable successor to lead the nation towards safe waters. In this case, Obamianism proved to be more oriented towards idealism without having a realistic counterbalance, and thus it poorly served the American interests in Egypt and the balance of power of the Eastern Mediterranean too.

5  The Libyan Spring In the mid of January 2011 the Libyan ruler, Muammar Gaddafi, appeared on national TV condemning the collapse of his close ally and friend, the Tunisian President Ben Ali. During his message it was more than obvious that Gaddafi was sensing that the Arab Spring’s aura was to infiltrate Libya too (Weaver 2011). His fears were not unfounded. In reality, Libya witnessed a lengthy sociopolitical turmoil long before the commencement of the Arab Spring in Tunisia. What were the major origins for this volatile condition? It goes without saying that the quality of state institutions influences the democratic consolidation process of the state itself, its economy, and therefore the level of happiness of the people (Heo and Hahm 2015). As Thomas Carothers (2004: 169) underlines: After the transition comes consolidation, a slow but purposeful process in which democratic forms are transformed into democratic substance through the reform of state institutions, the regularization of elections, the strengthening of civil society, and the overall habituation of the society to the new democratic rules of the game.

If someone wants to explore the main reasons why the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, or Switzerland is not being governed by a Muammar Gaddafi, first it is important to focus on the dexterity of the rule of law and the efficiency of the check and balance system that penetrates their civic ontology. The qualitative depth of these features cultivates the ground for strong political systems, coherent societies, and healthy economic systems too. Only under these conditions citizens of a state are able to move to the pursuit of happiness. In each of the abovementioned categories, Libya, since its early days as a sovereign actor in the Eastern Mediterranean, did not make the grade. Unlike other


3  Obama’s Foreign Policy and the Arab Spring: The Cases of Egypt, Libya, and Syria

regions of the Eastern Mediterranean that witnessed British or French authority, the territory of Libya came under Italy’s control in 1912, and before that it was under Ottoman control enjoying an extended form of autonomy within the Islamic framework. In 1927, Rome decided to divide the territory into two main parts, the Italian Cyrenaica and the Italian Tripolitania, for reasons that mainly had to do with the efficiencies of administrative control. However, in 1934 Rome reunited the two territories under the name “Libya,” while in 1943 it passed under British control. In 1951, Libya declared its independence with King Idris I as its first sovereign ruler. The newly born nation remained within British influence until 1969 when a small group of military officers led by Muammar Gaddafi overthrew King Idris and established a military junta (Oyeniniyi 2019). The new regime had a sui generis ideology—a Third World socialist stance combined with Arab nationalism and a strong pan-Islamic conviction. The ideological cornerstone of the new regime was Gaddafi’s Green Book, the source of the Third Universal Theory according to its author, which promoted direct democracy in principle, abolition of money, and establishment of radical ijtihad, specifically the interpenetration through reasoning of all the sources of Islam and their incorporation in the daily and political life of the state (Schnelzer 2016: 33–37). In reality and under the surface of this philosophical pretentiousness the new regime was corrupted and autocratic, with an openly anti-American and anti-Israeli agenda. As a consequence, during the mid-1990s the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group [Al-Jama’a al Islamiyyah al Muqatilah bi-Libya] that was formed by Libyans who fought the Red Army in Afghanistan turned against Gaddafi accusing him of betraying Islam. In addition, frequent clashes between ordinary citizens and the police or the army were taking place in various urban centers of the state with most frequent case of Benghazi, the second largest city in Libya, for politics and for football, not always in this order. Benghazi’s citizens were constantly complaining that Gaddafi did not care for the city, or for its citizens, and that he was spending state’s money in order to assist the growth of Tripoli, the capital of the state, at the expense of the other cities of Libya. This kind of resentment, typical in every Third World country due to the institutionalized implementation of uneven development, waited for the right opportunity to be violently played out expressed in every given opportunity, especially during derby matches between the soccer club Al-Ahly of Benghazi and the one of Tripoli which was managed by Al-Saadi Gaddafi, the third son of the dictator, and was also named Al-Ahly. Tensions were so high between these two clubs, mainly over the dispute of which club of the two had the actual right to be named Al-Ahly [a brand name that had direct connection with the national hero of Libya, Omar Mukhtar, who fought against the Italian colonial rule from 1911 until 1931 when he was arrested and executed by the Italian forces]. The animosity between the two clubs was so intense that in 1996, four Benghazi fans were killed due to violent clashes with Al-Saadi Gaddafi’s bodyguards, while in 2000, severe troubles occurred for days in Benghazi between fans and police due to Muammar Gaddafi’s decision to send bulldozers to demolish the headquarters of the Al-Ahly Benghazi Club after another violent match between the two teams (Rice 2011). My intention is not to present a detailed analysis on Libya’s modern history, only to

5  The Libyan Spring


conclude that Libya was another typical result of inept European colonialism in the Eastern Mediterranean and elsewhere, resulting in fragile institutions and an unrefined state-building process. Especially, the story about the rivalry of the two Al-Ahly football clubs reveals an unsuccessful process of collective unity building, demonstrating that local bonds were more convincing and appealing to Libyans than national unity. The opponent was not outside of gates but inside the walls, was living in the next city or village, and had a different preference in football clubs. Libya was the perfect venue for the outbreak of a bloody civil war since the state had never been unified in sociopolitical and ideological terms. Thus, anyone who followed closely Libyan politics was really surprised by the fact that, as soon as the aura of the Arab Spring appeared on the Libyan horizon, the first violent protests against the regime began at the streets of Benghazi. On February 17, 2011, a massive protest in Benghazi soon turned out to be the beginning of the fierce and utterly catastrophic Libyan Civil War. The next day, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Benghazi’s police headquarters, a symbol of regime’s brutality to the people of the city. Violent episodes erupted between armed policemen and unarmed protesters, with the first dead lying on the streets. In another part of the city, Mahdy Ziu, a 49-year-old father of two and an ordinary middle-class Libyan, filled his car with propane tanks and other explosives and drove into the wall of the main military compound of the city called Katiba. From the big gap the explosion had created on the wall, hundreds of outraged Benghazians entered the installation and armed themselves with guns, hand grenades, and other ammunitions. Benghazi was soon lost to Gaddafi’s control, but the regime was not willing to surrender so easily. For the first three days of the riots, there were about 2000 people wounded in ill-equipped hospitals and 110 dead (Adetunji et al. 2011; Walt 2011). The transformation of Libya into a Hobbesian Inferno has just begun, and the responsibility for this belonged to Muammar Gaddafi. From the first day of the uprising in Benghazi, the State Department followed closely the unfolding of the troubles. Obviously, in this clash, Washington was openly against Gaddafi. This was mainly due to the fact that the American establishment had never forgotten the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 on December 21, 1988, Gaddafi’s well-proven responsibility, or other terrorist acts against U.S. targets that had been either financed or assisted by Gaddafi and the Libyan deep state (Obeidat 2015). The State Department immediately understood that the Arab Spring was spreading its effect into Libya. However, this time the U.S. was determined to act, not as a lonely rider but as the leader of a greater coalition. On the one hand, Obama administration understood that this was a perfect opportunity to neutralize Libya’s tyrannical regime. On the other hand, he was fully aware that if American military units were sent to Libya alone in order to target the regime, then a new Afghanistan or Iraq was to emerge. The Libyan army could not oppose the American army, yet the loyal forces to Gaddafi would form guerilla units and the confrontation would have taken the form of hit-and-run operations. This was a development that Washington neither wanted, nor was able to withstand either politically or economically. Therefore, NATO had to be activated and the U.S. was to be involved too, leading the military intervention.


3  Obama’s Foreign Policy and the Arab Spring: The Cases of Egypt, Libya, and Syria

On February 25, 2011, the North Atlantic Council assembled in order to coordinate common action in Libya, focusing mainly on implementing evacuation operations and offering humanitarian assistance to the people of Benghazi and of Misrata18 which were under organized attacks by the Gaddafi forces. Nevertheless, military action against the Libyan regime had not been decided because of the usual polyphony of the member states during a NATO session for such an important military decision. As well, there was the American insistence that this time, the U.S. forces were not to be at the tip of the spear to neutralize Gaddafi regime. The French side, for example, was in favor of a military intervention by the side of the rebels with the authorization of the UN Security Council, in order to avoid presenting an aggressive image to the Western world (Cowell and Erlanger 2011), while the British side communicated that it was not in favor of a military involvement of its forces in yet another part of the Muslim world, as that would create another distraction in facing the Taliban in Afghanistan and the jihadists in Iraq (Clarke 2012: 7–8). However, Washington lobbied hard for a NATO intervention, a proposal that was repeated during and after a public meeting in Paris on March 14, between the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and the leader of the Libyan opposition Mahmoud Jibril el-­ Warfally (Warrick 2011). On top of that, Obama himself lobbied heavily in order to reach the decision of the UN Security Council on March 17 to pass Resolution 1973, which imposed a no-fly zone in Libyan airspace on the grounds that a humanitarian disaster was happening due to Gaddafi’s militaristic and ruthless actions against civilians (Deeks 2018: 756). After 2 days, on March 19, Operation Odyssey Dawn against the Libyan regime began, leading to Gaddafi’s collapse and later on to his lynching by Libyans (Mueller 2015). My intention is not to evaluate NATO’s intervention in Libya, although soon enough the American side came to the unsavory conclusion that it had to abandon its “lead-from-behind” approach and to take the military initiative, because otherwise the operation was in danger of entering a deadlock. Yet, I argue that Operation Odyssey Dawn was a rational decision which derived from the core of the Wilsonian school of thought. The U.S. decided to intervene because it was obvious that Gaddafi was to unleash a total war in order to crush the opposition. Various states in the region were worried that Gaddafi was preparing his forces to hit hard, without mercy, and even to produce a humanitarian crisis with thousands of immigrants directed to Italy or Greece trying to escape his wrath. Gaddafi did nothing to alleviate these kind of fears. On the contrary, it seemed that his regime wanted to unleash a psychological warfare before the commencement of the actual attack against the rebels in Benghazi and in the other hubs of revolt. On March 17, 2011, while the UN Security Council was convening to decide for the authorization of a military operation in Libya, Gaddafi appeared on national television, sending the following message to the people of Benghazi:

 Misrata, situated in the northwestern part of the country, is the third largest city of Libya that passed under the control of the anti-government forces on February 19, 2011.


5  The Libyan Spring


We are coming tonight. You will come out from inside. Prepare yourselves from tonight. We will find you in your closets (Kirkpatrick and Fahim 2011).

It is not clear if Gaddafi was able to directly target the rebels and their families, as he had no chemical weapons or the appropriate technological infrastructure19 within his possession and also because of NATO’s no-fly zone, the Libyan Air Force could not attack the rebels from above. Yet, a siege of the major urban centers which were under the rebels’ control would had been enough to worsen the volatile situation in a country that had no capacity whatsoever for an effective humanitarian crisis management. Moreover, the strategic necessity of Odyssey Dawn also derived from Libya’s geostrategic value. Its strategic locations in the Eastern Mediterranean, i.e., the ports of Tripoli, Al Khums, and Sirte, and its rich oil, natural gas, and gypsum resources make Libya a central location in the region’s energy map. If Gaddafi was to be allowed to attack his co-patriots while large parts of the Libyans were openly asking for the collapse of his regime, then a new period of instability would be opened for European economy and in particular for the energy markets. As long as Libya was in a state of civil strife, the oil production would be down sending the prices high and affecting European economy. Thus, the American interest on the Libyan conundrum referred not only to the humanitarian aspect of the crisis but also to Washington’s aim to stop the Libyan crisis from disrupting European economy. Interestingly enough, in the Libyan case, all five U.S. schools of thought of foreign policy were complimenting Barack Obama’s decision to intervene militarily. The Wilsonian and the Obamian approaches were mainly interested in stopping the humanitarian crisis that Gaddafi was about to cause by targeting civilians and creating large refugee flow towards Italy and Greece. The Hamiltonian school of thought would be mostly intrigued by Libya’s strategic location in the Eastern Mediterranean and also by the Libyan energy and natural resources. It also perceived the dangers for global economy arising from an outbreak of a long civil war inside Libya. Last but not least, both Jeffersonianism and Jacksonianism would want to retaliate against a regime responsible for the death of American citizens during the past. Above all, the Obama administration had the moral capacity to heed the calls of the Libyans for American assistance, and to put an end to one of the most tyrannical regimes of the Arab world. I argue that the Operation Odyssey Dawn was a rare case in the American foreign policy’s agenda where morality and pragmatism were meeting in the middle under the theoretical consensus of the five schools of thought. Even so, the Libyan case was another of Obama’s foreign policy mistakes, which undermined U.S. status in the Eastern Mediterranean as well as the region’s stability. His main error was that he left Libya all alone after Gaddafi and his bloody regime collapsed. After all, Obama has publicly admitted that Libya was the principal

 On February 5, 2004, Libya complied with the Chemical Weapons Convention, destroying under the supervision of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons the largest part of its reserves. Gaddafi had hidden parts of chemical weapons from the OPCW; however after the beginning of the revolt the regime did not have access to those hideouts.



3  Obama’s Foreign Policy and the Arab Spring: The Cases of Egypt, Libya, and Syria

mistake of his presidency, mainly as the White House seemed unprepared to present a realistic plan for Libya’s post-Gaddafi era to the Libyans (The Guardian 2016). The NATO operation in Libya was implemented due to reasons of political expediency with the legal binding of the UN Security Council Resolution 1973 regarding the Responsibility to Protect.20 The operation was successful but the day after was a sound failure. As a matter of fact, the collapse of the Libya’s tyranny was a pivotal step for the opening of a new political chapter for the people and the state, but it was insufficient to protect Libyan citizens from other perils, such as the appearance of new Gaddafi-style warlords, or from the emergence of various jihadist groups asking for their share of power in the vacuum. After a brief period of peace in post-­ Gaddafi Libya, a new Civil War broke out in 2014, where different political fractions fought each other, while jihadists also controlled various Libyan areas with groups of ISIS fighters finding a new hub to continue with their nihilistic activities. On top of that, the post-Gaddafi gap gave the opportunity to Moscow to include Libya in its wider Eastern Mediterranean policy that will be presented in Chap. 5. Russia became involved in Libya by backing Khalifa Haftar, the warlord of the so-called Libyan National Army, who currently controls the largest part of the country (Sherwin 2019; Ramani 2019; Megerisi 2019). For Libya to be safe in the aftermath of the Gaddafi regime, a NATO boots-on-the-ground operation had to be activated in order to guard peace and order up until the emergence of national government. Instead of doing that, NATO observed the unfolding of the events from a supposedly safe distance. As NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen publicly admitted: “We can’t protect civilians in Libya effectively if we are not prepared to take out critical military units on the ground that can be used to attack civilians” (Gray-­ Block 2011). Yet, as it was proved, air-to-ground strikes were sufficient enough to simply neutralize the Gaddafi regime and not to protect civilians, or offer Libyans the breathing space to construct a new civic order. Why didn’t Obama give the green light to ensure the application of the appropriate political and military measures needed for the balanced transition of Libya to the post-Gaddafi era? Most probably he understood the enormous scope of the issue and was utterly discouraged, anticipating that Libya would emerge as a new Iraq or Afghanistan for the U.S., a strong probability which would have incapacitated the American economy and also ruined his reelection prospects. I am not going to assess Obama’s worries, because it is totally pointless to attempt any kind of retroactive forecasting in international politics, especially in the case of Arab Spring. However, it is clear that the U.S. was willing to work for the collapse of Gaddafi but that was not enough for securing a more stable future for Libya. To comprehend the level of the failure, just consider if the U.S. only focused on the defeat of Nazi Germany in Europe without consideration for the next sociopolitical and economic  In 2005 UN World Summit all member states had unanimously endorsed the principle of the Responsibility to Protect. According to this, every member state has the right to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. In case national governments cannot fulfill their obligations, then the United Nations through collective action must accept responsibility and act accordingly (Glanville 2014; Henderson 2018: 153–162).


5  The Libyan Spring


day on the continent. This was exactly what happened with the case of Libya, since the U.S. and the rest of NATO appeared to be content with just the collapse of Gaddafi without thinking about the socioeconomic and political requirements of the day after. Nevertheless, at this point, it is important to examine the moral and political responsibilities of the other NATO and European powers too. Germany,21 France, Britain, and the other members of the Western apparatus of the Old Continent seemed unwilling to accept responsibility for the reconstruction of Libya with money and troops. Once again, Europe seemed to await all directions from Washington, exercising the same posture since the end of the WWII, that of the care-free rider who differs from a free rider in the following: the free rider constantly escapes from every responsibility required in participation of a collective mechanism, whereas the care-free rider is always willing to contribute up until the moment it becomes known what exactly the contribution would entail in full, and thus gracefully steps out of the picture without thinking about the consequences. The Libyan case can also be another confirmation of views critical to those coming from leading European politicians and opinion makers, which promotes the establishment of a common European Security and Defense mechanism, such that the EU can present itself internationally as an independent and robust player of 21st international politics. Nevertheless, how could creating such a body be realized when the EU states are unwilling to meet their obligations, both politically and economically, towards NATO? At the same time how can such a mechanism exist when the European states demonstrate such a lack of conviction to their moral and geostrategic responsibilities on critical issues that are taking place in the backyard of Europe? These questions are purely rhetorical and are raised to portray various inconsistencies that surround European Common Security and Defense Policy mindsets (Litsas 2017). Despite the European failure once again in international politics, Libya must be chalked up as another mistake of Obama’s foreign policy in the Eastern Mediterranean. First, the U.S. still plays the prime geostrategic, political, and economic role in the region, and thus it had to deliver a viable solution in Libya to stabilize the state and the region too. Obama should have assessed better the European unwillingness to share the financial and military burden in the aftermath of Gaddafi. He also needed to prepare Operation Odyssey Dawn with the inclusion of a greater number of Arab states, besides Jordan, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, which would have squelched the views that attacking Gaddafi was injuring the Middle East status quo, or was an assault against Islam. Also, for a more robust campaign the American President would have needed to ask Congress for a green light to send a boots on the ground, without considering the consequences to his reelection prospects in the White House. Nevertheless, since he did nothing of this sort, he should have at least delayed the collapse of the Gaddafi regime, to prepare for the appear-

 Berlin did not participate in the Odyssey Dawn Operation and limited its support to financial aid and to diplomatic backup.



3  Obama’s Foreign Policy and the Arab Spring: The Cases of Egypt, Libya, and Syria

ance of a post-Gaddafi establishment inside the Libyan framework that would be ready to step into immediately after Gaddafi’s collapse. A stick-and-a-carrot methodology, during the delaying process in removing the Gaddafi regime, could have proven very effective, not only for the future of Libya, but also for the people of Benghazi or elsewhere. It is very possible that Gaddafi, a great tactician, would have had grabbed the opportunity to protect himself and his family. Though some may consider this as a rather cynical approach, I argue the opposite. Currently, Libya faces a second civil war, with the nation deeply divided into different sections that either want to impose their political will on the rest or are wishing for the continuation of the current chaos in order to enhance their nihilistic status. Jihadism is on the rise, offering the opportunity to ISIS fighters from Syria to unite their forces with local radical elements. Today, Russia systematically explores the possibilities of transforming Libya into the next Syria, to boost further its own presence in the Eastern Mediterranean. If Russia’s goal is realized and Libya, or parts of it, becomes Moscow’s puppet state, then the American presence in the Eastern Mediterranean will be further compromised, combined with the successful Russian expansionist policy in Syria and President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. Army from North Syria. In order to offer another strategic perspective regarding the critical geostrategic importance of Libya for the U.S., if Russia controls Libya, a pivotal point for the U.S. presence in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Naval Support Activity in Souda Bay Crete, could fall under the coverage of Russian midrange weapons placed in the port of Derna, or direct threat from military installations in the Port Marsa El Brega or in Ras Lanuf. I am fully aware that since the dawn of times Kassandra’s role was never appreciated, especially in politics. Nevertheless, I am afraid that the U.S. will soon discover in the Libyan case, as it was discovered in the Syrian one, that international politics abhors a vacuum and there will always be a much more willing, perhaps not always abler, yet more decisive actor to fill in the emerging power gap for its own benefit.

6  The Syrian Spring It may be a hyperbole to claim that had Basil al Assad, Hafez’s “golden son” and the lawful heir of Syria, did not die on January 21, 1994, while driving at high speed through Damascus’ streets, then the Arab Spring may not have emerged there. However, it can be safely argued that an ordinary ophthalmologist from the Western Eye Hospital in London, Bashar al Assad, the younger brother of Basil, was not ready to abandon his daily routine in the British capital and return back to Syria to be politically trained as Hafez al Assad’s successor. I am not claiming either that Bashar was lacking in skills. On the contrary, he has proven to be a survivor under very difficult conditions for him. Nevertheless, as things showed, his transition from the role of an ordinary person to that of the absolute ruler of Syria did not match the conditions which the situation demanded. The Syrian Arab Spring proved

6  The Syrian Spring


that Bashar al Assad was the wrong man, in the wrong place, at the wrong time for Syria. Unlike Libya, Syria was one of those Arab states that had successfully embraced the transition from an Ottoman province into a polity with an overarching ideology of pan-Arabism. As a matter of fact, an Arab army with numerous Syrians in its ranks under the leadership of Faisal bin Hussein, the King of Iraq and the champion of Arab nationalism, with the aid of Thomas E. Lawrence,22 fought by the side of the British Army and General Sir Edmund Allenby during the liberation of Damascus from the Ottoman and the German armies on October 1, 1918 (Kedourie 1964). Despite London’s promises to King Faisal, that he would have the opportunity to reign in the areas he freed from the Ottomans after the end of the war, both Britain and France at the 1920 conference of San Remo decided that Syria and Lebanon were to be placed under a French mandate. The French mandate, with its reactionary policies towards any sign of Arab nationalism, reinforced the belief towards the adoption of a common national identity form Syrian Arabs. This was an important development, as it fostered the establishment of a strong political and cultural linkage between Syria and the neighboring Arab provinces, exploring new segments of connection besides Islam. As Philip Khoury (1981: 441) notes about the rise of nationalism in Syria during the years of the French mandate: … it was the Mandate system which ensured that nationalism was the overwhelming flavor of the stew. French control in Syria, contrary to French design, made of nationalism the chief political instrument of a large segment of the Syrian political elite, members of the absentee landowning and bureaucratic classes in Damascus and in other Syrian towns … Indeed, the French invasion and the capricious policies imposed on Syria in the early years of the Mandate let this new sentiment of nationalism spread faster than even before at the expense of other loyalties

This specific matter, the thin line between nationalism and Islam within the modern Syrian civic framework, was to play one of the most important roles in the outbreak of the Syrian Spring many decades after the establishment of the French colonial rule in the land of Umayyads.23 Exploring for the creation of a solid Syrian national identity created a series of major or lesser revolts against the French mandate, yet the true change in Syria’s status came with the beginning of World War II. During the summer of 1941, British, Commonwealth, and Free French Forces invaded Syria which had been under the control of the Vichy regime, giving the opportunity to the Syrian nationalists to

 T.E. Lawrence became known for his role during the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire during WWI. He assisted King Faisal developing a coherent military strategy against the Ottoman Armed Forces, while he functioned as the liaison between London and the Arab side throughout the Great War. 23  The Umayyad Caliphate was the second Caliphate in the Islamic world after the death of Prophet Muhammad. Syria became the Caliphate’s power base and Damascus the thriving capital of it. The reign of the Umayyads lasted for 89 years (661–750 CE) and during their reign Islam was expanded to the Iberian Peninsula. 22


3  Obama’s Foreign Policy and the Arab Spring: The Cases of Egypt, Libya, and Syria

unite forces with the Allied forces and claim for an upgraded political role in post-­ Vichy Syria. On April 1946, and after a series of diplomatic frictions between Paris and London on the one side and Washington on the other who openly advocated in favor of the end of the French Mandate, Syria had been granted a sovereign status, becoming a full member of the United Nations and of the Arab League too. The prospects for the new state looked as bright as the Eastern Mediterranean sun in July. With a coherent ethnic base24 and a durably constructed national identity which was forged through the years of French colonialism, Syria made its maiden steps in the postwar international environment as secure and confident as the region’s realities would allow. Yet, the omens for a clean start in the blue waters of the Eastern Mediterranean could not overcome the harsh realities that surrounded and penetrated Syria. Frequently, in conditions where a fresh beginning is asked sacrifices are in order. The political unity and the institutional stability of the nation were to play the role of the Iphigenia in Aulis25 in the Syrian case, alas in vain. From 1947 through 1970, the course of Syria as an independent state was characterized by two main elements: constant political instability which led to numerous juntas and major military defeats26 at the hands of the Israeli forces, and secondly its ruined national prestige which affected its territorial integrity (McHugo 2015: 111–154). In 1948, Syria was heavily involved in the Arab-Israeli war; however the Syrian forces were driven back off the Golan Heights by the Israeli forces, forcing Damascus to step out of the war. The heavy defeat, both strategically and morally, led to the first coup d’état by Colonel Husni al-Za’im on March 30, 1949, against President Shukri al-Quwatli. On August 14, 1949, Colonel Sami al-Hinnawi overthrew the previous regime, while he was brought down by another coup d’état from the high-ranking officer Adib Bin Hassan al-Shishakli in December 1949. In February 1954 al-Shishakli regime was overthrown by a coup d’état under the nationalist politician Hashim Khalid al-Atassi and the Druze leader Sultan al-­ Atrash. On September 28, 1961, Lieutenant Colonel Abd al-Karim al-Nahlawi seized the power, yet he was overthrown on March 8, 1963, by two prominent members of the Baath Party, Michel Aflaq and Salah al-Din al-Bitar. A new coup d’état occurred in February 1966, organized by an ultraleft winger of the Baath Party, General Salah Jadid, who led Syria to the defeat by the Israeli Defense Forces in the Six-Day War resulting in the destruction of the Syrian Air Force and the total loss of the Golan Heights. Finally, on November 13, 1970, the Baathist Minister of Defense and ex-Air Force officer Hafez al-Assad took over power with another coup d’état. From the end of WWII up until 1970, the Syrian political scene can only be com Just after the beginning of the Syrian Civil War Mustafa Khalifa (2013), a Syrian novelist, published a study in the Arab Reform Initiative think tank arguing that Syrian Arabs constituted 80–85% of the total Syrian population, with 10% of Kurds. 25  According to Euripides’ Greek tragedy Iphigenia, Agamemnon’s daughter was summoned to Aulis where the Greek fleet anticipated for favorable winds in order to begin the campaign against Troy. In order for these winds to be unleashed by the gods Agamemnon was being instructed by the seer Calchas to sacrifice his daughter in the name of goddess Artemis. 26  In the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, in the Six-Day War in 1967, and in the Yom Kippur War in 1973. 24

6  The Syrian Spring


pared with Medieval Europe regarding its political volatility. This situation undermined, in the most catalytic way, Syria’s regional status quo, the economy of the state, and most of all the well-being of its citizens. The main reason for this chaotic political condition was the weak institutions which the era of colonial governance bequeathed to the Syrian state, a fact that emphasized the role of the army both as a guardian of nation’s security and as a decisive, albeit brutal, champion of Syrian secular civic structure. The failure of Syria’s political system during the first decades of the nation’s life must be seen not only as a proof of the elite’s inability to construct a durable liberal democratic system, but also as a result of the dry socio-­ ideological representation of Syrian elite itself. This stratum, which failed to include academics, entrepreneurs, or high-skilled professionals relied exclusively on the governance of military officers with indifference to the well-being of the Syrian people and of the state and on few politicians of the colonial era. From the first day of independence up until Hafez al-Assad’s last coup d’état in 1970, Syria was a failed state, an attribute which was visible both in the internal and the external proceedings of the nation. Perhaps, this was the main reason why Hafez al-Assad named his coup d’état as Corrective Movement, meaning of course that his junta was an attempt to overcome the wrongs of this disgraceful period of the state in every aspect of its civic structure. Oxymoronically, Hafez al-Assad27 managed to succeed in this herculean task. For a long period of time, under his iron fist, Syria witnessed an unprecedented period of political stability and policy success compared with its recent past. As Raymond Hinnebusch (2016: 63) presents the fundamental civic priorities of Syria’s ruler: Asad used the initiative he seized in 1970 and the political capital accumulated thereafter to reshape the Ba’th state—from a failed experiment in Leninism into a hybrid regime which subordinated the Ba’th Party to an authoritarian “Presidential Monarchy”. The new priority put on state consolidation over revolution and awareness of the factional fragility of collegial leadership led the new elite to explicitly opt for a strong presidential regime.

The pillars of the new regime were populism, statism, secularism, and authoritarianism. As a matter of fact, Assad was willing to exercise unprecedented brutality against any form of disobedience towards his authority. In order for this to be func-

 Hafez al-Assad comes from north-west Syria, the stronghold of Alawite doctrine in Syria, from a family of local warlords that remained known for their physical strength and skills, qualities that gave them the name “Assad” that in Arabic means the “Lion.” He was born in 1930 in the village Qardaha. Because his family was not a rich one, he could subsidize his studies at the university; after high-school graduation he joined the Army in 1950 and within few months the flying school in Aleppo. He rose in the Army ranks not because of his leadership skills but because he was skillful enough to combine his military career with politics. He had joined the Baath Party since his school days but as an officer he became one of the most prominent representatives of Baathism within the Syrian Army. As a consequence, after all politics always helps a military career; in 1964 he was named Chief of Staff of the Syrian Air Force and was promoted to the rank of Major General. He participated in the 1966 coup d’état and was appointed Minister of Defense. Eventually, in 1970 he self-promoted himself by organizing a successful coup d’état that changed completely the fate of Syria and of its people. For more regarding the life of Hafez al-Assad see MacFarquhar (2000) and Seale (1988).



3  Obama’s Foreign Policy and the Arab Spring: The Cases of Egypt, Libya, and Syria

tional, Assad began to rebuild the state from the beginning, promoting fellow Alawites28 to all state key positions, including the Army and the Security Forces. As it was well expected, despite the fact that the state was enjoying a considerable domestic political stability, Assad’s mechanism became synonymous with the most profound form of tyranny. Those who would consider opposing his governing had been given the message that the regime would ruthlessly suppress any sign of insubordination. This was not just an urban legend which had been circulated by the regime’s propaganda mechanism as deterrence against internal fifth columns, but it derived from pure and dire facts. In March 1980 the people of Jisr-al Shughour, a town between Aleppo and Latakia, attacked the local headquarters of the Baathist Party and they set it to fire. They were protesting against a series of Assad’s laws which were aiming to marginalize the Sunni Islam inside Syria, in order to limit the well-established position of Muslim Brotherhood among the Sunni majority in Syria. Assad reacted rapidly when the news of the troubles in Jisr-al Shughour reached him. He ordered for the immediate crashing of the insurrection by sending units of the Special Forces against the people of Jisr-al Shughour. The result was the death of 200 civilians and the imprisonment of around 100 more. In early March 1980 the Muslim Brotherhood proclaimed a general strike in Aleppo that soon stretched to other major urban centers of the country, such as Hama, Homs, and Hasaka. On April 1, the paramilitary group Saraya ad-Difa [the Defense Brigade], loyal to the regime, entered Aleppo to suppress the strikers. From then until the mid-August around 2000 people were killed and 10,000 were sent to prison. On June 27, 1980, 1 day after a failed assassination against Hafez al-Assad, Saraya ad-Difa entered the Tadmor Prison in Palmyra, and killed around 1000 prisoners that were members of the Muslim Brotherhood, or of other Salafist groups. The message was clear and was sent to everyone inside the country that the regime would not hesitate to preserve the existing status quo. On April 22, 1981, Islamist guerillas attacked an Alawite village near the city of Hama in a clear attempt to hurt the prestige of Hafez al-Assad. The next day the Syrian Special Forces entered Hama killing several hundreds. Nevertheless, all these bloody incidents proved to be minor compared to what happened in Hama a year later. On February 3, 1982, a small-scale clash between an Army patrol and a group of Islamists occurred in the narrow streets of the old city’s section. The violent episode gave the opportunity to the Islamists to call for a general uprising against the regime. Within the next few hours, 70 leading members of the Baathist Party had been executed and Hama was proclaimed a free city. The response of Hafez al-Assad was the declaration of total war. 12,000 troops were sent to Hama with a singular goal, to eradicate every Islamist cell within the city. The final result was the killing of around 25,000–30,000 people, with 15,000 more still missing today, and around 100,000 were expelled from Hama. As a consequence, from  Alawites belong to the Shia Islam. The basic doctrine is the deification of Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad and the fourth caliph of Islam. Alawites do not practice the duties deriving from the five pillars of Islam and they celebrate an eclectic number of Islamic and Christian holidays (Olson 1998).


6  The Syrian Spring


Hama’s massacre, for a long period there were no Islamist uprisings against Hafez al-Assad. Nevertheless, a deep animosity between the Sunni majority and the Baathist regime under the Alawites’ control was created in the steep and bloody alleys of Aleppo and Hama. This was a boiling hatred that was constantly exploring to find a way to float to the surface again, an opportunity that was given by Bassar al-Assad himself. On January 31, 2011, Bashar al-Assad gave an interview to The Wall Street Journal’s reporters Jay Solomon and Bill Spindle. In this interview Assad adopted an utterly liberal position speaking about the Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen. As he underlined, these revolts were ushering in a new era in the Middle East where the rulers need to meet the rising political and economic demands of the people. According to his narrative the Syrian regime was absolutely stable because society supported him and he was close to the collective beliefs and needs of his people: Syria is stable. Why? Because you have to be very closely linked to the beliefs of the people. This is the core issue.

Perhaps a Western reader will immediately believe that Assad lied. I argue that Assad genuinely believed that Syria was different from the rest of the Arab states, simply because in non-liberal regimes, criticisms towards the government are not typical happenings, but considered as an act of civic misconduct. In other words, leaving aside Greece, Cyprus, and Israel, which are the only three liberal democracies in the region, in the Eastern Mediterranean is not a normative process for people or institutions to declare publicly that the King is naked. Thus, it is normal for rulers of this sort to end up isolated in their ivory towers, with little to no understanding of the public opinion. Consequently, they tend to react violently each time that an episode leaves a scratch on their well-polished public image. This was verified by Bashar al-Assad’s conduct too just few weeks after he gave the interview to the Wall Street Journal. It was a dark February night in the southern Syrian city of Deraa, a predominantly Sunni urban center, near the border with Jordan, when a group of ordinary young pupils from the age of 8 up to the age of 14 wrote on the wall of their school the slogan “Down with the Regime,” one of the popular slogans of the protesters at the Tahrir Square in Cairo. Within few hours the pupils were arrested and, for reasons that probably had to do with the fact that the local chief of the police wanted to show to his superiors how valuable his services were to Damascus, they were sent to Police Headquarters in the Syrian capital for further interrogation. For 2 weeks their relatives tried to persuade the Baath Party officials in Deraa that their children posed no threat to the regime and that they had to be released, but to no avail. Thus, on March 15, 2011, motivated by their desperation, few hundred people, relatives, and family friends of the imprisoned children marched in front of the Omari mosque in downtown Deraa, demanding for the release of the youth. Ordinary policemen, not trained to deal with situations like this, opened fire in an attempt to disperse the protesters, killing four people. After all, human life comes very cheap in this part of the world. The next day, around 20,000 people were out in the streets of Deraa, asking for the release of the young ones and protesting for


3  Obama’s Foreign Policy and the Arab Spring: The Cases of Egypt, Libya, and Syria

the deaths of the four co-­citizens. The protests became a daily phenomenon in the city, and on March 23 in another violent clash between unarmed citizens and local police 15 more unarmed citizens were killed. The crisis escalated at an unprecedented pace. On the one hand, people of Deraa felt that there was no way back to the pre-February days, while on the other hand, Bashar al-Assad probably felt that he had to follow his father’s steps and produce his own Hama, demonstrating his iron fist. On April 25 an eleven days’ siege of the city began from the Syrian Army, while inside Deraa the situation was getting out of hand with Sunni Islamists attacking state buildings and Baath officials. As Joshua Landis (2011) argued about the situation in Deraa and also about the semantics of the revolt: Deraa is very poor and Islamic—it epitomizes everything that troubles Syria—a failed economy, the population explosion, a bad governor and overbearing security forces. It is an explosive brew. Even if the government can contain violence to Deraa for the time being, protests will spread. The wall of fear has broken. Apathy of the young has turned to anger. YouTube, Aljazeera, and cellphones have changed the game and given the people a powerful weapon to fight authority. The country is under intense pressure and ready to explode. There is too much unemployment and too little freedom

Within 10 days, 244 civilians, among them many youth, had been killed. Also 81 soldiers were dead with around 1000 people arrested. Syria was entering into a long and utterly destructive spring of discontent. From the early days of the protests in Deraa, Washington implemented verbal denunciations, followed by inaction. On August 18, 2011, Barack Obama commented about the Syrian conundrum that the unfolding of humanitarian crisis in the Arab state was clearly Bashar al-Assad’s responsibility, and that he had to leave office. Obama also signed an executive order blocking assets of the Syrian Government abroad, banned new investments, and prohibited exporting services in Syria by American individuals or companies and also limited imports or investments in Syrian-origin petroleum or petroleum products. According to the American President: The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but President Bashar al-Assad is standing in their way. His calls for dialogue and reform have rung hollow while he is imprisoning, torturing, and slaughtering his own people. We have consistently said that President Assad must lead a democratic transition or get out of the way. He has not led. For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside (The White House 2011a, b)

It was more than obvious that the American President believed in everything he stated about the Syrian people and the tyrannical regime that was leading the state towards a civil war. Yet, in international politics, words are not actions and actions do not determine words. While the Syrian opposition regarded the above statement as a precursor for a more substantial military involvement in the crisis from the American side, Barack Obama made a political statement which in the end was nothing more than a theoretical approach to a factual conundrum. For the U.S. President, this statement was a clear indication that American exceptionalism was still operating as a prevailing trend inside the White House and in the State Department. It was a statement of pure Obamianism which acknowledged the

6  The Syrian Spring


problem, marked the source of the negative influence, and placed it at the epicenter of the analysis. Yet, beyond this rather theoretical approach there was a gap in the U.S. foreign policy in the Syrian Question. For the rest of the world, including Syrians, this statement was a direct message to Bashar al-Assad that he had to leave office—and the country of course—because otherwise the consequences against him and his regime would be severe, while for Washington it was a declaration of intentions with a profound proclivity not to be involved in the Syrian version of the Arab Spring. It is very difficult for an American citizen who has never lived abroad to comprehend the following: that for the rest of the world, the U.S. is of the embodiment of a Marvel’s superhero. It can achieve everything and always keeps a promise. Many generations around the globe, especially those who came after the end of the Cold War, have been born and raised with the notion of the indispensable nation that can make a difference in global foreign affairs. For the masses around the globe, the U.S. is not a normal state where means have to meet the ends, and vice versa, in order to act at an international level. Therefore, every little statement from every American official, especially from the President of the U.S., is being received as an almost metaphysical revelation and not as just another statement of another politician. The people of the Eastern Mediterranean do not differ from the rest of the world, and thus after the statement they were expecting for a more coherent action from the U.S. which was not coming and was affecting negatively the American prestige in the region. Yet, creating high expectations for the rest of the world regarding the American reaction against Bashar al-Assad was not Obama’s first, and for sure not the only, mistake on the Syrian crisis. From the middle March to the mid-August, the American President openly criticized the Syrian regime, during a period where thousands of Syrians were dying in the streets of Deraa, Hama, and Aleppo. The U.S. lost critical time to internationalize the Syrian crisis within the United Nations, or to push for a NATO common operation for humanitarian reasons. During these first months of the crisis, Russia or Iran was not prepared or ready to get militarily involved in the Syrian conundrum, while it also has to be said that ISIS was still in Iraq operating as the local Al Qaeda branch. By not acting rapidly, either by the UN provisions concerning the Responsibility to Protect [RtP] or exclusively on its own capacity, the U.S. offered the opportunity to the Syrian regime to reorganize itself by creating new or enhancing its already existing international networks. At the same time, Russia and Iran were offered crucial time to systematically envision and arrange on a more concrete basis their military involvement in Syria. It was obvious that the U.S. was not able or more importantly willing to intervene in Syria, projecting an emphatic message of weakness and of lack of concern for the geostrategic developments in the region. As Obama made his statement about Syria just before leaving for vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, the Pentagon had not even been approached by the White House to generate military contingency plans, which would have had emphasized the President’s rhetoric in a more substantial manner. Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta, the then Secretary of Defense, had previously warned Obama that in case he was to proceed with such a statement, he had to back up his words with actions (Phillips


3  Obama’s Foreign Policy and the Arab Spring: The Cases of Egypt, Libya, and Syria

2016: 81). Obama chose to do nothing besides his statement as he gracefully flew to his summer destination. It becomes obvious that Barack Obama sent, after Egypt and Libya, once again signals of inconsistency to the international sphere, as his passionate words had not been followed by applicable actions. When Barack Obama publicly warned Bashar al-Assad that he had to lead Syria to a democratic transition or to step aside, the globe was expecting something more concrete than seeing the American President leaving Washington for his summer break. Perhaps, if he was not the same person who dealt in almost the same manner with the Egyptian and the Libyan crises, then the damage to the American prestige would have had been less. However, this care-­ free style was sending the wrong message to the international system that the U.S. was ready to reduce its presence in the region. Perhaps, the U.S. was simply not willing to be involved in the Arab Spring labyrinth which had taken on the scale of a sociopolitical tsunami in the crystal blue waters of Yam Gadol.29 Yet in international politics the emerging gap will always be filled by another more eager element. Thus, the next question that arises is why Obama decided to rhetorically escalate without first being prepared to consolidate his words with military action against Bashar al-Assad? I argue that Obama committed the gravest mistake of all in politics. He interconnected his domestic political agenda with the U.S. foreign policy agenda, failing to continue to monitoring the big picture. During a critical time for Syria the American President could not resist pressure from the press in the preparatory period of the electoral campaign of the 2012. For example, on April 22, 2011, the editorial pages of the Washington Post labeled Obama’s inaction in Syria as shameful, while few weeks after that the same newspaper heavily criticized Barack Obama for speaking publicly about Syria only two times while a humanitarian crisis was taking place there during the holy period of Ramadan (The Washington Post, August 1, 2011). Therefore, Obama was coerced to make a forceful public statement against Assad regime in order to prove to the American media and public that he truly cared for what was going on in Syria and to the rest of the Arab world. As a matter of fact, the statement had persuaded everyone that the American side was ready to act. Each day that passed by after the moment of the statement, with American noninvolvement dominating the international horizon, was a clear reminder to the rest of the globe that the U.S. was not willing to be involved in the Syrian civil war. American failure was even more intensified by the attitude of the Syrian leader who was showing a profound unwillingness not only to lead Syria to a more democratic path, but also to pay the slightest of attention to the White House’s rhetoric. In the end, the U.S. paid dearly for the misplay. It supplied the rebels of the Free Syrian Army with military aid and trained 15,000 Syrian soldiers to face both the Assad forces and the jihadists, while it also was involved by itself in the Operation Inherent Resolve30 against the jihadists of the Islamic State.  The Mediterranean Sea in the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible.  Operation Inherent Resolve is active since August 2016 by the U.S. Army XVIII Airborne Corps against ISIS, including campaign both in Iraq and in Syria together with the Iraqi Security Forces and the Syrian Democratic Forces.

29 30

6  The Syrian Spring


Nevertheless, this late entrance of the U.S. in the Syrian crisis had no results with Bashar al-Assad. On the contrary, he attacked numerous times against Syrian civilians who opposed his regime with weapons of mass destruction. According to a very informative research from BBC’s Nawal al-Maghafi (2018), Bashar al-Assad unleashed 106 chemical attacks against his own people between 2014 and 2018. Syria did not turn out to be a democratically governed state, but it became the hub of one of the most horrific forms of jihadism, an incubator for ISIS, with its profound messianic ideology that targets at every religion or social background, even Sunni Islam, in order to promote sectarian violence. Lastly, the American military intervention did not save Syria from the tyrannical Assad regime. On the contrary, Bashar al-Assad is even more powerful today, and absolutely dependable of course on the Kremlin, controlling the majority of his destroyed country, one that in reality no longer belongs to the Assad family or to the Syrian Baath Party, but first to Russia and some zones to Iran too. The Syrian case is perhaps the biggest international failure of Obama and one of the biggest defeats of the U.S. foreign policy in the Eastern Mediterranean, together with Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw American forces from North Syria and give the green light to Turkey to implement the Operation Peace Spring as it will be presented in Chap. 5. Syria, before its entrance in the Arab Spring’s storm, was not an American ally. Traditionally, Assad regime was much closer to Moscow during the communist era and afterwards for reasons that had to do with the Baathist ideology and also with anti-Americanism that penetrates the Arab world due to the close relations between Israel and the U.S. However, that condition cannot be compared with the Syrian Question today, as now Damascus is the Russian puppet in the Eastern Mediterranean. However, where is Obama’s responsibility? Was he not correct to avoid entanglement in a lethal and perplexing crisis as deep as that of Afghanistan or Iraq? Was he not right to avoid additional exposure of the U.S.  Military in the Arab world? Was he not right trying to have the maximum political effect in Syria for the American interests through bluffing, instead of operating? The questions are rhetorical. Syria is now a failed state, with millions of Syrians as refugees. Jihadists build their ideological infrastructure in Syria with the establishment of the Global Caliphate. Today, a Muslim teenager in London, Paris, or Pittsburg who surfs black web in jihadist sites learn that Raqqa was not an urban legend but the actual capital of Global Caliphate that one day will re-emerge somewhere around the globe. In addition, Syria today is a Russian satellite and a hub of Iranian foreign policy too. All these came to pass because Obama hesitated to act rapidly in Syria in order to bring down Assad regime and ensure for a smooth ­transition of power. For all these reasons, history will not be very kind to Obama about his leadership during the Arab Spring. He seemed to be intimidated by the poor American economic conditions he inherited and thus instead of leading he merely operated a uninspiring policy over the Syrian crisis. The Arab Spring had not only to do with the sociopolitical conditions inside the Arab states, but it also underlined the antagonism between pan-Arabic regimes and pan-Islamic militant groups. Obama did not realize that the multidimensional Arab Spring offered a brilliant


3  Obama’s Foreign Policy and the Arab Spring: The Cases of Egypt, Libya, and Syria

opportunity to Moscow to exit the Black Sea and establish an advanced military presence in the region, taking advantage of the American noninvolvement policy. In general, in the Arab Spring and in particular in the Syrian case, Barack Obama proved to be unfamiliar with one of the main concepts of international politics: national prestige. Quite often, politicians tend to believe that the actual capacity of power that a state acquires is enough by itself to preserve the nation’s status quo in the international arena, and to safeguard nation’s goals and interests. However, this is wrong. International theory promotes the view that while hard power is a hard currency in daily international activities, national prestige is a more flexible tool at the international level (Gilpin 2001: 246; Nincic 1999). Barack Obama believed that a verbal manifestation of his sincere rejection of Assad’s cruelty in Syria would have had been sufficient by itself to overthrow the tyrant and lead Syrian society towards the opening of a new chapter. The White House also disregarded the Russian challenge in Syria, and moreover failed to envision the axis of cooperation between Moscow and Teheran, despite the fact that this cooperation was visible in various cases of Central Asian affairs. The U.S. also underestimated the societal exasperation with Assad’s failure to modernize the economy, his indifference to liberalize the political system, and most importantly the outbreak of a religious friction between the Sunni majority and the Shia/Alawite minority in Syria. This clash had begun in the late 1970s, and had already produced tens of thousands of victims at the hands of Hafez al-Assad, a process which undermined the civic foundations of the state by producing societal hatred and animosity between the different religious and political groups. Perhaps, the origins of the Syrian Spring can be found in the 1982 Hama massacre which was a horrific event that created an unbridged gap between the Sunni and the Alawite sides. Syria today is a failed state, a Russian satellite, and Shia projection of power in the Middle East, which together with Iraq and Lebanon’s Hezbollah all fall under Iran’s direct control. For the first time since 1805, during the Arab Spring, the U.S. sends the signal to the rest of the world that there are certain limits to its involvement in the Eastern Mediterranean, which are determined not by Washington’s desires but by its reduced capabilities. The American superhero fades away in the Eastern Mediterranean terrain under the Arab Spring friction and this is the gravest blow against the American prestige.

7  Conclusion The Arab Spring was and still is one of the most difficult riddles of international politics. It penetrated the Arab world, leading hundreds of thousands to death, to exile, to hospitals, or to mental institutions. This forceful phenomenon demands from the Western world, and from the U.S. in particular, a more rigorous analysis and attentive approach for the protection of national interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. Yet, the U.S. seemed unwilling to be more involved in understand-



ing the phenomenon which affects directly the balance of power in the Eastern Mediterranean. For reasons that had to do with the harsh American economic situation after the crisis of 2008, and the fact that ordinary American citizens were irked by the thought of additional Middle Eastern conundrums, the American system decided to manage this multidimensional predicament with neither heart nor brains, but with a desire to evade the labyrinth altogether. At this point, leadership was and is always critical. A leader is obliged to see the big picture and to act accordingly, always in favor of the interests of the state. Barack Obama did not do this for all the reasons that have already been presented above. Does his failure make him a poor leader in general? My personal opinion is no. Obama’s importance reaches beyond the arena of the U.S. foreign policy in the Eastern Mediterranean, as I have already argued in Chap. 1. Obama’s political virtues and his iconic role in the pantheon of the American political structure do not change the fact that the U.S. foreign policy response during the Arab Spring under his administration was poor and it did not help the region’s stability. On the contrary, Washington’s reticence worked at cross currents to American interests. As Nikolaos Zahariadis (2016: 88) argues: … domestic reason shape mostly the Obama response: the legacy of 9/11 has kept America at bay; the administration’s liberal view in addition to domestic recession and political troubles have deflected attention … The Obama administration not only failed to anticipate events but also missed the opportunity to shape their aftermath. Future administrations will have to revisit American security doctrine.

Despite recent setbacks in approach, it has to be said that the presence of the U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean has not been fully compromised, mainly due to the formidable presence of the American sixth fleet in the Eastern Mediterranean and the incomparable American soft power which is being fully embraced by local societies. Nevertheless, American prestige and credibility were diminished and will need time, along with more active management of the Eastern Mediterranean conundrums, in order to heal the wounds and to function fully once again. For whatever Obama failed to accomplish regarding the Arab Spring, he succeeded substantially in the Greek crisis. Yet, as we shall see in the next chapter, U.S. intervention was with a considerable delay once again. However this time, Obama managed to be properly effective, as it was needed, in order to keep Greece from becoming part of the third world, thus avoiding a development which would have negatively affected American interests in the heart of the Eastern Mediterranean.

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Chapter 4

The Greek Crisis of 2015: A European Drama and an American Deus Ex Machina

Passions there, wars, pursuits, tribes, sight in those ocean-depths, breathing that thick-­ breathing air, as so many do, The change thence to the sight here, and to the subtle air breathed by beings like us who walk this sphere, The change onward from ours to that of beings who walk other spheres. Walt Whitman “World Below the Brine”

1  Introduction On November 16, 2016, Barack Obama climbed the central stage of Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens as a part of his official visit in the Greek capital amid an enthusiastic welcome. He delivered one of his last official speeches as U.S. President in a packed house, in front of enthusiastic audience of young academics, entrepreneurs, students, and top politicians who treated him like a Rock Star. That day showed to every analyst around the world that the Greeks, or at least a large number of them, were ready to show their appreciation to the American President for the immense help he offered to their country during one of the most critical political and economic crises of the modern Greek state. Perhaps a less objective analyst might say that it was well expected for the Athenian audience to be enthusiastic with the arrival of No. 44  in the Greek capital, and to Stavros Niarchos Foundation, since each and every one was carefully handpicked by the U.S. Embassy in Athens. Thus, it would have had been almost impossible to discover an anti-American among the 900 people who patiently waited for hours in order to pass the exhaustive security check control for the event. However, even outside Niarchos Foundation, the typical anti-Americanism which had flourished since 1974 among the Greek people did not find a fertile ground that day. There were no violent marches outside of the American Embassy in Athens, or troubles inside the Greek universities, while the traditional march on November

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4  The Greek Crisis of 2015: A European Drama and an American Deus Ex Machina

171 of that year was one of the smallest and significantly less violent than ever before. A large part of the Greek public opinion was allured by Obama’s charisma, and they were also remembering his personal involvement in the Greek crisis in the summer of 2015. His involvement was delayed considerably, but it was catalytic in preserving Greece within the Western camp and protecting the American geostrategic interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. This chapter focuses on the American involvement in the Greek crisis of 2015. It presents the different dimensions of the biggest socioeconomic crisis that ever affected a Western state, the mistakes which Athens committed in dealing with the Greek economic conundrums since 2010, the German misreading which almost pushed the European Union to an existential predicament, and finally the pivotal American involvement in the Greek crisis which was less impressive than the Truman Doctrine but equally decisive for Greece, for the eurozone, and for the balance of power in the Eastern Mediterranean too. The United States’ efforts were the pivotal element which helped avoid a possible Greek withdrawal from the eurozone [GREXIT], and hence protected the status quo in the Eastern Mediterranean along with preserving the unity of the European Union. After several years where the U.S. was striving to keep clear from the peculiarities and the complexities of the Eastern Mediterranean, Washington, literally at the eleventh hour, comprehended the seriousness of the situation in Greece, both for the region and also for the European Union, and thus interacted drastically just when everything seemed that it was about to collapse. The American involvement in the Greek crisis demonstrates all the main characteristics of the Obamian school of thought in the U.S. foreign policy framework: short, efficient, decisive, yet hesitant, and delayed, in order not to be absorbed in the crisis itself and not to ruin the special bond with Berlin that Washington had built with great consideration and zeal.

2  The Greek Crisis: A Sisyphean Condition Kastellorizo is a small, yet charming, Greek island of not more than 200 inhabitants renowned for its Lycian Tomb and for the Blue Cave. However, on April 23, 2010, Kastellorizo was attributed to the modern history of the Greek state as the location that was chosen by the then Greek Premier, Giorgos Papandreou, to publicly announce that the economy of the state was in ruins, and that the nation was about 1  On November 14, 1973, a group of students of the Law School of Athens and of the National Technical University of Athens occupied the premises of the central campus of the Technical University protesting against the Greek junta. Within a short period of time thousands of Athenians arrived outside of the campus to declare their support to the students and their anti-regime sentiments. The occupation ended violently with an army tank crashing the central gate of the university in order for the security forces to enter the campus, leaving behind 24 dead civilians. Every 17th of November a large rally takes place in Athens with the participation of left and leftist political parties and groups, which begins from the campus of the Technical University and ends in front of the U.S. Embassy in Athens amid violent crashes with the police. For more details regarding the Polytechneio Uprising of 1973 see Kornetis (2013: 253–285).

2  The Greek Crisis: A Sisyphean Condition


to enter into a fierce storm in order to recuperate. What Papandreou refrained from mentioning was that nothing was guaranteed in this long and tricky journey, not even the nation’s survival. Papandreou, the grandson of Georgios and the son of Andreas, the leader of the Panhellenic Socialist Party [ΠAΣOK], during a live broadcasting coverage from Kastellorizo characterized the Greek economy as a “sinking ship,” while he formally requested an international financial aid (Kitsantonis and Saltmarsh 2010). As the then Greek Premier stated: I have asked our partners to contribute decisively in order to give Greece a safe harbor. At the same time, we are sending a strong message to the markets that the E.U. is serious about protecting its common interests and common currency (Itano 2010).

Greece was to become the first member state of the eurozone that was to ask for and to eventually receive an economic assistance from the International Monetary Fund, fully revealing the magnitude of the Greek crisis. As a matter of fact, the structural problems of the Greek economy came on surface immediately at the beginning of the U.S. economic crisis in 2008. Systemic weaknesses, created mainly during the 1980s under the Andreas Papandreou’s administration,2 were not properly rectified during the 1990s and the 2000s, and were impossible to be ignored after 2008 as global markets became much more cautious towards problematic economies. In October 2009, a new government in Greece under the leadership of Giorgos Papandreou decided to fully expose these weaknesses of the Greek economy, in an attempt to denounce the days of the previous government of Kostas Al. Karamanlis and his center-right party of Nea Dimokratia [N.Δ]. This was not a polished method to apply pressure on Brussels in order to receive a financial aid from the EU. As it was fully expected, Papandreou’s decision to publicly declare that there was something rotten in the state of Greece, much like a modern Hamlet under the glorious Greek sun, did not have any positive results. On the contrary, the markets completely lost their faith on Greece, and in April 2010, the Greek/German 10-year debt yield spread surpassed 1000 basis points with Greece about to pass the threshold of bankruptcy (Mavridis 2018: 2). In order to avoid a sudden economic death, Athens was forced to ask for financial help from Brussels and the IMF, signing a Bailout Loan Agreement in May 2010. This agreement was the starting point for Greece to experience a rapid transformation from a first-world state towards a failing economy (Litsas 2014), while other structural changes that had been delayed for decades were to be immediately implemented as well. As Tassos Giannitsis and Stavros Zografakis (2015: 16) describe the situation regarding the economic conditions that the Greek public had to face: 2  An accurate and brief description of Andreas Papandreou’s conduct as a Prime Minister comes from Vassilis Fouskas and Constantine Dimoulas (2013: 123): “From the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, state expenditure became possible due to internal and external borrowing which resulted in the massive contribution of the state’s economic activity to the GDP… PASOK cabinets attempted to build all the above on borrowing. State expenditure became larger and larger as a percentage of GDP … because the government of PASOK threw most of its borrowed money in supporting state expansion for political and electoral purposes.”


4  The Greek Crisis of 2015: A European Drama and an American Deus Ex Machina

… the fiscal crisis had to be faced through a tough consolidation process, while the most important instruments to meet the competitiveness crisis were drastic wage and salary cuts, liberalization of the labor market and services market liberalization.

No one can really deny that Greece was the weakest factor within the eurozone and that the Greek economy was in urgent need of a series of harsh economic measures in order to begin functioning properly as other member states of the eurozone. In addition, after a long period with a carefree attitude which rejected any form of prudent microeconomic daily management, the Greeks had to minimize their spending and follow the paradigm of their co-Europeans. Yet, soon enough the Greek crisis passed to the next level, and it became an existential problem for the state, with a sovereign debt crisis and an unprecedented austerity that crushed the Greeks and leveled a large part of the Western civic structure which had been built following the end of the Greek Civil War in 1949. Thousands of young Greeks decided to emigrate to other European countries, Australia, Canada, or the U.S. in order to be able to economically survive, while during the first years of the crisis, lower layers of the Greek society were surviving on a daily basis from soup kitchen stations run by the Greek Orthodox Church, municipalities, or NGOs. On top of that, due to the rapidly worsening social conditions, Greece saw a rise in xenophobia, anti-­Semitism, ultra-Euroscepticism, radicalism, and fascism. Characteristically, the neo-Nazi party known as Golden Dawn [Χρυσή Αυγή] managed to enter the Greek Parliament for the first time ever in the national elections of 2012, voted in by 441,018 citizens, while the electoral rates of other radical political parties, such as Trotskyists and Maoists, also rose. The grave sociopolitical crisis emerging after Kastellorizo was a combination of the weak Greek welfare structure, which was oriented towards institutions like the “nuclear family” or the Greek Orthodox Church and less to state social infrastructure, and the rapid rise of the Greek sovereign debt, which was the result of delays by the eurozone to intervene sooner to keep the Greek economy running. As Aristidis Bitzenis et al. (2013: 2) argue according to the origins of the Greek sovereign debt: The sovereign debt crisis emerged so drastically due to the hesitation of the governments of euro-area member states to deliver an unambiguous and concise plan, announcing their intentions and promptness to support Greece.

Greece back in 2010 resembled a person who entered a hospital with a head cold and who eventually fell in a coma because of medical negligence. As it was well expected, Papandreou’s government collapsed amid a rising political chaos after only 2 years in power, from October 6, 2009, to November 11, 2011, when the Greek Premier decided to apply pressure on Brussels stating that he would lead the nation to a referendum, giving the opportunity to the Greeks to decide whether or not they would agree with the harsh terms of a 50% haircut on the Greek public debt. Due to tremendous, both external and internal, pressures Papandreou was forced to withdraw his decision for holding a referendum and after few days he resigned from office. After Papandreou’s resignation, two caretaker governments3 3  Loukas Papadimos’ government November 11, 2011, to May 17, 2012, and Panagiotis Pikramenos’ government May 17, 2012, to June 21, 2012.

2  The Greek Crisis: A Sisyphean Condition


attempted to balance the situation, but to no avail. Snap elections seemed to be necessary in order to control the domestic socioeconomic volatility, so that Greece could effectively negotiate with Brussels and the IMF and the stifling terms that they were asking from the state. It is very difficult for someone who has not experienced Greek crisis firsthand to understand the bitterness and the agony of the citizens who were experiencing a chocking socioeconomic situation in their daily lives. For the first time in modern European history, a First World society had to face the toxic combination of draconian austerity, as a requirement for new loaning packages from the EU and the IMF, together with continuous, and utterly irrational, tax increases as part of obligatory measures to stabilize the prosaic operation of the public sector. However, for the overtaxation of the Greeks the main factor responsible was the Greek governments after 2010 which, for not being confronted with their voters, avoided to take measures to reduce the oversized public sector and chose to apply heavy levies instead of adopting structural changes. It goes without saying that this explosive situation condemned the Greeks to a modern Sisyphian punishment, depriving the people from any sense of collective optimism about the future. As Costas Meghir et al. (2017: 61) argue regarding the perplexities of the Greek program that in reality was asphyxiating the Greek people: Tax rates in Greece are higher than the OECD average for all worker categories, and the highest or second highest for some of the main categories, such as married individuals with two children in one-earner family earning the average wage.

Within a short period of time Athens, Thessaloniki, and other major urban centers were filled with homeless people, while the Greek capital was transformed to a Hobbesian venue of frequent violent clashes between anarchists, or the powerful working unions, and the police. Public hospitals faced severe medicine shortages, brain drain increased to alarming numbers, while crime was increasing affecting societal security. The crisis was deep, affecting every level of public and private life. Eventually, the state was unable even to meet fundamental tasks such as providing schools and hospitals with heating oil and maintaining an elementary civic tidiness, while people during the winter were trying to get their houses warm by making use of furniture and other toxic components as burning materials in their fireplaces, or were chopping pine grove or olive trees without the authority’s permission. In an informative article Helena Smith (2017) presented that Athens has lost 80% of its nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century buildings due to the inability of the owners to meet the pace of heavy maintenance costs. The critical situation for the country can also be seen in the ultra-volatile political condition with the two national elections that took place in May and June 2012. Eventually, the center-right party of ND together with its traditional opponent PASOK and the Democratic Left Party [ΔΗΜΑΡ] formed a coalition government, with Antonis Samaras, a well-known right-wing politician, becoming the Prime Minister. Samaras’ government tried hard to regularize the economy; however this was impossible without the lenders’ permission to loosen the austerity requirements which would allow Athens to lower taxes, which in turn would attract foreign investments. For this reason, since day 1  in office, Samaras asked for breathing space


4  The Greek Crisis of 2015: A European Drama and an American Deus Ex Machina

from the German side, but to no avail (Hewitt 2012; Spiegel 2012). Berlin rejected Samaras’ claims for reasons that the future historian, when official records will be released, will be able to present with great detail. Personally, I support the view that the negativity from the German side, in particular from the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Federal Minister of Finance, Wolfgang Schäuble, can be seen as the perpetrator of the two following issues. On the one hand, Merkel did not want to give the impression to the rest of the eurozone member states that they could practice excessive public spending, and then when things become gloomy for their economy they should expect that their fragile economies will be financially assisted for humanitarian reasons. In addition, Merkel’s close associate, the powerful Minister of Finance Wolfgang Schäuble, was a known supporter of the so-called political formula that is known as Ordoliberalism, the German equivalent of neoliberalism, which advocates the amalgamation of individual economic efficiency with collective institutional ethics (Wörsdörfer 2013). After all, if Berlin were to ease the burden on Greece, which for many decades misled Brussels by putting under the carpet the real weaknesses of national economy and sending doctored figures about the size of the public sector and public spending, then the message to the rest of eurozone member states would have had been that chaotic management is approved by the EU. On the other hand, both Merkel and Schäuble decided to go with the flow, not opposing the German public opinion, which since the beginning of the Greek crisis had an absolutely negative approach on everything that was relating to the Greek economy. Germans were giving credit to the stereotype that first appeared in the German tabloids and later on in systemic media that while the Greek state was bankrupt Greeks were continuing to live a luxury life which had been subsidized from the German tax payers. If the German Chancellor agreed on a more lenient approach towards Greece, then she knew she would have had been targeted by German media who, at least the majority, held a negative attitude towards Athens since the beginning of the Greek crisis.4 Merkel was not the kind of a politician like 4  George Tzogopoulos (2016: 89) presents a very interesting study on the way the German media approached the crisis. As he argues, the well-established newspapers in Germany such as Handelsblatt, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and Süddeutsche Zeitung held a more balanced attitude towards Athens, publishing articles that were in favor of the Greek bailout program and others that were against. For example, Harald Uhlig, the German economist at the University of Chicago and one of the hardest critics of Greece, was frequently publishing opinion articles in Handelsblatt asking for Greece being left alone to face the crisis by itself. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung openly expressed the view that Greece should not count to any sort of assistance from the EU, while it held a positive attitude towards the German economist Joachim Starbatty who had warned the government of his country that he would have had recourse to the Bundesverfassungsgericht, the Federal Constitutional Court, in case Germany was to take part in the bailout package. Last but not least, Süddeutsche Zietung openly opposed the will of the EU to participate in the loan package that Greece was to receive, while at the beginning of the crisis the same journal had published an article about Greece under the title “Help? Rather not.” Nevertheless, the main effort in the anti-Greek expedition that had been promoted by the German media was held by Bild. The tabloid was not simply against any sort of financial support of Greece but it also published a long story that was arguing that the Greeks were continuing the old sins with the money of the German tax payers.

3  SYRIZA in Power: The Beginning of a New Start?


a JFK, Margaret Thatcher, or Winston Churchill who would have had opposed the public opinion in order to put an end to a fallacious stereotype that was undermining the unity of the EU and also was against pure facts. As Viktoria Dendrinou and Elena Varvitsioti (2019: 98) claim about Merkel’s governing style: Merkel … wasn’t known for her sweeping vision; she’d rather move along slowly, calmly, striking compromises when necessary and using constant opinion polls as one of her main strategy guides.

A politician who governs by constantly having under consideration the public opinion’s likelihood is almost impossible to oppose media. Last but not least, there is another dimension regarding Germany’s approach to the Greek crisis that has not been given the necessary attendance. Since the end of the Cold War, for reasons that mainly had to do with German tax payers’ efforts for the financial reunification between West and East Germany, there was an emerging Euroscepticism that was developing inside the state. As Jan Techau of the German Council of Foreign Relations describes this: Germans have lost faith in their ersatz religion of Europe … Nobody would now automatically say that what is good for Europe is good for Germany (Mattox 2011: 123).

Thus, the German harsh approach towards Greece can be seen as an almost instinctive reaction of Berlin to show to German citizens that they were not the only ones who were paying a heavy toll in order to be a part of the eurozone. By that, Berlin thought that it was giving a severe blow to rising Euroscepticism; this approach, yet, backfired as nowadays political developments with the rise of the extreme right-­ wing party of Alternative für Deutschland fully reveal. Moreover, the German conduct towards Athens gave the pretext to various Eurosceptic elements within the European framework to strengthen their voice and to spread fear among Europeans concerning Berlin’s influence upon European affairs, as the pro-BREXIT campaign of 2016 extensively shows. Due to one of the above reasons, or due to a combination of all the aforementioned issues, Merkel denied to accept Samaras’ request, and as a consequence after few months Greece was in front of a new electoral challenge that was to bring, for the first time in the modern history of the state, a radical left party in power.

3  SYRIZA in Power: The Beginning of a New Start? Germany’s denial to stand by the side of Samaras’ government and to provide the Greek people some breathing room from 4  years of fiscal asphyxiation began to affect negatively the limited public support it enjoyed. The rising star of the Greek political scene was Alexis Tsipras, leader of the Coalition of Radical Left [SYRIZA], a young, talented, and unconventional politician who never wore a tie, promised a fresh new start to the tormented Greeks by guaranteeing no austerity or high taxation, and was preaching in every given chance


4  The Greek Crisis of 2015: A European Drama and an American Deus Ex Machina

that was not a part of the old political guard. Tsipras’ main argument was that Samaras, as a member of the political establishment, was neither able nor willing to negotiate with Brussels, Berlin, and the IMF in order to achieve a new bailout program with better terms for the Greek people. Characteristically, in a de profundis TV interview he attacked the Samaras government regarding its negotiating passion: … the government is not negotiating, as usual acts like a lion at firsthand then makes a fool of itself (To Vima 2014).

The Greeks were listening to Alexis Tsipras and growing numbers were agreeing with his simplistic arguments. His main political line was that the ancien regime was responsible for the condition of the Greek economy, and therefore for the sufferings of the Greek people. Hence, a way out of the existing conundrum was impossible as long as Greece was governed by members of the establishment, such as Samaras. He asked from Samaras to go to snap elections, in order for SYRIZA to win and then begin to impose upon Brussels, Berlin, and the IMF his own terms regarding the Greek bailout program. Tsipras promised to the Greeks that not only he would have had implemented a successful negotiation with the members of the so-called Troika,5 but also he was to make them to dance to the tune of his government (Christides 2014). The Greeks were enthusiastic with this kind of statements, despite the fact that every time Tsipras was asked by domestic and international media, or by Samaras during stormy parliamentary sessions, how would he achieve his goals, he never responded but offered his typically big enigmatic smile. The Greek public opinion, journalists, columnists, academics, and diplomats from around the globe fell in love with the young radical politician, who generously offered vague, yet gratifying, promises about the financial future of the state. While Samaras was trying to balance between the hard policies the troika was demanding that his government implement, he more importantly needed to persuade his compatriots that he was able to lead them towards a safer economic future. Tsipras, on the other hand, was absolutely ready to promise everything to everyone without even blinking an eye, in order to win next national elections. The extremely interesting fact during that specific period was that the Greek public seemed to be more satisfied with the promises made by Tsipras to get ready for a direct collision with Troika, than by his indications that Greece under SYRIZA would be able to live once again days of economic comfort and prosperity, without of course explaining how he was to succeed in either. The young politician, as a good tactician, was fully aware that collective Greek pride was badly trampled and hurt by the severity of the economic measures which had been imposed upon the Greek society for so long. Therefore, he knew that he did not have to give an explicit exit plan from the crisis to his compatriots but only vague promises about tilting at domestic and international windmills. 5  The decision group that was formed by the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund was monitoring if Greece was economically operating in accordance with the fiscal obligations that were deriving from the bailout program.

3  SYRIZA in Power: The Beginning of a New Start?


SYRIZA at that time was one of the most radical left parties in Europe; it barely concealed raw Euroscepticism under the theoretical clog of Eurocommunism, was opposed to a free market economy, and was one of the most fervent anti-U.S. and anti-Israeli parliamentary parties in Europe. Alexis Tsipras was extremely proud by the fact that he had participated in the violent demonstrations during the infamous G8 Genoa Conference of 2001,6 he had been photographed wearing a keffiyeh at a large anti-Israeli rally outside of the Greek Parliament in 2014, while his party was accommodating people who publicly justified the leftist terrorist group 17 November.7 As Cas Mude (2017: 9) describes the ideological structure of SYRIZA, at the beginning it possessed a fierce opposition against everyone who did not share its antiestablishment views. It was a coalition of small, radical, left, and leftist groups that had been united under the umbrella of the old KKE Ιnterior.8 However, Tsipras’ success was through his anti-austerity rhetoric and his populist prolixity, which aided many Greeks to overlook the radical stance of his party, and eventually cast their votes for him. The majority of Greeks chose to rally around SYRIZA not because they were converted to Eurocommunist or Trotskyist ideas, but because they were truly searching for a fundamental change in their daily lives and for a new beginning of their nation. Therefore, it came as no surprise that in the 2014 European Parliament elections in Greece, SYRIZA received 1,518,608 votes while ND came second with 1,298,713. The defeat for ND was sound and it was only a matter of time for Tsipras to then be elected as the next Prime Minister of Greece. On January 25, 2015, SYRIZA won snap national elections that occurred by obtaining 2,245,978 votes compared with the 1,718,694 votes of ND. Tsipras welcomed this electoral triumph by making the following statement in front of thousand enthusiastic voters who were dancing and singing to the sounds of the eponymous “Bella Ciao,” the well-known Italian communist song from WWII, while they were waving red ­banners and shouting antiestablishment slogans towards the dark Athenian sky above, at the courtyard of the elegant downtown building of the University of Athens: Greece leaves behind catastrophic austerity, it leaves behind fear and authoritarianism, it leaves behind five years of humiliation and anguish … Our priority from the very first day

6  That particular G8, the 27th, is considered the high-water mark of the anti-globalism movement and is remembered for the death of an Italian youth, Carlo Giuliani, at the hands of the Italian Security Forces. 7  17 November was formed in 1975 following a rather peculiar ideological formula that was combining Marxism-Nationalism with Trotskyist militant ideas. It was responsible for the murder of 23 people and for numerous bomb attacks against foreign embassies, police stations, and residencies of members of the political, economic, and judicial elite of Greece. For more details, see Lekea (2014). 8  In 1968 members of the exiled KKE objecting the Soviet invasion in Czechoslovakia and the suppression of the Prague Spring abandoned the ranks of the Greek Communist Party and established a new anti-Soviet Communist party the KKE Interior. It established close relations with the Italian Communist Party and with the Romanian regime. ΚΚΕ Ιnterior was never popular among Greek Communists; however after Alexis Tsipras became the head of the Left Coalition [SYNASPISMOS], the successor of KKE Interior, the party gradually witnessed a considerable rise in electoral support.


4  The Greek Crisis of 2015: A European Drama and an American Deus Ex Machina

will be to deal with the big wounds left by the crisis. Our foremost priority is that our country and our people regain their lost dignity. Hope is coming (Maltezou and Papadimas 2015).

Few hours before Tsipras’ speech, Yianis Varoufakis (2017: 143), whom the newly elected Prime Minister had already proposed to be the Minister of Finance in his new government, was writing a blog post in English as a celebratory message for SYRIZA’s win: Today the people of Greece gave a vote of confidence to hope. They used the ballot box, in this splendid celebration of democracy, to put an end to a self-reinforcing crisis that produces indignity in Greece and feeds Europe’s darkest forces … Greek democracy today chose to stop going gently into the night. Greek democracy resolved to rage against the dying of the light.

The die was cast and the wheels of fate were turning rapidly for the Greeks to witness one of the worst crises that ever occurred in its modern history. The first decision that Tsipras made was to form a coalition government with Panagiotis Kammenos, the leader of a small, populist, right-wing party characteristically named as Anexartitoi Ellines [Independent Greeks], which promoted an excessive anti-austerity rhetoric as well as anti-German and Eurosceptic positions. Some analysts may downgrade this specific development; however it was a fateful decision taken by Tsipras to send the message that the new government, with its blend of radical populism and Eurosceptic ideas from both sides of the ideological spectrum, had a clear anti-systemic profile eager to give a fight to the bitter end against harsh austerity programs imposed on the nation. The goal was beyond a doubt a novel one and the absolute majority of Greeks were behind this. However, the implementation process, as the Greeks were soon to discover, was not only totally illogical, but also proved to be perilous for the very existence of the state. Greece, unlike states like Italy or Spain, with analogous severe structural economic problems but which were too big to be left all alone to fail, did possess neither the capacity nor the economic dominance in global markets to leverage hard bargaining in negotiations with the troika that Alexis Tsipras was fantasizing. For reasons that had to do with ideological fanaticism and a profound lack of experience of international politics, members of the new government such as Yanis Varoufakis supported the view that Greece was in the position to end austerity if it was ready to negotiate hard with Brussels, Berlin, and the IMF. Varoufakis was a flamboyant persona, an accomplished academic, and a bright individual. However, as a politician, he proved to be the wrong person for the most critical position regarding the fate of Greece. His methodology involved hard negotiations regarding the drastic modification of the ontological nucleus of the Greek bailout program, and he managed to persuade Tsipras that a hard line against troika’s proposals was the proper way to win the game for Greece and its people. As a consequence, Tsipras and Varoufakis asked Brussels, Berlin, and the IMF for extensive changes to the terms of the Greek financial aid, such as the elimination of primary surplus as a precondition for additional financial help, curtailment of planned privatizations inherited from the previous government, renegotiation of pension system reforms,

3  SYRIZA in Power: The Beginning of a New Start?


and requests for exceptions to public spending based on the country’s humanitarian crisis (Lim et al. 2018: 12). It goes without saying that Greece had no hope to persuade the troika to endorse those claims. However, Athens chose to follow the path of war, instead of a mild and well-organized negotiation process, believing that this was the only way in order to end austerity in Greece. Tsipras and Varoufakis, instead of presenting a viable and analytical step-by-step economic growth plan in order to attract the interest of the troika, chose to apply moral arguments regarding the low wages and the high taxes tolerated by the Greeks. Athens failed to realize that this kind of rhetoric sounded utterly ludicrous to states such as Croatia or Slovenia, or the Baltic group, who were participating in the Greek loan programs while their own citizens were receiving lower wages than the Greeks, and without being in an economic crisis. A combination of lack of experience and of ideological inflexibility led the new Greek Government not only to spend the first 6 months in fruitless meetings with the members of the Troika but also to commit the unthinkable regarding the foreign policy of the nation. In April 2015 Alexis Tsipras made an official visit to Moscow (Smith and Luhn 2015). Despite the fact that both leaders denied that the visit had to do with Greece asking money from Russia, it was a common knowledge that both Tsipras and Putin were trying to make the best out of this meeting. The Greek Premier wanted to show to the West that Greece could attract the interest of non-­ Western powers, while the Russian President saw this as an excellent opportunity to expose once again the fragility of Western unity in the Eastern Mediterranean to the rest of the world. The outcome of the visit was, as it was expected, almost comical. Tsipras returned from Russia with empty hands despite the fact that he was still wearing his enigmatic smile, while after a few months, in May 2015, Russia’s Deputy Minister of Finance Sergei Storchak proposed Greece to become the sixth member of the BRIC’s New Development Bank (To Vima 2015). Athens had severe problems in paying its international creditors in order to buy petrol for ambulances and police vehicles, while Russia was offering to the Greek Premier an empty title with nothing substantial that could change the economic hardships of the country. Therefore, the existed toxic spiral of endless and fruitless meetings with members of the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the IMF were continued but with no result whatsoever. Tsipras and Varoufakis seemed not willing to understand that for troika, there was no room for negotiation whatsoever regarding the terms of the Greek bailout program. Either the new government was to take the same path as the previous government did or the bailout program was to be stopped and Greece would have had to face an unprecedented humanitarian crisis as a result of the official bankruptcy of the state. Quite strangely, the Greek Government knew that there was no room for negotiations with the troika from the very beginning. It was not just a speculation, or a result deriving from a thorough analysis that was coming from a team of Greek academics in the basement of the Maximos Mansion, the headquarters of every Greek Premier since 1982. On the contrary, it was a clear ultimatum with no hidden messages. The bearer of the ultimatum was the President of the Eurogroup and Dutch Minister of Finance, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, during his first official visit in Athens on January 30, 2015. Yanis Varoufakis (2017:


4  The Greek Crisis of 2015: A European Drama and an American Deus Ex Machina

167–168) describes the meeting with a superb clarity, underlying the decisiveness of the President of the Eurogroup not to concede to any claim from the Greek side to even partially modify the terms about the Greek bailout program: The Greek program, he mused [J. Dijsselbloem], was like a horse. It was either alive or it was dead. If it was alive, we had to climb on it and ride it to its destination. If it was dead, then it was dead … You do not understand, Jeroen told me …“The current program must be completed or there is nothing else”.

Troika sent a clear message, yet Tsipras’ government decided to continue with its own agenda, striving to achieve a fundamental change to the terms of the loan packages which Greece was receiving. Nevertheless, this so-called change was existing only to the fantasy of Tsipras and of Varoufakis, because Greece as pointed out earlier did not possess the leverage to achieve a spectacular overturn in the loan terms receiving from the troika. On top of that, time was not on the Greek side; however Greek officials were spending it in oblivion, as if the state was not on the verge of a total collapse. I am not interested at this point to present the ratio behind the decision-making process of the Greek leadership during that time, but I am confident that the closer Greece came to its own potential destruction, the more some members of Tsipras’ government—perhaps even the Greek Premier himself—felt that they were about to fulfill their lifelong ideological aspiration since becoming members of the Greek Communist Youth: to collide with the global capitalist apparatus and heroically fall singing The Internationale. To them it did not matter if Greece was to be utterly crashed by the collision. The only thing that mattered was that they were able to accept the challenge and charge against the forces of free-­ market economy. Varoufakis had no problem admitting this. During an official meeting with officials from the U.S.  Department of the Treasury he said to their dismay: You understand I am a radical Marxist. If there is chaos, we’ll be dancing in the streets. We welcome this type of chaos (Dendrinou and Varvitsioti 2019: 59).

Varoufakis describes another scene from the same meeting, when he suddenly turned to the U.S. Ambassador in Athens, David D. Pearce, and made the following confession which had nothing to do with the critical problem that Greece was facing during that time: Ever since I assumed this ministry, this room has become the focal point of the hopes and expectations of millions. But it is not my natural habitat … I am happier there [pointing at the Syntagma square that was the main venue for all the violent anti-austerity rallies before SYRIZA took on government] demonstrating against this office, as I have been doing since I was thirteen (2017: 225).

David Pearce was an experienced career diplomat, yet I am sure that in his long diplomatic career this was probably the first time to hear a member of a Western government sounding like this. This important Minister who was to negotiate with the troika in order to find a viable solution for the country and its people and prevent the state’s collapse was boasting about his radical tendencies and about his anti-­ systemic conduct since early adolescence. From the above vignette we are educated

3  SYRIZA in Power: The Beginning of a New Start?


to the quality and style of the negotiations that the Greek Government was conducting at such a critical moment for the survival of the nation. If flexibility is one of the main pillars of effective negotiations, then SYRIZA’s government seemed determined not to follow this golden rule of consultations. On the contrary, the person that was institutionally responsible for the negotiations with the troika, Yanis Varoufakis, was constantly traveling around the globe for meetings, but during these encounters he seemed more satisfied to offer his academic expertise on economy to his interlocutors instead of finding any practical common ground with them. Why was that? As he confesses he was in favor of implementing a “hold-­ your-­ground” policy regardless of the moves and the decision-making of the other side (Varoufakis 2017: 222). Varoufakis, despite his deep knowledge in econometrics, seemed completely ignorant of strategic theory and of Sun Tzu’s “Art of War.” Otherwise, he would have known that in order to operate an effective strategic plan you had to have a clear view of the other’s side actions to accordingly face the moves the other is about to make. On the contrary, the Greek Minister of Finance was moving in the international scene as if he was all alone in the diplomatic terrain, with the aim to persuade his interlocutors as if he was promoting a personal rather than a national cause. For example, Varoufakis never truly comprehended that the Greek crisis was heavily influenced by the domestic political agendas of the member states. For example, while the majority of the analysts pay great attention to the role that Berlin played over the Greek crisis, they seem to ignore that Spain held one of the most inflexible positions towards Tsipras and his newly elected government. The reason had to do with the internal political developments in the Spanish scene. If the EU were to accommodate Tsipras’ and Varoufakis’ views, then the rise of Podemos, the radical—left, populist, Eurosceptic—party in Spain, was to be unprecedented. Madrid wanted to see Tsipras’ government to bow to Brussel’s pressure in order to control the rise of radical left in Spain. Every time that Varoufakis was sending a message of radical insubordination to the rest of Europe, the systemic political powers of the Union were hardening their position towards Greece and the Greek people. From all the above it comes to no surprise that in the end Tsipras’ government was trapped between a new loan package from the troika, with additional measures of harsh austerity, and leading Greece to an abrupt exit from the eurozone and the return to the national currency, which would had been utterly destructive for the Greek economy. State’s coffers were almost empty and the government was facing tremendous problems to pay wages and pensions in the internal, and loan commitments in the international sphere. A decision had to be taken, yet it was not an easy one. As Thomas Wieser, an Austrian economist and Chair of the EuroWorking Group, analyzed to the Greek Government what would have happened to the country if a GREXIT was to occur: You would become some sort of Venezuela-plus … You will then have to sit down on a debt conference anyway, negotiating with your debtors under which conditions they may forgive some of your debt, and then you’ll have to redenominate and start printing the new drachma (Dendrinou and Varvitsioti 2019: 63).


4  The Greek Crisis of 2015: A European Drama and an American Deus Ex Machina

It is important at this point to note that if Greece would exit the eurozone and adopt the national currency once again, the sovereign debt was still to be paid in Euro. This meant that while Greece would adopt a weak currency that would depreciate against the Euro, the Greek loan would have to be paid in the European hard currency. As Viktoria Dendrinou and Eleni Varvitsioti (2019: 152–153) rationally point out: Devaluation would also have major implications for Greek debt, as it still would be in euros. A likely immediate depreciation of 50 percent against the euro would push the expected debt-to-GDP ratio- which is in June 2015, stood at 180 percent of GDP—to 360 percent, and very soon to 500 percent, given the impact on the real economy.

Tsipras’ government was solemnly responsible for this conundrum. A long and non-­ efficient exchange of views and proposals with the troika on the Greek bailout program had nothing in reality to offer to the crisis resolution. However, it still provided the narrative for public consumption that SYRIZA and ANEL ministers were fighting to fulfill their anti-austerity and ideological promises, mirroring the high level of government’s populism. Today, partisan analyses which are coming from the side of analysts and academics who are close to SYRIZA, since ANEL does not exist anymore in the Greek political scene, blame Varoufakis for the failure of the Greek side to communicate to the troika the need to reapproach the Greek case. I, on the other side, support the view that the main responsibility belongs to the then Greek Prime Minister and no one else. Alexis Tsipras offered the post of the Minister of Finance to Yanis Varoufakis, and supported him up until the end. However, the question stands and must still be answered. Why did Tsipras decided to gamble the survival of Greece instead of asking Varoufakis to step from office earlier and instead appoint someone more moderate or more experienced to top-level international negotiations? Alexis Tsipras was incapable of accepting that his ideological fixations had no solutions to offer when juxtaposed against the legal and political perplexities of the Greek program. Instead of apologizing to the Greek people for offering them a vision existing only in his populist illusions, he maintained his radical view, he kept Varoufakis inside his government, and he led Greece to capital controls in order to avoid a bank run and the collapse of the Greek banking system. In addition, Varoufakis was useful for the image Tsipras wanted to build at the international level. While European and American officials were astonished by Varoufakis’ lack of contact with reality, Tsipras was presenting himself as a much more responsible political figure. Unfortunately, while Greece was about to crash Alexis Tsipras was building his international profile by presenting himself as the only one able to make any important decision concerning Greece. Yet Tsipras’ responsibilities for the deepening of the Greek crisis are not only limited to the fact that he appointed Varoufakis as a Minister of Finance to make use of his inflexibility for elevating his own political profile. On June 27, 2015, Alexis Tsipras decided to pass the responsibility to the Greek citizens regarding the future of the nation, by forcing a referendum whether to accept or reject the new package of austerity measures suggested by the troika in order to receive a new loan package after many months of unfounded procrastinations by the SYRIZA and ANEL gov-

4  The Role of the American Factor in the Greek Crisis: Leading from Above


ernment. This decision reveals the level of political irresponsibility of Alexis Tsipras. The referendum effectively gave the right to the Greeks to decide whether or not they wanted to remain inside the eurozone, and therefore determine the international status of the state and its future prospects in the global system of the twenty-first century. In such a critical moment for Greece, brought to the nation by the failure of Tsipras’ government to understand that a state cannot be governed through ideological self-deceptions, the Greek Premier not only dodged accepting responsibility for his misconduct, but also he passed a critical decision upon the masses to decide their future. This act was especially exasperating after the polity’s forbearance of such a long period of hard austerity and domestic socioeconomic hardships. On June 27, 2015, the Greek people watched their Premier during a national TV broadcasting announcing that a bailout referendum was to take place on July 5, so that that the nation could settle the dilemma whether or not to accept the new austerity measures proposed by the troika. As Tsipras said during this televised announcement to the Greek citizens: I call on you to decide—with sovereignty and dignity as Greek history demands—whether we should accept the extortionate ultimatum that calls for strict and humiliating austerity without end, and without the prospect of ever standing on our own two feet, socially and financially (BBC 2015).

As expected the “NO” vote won by a large margin (61.31%) and everybody inside and outside the country held their breath, waiting for the long-feared GREXIT to occur. However, once again the U.S., which until then did not have an active involvement in the Greek crisis since SYRIZA and ANEL came in office, decided that it was the right time to intervene in order to keep Greece in the eurozone. If Tsipras were to implement the “NO” decision of the majority, which he and his government fervently supported in public, then Greece would be ousted from the eurozone and would be facing an unprecedented existential crisis.

4  T  he Role of the American Factor in the Greek Crisis: Leading from Above It is no surprise that the American approach to the Greek crisis since 2010 and up until the end of Barack Obama’s administration passed through Berlin. The links between the two states and the good chemistry between Barack Obama and Angela Merkel were at such a high level that analysts spoke about a new “special relationship” within the Western nucleus (Oreskes 2016). As a matter of fact, this special relationship proved to be extremely efficient in various cases since Obama’s arrival to the White House. The German Chancellor was the first European leader who publicly spoke in favor of a EU–U.S. trade deal and she convinced the rest of European leaders back in 2014 of a joint sanction program with the U.S. against Moscow due to the Russian annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. In addition, the exemplary co-operation between Washington and Berlin in confronting the waves


4  The Greek Crisis of 2015: A European Drama and an American Deus Ex Machina

of refugees from Syria was exemplary and contributed immensely to the avoidance of a greater humanitarian crisis in the Eastern Mediterranean. This special bond, going further beyond a conventional good relationship between two long-existing allies, was thoroughly underlined by Barack Obama during the NATO Strasbourg– Kehl Summit in April 2009. As the American President commented: … It is wonderful to be here in Germany. And I want to thank Chancellor Merkel for her leadership, her friendship, and to say to all the German people that we are grateful to have such an extraordinary ally. And I think I speak on the behalf of the American people that we consider the relationship between the United States and Germany to be one of our most important relationships (Barack Obama’s Public Papers 2010: 424).

However, international politics is not a venue where cordial relationships and genuine friendship are allowed to thrive, or to influence deeply the actual relation between states. Therefore, in order to understand the attested context of the U.S.– German relations, it is important to go back to the fundamentals of International Relations Theory. I advance the argument that the most valuable characteristic of Germany for the duration of Obama’s administration, and even during that of G.  W. Bush, was Berlin’s willingness to play a pivotal role in the U.S.  Grand Strategy, that of the offshore balancer for the region of Europe. According to Christopher Layne (1997), who was the first who developed that specific approach, John J.  Mearsheimer (2001: 234–266), Barry Posen (2007), Andrew Bacevich (2008), Christopher Preble (2009), Stephen Walt (2011), and Patrick Porter (2013), an offshore balancing strategy refers to a policy where one great power will strive to continue to be the dominant power in a geostrategic zone of high importance, for the preservation of its national interests, yet without taking the financial and military burden for this. Other regional powers will voluntarily take up the task, the economic and political burden in particular, with various rewards from the great power for their willingness to play this specific role. For the U.S., this specific policy includes the geostrategic zones of Europe (the Eastern Mediterranean included), North East Asia, and the Persian Gulf. Germany, from the end of the Cold War up until the beginning of the Trump administration, was the main tool for the implementation of the American offshore balancing in Europe. It is very important to add that Germany was not just a hard power factor for the American offshore balancing strategy in Europe; it was mainly an economic and a diplomatic mechanism which promoted Europe to maintain its Western orientation through Berlin’s performance. Since the beginning of the Greek crisis, Washington persistently stated publicly that Athens had to follow Berlin’s directions. As Barack Obama publicly said at the very beginning of the crisis, during a joint news conference with the German Chancellor during Merkel’s official visit in Washington, “Germany is a key leader in resolving the crisis … people who are holding Greek debt are going to have to make some decisions, working with the European countries in the Eurozone, about how that debt is managed” (Mason and Papachristou 2011). It was obvious that the White House did not want to undermine the high level of its relations with Germany over the Greek crisis; thus and despite various statements from American officials

4  The Role of the American Factor in the Greek Crisis: Leading from Above


that austerity was not the suitable solution for assisting Greece,9 the U.S. systematically avoided questioning the German handling over the Greek socioeconomic conundrum. Evidently, similar to the approach of Obamianism in the cases of Arab Spring, the U.S. did not want to be a part of the Greek problem, especially during a period when the American economy had not fully recovered from the 2008 financial crisis. Germany was an excellent solution for the U.S., in order for Washington to lead from above without getting extensively involved in the Greek conundrum. During a period where retrenchment was the main doctrine of Obama’s foreign policy, offshore balancing was an integral part of this wider reduction scheme. The White House did not want to be stuck in the eurozone labyrinth, especially as Germany had already decided to use Greece as a paradigm against future European states which may have had wanted to follow the same failing financial route as Athens had for decades. It goes without saying that had the White House wanted to end the punishment of the Greek state earlier, then Germany would have had stopped immediately, as the events after July 5, 2015, fully revealed. However, Barack Obama did not want to undermine the excellent level of relations that Germany and the U.S. had fashioned, or to ruin his exceptional personal relations with Angela Merkel. On top of that, the U.S. did not want to contradict Germany concerning its conduct over European affairs. This point was vitally important during this particular period when the Ukrainian crisis was unfolding, Russia had already annexed Crimea, and little green men were already fully operational in Donbass or in Luhansk in Eastern Ukraine. However, things changed when Washington comprehended, admittedly with a great delay for one more time, that there was a strong possibility for Greece not just to be economically purged, but due to the severity of the bailout process to abandon the eurozone with the encouragement of Wolfgang Schäuble. Various descriptions coming from the protagonists of the Greek crisis reveal that the German Minister of Finance wanted GREXIT to occur, in order to use it as a bitter lesson to all the other EU member states in order to preserve an economic purity. He wanted to clearly portray the Greek failure, and the certain humanitarian crisis which an exit from the eurozone would have had perpetrated, as an ultimate means of persuasion for all the other members of the eurozone to remain obedient within the circle of fiscal virtue that had been created by Berlin since the adoption of the common European currency. Evangelos Venizelos (2017: 43), a prominent academic and a leading member of PASOK, who served as the Minister of Finance in 2011–2012 and as Vice President and the Minster of Foreign Affairs in Samaras’ government, stated in Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung that Schäuble twice proposed to him a temporary GREXIT.  Yanis Varoufakis (2017: 409–410) convincingly argued that Schäuble proposed a GREXIT to him via the implementation of a referendum where 9  For example, according to a statement that was made by Barack Obama in an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria during the first weeks of Tsipras’ government in office “You cannot keep on squeezing countries that are in the midst of depression. At some point there has to be a growth strategy in order for them to pay off their debts to eliminate some of their deficits” (Ackerman 2015).


4  The Greek Crisis of 2015: A European Drama and an American Deus Ex Machina

the Greeks would have voted in favor of an exit from the eurozone. Yet, Angela Merkel did not agree with this last proposal to Varoufakis, because she was not convinced that a GREXIT was the proper way to pursue with her European agenda (Spiegel 2015), despite the fact that in 2012 during Antonis Samaras’ official visit to Berlin she gave him the option of a GREXIT (Dendrinou and Varvitsioti 2019: 111).10 Last but not least, Timothy Geithner, the ex-U.S. Treasury Secretary, reveals that the German Minister of Finance seemed to be in favor of GREXIT, an option which would have had enabled him to financially aid Greece without being accused as contributing to the Greek economy within the eurozone framework (Ross-Sorkin 2015). Regardless of the arguments of the German Minister of Finance regarding the financial future of Greece, the White House was not content when Tsipras announced to his compatriots his decision to offer them the opportunity to commit suicide through a referendum about the future of the state within the eurozone. Despite the fact that the White House and the U.S. Treasury tried to keep their temper during the climax of the Greek crisis, various political circles in Washington were expecting the Greek electorate to choose “NO” over “YES.” This is a scientific monograph and not a journalistic account of events, yet I think it is useful to offer to the readers the following personal account, just before the fifth of July’s referendum in Greece. The summer of 2015 found me in the Eastern coast of the U.S. between Hudson Valley and Washington, DC and 2 days before the referendum I visited the reputable think tank American Enterprise Institute at its premises on Massachusetts Avenue in the American capital. There I had very interesting conversations with others, among which was a top fellow of the Institute, with a deep experience of international politics and a thorough knowledge about the Greek crisis. The conversation was so captivating that we mutually agreed to have a dinner at a Georgetown restaurant later that afternoon. During the dinner, the AEI fellow asked me about my prediction on the forthcoming referendum in Athens. I was very optimistic, and rather naïve as it turned out, and I argued that the Greeks will vote for “YES,” keeping Greece on the eurozone’s tracks. My interlocutor looked at me intensely and replied that he was seeing things a lot different. Tsipras would win the referendum  When the future historian will wonder why Angela Merkel proposed a GREXIT to Antonis Samaras but opposed Schäuble’s proposal to Varoufakis, they must keep in mind the following. When Alexis Tsipras visited Berlin in mid-March 2015, the Greek Premier said to the German Chancellor that he wanted to solve the name dispute with the then FYROM. Obviously, Angela Merkel was more than enthusiastic with the eagerness of Alexis Tsipras to go where no other Greek Premier ever wanted to go. As Viktoria Dendrinou and Eleni Varvitsioti (2019: 102) argue about Merkel’s wish to find someone in Greece who would work for the resolution of the diplomatic deadlock between Athens and Skopje: “It turned out that this issue … was very important to Merkel herself. She used to pose it to all her Greek interlocutors over the years. She mentioned it to Antonis Samaras every single time they met, usually via her foreign affairs advisor, who stressed how important its resolution was to Berlin. Knowing Samaras’ tough stance on the subject, Merkel would add: ‘It’s like we’ve already discussed this, and I’ve already heard your answer’. And then they would move on to other subjects, without even broaching the topic. With Tsipras, however, things were different: she felt that here was someone, finally, who could play a key role in resolving the longstanding issue in the Balkan region.” Therefore, it was quite normal for Merkel not to be in favor with a possible GREXIT during Tsipras’ presence in Maximos Mansion.


4  The Role of the American Factor in the Greek Crisis: Leading from Above


and GREXIT would immediately follow, a development which would create unprecedented socioeconomic consequences inside the state for many decades. “Greece will be crushed,” I heard from the other side of the table. Before we called it a night, outside the restaurant and back into the insufferable summer humidity of Washington, I thanked my companion for a truly interesting evening. Instead of a usual exchange of pleasantries I heard the other saying with a steady voice, “Greece only stands a chance if Washington decides to intervene. I think that Obama will eventually do this. Otherwise, Greece, the Eastern Mediterranean and Europe will never be the same again.” I am keeping the anonymity of the person I had this discussion at Georgetown because he asked me to; however this episode fully reveals the perplexities of the Greek crisis. The Greeks, exhausted from the long period of austerity and charmed by Tsipras’ raw populism, were about to jump off the cliff. Europeans, for many reasons that mainly had to do with the lack of communication over serious political situations among the member states, had been idle during the climax of the crisis. On top of that, Germany was unwilling to offer a last-minute solution to Athens, most probably because Berlin knew that this would injure deeply the financial discipline among the rest of the eurozone members, despite the fact that Merkel wanted to help the young Greek politician with the expressed desire to resolve the name dispute with FYROM.  Only the U.S. had truly the leverage to achieve the Herculean task to preserve Greece within the Western world. Large crowds in Athens and in other Greek urban centers welcomed the final result of the referendum with a great passion. In the end, 3,558,450 out of 6,161,140 voted against a new packet of austerity measures, while 2,245,537 voted in favor. At this point I would like to open a parenthesis and clarify the following: the two millions of Greeks who voted for “YES” were not welcoming a new austerity package that would have had weakened further their already low living standards since 2010. On the contrary, those people had the political maturity to think rationally and understand that in reality Greece had no other alternative but to remain inside the eurozone, and to work hard from within for better days. An existence outside of the eurozone structure would have had been catastrophic for Greece and the Greeks. A humanitarian crisis was certain to erupt, and the state would have faced severe shortages of basic foodstuff commodities, medicine scarcities, power outages, bank runs, unprecedented social unrest, and risk of military encounters with Turkey. Among the three millions of Greeks who voted for “NO,” there were voters of the neo-Nazi party of Golden Dawn, ultranationalists awaiting for the re-emergence of the Byzantine Empire, ultra-Orthodox Christian zealots who consider the European Union a satanic structure that aims at the annihilation of the Greek race, orthodox communists who still praise Stalin and the USSR, and finally extreme leftists who augured for a general collapse in order to put forward their nihilistic plans in the streets and the squares of the Greek cities. Nevertheless, the majority of those who voted for “NO” were simply plain citizens, people who were fed up with austerity, representing an ill-considered yet formidable ideological tendency within the Greek


4  The Greek Crisis of 2015: A European Drama and an American Deus Ex Machina

collective framework that gives praise to a glorified death than to a dishonorable life.11 However, the U.S. was not willing to allow something like that to occur for the following reasons. If GREXIT had happened, then Washington was fully aware that it had to financially support Greece in order for the latter to be able to maintain its position in the Western framework and in NATO. For example, if Athens were out of the eurozone, then it would not have had the economic liquidity to spend 2% of its annual GDP on defense, as NATO member states have to do. In other words, in case of a GREXIT, the U.S. would have been obligated to extensively support Athens financially, in order to sustain its Eastern Mediterranean ally to preserve its Western orientation. This would have created a chain reaction in the region. If Greece was to be financially supported by Washington then other Eastern Mediterranean states would be incentivized to follow, and ask from the U.S. to receive an economic support too with the U.S. economy unable to cope with these kinds of demands.  In case analysts want to understand the Greek collective identity in depth, then it is vital to consider the following. According to a strong, ideological ultraromantic tendency in the nucleus of the Greek community, a glorified defeat is preferable to mere survival. For this reason, specific historical events are frequently presented as examples of pure heroism, as they stand against any form of weakling abdication: Thermopylae where in 480 BCE 300 Spartans fought bravely thousands of Persians, the Kougi Monastery in 1803 where one monk and a handful of elders chose to commit suicide by blowing themselves up together when numerous Ottoman soldiers entered the monastery in order to kill them, and the Zalogos [1803] or the Stoumpanoi [1822] incidents where women decided to commit suicide together with their children by jumping off the cliff in order to escape from the Ottoman irregulars who were pursuing them. These acts of pure heroism by those who were involved in those situations that were blended with extreme fear and desperation have taken a gigantic dimension in the Greek collective consciousness. For a modern state that has more defeats and bankruptcies to remember than victories, the ideal of a glorified defeat can easily function not only as a source of extracting pride from the past, but also as a pretext, in order to cover the failures of the state through an excessive bravado, that considers sacrifice as much more appropriate, more masculine (in a still predominantly patriarchal society) than victory or compromise itself. Moreover, one of the two national holidays is that of 28th of October where the Greeks celebrate the nation’s entrance to the WWII against Italy in 1940. The celebration refers to the heroic performance of the Greek army against the numerous and much more well-equipped Italian forces, eventually leading to the capitulation of the state after Nazi’s Germany entrance in the war in April 1941 in order to assist the retreated Italian army. Instead of choosing as a national holiday the end of WWII where Greece was among the victorious forces that units of the Free Greek Army fought bravely in the fronts of North Africa or in Italy; or the end of the Balkan War, 1912–1913, where Greece emerged as the main victorious power in South-Eastern Europe; or the end of WWI where Greece was among the Entente’s victorious powers, the official state chose to celebrate a day that led eventually to a glorified defeat and to the beginning of the Axis occupation. As I am constantly repeating to my students when my lectures go beyond IR Theory, we as a nation have to learn how to conduct wins instead of achieving glorious defeats. We have to learn and efficiently implement Henry Russel Sanders’ moto “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.” After all, if Spartans wanted to be gloriously defeated by the Persian army they would have chosen to stand side by side in an open field instead of carefully choosing a narrow passage which denied the Persian army to fully use its numerical advantage. Spartans were defeated searching for victory in an extremely unbalanced battle instead of going to Thermopylae searching for a glorious death as the populist proselytizers in nowadays Greece are arguing.


4  The Role of the American Factor in the Greek Crisis: Leading from Above


The American side started to send proper signals to all the involved sides even before the day of the referendum. Without openly intervening to halt the referendum, Washington was preparing intensely for the day after. Characteristically, on June 30, 2015, Barack Obama stated that the Greek crisis is of substantial concern for Europe but should not lead to overreactions (Ekathimerini 2015). This effectively sent the message to Brussels and to Berlin that Washington did not want to see a final divorce between Greece and the eurozone. In addition, during the fourth of July celebrations in the gardens of the Jefferson House, the residence of the U.S. Ambassador in Athens, David D. Pearce, just 3 days before the referendum, ended his official speech to the participants, among them members of Tsipras’ government and Ambassadors from other states such as Germany or France, by saying the following: For Americans this day is also about recognizing that we always need to be prepared, to adjust, to improve, to change, and to innovate … Greece is not only part of Europe, it is an important part of Europe. I am proud to say that Greek-U.S. relations go all the way back to the earliest days of the Greek Independence struggle, and we will continue to do all we can in coming days, weeks and years to sustain and strengthen the ties between Greece and the United States on all levels (U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Greece 2015).

Both the American President Barack Obama and the U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew moved fast and efficiently in order to save Greece from a sudden death and the eurozone from an existential shock. Lew was continually in contact with members of the troika and of the Greek Government in order to make sure that a “NO” vote would not have had meant the end of the negotiations between Greece, Brussels, Berlin, and the IMF. On July 7, Barack Obama phoned both Tsipras and Merkel to send a simple, yet decisive, message that a common solution had to be found in order to avoid a GREXIT (Crabtree 2015; Robb 2015). Perhaps for the first time since the beginning of the Greek crisis, Barack Obama was not suggesting, but was explicitly demanding for an end to the existing chaos. Tsipras, instead of adopting a hard line towards the troika after the triumph of “NO” in the referendum and under American inspiration, accepted to renegotiate with the rest of the leaders of the eurozone and the IMF for a new loan package for Greece with additional measures of austerity. Merkel, on the other hand, under the American request, accepted to abandon the trenches of Ordoliberalism and to sit down at the same table with Tsipras in order to find a common ground and stop Greece’s uncontrollable drive towards the wall. On July 13, 2015, for a session that lasted for over 16 h, Greece accepted the worst ever terms since the beginning of the crisis in 2010, in order to have a new loan and to avoid bankruptcy.12 Even during these hours, the American involvement was once again crucial. As Katerina Sokou (2019) argued during her presentation at TUFTS LSE conference under the tile “Greece and the Euro: From Crisis to Recovery,” it was Secretary Lew who phoned Tsipras and persuaded him to return back to the room when the Greek Premier,

 For an analytical approach regarding the third loan package that Greece received in 2015, see European Stability Mechanism (2018) and Wearden (2015).



4  The Greek Crisis of 2015: A European Drama and an American Deus Ex Machina

unable to withstand the pressure, had left the negotiation room and the talks were about to collapse. As the American Secretary urged the Greek Premier: Alexis do not leave the negotiating table … This is as good as it’s going to get. So don’t leave. Stay there all night (Dendrinou and Varvitsioti 2019: 286–287).

Tsipras listened to Lew, he remained at the negotiation table, and Greece avoided bankruptcy. It was not because of the bargaining skills of the Greek Premier, which were hardly traceable as history proves, but due to the conclusive involvement in the Greek crisis, just before everything was about to collapse. Nonetheless, Greece was unable to escape from a new wave of excessive austerity, one that was brought upon them due to the poor performance of the Premier and his government since January 2015.13

5  Conclusion I argue that the most suitable title for the role of the U.S. during the last phase of the Greek crisis was that of the true mediator, given by Katerina Sokou during a conference that was organized by the American College of Greece in Athens under the suitable title “The US Role in the Greek Debt Crisis” (Palaiologos 2019). Nevertheless, Obamianism delayed considerably for one more time to find an exit out from the Greek conundrum. The U.S. had the capacity to change drastically the course of the Greek crisis and even to persuade the members of the troika to offer Athens a solution that would have had enabled the Greek side to strengthen its anemic growth model, tackle corruption and cronyism, and meet the technological demands of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Nevertheless, Washington chose to exercise no pressure on the troika in order to safeguard its close links with Germany. However, in the end, the U.S. functioned as deus ex machina, one that Greece expected since Papandreou’s statement at Kastellorizo in 2010. It has to be clarified that American underperformance had nothing to do with the intensification of the Greek crisis that was concluded by Tsipras and Varoufakis. On the contrary, I argue that the resolution of the Greek crisis was one of the greatest successes of Barack Obama and of his administration. Conversely, the Greek crisis was first and foremost Tsipras’ responsibility. His ideological inflexibility that derived from a political dictum that permanently collapsed in 1989, his lack of experience regarding international politics and negotiations, and lastly his counterproductive choice of Yanis Varoufakis as the Minister of Finance, all of these count heavily for the creation of a deep crisis within the crisis that already existed since 2010. Though the 2015 crisis did not end up in the worst possible way for Greece, which would have been the generation of GREXIT, still the cost from Varoufakis’ no-negotiation stance and Tsipras’ referendum was crushing on the Greek economy and on the living standards of the citizens.  For a detailed analysis of the agreement that had been achieved between Greece and the Troika, see the monograph that was published from the European Stability Mechanism (2019: 37–38).


5 Conclusion


It must also be said that the referendum heavily wounded the country’s fragile national unity, dividing the Greeks between those who voted for “NO” and those who voted for “YES.” Perhaps, the readers of this book can understand the negative effect of this, since the referendum succeeded in dividing the Greeks yet again into two camps: those favoring a European orientation for the state and those who were fantasizing an honorable sudden death. For a nation in which in every difficult turn the memories of the Civil War of 1946–1949 come to the forefront, the societal partition which was incorporated into the spirit of the referendum was traumatic and still continues to influence political discussions inside and outside the Greek Parliament. The performance of SYRIZA government during the first 6 months of 2015 is Alexis Tsipras’ biggest liability. History must never forget that this politician, instead of trying his best to protect the status of the state and to improve the already low living standards of the people, chose to remain loyal to his radical ideas for a critical period of time that proved to be condemnatory for the state and the people. Perhaps someone will support the view that despite his heavy moral and political shortcomings the Greek electorate voted once again for him in the snap elections of September 2015. However, there was no surprise in the result of the electoral procedure of September 2015. As I have already referred to, Greek collective consciousness has a penchant for skilled populists. In addition, the memories from corruption and inefficiency of the ancien regime were still very vivid back in September 2015. It was mainly for these reasons that the majority of Greeks chose to give another chance to Alexis Tsipras instead of bringing the old guard in power once again. However, this does not mean that Tsipras’ heavy responsibilities for the catastrophic summer of 2015 for the Greek economy and the Greek citizens have been wiped out. Last but not least, the German responsibilities are great too. Some analysts in Greece have promoted the view that the German conduct on the Greek crisis was due to an anti-Greek fixation that allegedly penetrates the German consciousness. I am not going to dignify those ridiculous views even by dedicating a line to this. I have many German friends that love Greece more sincerely than some Greeks I meet daily in the streets. The German mistakes can be found in the lack of confidence that infiltrates Berlin’s economic and political conduct regarding the eurozone. Germany believed that if Greece were to be left unpunished for all its misdoings that Athens committed all these decades since entering in the European Economic Community back in 1981, then the eurozone was to be turned into a sacrilegious zone of unscrupulous economic practices. This sort of, almost metaphysical, feeling derives from the fact that the eurozone is the mechanism which guarantees Germany’s political and economic dominance in the European environment; therefore Berlin is not willing to allow any kind of anomalies in its operation. In addition, every form of economic irregularity or of inappropriate conduct within the eurozone is considered by the supporters of Ordoliberalism as the economic original sin which must be punished immediately in order for the bearer of the ­transgression to be appropriately disciplined. However, Germany decided to go to the extremes with Greece, a development that almost proved to be fatal for the latter. If Germany had decided to follow a more balanced approach with Greece,


4  The Greek Crisis of 2015: A European Drama and an American Deus Ex Machina

then the results of Greek economy could have been visible much earlier, the neoNazi Golden Dawn would have never had been elected in the Greek Parliament, and SYRIZA perhaps would have never had the opportunity to experiment with Greece and its people. However, the true responsibility for this crisis rests with the Greek political and economic establishment, which has failed completely to tackle corruption, dismantle nepotism, and start refuting mediocrity. However, this is a tall order as long as part of it even welcomes or accommodates those such old practices at the expense of the Greek people and of the Greek economy too. Perhaps Greece will never be able to return back to the untroubled days of the 1990s or of the first years of the twenty-first century. But it is still a member of the Western world and is able to be much more optimistic about its future. The fact that Greece did not face a sudden catastrophe due to a traumatic GREXIT can be attributed to the U.S. and to Barack Obama himself. By this, the American side managed to safeguard one of its most valuable allies in the region, preserved the unity of the eurozone, and simultaneously did not undermine the U.S.-German relations. The Obamian school of thought of the U.S. foreign policy proved in the Greek case, despite slow reflexes, that it still values the geostrategic merit of the Eastern Mediterranean and the leading role that America has to play in the region too.

References Ackerman, A. (February 1, 2015). Obama expressed sympathy for new Greek government. The Wall Street Journal Bacevich, A. (2008). The limits of power: The end of American exceptionalism. New  York: Metropolitan Books. BBC. (June 27, 2015). Greece debt crisis: Tsipras announces bailout referendum. https://www. Bitzenis, A., et  al. (2013). The Euro-area sovereign debt crisis and the neglected factor of the shadow economy. In A.  Bitzenis et  al. (Eds.), Reflections on the Greek sovereign debt crisis: The EU institutional framework, economic adjustment in an extensive shadow economy (pp. 1–23). Newcastle Upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars. Christides, G. (December 16, 2014). Greek radical left Syriza prepares for power under Tsipras. BBC. Crabtree,S.(July8,2015).ObamaspeakstoMerkel,TsiprasonGreece’sdebtcrisis.WashingtonExaminer. Dendrinou, V., & Varvitsioti, E. (2019). The last bluff. Metamorfossi, Attiki: Papadopoulos Publishing. Ekathimerini. (June 30, 2015). Obama says Greek crisis of “substantial concern” for Europe. Evangelos, Venizelos (2017). Unser Kollege Wolfgang. Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, no.43. European Stability Mechanism. (August 20, 2018). Explainer on ESM and EFSF financial assistance for Greece.



European Stability Mechanism. (2019). Safeguarding the Euro in times of crisis: The inside story of the ESM. Luxemburg: Publications Office of the European Union. Fouskas, V., & Dimoulas, C. (2013). Greece, financialization and the EU: The political economy of debt and destruction. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Giannitsis, T., & Zografakis, S. (2015). Greece: Solidarity and adjustment in times of crisis. Düsseldorf: Hans-Böckler-Stiftung & Institut für Makroökonomie und Konjunkturforschung. Hewitt, G. (August 24, 2012). Greek PM Samaras asks from Merkel for breathing space. BBC. Itano, N. (April 23, 2010). Greece asks for a Bailout, but at what Cost?. The Time. http://content.,8599,1984192,00.html Kitsantonis, N., & Saltmarsh, M. (April 23, 2010). Greece, out of ideas, requests global aid. The New York Times. Kornetis, K. (2013). Children of the dictatorship: Student resistance, cultural politics and the ‘long 1960s’ in Greece. New York: Berghahn. Layne, C. (1997). From preponderance to offshore balancing: America’s future grand strategy. International Security, 22(1), 86–124. Lekea, K. I. (2014). 17N’s philosophy of terror: An analysis of the 17 November revolutionary organization. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger. Lim, J. D., et al. (2019). Puzzled out? The unsurprising outcomes of the Greek bailout negotiations. Journal of European Public Policy, 26, 325–343. 10.1080/13501763.2018.1450890 Litsas, N.  S. (2014). The Greek failing state and its ‘smart power’ prospects: A theoretical approach. Mediterranean Quarterly, 25(3), 52–73. Maltezou, R., & Papadimas, L. (January 25, 2015). Greek leftist leader Tsipras claim victory over austerity. Reuters. Mason, J., & Papachristou, H. (June 7, 2011). Obama urges tough decisions on Greek debt crisis. Reuters. Mattox, A. G. (2011). Germany: From civilian power to international actor. In A. M. Dorman & L. P. Kaufman (Eds.), The future of transatlantic relations: Perceptions, policy and practice (pp. 113–135). Stanford University Press: Stanford, CA. Mavridis, S. (2018). Greece’s economic and social transformation. Social Sciences, 7(1), 1–14. Mearsheimer, J. J. (2001). The tragedy of great power politics. New York: Norton. Meghir, C., et  al. (2017). The Greek economy before and during the crisis- and policy options going forward. In C.  Meghir et  al. (Eds.), Beyond austerity: Reforming the Greek economy (pp. 3–72). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Mude, C. (2017). SYRIZA: The failure of the populist promise. Cham: Springer. Oreskes, B. (June 30, 2016). Germany: America’s real special relationship. Politico. https://www. Palaiologos,Y. (March 8, 2019). Panel explores US role in the Greek crisis. Ekathimerini. http://www. Porter, P. (2013). Sharing power? Prospects for a U.S. Concert – Balance strategy. Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute & U.S. Army War College. Posen, R. Barry (2007). The Case for Restraint. The American Interest Preble, A. C. (2009). The power problem. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States. (2010). Barack Obama, 2009. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, Book one (January 20 to June 30). Robb, G. (July 7, 2015). Obama discusses Greek crisis with Merkel and Tsipras. Marker Watch. Ross-Sorkin, A. (June 29, 2015). The hard line on Greece. The New  York Times. https://www.


4  The Greek Crisis of 2015: A European Drama and an American Deus Ex Machina

Smith, H. (September 12, 2017). Forget the Parthenon: How Austerity is laying waste to Athens modern heritage. The Guardian. athens-modern-heritage-austerity-neoclassical-architecture-acropolis-greece Smith, H., & Luhn, A. (April 8, 2015). Alexis Tsipras flies to Moscow amid speculation of bailout from Putin. The Guardian. alexis-tsipras-flies-to-moscow-speculation-greek-bailout-vladimir-putin Sokou, K. (April 13, 2019). Fast forward: The return of geopolitics in US-Greece relations. TUFTS & LSE conference, Greece and the Euro: From crisis to recovery. Spiegel Online. (August 22, 2012). Greek Prime Minister Samaras Needs more time. https://www. Spiegel Online. (July 17, 2015). Schäuble’s push for Grexit puts Merkel on defensive. https://www. To Vima. (December 2, 2014). Tsipras: “Government acts like a lion and then makes a fool of itself”. To Vima. (May 11, 2015). Moscow invites Greece to join the BRICS-­sponsored growth bank. Tzogopoulos, G. (2016). The Greek crisis in the media: Stereotyping in the international press. London: Routledge. U.S.  Embassy and Consulate in Greece. (July 2, 2015). 4th of July reception: Remarks by U.S.  Ambassador David D.  Pearce. Varoufakis, Y. (2017). Adults in the Room: My Battle with Europe’s Deep Establishment. London: The Bodley Head. Walt, M. S. (October 25, 2011). The end of the American era. The National Interest. Wearden, G. (July 13, 2015). Greece bailout agreement: Key points. The Guardian. https://www. Wörsdörfer, M. (2013). Individual versus regulatory ethics: An economic-ethical and theoretical-­ historical analysis of German neoliberalism. OEconomia, 3(4), 523–557.

Chapter 5

The U.S. Facing the Challenges of the Twenty-First Century in the Eastern Mediterranean: The Different Cases of China, Russia, and Turkey “The past and the present wilt—I have fill’d them, emptied them. And proceed to fill my next fold of the future …” Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself, 51”

1  Introduction This chapter covers the present and future challenges that the U.S. foreign policy is being faced with in the Eastern Mediterranean. In particular, I will present the three different tests that China, Russia, and Turkey pose to the American status in the region, separating the theoretical terms competition from antagonism as well as from narcissism. The main question that this chapter answers is the following: What are the levels of negative influence which China, Russia, and Turkey pose to the U.S. presence in the Eastern Mediterranean? Also, a series of personal proposals will be presented, which may be used by Washington in order to face, in a more effective way, the steep course ahead in the Eastern Mediterranean, without however forgetting that this work is a scientific monograph and not a policy paper. The current situation does not look so bright for the U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean for many reasons that mainly have to do with domestic developments in the American political scene and also with the grave mistakes that had been committed by the Obama administration during the climax of the Arab Spring. Interestingly enough, these grave mistakes, especially in the Syrian case, are being repeated by the Trump administration today. Nevertheless, the Eastern Mediterranean still plays a pivotal role in the U.S. foreign policy. Despite the strategic and economic attentiveness expressed by the Obama administration for the Western Pacific Ocean through the well-advertised Pivot to the Asia Pacific, or the importance today which the Trump administration gives to the self-absorbed goal to Make America Great Again, a return to the days of strict protectionism with additional ideological oversimplifications, the U.S. still shows a vivid interest in the Eastern Mediterranean. For example, on June 25, 2019, the U.S.  Senate Foreign Relations Committee © Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 S. N. Litsas, US Foreign Policy in the Eastern Mediterranean,



5  The U.S. Facing the Challenges of the Twenty-First Century in the Eastern…

passed the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act, authored by Senators Robert Menendez [D-New Jersey] and Marco Rubio [R-Florida]. The Committee, with bipartisan support, sent to the full Senate and to the House of Representatives the Act which includes the following parts: • The end of the prohibition on U.S. arms sales to the Republic of Cyprus • Authorize the establishment of a United States-Eastern Mediterranean Energy Center to facilitate energy cooperation between the U.S., Israel, Greece, and Cyprus • Authorize $3,000,000 in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) assistance for Greece • Authorize International Military Education and Training (IMET) assistance for Greece and Cyprus from fiscal years 2020–2022 • Impede the transfer of F-35 aircraft to Turkey, as long as Turkey continues with plans to purchase the S-400 air defense system from the Russian Federation, a purchase that would be sanctionable under the U.S. law • Require the administration to submit to Congress a strategy on enhanced security and energy cooperation with countries in the Eastern Mediterranean, as well as reports on malign activities by Russia and other countries in the region (U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations 2019b) It goes without saying that this Act will take months to pass from the Capitol Hill, and eventually be signed by the President of the U.S.; however it is indicative of the new air that blows in the Capitol today regarding the special geostrategic conditions of the Eastern Mediterranean. Under this new wind, the U.S. is in the process of advancing its military engagement in Greece, constructing new technologically upgraded infrastructure in various areas in the north and the south of the country, as the U.S. Ambassador in Athens, Geoffrey R. Pyatt, mentioned in an interview he gave during the summer of 2019 (Nedos 2019). In addition, during his official visit to Athens in October 2019, Mike Pompeo, the U.S. Secretary of State, signed a revised mutual defense cooperation agreement with the Greek side, while for Alexandroupolis, the strategically situated northeastern port of Greece, there are plans to accommodate a new American naval and air force base and an energy station which would enable the U.S. to supply liquid natural gas to southeastern Europe (Smith 2019). Furthermore, on May 14, 2018, the U.S.  Embassy in Israel was moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a decision that not only empowered the already solid ties between the two states, but also revealed that Washington is ready to adopt multidimensional diplomatic activities in order to stir up things in the frozen IsraeliPalestinian conflict.1 In Egypt, Washington diligently strives to restore American  On December 6, 2017, President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. Embassy in Israel will move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This was a fundamental decision since Jerusalem is the capital of Israel while Eastern Jerusalem, the sector of the city where the Wailing Wall, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Church of Holy Sepulcher are situated, is being claimed by the Palestinians as the capital of the future Palestinian state. Regarding this particular action, President Trump proved to be not only bold in his decision, but rational as well. The status of Jerusalem and the hesitancy of many states to recognize it as the capital of the state of Israel offer the opportunity to radical elements among the Palestinian community to spread false hopes for taking back the eastern part of the city and to justify every action of religious violence by jihadist elements against Israeli or Western targets in general. 1

1 Introduction


diplomatic relations with President el-Sisi and heal the wounds created during a 2013 freeze of the American military aid to Egypt, following the put-down of the Muslim Brotherhood by the Egyptian Armed Forces. On January 10, 2019, the U.S. Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, delivered a speech at the University of Cairo where he appraised the prospects of Egypt under President el-Sisi: … as we seek an even stronger partnership with Egypt, we encourage President Sisi to unleash the creative energy of Egypt’s people, unfetter the economy, and promote a free and open exchange of ideas. The progress made to date can continue (Congressional Research Service 2019).

Additionally, the annual American economic assistance to Egypt of $1.3 billion continues to flow unobstructed, while in August 2018 the U.S. military participated in the Operation Bright Star 18, a clear sign of rapprochement between the two armies, a multinational military exercise which is annually organized by the Egyptian Security Forces. After two centuries of a deep connection with a more recent short period of geostrategic inattention, it is more than certain that the U.S. is trying to mentally reconnect with all the volatile conditions, the security challenges, and the great opportunities for profit offered by the Eastern Mediterranean. As Geoffrey R. Pyatt characteristically states: After years of taking the eastern Mediterranean for granted, the United States has stepped back to take a considered, whole-of-government look at how we advance US interests and build peace and prosperity in this crucial region (Smith 2019).

As a matter of fact, as I have already argued in Chap. 3, the U.S. never truly abandoned the region. On the contrary, following the approach of the Obamian school of thought, it tried to maintain its supreme positioning in the regional balance of power without being excessively involved in the course of the events that are constantly affecting the region. Therefore, it is safe to argue that without abandoning the Eastern Mediterranean, Washington has attempted to implement a gradual, but slight, detachment from the region’s affairs during Obama’s Presidency. This was not only a cognitive process of detachments from the Eastern Mediterranean social and economic affairs, but also included the political and military matters of the region. The average American voter did not want to see his/her taxes to be thrown into the black hole of the Eastern Mediterranean, a place which the Hobbesian spirits never seem willing to abdicate. American parents did not want to receive their children inside a coffin from a conflict unfolding thousands of miles away from their homes, having to cope with the hardest loss of all, for a cause that only seems more alien to them with time. The American political system hesitated to undertake new sacrifices, or accept additional expenditures for a region that for Obama administration was less important than the Asia Pacific or the Arctic Ocean. However, this stab at a partial detachment from the Eastern Mediterranean lasted only for a short period of time, and the course of certain events persuaded Washington that the American status in the region is under open questioning by two great powers and a pivotal regional actor: Russia, China, and Turkey. However, this so-called return to the Eastern Mediterranean affairs is being portrayed by Washington as the enact-


5  The U.S. Facing the Challenges of the Twenty-First Century in the Eastern…

ment of an advanced team play, instead of a lonely journey of the eagle above the Big Blue. As, for example, Bob Menendez delivered on April 22, 2019, in the 15th Manuel Chrysoloras keynote speech of the European Public Law Organization in Athens regarding the prospects of security cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean: On our committee, we continuously examine the core interests of the United States. Who are our true allies and where are our strategic alliances? Who are our competitors? Who are our adversaries? How do we implement a foreign policy that contributes to a safer world? One that is more prosperous. One with more open societies. One that is more democratic … I am here to propose that the Eastern Mediterranean as a region is a place where we can find such friends. A region where democracy was born, a region with allies that share our values. A region of unique geostrategic possibility as a bridge between east and west. So much possibility … The opportunities to deepen security ties that bring peace, security and prosperity have never been more promising. These possibilities exist if we are willing to seize them. If we have a plan. If we first and foremost simply show up, compete and demonstrate that the United States is a reliable partner and engaged ally (U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations 2019a).

International politics in late 2019 are not as they were in 2009, both globally and regionally, while the demanding predicaments which openly challenged the U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean these past 10 years have not been successfully resolved by Washington. It can be said with no additional pathos in the argument itself that the Eastern Mediterranean is no longer an exclusive zone of the American interests, as it was after the end of the Cold War. Despite the fact that up until today the U.S. is still the strongest element in the region, with NATO adding considerably to the Western presence there, Russia and China are forcefully challenging the post-Cold War geostrategic status of the Eastern Mediterranean, while Turkey is constantly exposing the American foreign policy in the region and NATO’s unity too. There are two main reasons for this development. As it has already been discussed exhaustively in Chap. 3, the multipolar structure of the international system, together with the political and the geostrategic gaps that Obama administration created in the region (excluding the Greek crisis as it was shown in Chap. 4), created a new structural reality in the Eastern Mediterranean that the U.S. has to compete with China, antagonize with Russia, and find new modus operandi with Turkey in order to protect its advanced presence.

2  T  he Sino-American Competition in the Eastern Mediterranean When in 1978 Deng Xiaoping put China on track for the largest socioeconomic makeover the globe has ever witnessed, almost no one was expecting that the Reform and Opening-Up Program was to lead China after a few decades to be among the Big-3 globally. It goes without saying that even before 1978, China was a great power; however this was not enough to change the systemic bipolarity of the international system during the Cold War era. Today, China is not just a nuclear power with

2  The Sino-American Competition in the Eastern Mediterranean


an immense quantitative advantage regarding its high population numbers, but it also has a thriving, extroverted economy, on the front line of global trade. Furthermore, the state is pumping more resources into reshaping the Chinese military in a period where China strives to enter the arms production market too. For example, China has already managed to be the world’s biggest exporter of armed drones (Weinberger 2018; Seligman 2019). Additionally, the Chinese presence in the African continent is blooming beyond expectation, showing that Africa, especially the sub-Saharan region, presents itself as one of the main Beijing’s spheres of influence.2 It is important to understand that since 1978, one of the central goals of the Chinese state was to eradicate any form of isolationist syndrome permeating the state’s reflexes for centuries. Even long before the emergence of the Maoist regime, during the golden imperial age, China seemed reluctant, or even indifferent, to expand its might beyond the Great Wall; this world wonder both represented China’s fortification against external enemies and symbolized a frontier of China’s interest in international politics. This geostrategic reluctance was the result of the Chinese territorial vastness, which created a sense of political satiety since according to Sino conventional wisdom the Empire had nothing to gain from communicating with the rest of the international environment. One of the most characteristic incidents, clearly showing the pretentious geostrategic approach of imperial China, can be found in the refusal of the Emperor to take part in the Age of the Discoveries as a competitive element, even if China had the advantage of an early start in this global contest since Chinese vessels had sailed across the Indian Ocean long before the Spanish and the Portuguese analogous efforts. As Francis Fukuyama (2011: 316) argues: What China did not have was the spirit of maximization … An enormous complacency pervaded Ming China in all walks of life … The eunuch admiral Zheng He sailed across the Indian Ocean and discovered new trade routes and civilizations. This didn’t provoke curiosity, however, and the voyages were never followed up. The next emperor cut the navy’s budget as an economizing move, and the Chinese Age of Discovery was over almost before it had begun

However, in the post-Cold War era China seems to have acquired all the characteristics of a state that has embraced the fundamentals of capitalist economy. Today,

2  Between 2000 and 2006, China lent $125 billion to African states, while it also offered $60 billion at the 2018 Forum on China–Africa Cooperation. The trade index between China and Africa has risen from $10 billion in 2000 to $190 billion in 2017. 12% of the African annual industrial production, i.e., $500 billion per year, is carried out by Chinese firms. China built the railway connection between Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Kenya, the well-known Standard Gauge Railway, and it is being operated by the China Railway Group Limited. On top of that Beijing influences extensively the continent’s telecommunications, data, and information standards. The Chinese Channel Star Times broadcasts in 30 African states; two major Chinese media organizations, CGTN and Xinhua News Agency, are active in all the African continent, while China Daily, an English-written journal, has a pan-African circulation. Last but not least, there are 49 Confucius Institutes across Africa, the main soft-power mechanism of Beijing, while every year around 1000 African journalists participate in training and education programs in China and 2500 Chinese troops participate in the UN peacekeeping missions in Congo, South Sudan, and Mali. For more details regarding the Chinese presence in Africa, see Zhao (2015) and Batchelor and Zhang (2017).


5  The U.S. Facing the Challenges of the Twenty-First Century in the Eastern…

the state is in constant search for new opportunities in the international system, mainly in the areas of economy and trade. It is more than obvious that during the last decades, especially after Xi Jinping’s rise in office, China has developed a prolific appetite for investments. The Eastern Mediterranean, with its wide prospects in the areas of energy and trade, its key geographical placement, and many receptive local governments which are eager to be affiliated with the vast Chinese markets, presents a great opportunity to Beijing for getting involved in the region. Today the Chinese decisiveness can be seen in every move the dragon takes under the clear blue skies of the Eastern Mediterranean. China seems to be much more ambitious regarding its presence in today’s international system and this, naturally, rings many alarming bells in Washington. However, I argue that up until today China does not represent a military threat for the U.S., as Beijing’s presence in the Eastern Mediterranean evolves not by targeting the current geostrategic status but by implementing a new dynamic economic agenda in the region. The main tool for the implementation of the Chinese economic expansionism is the well-known Belt and Road Initiative, and in particular its branch under the label 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative, which aims to link economically China with Europe via sea. The Belt and Road Initiative was announced back in 2013 by President Xi Jinping during an official tour in Kazakhstan and Indonesia and was presented as a method to enhance regional connectivity and to embrace a brighter future (Huang and Zhou 2018). Nevertheless, after only 6 years, Xi Jinping’s project has already been expanded at every level. Today, the Belt and Road Initiative refers to the construction of a wide economic network, linking China with the rest of Asia, Africa, and Europe through durable and profitable trade enterprises. These include technological state agreements, use or expansion of already existing infrastructure for trade enhancement, and energy cooperation. In addition, it can be seen as a Beijing’s direct reply to the White House’s Pivot to the Asia Pacific announcement of 2012. As Andrew Chatzky and James McBride (2019) elaborate on the concept of the Belt and Road Initiative: Xi has promoted a vision of a more assertive China … Experts see BRI as one of the main planks of Chinese statecraft under Xi, alongside the Made in China 2025 economic development strategy. For Xi, the BRI serves as pushback against the much-touted U.S. “pivot to Asia”, as well as a way for China to develop new investment opportunities, cultivate export markets and boost Chinese incomes and domestic consumption.

As it has already been mentioned, for the Mediterranean Sea, and the Eastern Mediterranean in particular, China operates the Maritime Silk Road Initiative (MSRI) which is a part of the Belt and Road Initiative and refers to the usage of the major maritime infrastructure of the region for the benefit of the Chinese economic expansion there. In general, the MSRI must be seen as the tip of spear of the newly developed blue economic endeavors of Beijing, a development that reveals the desire of China to establish itself as a major naval in the Eastern Mediterranean and around the globe as well. As the Mediterranean Affairs (2018) argues about the main theme of the MSRI: The MSRI is … a project based on infrastructure development, especially concerned with building and managing ports on its intended route. The Mediterranean Sea is the final stop

2  The Sino-American Competition in the Eastern Mediterranean


and target of a consistent part of the Chinese investments for the new Silk Road. The MSRI is paving the road for China’s blue economy and could represent an important factor in developing new form of political and economic dynamics among Mediterranean countries, especially in the Eastern Mediterranean.

As a matter of fact, China invests heavily on its blue economy in the Eastern Mediterranean. COSCO Shipping, a Chinese enterprise based in Shanghai, was given in 2016 permission by the Greek Government to be the prime operator of the port of Piraeus, the major trade harbor of Greece, for the next 35 years for $420.2 million (The National Herald 2019; To Vima 2019). In Israel, the Shanghai International Port Group is about to take over Haifa’s civilian port in 2021, a decision which has already created strong American reactions. In general, the MSRI in Israel has already been expanded in various areas including the sectors of renewable energy, chemical market, water, and agriculture, while it also includes the construction of a new railway line that will connect Eilat in the Red Sea with the Port of Ashdod in south Israel (Zhen 2017; Kuo 2018). Last but not least, Chinese investment in Egypt is indicative of the importance Beijing is devoting to the advancement of its blue economy. The Chinese Technological Development Area has acquired 13.5 square kilometers in Egypt’s Suez Canal Economic Zone, with 65 Chinese logistic entities and 33 industrial units already fully functioning there (Wood 2018; Saleh 2018). Despite all these, I argue that Chinese hard power has not yet reached the point to pose a military threat to the U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean. On the one hand, China does not have a naval base in the region. The Chinese military base in Djibouti functions more as a logistical facility (Headley 2018), while the Type 094 Jin class, China’s ballistic missile submarine, is far from being cable of antagonizing a U.S. Ohio-class submarine, a vital detail revealing how the Chinese naval capacity is still far from reaching the American blue water fleet level. On the other hand, China seems not interested in producing a geostrategic revisionist strategy, in particular one which may antagonize the U.S. at a global level. The main reason for this is the fact that China is far from enjoying a coherent and unified internal front. This hinders Beijing from preoccupying itself with the related illusions of global domination. China, in its strategic culture, is still deeply influenced by Sun Tzu’s theories, which refer not only to the conduct of war, but also to the exercise of coherent diplomacy. According to Sun Tzu’s theory, before an army can go to war, it is essential for the head of the state to have safeguarded internal unity. As Seow Wah Sheh (2019: 116) underlines regarding the key to victory, based on Sun Tzu’s theory: The key to victory is internal unity … In fact, internal unity is a great source of strength. Internal unity and consolidation is the greatest core competency which can be developed into a competitive edge.

Internal unity is something that Beijing pursues, but it has not had found a coherent way to accomplish this specific goal. Consider the following challenges to national unity: high volatility as an almost permanent condition in the Xinjiang Province, with its Uighur populations exercising separatist policies (Bovingdon 2010; Hyer 2006), the memory of the bloody suppression of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Protest, and in Hong Kong, both the 2014 Umbrella Revolution and the 2019 Anti-­ Extradition Protest. Too many severe episodes clearly reveal an emphatic deficit in


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the areas of internal peace and order. On top of that, China in its modern history has developed a profound distaste for adventurism and uncertainty in foreign policy, due to the predicaments it faced from the mid-nineteenth century up until the end of the Chinese Civil War. During the so-called Century of Humiliation, the period between 1839 and 1949, China witnessed continuous military defeats at the hands of Western powers and Japan, mainly due to its political inability, the social fragmentation, and the military backwardness that characterized the operation of the state in the international scene (Scott 2008). The deep scars from this period are easily spotted in the extremely cautious way in which Beijing prepares its moves in the international arena today (Wang 2012; Cohen 2003: 148–184). Nevertheless, is it safe to argue that the U.S. will never be the target of a future Chinese revisionism? The answer, obviously, is no. Various analysts support the view that China, due to the prevailing Confucian philosophy in its foreign policy,3 is a status quo bias state4 (Feng 2007; Johnston 2013). This is a view that I fully share, yet the U.S. must always be prepared for the great U-turn from China and this stands as a general rule in international politics, especially since interstate osmosis is taking place in an anarchic and utterly antagonistic domain. Thus, the Chinese case presents one more point of general consideration for Washington. The Chinese economic consolidation and Beijing’s successful infiltration in zones of paramount interests for America, like the Eastern Mediterranean, may generate a fully fledged security dilemma5 for the U.S. which eventually leads to the Thucydides Trap.6 Perhaps this sounds like a dark prognosis, yet the possibilities are 3  It has to be noted at this point that Sun Tzu is also deeply influenced by the Confucian philosophy, something that explains the former’s liking in hierarchy, in making sensible use of the natural resources of the kingdom, in respecting human life, and in perceiving King’s authority as the highest form of mortal patriarchal mastery. 4  For more details regarding the theoretical dimensions of the status quo bias approach, see Samuelson and Zeckhauser (1988) and Nebel (2015). 5  According to the security dilemma theory, a course of random actions from a state that are taken in order to increase its own security may be perceived by another state as a direct threat to its own security. There are two options in this case: either the second state comes to rapid crescendo and attacks the first state in order to stop its empowering process, with this case having the archetypical paradigm of a preventive strike, or the second state begins an empowering process too. In this second case, both states enter into a spiral of direct antagonism that will eventually lead to a decision where one of them will decide to attack the other in order to put an abrupt stop to the whole process. The first IR theorist who made use of this specific term was John H. Herz (1950). 6  Unlike what various specialists believe regarding the Thucydides’ Trap that it is a synonym for the security dilemma it has to be a theoretical clarification here. I argue that the Thucydides’ Trap is the direct result of the security dilemma, in other words the entrance of two or more states into a onelane highway. The steep and the narrow lane of the highway together with the high speeds of the states involved in this antagonistic race eventually leads to a collision, or in other words to war. It goes without saying that two or more states may be involved in a security dilemma predicament without being involved in a war situation, such as the U.S. and the USSR during the Cold War era. The reason for that was the Mutual Assured Destruction Doctrine which halted the two superpowers from hedging in the Thucydides’ Trap. In other words, while in the security dilemma the violent clash between the involved states is a matter of choice, and in the Thucydides’ Trap the war is inevitable.

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there. According to the theory of offensive realism,7 it is only a matter of time before China will feel overconfident and thusly will attempt to manipulate international politics for its own benefit to dominate in the international system. The reader must approach this postulation as a scientific hypothesis and not as a prognosis. The following are two direct results which may potentially derive from the above conjecture. First, the U.S. must be prepared for such a development, socially, economically, and militarily, while it also should try to augment the friction opposing China through various diplomatic, economic, and military means in order to create a level of fatigue which will terminate these Chinese revisionist plans, if it is possible even before these are realized. Second, the potential of an axis between Beijing and Moscow is a possibility that various analysts are seeing as feasible, but it becomes a thorny process as China’s revisionist plans will also include a series of aggressive moves against Russian international status. This kind of an approach verifies what Velina Tchakarova (2019) writes about the so-called Dragonbear association, a qualitative analysis of the linkage between China and Russia today: The Dragonbear is neither an alliance nor a marriage of convenience, but rather a temporary asymmetric relationship, in which China is predominantly the agenda-maker, while Russia is mostly the agenda-taker … Potential friction between Russia and China lies in the geographic prioritization and the overlapping geopolitical interests. Russia is a regional power possessing nuclear weapons with global reach and with vertical expansion of geopolitical and geo-economic interests from the Arctic and the Baltics through the Eurasian landmass and its neighbourhood in Eastern Europe to the Caspian, Black and Mediterranean Seas as well as to the Balkans and the MENA region. However, there is a well-established Russian fear of Chinese penetration particularly in Central Asia and the Far East as well as other traditional spheres of influence such as the Balkans, Eastern Europe and the rest of the former Soviet space. Furthermore, Africa and to some extent Latin America may become a playground of conflictual tactics (e.g. Venezuela, Sudan etc.). Moreover, their interests in the energy sector do not overlap since Russia is one of the major oil suppliers while China tops the list of the countries with greatest oil imports. A sort of new energy interdependence as the one between Russia and Europe could emerge in the short and mid-­ term as Russia is increasingly taking the role of supplying China with oil and natural gas through various pipelines and thus diversifying its energy portfolio away from Europe

In sum, if Chinese revisionism emerges then Washington must come up with a new and overarching effective plan, similar to the Cold War’s Strategic Defense Initiative, in order to meet Beijing’s challenge without bypassing the red zone of the Mutual Assured Destruction Doctrine. However, my personal argument is that China will refrain from offensive realism and will choose to implement defensive realism8 instead of applying high levels of competition towards the U.S. without operating aggressively, excluding the region 7  According to this particular theory that had been shaped by John J. Mearsheimer (2001), states are aggressive because of the main characteristics of the international system, i.e., anarchic and antagonistic, and that every great power is a power maximizer revisionist factor. 8  According to defensive realism, a theory that had been shaped by Kenneth N. Waltz (1979), the main characteristics of the international system motivate states to seek for security instead of power maximization and thus operate as pro-status quo elements instead of revisionist mechanisms.


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of the South Chinese Sea which is a zone of prime geostrategic importance for Beijing. This approach of defensive realism will demand from China to safeguard its position in various zones that offer an economic advantage to the state. Naval trade will be one of those areas, since China invests heavily in this specific sector; therefore the Eastern Mediterranean will be one of the main venues for this new advanced competitive relationship between Washington and Beijing. How can the U.S. react? First of all, the U.S. must prove once again that it is capable of a thorough and pragmatic macroanalysis of the international environment, and accept that multipolarity is the new systemic reality and that China belongs to the prestigious global club of the Great Three. Second, Washington must considerably increase its foreign direct investments towards pivotal states of the region, such as Greece, Cyprus, and Jordan, while it also must reinvest in specific aspects of the American soft power such as the academic cooperation between American and Eastern Mediterranean universities. As a matter of fact, the American move to modernize the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Development Credit Authority by establishing the International Development Finance Corporation (IDFC) through the signing into law by President Trump the Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development Act of 2018 is a decisive step for American investments to up their international game and compete China in an area where the latter has the upper hand. According to the IDFC, Washington will offer U.S. companies financial assistance, as well as political support, in new investments around the globe in a clear attempt to mitigate risk and enhance the American corporate presence in areas where Chinese economic activity is predominant (Hruby 2018; Ingram 2018). Last but not least, China cannot match the U.S. in hard power, nuclear, or conventional; however this does not prevent Beijing from operating large-scale sharp power9 operations through social and conventional media (Cole 2018; Bayles 2019) in order to weaken established elements of American soft power. As I have already mentioned above, China is a Sun Tzu nation, at least in terms of operating multidimensional strategies that involve diplomacy, economics, and hybrid interference. Sun Tzu’s writings promote this kind of indirect approach that targets not only the core of the opposition’s hard power but also the analogous dimensions of its soft-­ power structure. Edward O’Dowd and Arthur Waldron (1991: 27) argue about this aspect of Sun Tzu’s theory: He [Sun Tzu] believed that the political goals of warfare could be achieved by creating a state of chaos [luan] in the enemy’s society. In the Asian, and particularly an Ancient Chinese, context, the creation of chaos meant the destruction of the psychological, social and political order … Sun Tzu believed the goal of warfare was to destroy the conditions of prosperity and order that formed the link between the ruler and his people. If the link was broken, then the ruler’s claim to legitimacy was forfeited.

9  According to Christopher Walker and Jessica Ludwig (2017) who shaped this specific term, the manipulation of societies through information technology and in particular the social media is a new method that states are making use either as a complementary process of soft-power policies or as exclusive acts of hoax targeting specific social groups that due to economic or educational backwardness are more receptive to those manipulative methods.

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If the word warfare is replaced by the phrase intense form of competition, and the word destroy by the word reduce, then we have in its most concentrated shape the Chinese strategy against the U.S. today in various geographical zones, and in particular in the Eastern Mediterranean. To conclude, if the U.S. decides to adhere to any other school of thought except the Hamiltonian foreign policy approach in facing the Sino challenge, then China will succeed in maximizing further its presence in the Eastern Mediterranean affairs, while Washington would find itself loosing substantial ground. At the end of the day, investments and money are always what attract governments, and especially people, and China seems more than willing to make use of its resources as a transparent Trojan horse to enter the region of the Eastern Mediterranean in the most efficient way. Beyond any doubt, the Chinese presence in the Eastern Mediterranean is one of the main issues that American foreign policy should attentively approach. Nevertheless, as I have argued above, the true challenge that the U.S. may face in the future from China has not to do with a conventional type of challenge to the current American primacy in the region. On the one hand China economically competes with the U.S. and, as it seems, the power that is most willing to creatively invest in local economies will win the hearts and minds of the people of the Eastern Mediterranean, or at least the elites of the region. On the other hand, China is making use of hybrid means, working to attrite and target the soft-power links that Washington has established throughout the years in the region via soft-power tolls. This is a decisive development for the future of the Sino-American competition in the Eastern Mediterranean. In case Beijing will achieve to undermine American soft power while it constructs concrete pillars of its own soft-power trace, then the Chinese influence in the region will immeasurably spread out. Perhaps then new aspects of Chinese influence will make their appearance in the Eastern Mediterranean mosaic, such as political or institutional manifestations of Beijing’s formidable presence. Overall, China is a highly sophisticated state, where ancient philosophy meets modern technology, a dynamic blend that produces a polity with strong roots in its glorified past and with open prospects for the future. This unique combination in international politics, only India may claim an analogous form of ontological evolution, reveals that Chinese operations in the Eastern Mediterranean demand from the U.S. an innovative approach in order to meet the challenges ahead. Yet, the true task for the U.S. is to face the music gracefully without being the one that triggers a security dilemma in the process, or inadvertently creating a Thucydides’ Trap. China, at the present time, does not show any signs of revisionism in the Eastern Mediterranean, as Russia does; therefore its successful treatment requires from the U.S. a more creative and decisive intervention regarding profitable investments from the U.S. within and for the nations of the region. The emergence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution gives a golden opportunity to commence an ambitious grand scheme for the technological advancement of the Eastern Mediterranean national economies. This is an area that China, still, does not have the capacity to compete with America.


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3  R  ussia vs. the U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean: Moscow’s Sui Generis Revisionism Since Prince Daniil Aleksandrovich, the youngest son of Alexander Nevsky, founded the principality of Moscow in 1283 CE, the Russians began to play a leading role in the medieval international arena. Despite the fact that until today Russia is a primary element in global geostrategic affairs, its naval presence, at least since the beginning of the twenty-first century, is not as advanced as its presence in the land. It was the nature of the military perils that Russia has faced through its history, together with the geographical emptiness of the Russian territory that is comprised of vast steppes, which urged Moscow to develop a formidable strategic culture of skillful land warfare through the creation of strong army and cavalry. The influence of geography on the Russian strategic culture has been frequently verified by the actions of the numerous enemies which have surrounded the state, and have taken advantage of the Russian topography to implement their plans. Between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries the tip of the spear of the Russian strategic culture was the Streltsy units, infantry armed with rifles, and the Cossacks cavalry (Filjushkin 2008), yet there were no systematic efforts in building a strong navy which could participate in the Age of Exploration. Peter the Great set as one of his goals to build a powerful imperial navy, yet the final outcome did not give Moscow the capacity to look in the eyes of Britain or France. As a matter of fact, the Russian imperial era witnessed a single major naval victory during the Second Azov Campaign against the Ottomans in 1696, with many other major defeats in the Seas. This reluctance to invest in an effective naval hard power has to do with the fact that Russian steppes had always been approached by Moscow as a clear geostrategic disadvantage requiring stout land forces to be efficiently defended. As a matter of fact, this terrain disadvantage was constantly giving the opportunity to its enemies to invade the country,10 while the country’s lack of its own warmwater ports contributed towards the Russian naval building neglect. However, as I argue, the main reason for this specific strategic choice during the imperial era was Moscow’s Pessimistic Pragmatism (Litsas 2019: 171). Under this, Russia purposely avoided creating an antagonistic profile in order to avoid defeat at sea by the far superior French and British naval powers. Such drubbings would have had affected negatively its international status. This Pessimistic Pragmatism resulted in the Russian acceptance of naval supremacy of Britain and France in the Mediterranean Sea, a geostrategic balance of power that Moscow attempted to counter by establishing close connections with the Slavs in the Balkans and also with Greece. This connection had been achieved by presenting itself as the champion of Orthodox Christians that were surviving under Ottoman oppression. It has to be mentioned that Pessimistic Pragmatism influenced deeply the Russian Imperial policy not only in the Eastern Mediterranean but in other sea zones as well. For example, when in 1901 the Emir  The Tartars invaded and burnt Moscow in 1571 and the Poles in 1601; the Swedish Army invaded Russia in 1708, the French in 1812, the Poles in 1920, and Nazi Germany in 1941.


3  Russia vs. the U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean: Moscow’s Sui Generis Revisionism


of Kuwait, Mubarak Al-Sabah, offered his Emirate to be placed under the Tsar’s protection, the Russians declined to avoid the military pressure that was to arrive from Britain or France, or both, in the Persian Gulf (Kreutz 2007: 123). Surprisingly enough, this self-restricting naval policy continued through the Cold War era as well, where the Soviet Union gave a great importance in keeping all the Balkan states except Greece under its iron fist, but allowing the U.S. maritime dominance in the Eastern Mediterranean to be fully developed. As a matter of fact, Gordon McCormick argues in an important analysis 1 year before the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, when no one could even imagine that the USSR was to be totally defeated in the Cold War, that the Soviet presence in the Mediterranean was more symbolical than military in nature, a strange reality given the level of antagonism between the two superpowers. As McCormick (1988: 32) argues: While the size and the configuration of the Soviet Mediterranean Force has frequently been shaped for purposes of political signaling, it has served best not as a force to be reckoned with but as a symbolic force in being … It has also operated over the years under a number of notable limitations … In contrast to the U.S. 6th Fleet which is capable of operating effectively far from its base of support for extended period of time, the 5th Eskadra remains tide to the shore in a number of important respects.

Nevertheless, Moscow’s distinctive strategic hesitancy was to come to an end with the rise of a competent politician who, as many analysts who thoroughly studied his psychological profile argue, failed to forget neither the way that the Soviet Union collapsed, nor the years of weakness that followed after that. For example, as Shaun Walker (2018: 11) argues about Putin: … he [Putin] was deeply angered by the manner in which the country had disintegrated. He seemed to mourn not the human cost or material tribulations but the national humiliation of a power state simply imploding.

The new Russian President did not enter the Kremlin simply to manage his nation’s total defeat in the Cold War, but to restore Russia as a main antagonistic power of the U.S. This spirit of geostrategic return is blended with a great dose of bitterness from Putin, and also from those he chose to accompany him in this challenging course of international action. This sentiment is fully shown in the following analysis from Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy (2013): Putin’s rise to the Russian presidency in 1999–2000 was partially the result of an elite consensus about the importance of restoring order to the state after a decade of domestic crisis and international humiliation … From his earliest days in the Kremlin, Putin has pursued the goal of restoring and strengthening the state.

The Russian leader understood that Russia’s re-emergence as a great power within the new multipolar international system has to pass through the exercise of a circumspect antagonism against the U.S. However, it was not possible for Moscow to successfully implement such an advanced policy against the U.S. globally; therefore it had been decided to operate this kind of antagonism in specific regions, among them the Eastern Mediterranean. The main reason for Kremlin’s choice to include the Eastern Mediterranean in this list was the high economic and the political volatility that penetrated the region,


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together with the American hesitancy since the beginning of Obama’s presidency to be decisively involved in various geostrategic crises. The Arab Spring with its multidimensional conundrum, the rise of the fourth generation of Jihadism in the Middle East, Turkey’s narcissism which created a big hole in Western unity in the region, and the Greek economic crisis that within a short period of time turned into a major sociopolitical existential predicament for the state and for the eurozone are just some of the main sources of instability in the twenty-first century’s Eastern Mediterranean. Putin understood that in order for Russia to antagonize the U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean, it had to enhance its naval hard power by upgrading the capacity of the Black Sea fleet from Green to Blue water category. In 2007, for the first time in post-Soviet history, Russian officials admitted that the nation was entering a new era of antagonism against the U.S. when the Admiral Vladimir Vassorin, then the Russian Chief of Naval Operations, stated, “the operational zone of the fleet [the Black Sea Fleet] extends across the Black Sea and the Mediterranean all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. It is at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa and here we must re-establish the permanent presence of the Russian navy” (Coalson 2016). Some years later, this Russian naval upgrade was included in the national maritime doctrine that was announced in 2015 (Russia Maritime Studies Institute 2015; Blank 2015; Kofman 2015). It is important to note here that the Russian naval antagonism projected by Moscow towards the sixth Fleet did not aim towards the withdrawal of American forces from the Eastern Mediterranean, as such an objective would have had been impossible without a major violent clash between the two states. It goes without saying that such a development was not favored neither from the White House nor from the Kremlin. But certainly, the idea was to increase the pressure upon the U.S. presence in the Eastern Mediterranean for the first time in such a systematic pace. In particular, by upgrading Russian naval capacity from green-water to blue-water force, Moscow aimed the following: • Projecting power ashore in a wider geographical range: By expanding its naval capability to project power ashore, Russia aims to diminish its geographical disadvantage of limited access to the world’s oceans (Lindberg and Todd 2002: 75). This maximizes the range of the Russian hard power, offering the strategic advantage to the Russian battle fleet to target a wide range of the Western global metropoles of the twenty-first century. • To transfer the military heat away from its frontiers, creating strategic diversions away from the Black Sea or the Caucasus region: The Georgian and the Ukrainian crises demonstrated to the Kremlin’s strategic planners that Russia has entered a circle of attrition in its backyard; therefore Moscow came up with a plan to fabricate a mechanism that would create a breathing space every time this is needed. • To show the flag in a region where naval military presence is of the highest importance due to the central role the sea plays in every aspect of the socioeconomic, political, and cultural life of the region and of its people. Nevertheless, the Kremlin expanded its antagonistic conduct towards the U.S. in other areas of the Eastern Mediterranean, besides the region’s naval dimension. For example, Moscow’s urge to present Washington with a high level of antagonism can

3  Russia vs. the U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean: Moscow’s Sui Generis Revisionism


be seen in Russian conduct regarding the evolution of the Arab Spring. The Kremlin understood from the early days of the Tahrir Uprising that the dynamics of the Arab Spring were immense and that the chain of events had the normative capacity to change the sociopolitical fundamentals that penetrated the region. Due to this reason, Putin invited Mohamed Morsi to Moscow, sending the clear signal that Russia was ready to adapt to the new conditions. While as soon as Abdel Fattah el-Sisi had risen to power, the Russian President operated an “open-door policy” with the new head of the Egyptian state. Currently, relations between Egypt and Russia expand in various levels, projecting a strong diplomatic connection between Moscow and Cairo. In 2017 President el-Sisi and President Putin signed the preliminary contracts for creating four VVER-1200 nuclear reactors for the El Dabaa Nuclear Power Plant that will be concluded in 2029 under ROSATOM, the Russian nuclear state agency, that will also have the management afterwards (Ofek 2017). ROSNEFT, a Russian integrated energy company, in 2017 acquired 30% stake for the development of Zohr field, which is the largest gas field in the Mediterranean Sea (Rodova 2017). Last but not least, during the last years Russia has been the main arms sales source for Egypt, with mega deals, including the purchase of 50 MiG-29  M/M2 fighter jets in 2014, 46 KAMOV Ka-52 helicopters in 2018, and the S-300 Antey-2500 missile defense system, while the Kremlin also offered a fully equipped missile corvette Molniya P-32 to Cairo as a gift in 2015 (Khlebnikov 2019). In Libya, Russia plays a multidimensional approach. The Kremlin is behind Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army which targets the UN-backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli. However, it keeps all its options open, waiting for the outcome of Haftar’s operations against Tripoli, all the while preparing for the fabrication of a new protégé in case the Libyan National Army fails. As Bloomberg’s journalist Leonid Bershidsky argues regarding the Russian approach in the so-called Second Libyan Civil War: If Haftar fails to win control of Tripoli and his hold on much of Libya’s natural wealth weakens as a consequence, the Kremlin will be actively seeking others to empower so it can get back into the country’s oil and gas sector and seek opportunities for a naval presence (Kennedy 2019).

Overall, regarding the Russian presence in Libya, it can be said that the strategic goal of Moscow is to establish a second Syria there, meaning that the Kremlin prepares the ground in order to have a dominant presence in the nation’s economy and political scene. In particular, Russia is poised to exploit the state’s energy resources and to gain advantageous control of the strategically important Russian presence in the Eastern Mediterranean Libyan ports, such as Benghazi, Bouri, Darna, and Tobruk. Nevertheless, the most successful step that Russia has made in the Eastern Mediterranean and is the major source of political and geostrategic strain for the U.S. in the region is the fact that Syria is now a Russian puppet in the region. In 1971, an agreement between Damascus and Moscow was made, offering the seaport of Tartus to the Soviet Union in order to construct a support facility for its navy. At the time, the Soviet Union had other support centers in Egypt and Ethiopia, but by 1977 Tartus remained the only Soviet base that was the home of the 229th Naval and


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Estuary Vessel Support Division, and after that the hub of the 720th Material-­ Technical Support Center (Hetou 2019: 55). In the early post-Cold War period, Tartus, together with the majority of the Soviet military facilities, became nonoperational. However, signaling Putin’s strategic goal to upgrade the Russian role in the Eastern Mediterranean, Tartus became fully functional again for the Russian navy in 2006. After Moscow’s direct military involvement in the Syrian Civil War in 2015, it was transformed into a major military installation for the Russian navy in the Eastern Mediterranean. On top of that, in today’s Syria there is also a Russian air base in Hmeymin Latakia with S-300 antimissile installments, while Russia also controls various airfield facilities in Bassel al-Assad International Airport. Even if Barack Obama was correct in 2014 that Russia was a regional player, this has substantially changed. Today, the Kremlin’s involvement in Syria fully reveals that Moscow has a considerable leverage in the Eastern Mediterranean and is able and willing to antagonize the U.S. in a region of key importance for Washington in the twenty-first century. Therefore, the real question is not whether Russia represents a threat to the American interests in the Eastern Mediterranean today, but what kind of Russian revisionism the U.S. is being faced with. It is important to clarify that Russia today does not punch in the same league as the U.S. Thus, I concur with these well-composed approaches suggesting that there is not going to be a new Cold War in the near future.11 Russia is not as powerful or influential as the USSR used to be, especially in the soft-power area. Obviously, it is not feasible for the Kremlin to mobilize large parts of the Western masses today under a new ideological axiom as did the Soviet Union with Marxism–Leninism during the Cold War. However, we, Western academics, diplomats, and politicians, are not the only one who already know this. The Russians feel the same, and even though they will never publicly admit this kind of incapacity, they are working hard in order to fill the gap. Thus, the Kremlin is readjusting the Russian revisionism correspondingly to the new systemic realities in order to perpetuate the current multipolar international environment. First of all, Putin and his circle of trust do not want to experience another collapse that a wide-scale antagonistic correlation with the U.S. globally could bring. Thus, Russia aims to operate antagonistically towards the U.S., but only in areas where Moscow has a relative or a substantial geostrategic advantage, such as Central Asia, the Eastern Mediterranean, or South-Eastern Europe. This sort of antagonism maneuvers mainly within the areas of soft power and hard power, while sharp power tools are extensively used as well. Russian revisionism is partial, a sui generis form, that aims at the redistribution of power in the areas of primary interest for the

 For example, James G. Stavridis (2016), a true expert in international politics, argues, “… we are not in a new Cold War. I am old enough to remember the Cold War—it featured millions of troops on the Fulda Gap in Europe, ready to attack each other; two huge battlefields all around the world chasing each other in a massive Hunt for Red October world; and a couple of enormous nuclear arsenals on a hair-trigger alert poised to destroy the world. There was virtually no dialogue or cooperation between the Soviet Union and the NATO alliance. Proxy wars abounded. Fortunately, we are not back there.”


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Kremlin. Even though Russia, in principle, is an archetypical revisionist state it does not search for total domination in areas such as the Eastern Mediterranean. This prudent approach derives from the fact that Moscow is fully aware of the enduring American connections to the region as well as its distinct strategic advantage. However, this does not mean that Russia simply asks for a moderate share of influence in regions such as the Eastern Mediterranean. On the contrary, Putin’s methodical approach in the international scene reveals that each and every window of opportunity offered by the U.S. to Russia will be fully exploited, as the Syrian case already had shown. In particular, in the Eastern Mediterranean, Russia is making use of a new soft-power formula in order to promote its status and reconnect with the local societies. This new formula is labeled as Russkiy Mir [the Russian world], and it targets Orthodox Christians in the region in Greece, Cyprus, Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt. Russkiy Mir aims to give an alternative strategic direction to the religious affairs of the Eastern Mediterranean by placing the Russian Orthodox Church at the epicenter of sociocultural developments, projecting Moscow as the champion of the faith in an era where, according to the Russian thesis, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople seems unable to function as the head of World Orthodoxy because of the asphyxiating control of the Turkish state. As Orrysia Lutsevych (2016) argues: Russia employs a vocabulary of “soft power” to disguise its “soft coercion” efforts aiming at retaining regional supremacy. Russian pseudo NGOs undermine the social cohesion of neighboring states through the consolidation of pro-Russian forces and ethno geopolitics; the denigration of national identities; and the promotion of anti-US, conservative Orthodox, and Eurasianist values. They also aim to establish alternative discourses to confuse decision-­making, and act as destabilizing forces by uniting paramilitary groups and spreading aggressive propaganda.

The level of acceptance of this new Russian soft power has not reached its full potential but is rapidly growing. It may also determine whether or not Moscow will be able to upgrade its level of antagonism in the Eastern Mediterranean. As Nicolai Petro (2015) puts it: … the popularity of the Russkiy mir will likely depend on whether Russia emerges as a global defender of traditional Christian and conservative values … Only recently Russia has realized that, while its conservative agenda distances itself from some Europeans, it brings it closer to others.

The Russian strategy of playing the Christian Orthodox card was fully revealed during the Pan-Orthodox Council held in the Greek island of Crete in June 2016. The Moscow Church did not attend the most historic synod of the Orthodox Christianity since the great West–East Schism of 1054  CE.  Along with Moscow, the Arab-­ speaking Patriarchate of Antioch, the Church of Bulgaria, and the Church of Georgia all abstained, undermining perhaps the most important momentum of the Christian Orthodox Church since the eleventh century. The Russian Orthodox Church decided to disturb the Synod in a clear attempt to send the message that neither recognizes, nor accepts, the primacy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople within the Orthodox Christian World, and that furthermore Moscow is the true champion of 250 million Orthodox Christians worldwide.


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The implementation of this new soft-power formula gives space to the Kremlin to simultaneously make use of its advanced sharp power in order to disrupt the U.S. soft-power status in the Eastern Mediterranean. Millions of trolls on social media promote carefully chosen articles and virtual threads which simply manipulate reality, statements, and analyses which all represent the Russian distortion methods. Basically, what the Russian sharp power aspires to do is to arouse the conservative sentiments of low social classes of the Eastern Mediterranean, simply by portraying the Western values as the main source of global sinfulness and decline. American consideration on issues such as the protection of ethnic or religious minorities, challenging anti-Semitism, tackling sexism, or any kind discrimination is presented by Russian sharp power mechanisms as evidences of a reputed American eagerness to act against the established cultural and moral norms of the region. In reality, the Russian sharp power brings on the Eastern Mediterranean surface every form and shape of well-known conspiracy theories which thrive among lower layers of the social framework of the region, for reasons that have to do with the poor economic and educational conditions. This approach, in a region with a profound geostrategic volatility and fragile economies, except the well-structured Israeli economy, is very popular among the masses. The most radical parts of the societies turn against the U.S. and the Western ideals, either by adopting Moscow’s narrative or by embracing a xenophobic rhetoric which is being promoted by rogue political parties and groups that have close links with Russia. In either case, Moscow may achieve blows to Western status, thus revealing the capacity of the Russian sharp power. Evidently, the Russian revisionism is not being considered by Moscow to be a zero-sum game. On the contrary, Russia aims to create a constant hemorrhaging to the American status in the Eastern Mediterranean, hoping that this will lead Washington to create more gaps in its Eastern Mediterranean agenda, and therefore create more windows of opportunity for Russia. As Steven Cook (2018) analyzes: Perhaps Russian President Vladimir Putin is a student of history, or maybe he likes maps, but whatever his hobby, he seems to understand geography quite well. The character of Moscow’s influence differs greatly from the old Soviet days when it was collecting client states (except for Russia’s ongoing deployment of force in Syria). But it has been effective—or effective enough—in drawing important allies away from the United States while presenting Russia as a competent, non-ideological partner that shares interests with the regional players. Therein lies the central logic to Russia’s Middle East-Europe strategy: establish influence at Washington’s expense, weakening the U.S. position in the region, and in the process apply pressure on Europe via its weak underbelly—in this case to the south and southeast of the European Union.

It goes without saying that the U.S. is unable to militarily confront the Russian sui generis revisionism in the Eastern Mediterranean for reasons that have to do again with the Mutual Assured Destruction doctrine. However, there are ways of facing Russian antagonism both at the soft power and at the sharp power levels. From a soft-power point of view, in order for Washington to be able to meet the challenges that derive from the Russkiy Mir approach, it is essential to form a coherent pro-Ecumenical Patriarchate policy, as this is the only institution able to withstand successfully the rising Russian influence in the Christian Orthodox framework

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in the Eastern Mediterranean. This is especially important since Moscow controls the Orthodox Patriarchates of Antioch and Alexandria in Egypt too. This pro-­ Ecumenical Patriarchate policy must pass through the official Turkish state, as the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos is one of the few figures in the Orthodox Church who have the leverage to withstand the Russian pressure, and is the only figure that has the institutional capacity to authorize consequential developments such as the recent granting of autocephalous status to the Christian Orthodox Church of Ukraine (Herbst 2019). This means that Washington must apply diplomatic pressure upon the Turkish Government to allow the reopening of the Halki Seminary, which is vital for the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s ability to renew its cadre of priests.12 Regarding the Russian sharp power, a wide-scale awareness campaign to the youth of the Eastern Mediterranean must take place, with special programs in schools and academic institutions, while the establishment of anti-sharp power think tanks and monitoring centers in the region can also be a useful tool for facing successfully the Russian revisionist actions in the Eastern Mediterranean.

4  T  he Turkish Neo-Revisionism in the Eastern Mediterranean Quite understandably, a majority of the analysts pay attention to the influence that China and Russia have in the geostrategic and sociopolitical balance of power in the Eastern Mediterranean, drawing useful conclusions regarding the new structural developments in the region. However, as I will argue in the following paragraphs, the greatest challenge for the U.S. status in the Eastern Mediterranean today, as well as for the future of NATO, is the so-called Turkish narcissistic revisionism.13 Turkey is a relatively new nation-state, formed in 1923 from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire. The demise of its imperial status which led to the birth of the modern Turkish nation state, and created the fertile ground for the emergence of a Janus syndrome which celebrates the birth of the nation-state and grieves for the loss of the past glory, meets the exhilaration for what the future can bring. This results in a bipolar psychological conduct in its domestic and international poli-

 The Halki Seminary or the Theological School of Halki was the main theological school of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople until the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in 1971 banned every private higher educational institution. For more details regarding the doctrinal importance of the seminary, see Ellis (2019a) and Hellenic Republic MFA (2019). 13  This is a term that I have developed and it means that unlike the conventional forms of revisionism that are emerging after considerable structural changes, e.g., the Russian form of revisionism that appeared in the international system after 9/11 that signaled the active involvement of the U.S. in two open military fronts in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Turkish revisionism is a blend of the structural changes that occur in the international system and of the perception that the state has for its own ontological being. For more details regarding this approach see Litsas (2014). 12


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tics.14 While Turkey, during the Kemalist era, portrayed itself as a state which fully embraced the Western values and geostrategic orientations, in its domestic conduct it allowed for the continuation of specific Ottoman customs: patriarchal societies, gender inequality, and small-scale agriculture to name a few, which kept Turkey trapped in an egocentric stagnation. As it was presented in Chap. 2, Turkey after the end of the WWII was fully aligned with the U.S. for reasons which had to do with the control of Soviet expansionism in the Straits. Indeed, the emerging American-Turkish pact was a marriage of convenience from both sides which derived from the geostrategic necessities of the Cold War era. Despite the evasive neutral approach of Turkey throughout the WWII, since Ankara avoided to take a clear pro- or anti-Axis stance, after the end of the war the U.S. opened NATO’s gates for Turkey because of its size and its strategic positioning in the Eastern Mediterranean and in the Middle East. Secondly, this was because Washington had already invested heavily in Turkey’s prospects through the application of the Truman Doctrine and then of the Marshall Plan. This sui generis favoritism from the American side persuaded Ankara that for the shining city on the hill only size matters, and there are no consequences from unsteady behavior. As a result, Turkey’s conduct throughout the Cold War in the region was utterly problematic towards other actors of the Western geostrategic network, such as Greece or the Baghdad Pact states, revealing that in reality Ankara did not identify itself as a part of the Western nucleus, but as a state that held a geostrategic partnership directly with Washington. This egocentric approach was fully ­accommodated by Washington throughout the Cold War, and afterwards it nourished Turkish egocentricity up to the point of today’s narcissistic revisionism. In order to find a scientific pattern to comprehend the way that Turkey moves in the international system, it is necessary to explore the Turkish foreign policy from a different angle than that which focuses on the personalities of the Turkish leaders, which is rather problematic15. I argue that a more balanced and thorough analysis on  The melancholy from the loss of the imperial status is exceptionally presented by the famous Turkish novelist and Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk in his autobiographical study about his city, Istanbul. As the writer underlines, “The city into which I was born was poorer, shabbier, and more isolated than it had ever been in its two—thousand—year history. For me it has always been a city of ruins and of—end—of empire melancholy. I’ve spent my life either battling with this melancholy, or (like all Istanbullus) making it my own” (2005: 6). This melancholy of the lost imperial identity contradicts the approaches of various Turkish historians who present the Ottoman Empire as a corrupted and benighted political structure, with a long course of decline that ended with the establishment of the Turkish Republic by Kemal Atatürk. 15  There are a number of Western analysts and diplomats who promote the view that Turkish narcissism is a result of the President Erdogan’s personality, which fervently supports Turkey’s neoOttoman foreign policy. Nevertheless, this analysis lacks in scientific validity because Turkey’s anti-Western attitude has appeared since the early days of the Republic, while the first major rifts with Washington appeared immediately after the end of the Cold War and in particular in 1996 and 1997, when Ankara turned down the American requests to make use of the Incirlik Air Base to strike targets in Iraq. It was the first time that Washington came to terms with the fact that Turkey’s conduct with the U.S. was far from being unconditional. During that period Mesut Yilmaz was the Turkish Premier, a systemic politician with long career as an MP, a minister, and eventually a PM. 14

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comprehending the fundamentals of the Turkish foreign policy can be achieved by following the Bandwagoning for Profit Theory. According to this theory that had been developed by Randall L. Schweller (1994), a state chooses to bandwagon for profit when it decides to change its status from a potential prey of the systemic domain to a potential perpetrator. Through the bandwagoning for profit conduct, the weaker state increases its chances to play a more decisive role in the international arena, compared to the rather insignificant role it has by just bandwagoning.16 The state that chooses to bandwagon for profit has the opportunity to amplify the prospects of its own survival as long as the alignment with the powerful factor remains active, and, as long as the alliance is able to fulfill the political gluttony of the participants. Therefore, the close asymmetrical interdependent relationship that is being produced between the stronger and the weaker factor in a bandwagoning-for-­ profit affair depends on the following provisions: • The weaker factor is able to pander to the stronger party’s ego. • The stronger factor is able to provide for its weaker counterpart’s lust for power. The ability and the willingness of the weak factor to continue flattering the ego of its stronger partner depend solely on its own volition. Some may support the view that the bandwagoning for profit is an opportunistic, hence undignified, method of seeking security. For example, John Vasquez (1997: 905) defined this behavioral pattern as any attempt to side with the stronger, especially for “opportunistic gain.” Vasquez commits himself to a moral interpretation regarding the entire concept, yet disregards the fact that the anarchic international system does not promote a conventional ethical system of values. In international politics a state’s survival coincides with the concept of dignity. Thus, only when a state implements rational policies that promote its survival can it feel dignified. In addition, the stronger factor’s commitment to bandwagoning for profit alliance is critical. This is due to the fact that the powerful factor is responsible for producing a security framework for the weaker factor. Therefore, it is not enough for the stronger factor just to be a security maximizer for the weaker one, but it also has to provide for new power-­ maximizing policies to this asymmetrical interdependent relation. Negligence is not an option for the stronger factor, because this would urge the weaker element to search for a new ally, able and willing to act as both security mechanism and power maximizer. Subsequently, bandwagoning for profit is an asymmetrical procedure regarding the level of responsibilities for the participant states. The genuine respon States that decide not to take an active part in the systemic procedures of the international arena and strive to survive by closely aligning with a more powerful state, offering their unconditional support in return by acting as puppet elements, are bandwagoning. As Stephen M. Walt (1987: 29–30) describes the bandwagoning process: “In general, the weaker the state, the more likely it is to bandwagon rather than balance. This situation occurs because weak states add little to the strength of a defensive coalition but incur the wrath of the more threatening state nonetheless. Because weak states can do little to affect the outcome (and may suffer grievously in the process), they must choose the winning side … Moreover, weak states can be expected to balance when threatened by states with roughly equal capabilities, but they will be tempted to bandwagon when threatened by a Great Power.”



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sibilities weigh heavily on the stronger side while the weaker holds the pivotal role in maintaining or bringing to an end this kind of alignment. After all, there is no bandwagoning for profit without the bandwagoner who seeks profit, which can only be supplied from the stronger factor that plays the role of the bandwagon. I argue that Turkey is a revisionist power in the Eastern Mediterranean because it has exercised a bandwagoning for profit approach since its appearance in the international system in 1923. Right after the demise of the Ottoman Empire and the formation of the Turkish Republic, Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish nation-state, abolished the caliphate and replaced it with a secular Western institutional structure. A defining statement regarding Turkey’s positioning in the post-­ WWI international system came from Tevfik Rustu Aras of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs during the early days of the Republic: The Balkans and Turkey and its frontiers is the eastern frontier of Turkey. Persia, Russia, Iraq and Afghanistan compose the Middle East, and everything east of that is the Far East. Turkey is now a western power; the death of a peasant in the Balkans is more important to Turkey than the death of a king in Afghanistan (Ahmad 2004: 18).

The above statement is important for the two following reasons: First, it shows that since the early days of the Republic, Turkey turns its back to the imperial past by redefining its positioning in the international system. Second, it operates a bandwagoning for profit approach, implementing a wave of the future advancement by adopting the prevailing way of thinking of the victorious side. In order for Turkey to be able to adopt its new role and to break free from its imperial past, Ankara had to be eager to show to its old foes and new allies alike that the state was making a new beginning, willing to ride the wave of the future by modifying everything, including its geostrategic orientation. According to Randal Schweller (1994: 96–97): States may bandwagon with the stronger side because they believe it represents the ‘wave of the future’ … Wave-of-the-future bandwagoning is typically induced by charismatic leaders and dynamic ideologies, especially when buoyed by massive propaganda campaigns and demonstrations of superiority on the battlefield.

Turkey’s role during the mid-war period and in WWII was characterized by constant diplomatic mobility by attempting to keep an equal distance from the two belligerent poles. Ankara only entered the war by the side of the Allies on February 23, 1945, a few days before its official end and when its outcome was certain. This last-­ minute entry, in addition to Ankara’s effort to reconnect itself with the winners, must be seen as another chapter of the Turkish bandwagoning for profit foreign policy. Once again, Turkey aligned with the victorious side in order, first, to participate from an advantageous position in the post-WWII international system and, second, to avoid any form of retribution by the victors for its long-term neutral stance during the war. In this case Turkey implemented a piling-on bandwagoning approach. As Randal Schweller (1994: 95) notes: Piling-on bandwagoning occurs when the outcome of a war has already been determined. States typically bandwagon with the victor to claim an unearned share of the spoils. When this is the motive, piling on is simply jackal bandwagoning that takes place at the end of the wars. Contra wise, states may pile on because they fear the victors will punish them if they

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do not actively side against the losers. Whatever the motivation, either opportunity or fear, piling on is a form of predatory buck-passing with regard to the winning coalition.

Eventually, the Dodecanese islands were given to Greece, Cyprus remained under the British control, and Turkey was given equal treatment by the Western world. In 1952, both Greece and Turkey joined NATO simultaneously and within a short period of time Ankara managed to elevate itself to an advantageous position, becoming the indispensable ally for the West in overcoming the Soviet challenge. Turkey’s piling-on bandwagoning had paid full dividends. Piling-on bandwagoning occurs when the outcome of a war has already been determined. States typically bandwagon with the victor to claim an unearned share of the spoils. During the Cold War, Ankara was one of Washington’s closest allies in the Eastern Mediterranean. Once again it chose to bandwagon for profit with the Western superpower, yet this time by implementing jackal bandwagoning that is the most aggressive type of this approach. According to Randal Schweller (1994: 93–94): Just as the lion attracts jackals, a powerful revisionist state or coalition attracts opportunistic revisionist powers. The goal of ‘jackal bandwagoning’ is profit. Specifically, revisionist states bandwagon to share in the spoils of victory. Because unlimited-aims revisionist powers cannot bandwagon (they are the bandwagon), offensive bandwagoning is done exclusively by lesser aggressors, which I call limited aims revisionist states. Typically, the lesser aggressor reaches an agreement with the unlimited-aims revisionist leader on spheres of influence, in exchange for which the junior partner supports the revisionist leader in expansionist aims.

Turkey, throughout the Cold War era, held an aggressive stance towards the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact states in order to maximize its profits and strengthen even more its links with the leader of the Western pole, the U.S. At the end of the Cold War, with the rise of multipolarity, Ankara was forced to redefine its basic orientations regarding the role it wanted to play in this new era. Glenn Snyder (1997: 19) provides an excellent analysis of the systemic volatility that the establishment of a multipolar system projects in the international environment: In a multipolar system there is almost always a degree of uncertainty about who is friend and who is foe. Alliance agreements reduce the uncertainty but can never eliminate it, because they are ultimately unforeseeable. A corollary is that of flexibility: states can readily defect and realign if their interests require it.

The end of the Cold War found Washington establishing a new foreign policy line with the aim to preserve its dominance in the international arena (Mastanduno 1997). However, Turkey opposed this moderate approach. As it has already been said above a bandwagoning-for-profit state demands from the powerful factor on the other side of this asymmetric interdependent relationship to continuously satisfy its revisionist greediness. The U.S. behaving as a status quo biased power was not useful for Turkey anymore, a development that was soon enough to undermine the utility of the American-Turkish pact. Furthermore, immediately after the end of the Cold War, Turkey began to feel uncomfortable in the shoes of a bandwagoner for profit simply because it began to regard itself not as a regional power, or simply as a pivotal state for NATO, but as


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one of the great powers of the new multipolar era. This can be seen in every statement of the Turkish Government today, with President Erdogan to be the first in line, repeating that Turkey is a great power and has to be treated accordingly.17 However, Erdogan and his entourage are not the first promoting this kind of rhetoric. During the early post-Cold War days, in February 1992, the then Prime Minister Süleyman Demirel stated that with the collapse of the Soviet Union, a gigantic Turkish world merged, stretching from the Adriatic Sea to the Great Wall of China (Robins 2003: 280). During the same period the then Turkish President of the Republic Turgut Özal stated, “If we do not make major mistakes, the next century [i.e. the twenty-first century] will be the century of the Turks” (Aral 2001: 85). Evidently, the Turkish narcissistic revisionism had been nourished long before Erdogan, during the early days of the post-Cold War era, when the dawn of a new era simultaneously fed Turkish narcissistic revisionism. Currently, Ankara’s aggressive behavior towards Greece in the Aegean Sea, its pro-Hamas stance against Israeli status, the purchase of the Russian S-400 antimissile system, and the deal with ROSATOM for the construction of a nuclear plant at Akkuyu in the Mersin Province, all point towards evidence of the Turkish excessive post-Cold War conduct. How does the U.S. face this critical consequence both for the American status in the Eastern Mediterranean and for the unity of NATO? Admittedly very poor, and outside of the framework of the five schools of thought of the U.S. foreign policy. The Trump administration, in an attempt to avoid a conclusive rift with Ankara, seems unwilling to show to Turkey that its erratic behavior is not acceptable under any conditions. Instead, the American officials are projecting an equivocal approach towards Turkey, combining strict public rhetoric with no diplomatic activity when Ankara does not readjust its course, which convinces Erdogan and the rest of the international system that the White House is not going to adopt any harsh measures against it. Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama followed that line, yet nothing can be compared with Trump’s approach towards Turkey. For example, the American President publicly stated in mid-July 2019, when the Russo-Turkish deal for the S-400 was closed and the first parts of the Russian antimissile system began to arrive in the Mürted Air Base near Ankara, that it is not fair for the U.S. nor for Turkey to have to cancel the deal with the F-35 stealth fighter program because Erdogan bought the Russian arsenal (Mason and Stewart 2019). What the American President did not mention is that the cancellation of the F-35 deal is strictly a legal issue for the U.S.  Under the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act [CAATSA], no NATO member state can purchase military equipment from Russia without facing the U.S. retribution. As things proceed, a NATO member will be able to fully operate an advanced Russian technological antimissile system by April 2020, while Turkish officials keep threatening Washington that soon the Turkish Air Force will acquire the Russian-made Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets.  Perhaps the most characteristic and alarming statement of that sort comes from Erdogan himself. In September 2019, during an official speech to Turkish entrepreneurs, he stated that it is unacceptable that Turkey is not allowed to have nuclear arms (Daragahi 2019).


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The U.S. has not clarified its own stance towards Turkish ambiguous approach. On the one hand, it sends strict messages to Ankara that is not going to tolerate its erratic behavior in the Eastern Mediterranean against Cyprus or Greece, while on the other hand Washington encourages Turkey to implement its revisionist plans in the Eastern Mediterranean. During his official visit to Athens the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, presented a crystal clear position towards the Turkish aggressive conduct in the region. In his official speech at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center on October 5, 2019, the same venue that Barack Obama used during his official visit in Athens back in 2016, the U.S.  Secretary of State sent a strict warning to Turkey. Pompeo, in an unusual nondiplomatic language, reassured the Greek audience that Washington will not tolerate Turkish illegal drillings inside Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone, and that the U.S. will “act in ways that protect and preserve these basic ideas of sovereignty, these basic ideas of the rule of law, and these basic ideas around the protection of private property” when he was asked what will be the American response in case of a new Imia Crisis (Ellis 2019b). While the Greeks left the Stavros Niarchos Foundation contented with what they heard, the American President was announcing that American troops of around 1000 would withdraw from the area around Syria’s borders with Turkey. This meant that Washington gave the green light to Ankara to invade North Syria and attack the units of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party [Partiya Yekitiya Demokrat/ PYD] and the People’s Protection Units [Yekineyen Parastina Gel/YPG], implementing Operation Peace Spring [Baris Pinari Harekati] (Wilson 2019; Frantzman 2019; Hall and Daragahi 2019). At first glance, Pompeo’s statement with that of Trump does not correlate with each other. While the first describes the American stance towards Turkish aggressiveness against two Western states in the Eastern Mediterranean, Greece and Cyprus, the latter tries to reshuffle the cards in Syria, making a bold decision that aims to weaken the links between Russia and Turkey. In an attempt to decipher Trump’s decision to give the green light to the Turkish Army for invading North Syria, Washington presumes that this would create a forceful military reaction from the Assad regime with Moscow in the middle, trying to balance things between its puppet state and its new accessory in the region. Nevertheless, this is an utterly simplistic approach. On the one hand, Russia can fully control the reactions from the side of Assad’s regime as things already show. This means that the diplomatic crisis which Washington anticipates in the Russo-Syrian-Turkish triangle will not take place, since Assad is fully dependable on the Kremlin. On the other hand, Donald Trump repeats exactly the same mistake that Barack Obama committed during his presidency with Hosni Mubarak. The Syrian Kurds were successfully fighting by the side of the U.S. Army against ISIS since 2015. Leaving PYD and YPG at the mercy of the Turkish Army is a direct self-blow against the American prestige. The Russian argument that Washington does not stand by the side of its allies gradually reappears, hammering American exceptionalism and credibility. For example, on October 16, 2019, during his appearance in the International Forum of Dialogue of Culture in the Greek island of Rhodes, the Russian Ambassador to the European Union, Vladimir Chizhov, publicly stated the following:


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We warned the Kurds that the American would abandon them. And here in Rhodes, I can personally warn the Greeks to think about whether a similar fate awaits them (EURACTIV 2019).

It goes without saying that this statement made quite an impact not only in Greece but also in the whole of the Eastern Mediterranean, mainly because it brings back memories of the commencement of the Egyptian Spring, the collapse of Mubarak regime, and also that the U.S., in effect, jettisoned Mubarak at the start of the Arab Spring. It also shows what the Russian official line will be for the next months and how it will move in the steep paths of international politics, since Vladimir Chizhov is a top Russian diplomat with direct links with the Kremlin. The U.S. approach sends the Syrian Kurds directly to Moscow’s arms, weakens Washington’s strong links with the Kurds in North Iraq, offers the whole of Syria to Russia, and gives the ground to Russia and Turkey to work closer together in Syria, while Turkey’s neo-revisionism is encouraged once again. Syrian Kurds comprehended that no other state can stand between them and Turkey except Russia; therefore the deepening of diplomatic relations between the two sides emerged almost immediately after the commencement of the Turkish Operation Peace Spring. As a matter of fact, on October 22, 2019, Moscow and Ankara, during a meeting between Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi, agreed to jointly patrol the 20-mile-deep zone in the Turkish-Syrian borders after removing all Kurdish militias from the area (Fahim et al. 2019). The evacuation of the U.S.  Armed Forces from North Syria is an extremely bad decision from the Trump administration, perhaps the greatest mistake of the U.S. foreign policy in the Eastern Mediterranean together with Barack Obama’s nonintervention policy during the first stages of the Syrian Civil War which will gravely affect the American prestige globally and the U.S. status regionally. Perhaps, a good idea for Donald Trump’s opponent in the Presidential Elections 2020 is to compete for office under the general slogan MARA.18 In case Ankara will continue its own paradoxical policies with no consequences from the Western side, then this will continue having a negative effect on Western presence in the Eastern Mediterranean. If Turkey is not admonished for its actions, then it is only a matter of time that other Western elements will follow Ankara’s footsteps, or simply they will downgrade their participation in the North Atlantic Treaty. Turkey is trapped in a sort of illusionary Luffberry, a descending circle chasing its tail, which arouses even further its narcissistic revisionism. As long as the U.S. delays drawing a red line, the possibilities for an existential crisis inside NATO grow larger, while at the same time, American prestige suffers a considerable loss of leverage. On top of that, the longer the U.S. ignores facing the oriental music coming out of the Presidential palace in Ankara, the harder will be later on to efficiently find an exit from the current conundrum. As I have already mentioned in previous paragraphs, this kind of approach arguing that as soon as President Erdogan finishes his political career Turkey will put an end to its narcissistic behavior is a misconcep-


 Make America Reliable Again [in its foreign policy].

5 Conclusion


tion. Turkey always had a revisionist agenda, yet today it has to be treated as a great power and not as a pivotal regional actor. As long as this belief is indirectly accommodated by the U.S. in particular through inaction or profound inconsistency of the White House, the Eastern Mediterranean will be facing the dire consequences of Turkish neo-revisionism (Litsas 2019). How can Washington face this Turkish eccentric behavior? It goes without saying that hesitancy does not help. On the contrary, for the Turkish political culture such a behavior is being considered as a clear sign of weakness or of inadequacy. The White House must clearly convey the message to Ankara that the American presence in the Eastern Mediterranean is not being dependent on the Turkish preferences. By failing to show to Ankara that there are other elements in the Eastern Mediterranean too that may reinforce the Western presence in the region, e.g., Israel, Cyprus, Greece, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Egypt, the Kurdish Syrian militias, and the Kurds of Northern Iraq, Turkish narcissistic revisionism will be getting bigger and bigger. This approach must also be accompanied by specific resolutions from the U.S. administration towards the aforementioned states and actors, including Washington’s political support, new American hi-tech investments, etc. Last but not least, the U.S. must inform every involved side in the region’s balance of power that any decision promoting Turkish nuclear aspirations will not be tolerated, simply because Ankara with an access to nuclear weaponry will be a constant threat for international politics and for the Eastern Mediterranean peace. Now is the time for the American foreign policy to adopt once again the Hamiltonian decisiveness, the Wilsonian virtue, and the Jacksonian dynamic response and prove with its attitude that international politics is not just a Hobbesian venue where the most cunning may survive. If Turkish narcissistic revisionism will not be defeated diplomatically, then the U.S. presence in the Eastern Mediterranean will be severely affected, the status quo of the region will be broken down, and peaceful coexistence will be undermined.

5  Conclusion A new era has risen in the Eastern Mediterranean, where the multipolar systemic challenges combined with conceptual gaps in the U.S. foreign policy create an excessively volatile geostrategic environment. It is vital though to separate the challenges that the U.S. has to face in the region today. For the first time ever since 1805, the White House finds itself in a demanding position, where the U.S. has to develop a multidimensional approach which will be able to address and explicitly categorize the different nature and shape of the given stimulus in the region. First, China represents a major source of competition for the U.S., projecting mainly a systemic economic and soft power challenge. As I have already argued, despite the fact that according to IR theory a state with considerable confidence may start operating as a revisionist element, and thus become a real threat for the existing international status quo, China projects a rational and non-revisionist stance in the


5  The U.S. Facing the Challenges of the Twenty-First Century in the Eastern…

Eastern Mediterranean. Therefore, it is more possible for Beijing to operate through the formula of defensive realism, searching for the preservation of the existing status quo globally and exploring for new markets in the Eastern Mediterranean, than resorting to the variables of offensive realism. If the U.S. decides to confront China by analyzing the current ventures of Beijing in the Eastern Mediterranean as a series of antagonizing acts towards the traditional American status in the region, then the Sino gambit would be a disproportionate move. On the contrary, China’s course of actions in the Eastern Mediterranean must be seen as a golden opportunity for the U.S. to exit its comfort zone, to comprehend the new economic realities of the twenty-first century, and to reapproach the Eastern Mediterranean with a new growth plan which can help the region to successfully meet the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The U.S. has a clear lead in hi-tech and green economy sectors, which may be used for the implementation of a series of new direct investments in the region, thus enabling direct connections with the economic future of the Eastern Mediterranean. Overall, I support the view that the U.S. can peacefully coexist with China in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Chinese competition in the region’s economic status quo may give a great push to the U.S. to implement a series of new policies which would solidify the leading American position in the Eastern Mediterranean. Second, Russia clearly represents an antagonistic factor for the U.S. status in the Eastern Mediterranean. This does not mean that the region travels back in time to meet a re-emergence of the Cold War era, nor has Russia reached the level of American leverage in the international scene. As I have already argued, Russia operates a sui generis revisionism which does not aim at the expulsion of the U.S. from the Eastern Mediterranean, but to grow a level of friction against America in the region. According to Russian strategic thinking, by applying growing geostrategic pressure upon the U.S., Washington will increase the rate of its mistakes. This will enhance the hesitancy of the U.S. to be more involved in the future shaping of the regional structure, offering more opportunities to the Kremlin to operate its own intrusive policies in a region where the Kremlin has worked hard to upgrade its status. Moreover, the U.S. must pay a great attention to the rise of the Russian soft power, and to the various methods of the Russian sharp power, in order to efficiently meet the challenges, not allowing Moscow to advance its agenda further in Eastern Mediterranean affairs. Last but not least, I have argued that the most perilous condition for the U.S. in the Eastern Mediterranean is Turkish narcissistic revisionism and inconsistency of Trump administration to send clear messages to Ankara that this sort of a behavior will not be tolerated. With its current conduct in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey openly questions NATO and the American stature, sending the message to the rest of the international system that Washington is neither willing nor able to deal with its problematic idiosyncrasies. Thus, dealing effectively with Turkey’s problematic behavior must be high on the American agenda in the Eastern Mediterranean, as it not only affects the present status of the region but also undermines the American prestige globally. Turkey must receive the message that its bad choices bring unpleasant outcomes for the Turkish economy, in trade and in the state’s interna-



tional status. In a different case, Turkey’s narcissistic revisionism has the potential to be devastating for the Western presence in the region, the unity of NATO, and peace in the Eastern Mediterranean.

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‘When America does what was promis’d, When through These States walk a hundred millions of superb persons, When the rest part away for superb persons and contribute to them, When breeds of the most perfect mothers denote America, Then to me and mine our due fruition …’ Walt Whitman, “So Long”

At the beginning of this study my preoccupation was to explore the various applications of the five different schools of thought of American foreign policy in the Eastern Mediterranean. A challenging task that required me to begin in the early days of the Republic when ideology and political necessities were consolidating an approach that proved in some ways unique in international politics. This is a long historical period and in studying it I have moved constantly between the shores of the Atlantic Ocean and the big blue of the Mediterranean Sea. This monograph not only set itself the goal of assessing the different applications of American foreign policy in the Eastern Mediterranean throughout the centuries (of which several had a monumental impact on the sociopolitical evolution of the region), but also followed a parallel route, scrutinizing the impact that the osmosis between the U.S. foreign policy and the political conditions of the Eastern Mediterranean had on the physiognomy and mentality of a nation that became great because it never felt the need to keep this greatness only for itself. During the long gestation of this monograph I became convinced that for the U.S. the Eastern Mediterranean is something much more than a zone of primary interests, a region that can accommodate the American desire for new horizons, new opportunities, and new dimensions. It became a destiny, an enticement to American sailors to leave their comfort zone and reach to new grounds. Washington’s goal was not to establish new colonies, or puppet states. The true goal was to experience the challenges that the region had, and still has, to offer. The true task for the newly born state was to act as a normal state, seeking out all these opportunities that every state needs in order to be able to survive in the anarchic and antagonistic international domain, without however impairing the aura of its ontological exceptionalism.

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Throughout the writing of this book, it became more than apparent that the shining city on the hill has successfully managed the task implicit in its great motto e pluribus unum, somewhat in the manner of a famous poem by C.  P. Cavafy, the celebrated poet from the thriving Greek community of Alexandria in Egypt. In “The City” the protagonist tries to escape from his urban confines, to find new experiences, and to meet new people. Yet, the city tells him that there will be for him no other city than this. A perplexed connection has been created between the city and the protagonist, such that ultimately no one can truly tell who controls the will of the other: The wishes and the desires of the protagonist to travel to new places and leave the city behind or the perpetual presence of the city claiming that it is his destiny? It goes without saying that a geographical zone like the Eastern Mediterranean cannot be a destiny for any nation, an ontological dimension of the existential reflections of a state in the international arena. It seems, however, that since the earliest days of the American Republic the Eastern Mediterranean has attracted American interest like a magnet. This attraction has had everything to do with the fact that the U.S. was and is a naval state, needing a presence in the Eastern Mediterranean in order to promote its global naval trade networks. Yet, this magnetism must also be seen as the inner need of the U.S. to preserve its links with the so-called Old World and particularly with the Old World’s naval soul. Since the early nineteenth century, the U.S. has been in constant contact with the Eastern Mediterranean as either a war machine, a diplomatic mechanism, or a deus ex machina in times of despair for the region and its people. Throughout this long journey, Washington committed many mistakes in the region, yet it achieved many successes as well, managing either to preserve the peaceful balance of power or to find a way out of truly labyrinthine problems. I argue that throughout the last centuries American performance in the region has had a positive dimension overall, with the U.S. present in every major evolutionary phase of the region. The fate of the American nation has been closely linked to that of the Eastern Mediterranean for reasons of pure interest, geostrategic advancements, economic access, and cultural readjustments. All the above produce a pragmatic and a metaphysical interconnection between the U.S. and the Eastern Mediterranean that may, in the near future, offer the first ingredients for the reinvention of the transatlantic ideals. American foreign policy and the five different schools of thoughts are of great interest to the researcher. The U.S. foreign policy resembles a bionic child that has both immense power to exercise its will and an unconventional way of thinking in order to achieve this. Even until today when the U.S. sets itself the goal of making America great again, to be great again, surely the most contradictory political slogan in the history of liberal democracies, there are many U.S. politicians, academics, career diplomats, or military officers who feel deeply the great responsibility of America’s tremendous might and try to handle it sensibly. Hamiltonianism, Wilsonianism, Jeffersonianism, Jacksonianism, and Obamianism are different methodologies that set as their goal effective stewardship and control over the reactions of this bionic child, which from time to time appears in international politics as a graceful emancipator, a generous donor, a merciless avenger, a fearless warrior, a selfish contender, or an undecided train spotter. Yet all these different aspects of



the same ontology make every attempt to categorize the conduct of U.S. foreign policy a unique journey through the archipelago of scientific research. This monograph set out to open up discussion between academics, politicians, and diplomats about the methods of the U.S. foreign policy in the Eastern Mediterranean, in relation to the shaping of both the region’s sociopolitical, economic, and geostrategic features and those of the U.S. itself. On top of that, my ambition has been to initiate theoretical discussions on the relevance of the five different schools of thought to the modern challenges confronting the U.S. presence in the Eastern Mediterranean, and to throw light on whether and if so how the U.S. can truly contribute to the evolution of the region itself. By comprehending the U.S. foreign policy in the Eastern Mediterranean, perhaps we will be given the opportunity to probe for the prospects of a transatlantic structure in the region too, given the fact that this is the future of the Western world as a sociopolitical entity. Thus, I have tried not to present a historical analysis but rather to make use of historical facts in order to explore the falsification test in various IR theories and to categorize the different approaches of the U.S. foreign policy. Nevertheless, the question that a student of mine posed to me in the lecture theater, why the Eastern Mediterranean, still stands, and it can be answered better by a poet than by an International Relations Theorist: ‘You said: “I’ll go to another country, go to another shore, find another city better than this one. Whatever I try to do is fated to turn out wrong and my heart lies buried like something dead. How long can I let my mind moulder in this place? Wherever I turn, wherever I look, I see the black ruins of my life, here, where I’ve spent so many years, wasted them, destroyed them totally.” You won’t find a new country, won’t find another shore. This city will always pursue you. You’ll walk the same streets, grow old in the same neighborhoods, turn gray in these same houses. You’ll always end up in this city. Don’t hope for things elsewhere: there’s no ship for you, there’s no road. Now that you’ve wasted your life here, in this small corner, you’ve destroyed it everywhere in the world.’

“The City” by Constantine P. Cavafy. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard


A Abdullah I bin Al-Hussein of Jordan, 63 Acheson, D., 59, 61, 81 Adams, J.Q., 3, 6, 13 Admiral Forrest Sherman, 60, 61 Admiral Vladimir Vassorin, 194 Aegean Sea, 41, 90, 91, 93, 94, 204 Afghanistan Taliban, 15, 22, 120, 121, 132 Aleksandrovich, Daniil (Prince), 192 Algerian National Liberation Front (Jabhatu I-Tahriri I-Watani)., 68 Ali Sabri, 70 al-Nour Party, 126 American Civil War, 9, 26 American College of Greece, 176 American identity American exceptionalism, 11, 13–16, 23, 28, 42, 142, 205 American individualism, 8 American missionary operations, 19, 20, 47 American mobility, 11 dispensable nation, 10 American Moroccan treaty, 1786, 45 American War of Independence American Declaration of Independence, 3, 6, 7, 13, 23, 41–43, 49 Anatolia, 44, 56, 87 Ancien regime, 46, 109, 162, 177 Anschuetz, N., 78 Arab Spring, 27, 103–147, 171, 181, 194, 195, 206 Armistice of Mudros, 1918, 56 Asia Minor, 44, 56 Ataturk, K., 88, 91, 200, 202

Atlantic Ocean, 1, 3–5, 14, 16, 18, 43, 45–47, 55, 194 AVGI, 84 B Baathism, 139 Baker, J., 18 Balkans, 28, 46, 54, 57, 60, 90, 115, 117, 189, 192, 202 Ball, G., 81 Baltic states, 18, 165, 189 Bandwagoning for profit, 201–203 Barbary States First Barbary War, 52 Bartholomeos, E.P., 199 Basil al-Assad, 136 Bassar al-Assad, 127, 141 Battle of Derne, 1805, 48 Ben-Gurio, D., 69, 76 Bevin, E., 54 Biden, J., 125, 126 Black Sea, 5, 47, 53, 56, 58–60, 77, 146, 194, 206 Black Sea Fleet, 194 Britain, 3, 12, 25, 43, 53–55, 57, 59–61, 66, 68–70, 72–76, 87, 95, 108, 129, 135, 137, 192, 193 Bush, G.H.W., 19, 118, 120 Bush, G.W., 10, 21, 117, 120, 170, 204 Byrnes, J.F., 54, 60 Byroade, H.A., 66 C Capitol Hil, 11, 86, 120, 182 Care-free rider vs. free-rider, 135

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218 Canonica, Pietro, 57 Center Union (Ένωσις Κέντρου), 77, 80 Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), 82 Challe, Mauris, 73 China 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative, 186 Belt and Road Initiative, 186 Century of Humiliation, 188 Churchill, W., 55, 58, 161 Clark Kerr, A. Sir., 53 Clinton, B., 117, 204 Clinton, H., 121, 123, 125, 126, 132, 143 Coalition of Radical Left (ΣΥΡΙΖΑ), 161 Colonel Gamal Abd al-Nasser, 63 Convention of Constantinople, 1888, 65 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, 2017 (CAATSA), 204 Cyprus Cypriot Question, 71, 79, 88 Enosis, 79, 87, 88 Greek Armed Forces in Cyprus (ΕΛΔΥΚ), 89 Tripartite Conference in London, 1955, 87 Turkish Invasion, 1974, 86, 88, 89 D Demirel, Süleyman, 204 Democratic Left Party (ΔΗΜΑΡ), 159 Democratic Peace Theory, 22, 117 Deraa, 141–143 de Tocqueville, Alexis, 12, 14 Dijsselbloem, Jeroen, 165 Dionysios Solomos, 41 Dodecanese islands, 91, 92, 203 Dogru Yol Partisi (Ture Path Party), 91 E Eaton, W., 51 Eden, A., 65, 69, 70, 73–75 Edward Church, 49 Egypt Aswan Dam, 66–69, 76 Coptic Church, 123 Eisenhower, D.D., 64, 65, 67–71, 73, 74, 76, 124 Erbakan, Necmettin, 91 Erdegün, Mehmet, 59 Erdoğan, Recep Tayyip, 91, 206 Eurozone, 156–158, 160, 161, 167–175, 177, 178, 194

F Farouk I, 63 Fear (Φόβος), 119 Forrestal, J., 61 Fort Mims massacre, 1813, 29 France, 3, 4, 11, 15, 16, 43, 50, 68–70, 72–76, 95, 108, 129, 135, 137, 175, 192, 193 Franco-American Quasi-War, 50 The Freedom and Justice Party (Ḥizb al-Ḥurriyyah wa al-ʿAdala), 126 G Gaddafi, Muamar, 85, 130, 131 Gazier, A., 73 Geithner, T., 172 General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, 195 General Lauris Norstad, 61 Germany, 16, 29, 53, 57, 70, 126, 129, 134, 135, 160, 161, 170, 171, 173–177, 192 Offshore Balancer, 170 Ordoliberalism, 160, 175, 177 Weimar Republic, 57 G-8 Genoa Conference, 2001, 163 Ghonim, Wael, 122 Gorbachev, M., 18 Greek anti-Americanism 17 of November, 85 Greek Civil War Battle of Athens, December, 1944, 54 Greek Democratic Army (Δημοκρατικός Στρατός), 53, 54, 79 Greek People’s Liberation Army (Ελληνικός Λαϊκός Απελευθερωτικός Στρατός), 53 Greek Communist Party (Κομουνιστικό Κόμμα Ελλάδος), 53, 77, 78, 80, 163 Greek economic crisis GREXIT, 156, 171–174 Glorified defeat, 174 Greek Evangelicals, 47 Greek junta Greek State’s Intelligence Service (ΚΥΠ), 83 Greek Revolution, 1821, 12 Gunboat Diplomacy, 11 H Hafez al-Assad, 112, 138–140, 146 Halki Seminary, 199

Index Hamilton, A. Hamiltonian School of Thought, 17–19 Hassan al-Banna, 126 Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, 116 Henderson, L.W., 61 Hickerson, J.D., 61 Hmeymin Air Base, 196 Ho Chi Minh, 69, 85 Hoover, H. Jr., 66, 71 Hoxha, Enver, 55 Human Terrain System, 31 Humphrey, G.M., 75 Hungarian Uprising, 1956, 15 I Imia crisis, 41, 87–95, 205 India Indian Ocean, 52, 185 Indochina War, 14 International Criminal Court, 18 International law, 18, 31, 73, 92 International Monetary Fund, 75, 157, 162 Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), 121, 134, 136, 143–145, 205 Islamic Welfare Party (Refah Partisi), 91 Israel, 62, 63, 66, 68, 69, 72–76, 95, 110, 123, 127, 141, 145, 182, 187, 207 Italy in Libya, 130 J Jackson, A. Jacksonian School of Thought, 25 Jackson Day Dinner, 1920, 27 Jefferson, T. Jeffersonian school of thought, 23–26 Jihadism 9/11, 114, 119 Al Qaeda, 33, 119, 143 Johnson, L.B., 5, 81, 86 K Karamanlis, Konstantinos, 80 Karamanlis, Kostas Al., 157 Kemal Pasha/Kemal Ataturk, 44, 56, 57 Kennedy, J.F., 33, 64, 118 Khaisek, Chiang, 67 Khaled Mohamed Said, 122, 123 Khalifa Haftar, 134, 195 King Idris, 130

219 Klimov, Andrei, 127 Konstantinos II, 77 Korean War, 22 Kostas Simitis, 93, 94 L Lausanne Treaty, 1923, 57, 87, 90 Lawson, E.B., 69 League of Nations, 22, 27, 92 Lew, J., 175, 176 Libya F.C. Al-Ahly, Benghazi, 130 F.C. Al-Ahly, Tripoli, 130 Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (Al-Jama’a al Islamiyyah al Muqatilah bi-Libya), 130 Louisiana Purchase, 1803, 11 M Macmillan, H., 70, 75 MacVeagh, L., 56 Mahmoud El Nokrashy, 63 Mahmoud Jibril el-Warfally, 132 Makarios, Archbishop, 88, 89 Make America Reliable Again (MARA), 206 Mao Tse Tung, 67 Marshall, G.C. Marshall Plan, 62, 200 Maury, J.M., 82 Mediterranean Sea, 1, 4, 5, 43, 49, 51, 52, 55, 60, 144, 186, 189, 192, 195 Menendez, R., 182 Menzies, R, Sir., 71 Merkel, A., 160, 161, 169, 171, 172 Middle East, 5, 19, 23, 27, 45, 46, 52, 53, 63, 64, 68, 72, 73, 84, 105, 113, 121, 127, 128, 135, 141, 146, 194, 198, 200, 202 Mitsotakis, Konstantinos, 90 Mohamed Bouazizi, 105, 106, 115 Mohamed Morsi, 126, 195 Monroe Doctrine, 1823, 46 Montreux Convention, 1936, 58, 59 Morgan, F.E. Sir. KCB, 54 Mubarak, H. Sharm el-Shaikh Conference, 2000, 127 Muhammad Naguib, 64 Mürted Air Base, 204 Muslim Brotherhood, 63, 112, 126, 129, 140


220 N National Movement Party (Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi), 91 National Radical Union (Εθνική Ριζοσπαστική Ένωσις), 81 National Republican Greek League (Eθνικός Δημοκρατικός Ελληνικός Σύνδεσμος), 53 NATO, 15, 18, 31, 77, 79, 83, 85, 86, 89, 93, 94, 131, 132, 134, 135, 143, 170, 174, 184, 196, 199, 203, 204, 206, 208 Nea Dimokratia (ΝΔ), 157 Niles, T., 93 Nixon, R., 88 North Korea, 11, 32 Nouri al-Maliqi, 117 Nutting, A., 73 O Obama, B. Al-Azhar University, 117 Barack Obama in Cairo, 32, 117, 125 Barack Obama in Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, 155, 205 obamian school of thought, 30–33, 118 Unversity of Cairo, 117, 118 Old World, 2, 3, 11, 13, 16–18 Operation Black Arrow, 66 Operation Desert Shield, 19 Operation Desert Storm, 19 Operation Inherent Resolve, 144 Operation Musketeer (Suez Crisis), 74, 76 Operation Neptune Spear, 33 Operation Odyssey Dawn, 132, 133, 135 Operation Peace Spring, 145, 205, 206 Operation Vittles, 8 Orthodox Christian Church, 19 Ottoman American Treaty of Trade and Navigation, 1830, 46 Ottoman Empire Sublime Porte, 44, 46 Young Turks, 110 Özal, Turgut, 204 P Pact of Amman, 1956, 72 Paine, T., 13, 48 Panagiotis Kammenos, 164 Panetta, L., 143 Panhellenic Socialist Party (ΠΑΣΟΚ), 157 Papadopoulos, G. (Lt. Colonel), 83 Papandreou, Andreas, 78, 81–84, 157

Papandreou, Georgios, 77, 80, 157 Papandreou, Giorgos, 156, 157 Pasha, K., 88, 91, 200, 202 Pattakos, B.S., 83 Patterson, R., 61 Pearce, D.D., 166, 175 Pearl Harbor, 1941, 29 Pentagon, 11, 120, 143 People’s Protection Units (Yekineyen Parastina Gel (Y.P.G)), 205 Pineau, Christian, 68 Pompeo, M., 182, 183, 205 Potsdam Conference, 1945, 59 Prague Spring, 1968, 15, 163 Presbyterians, Armenian, 47 Protestantism, 18–20 Pyatt, G.R., 182, 183 R Reagan, R., 118 Reformist Democracy Party (Islahatçı Demokrasi Partisi), 91 Retrenchment Doctrine (Obama), 128 Roman Catholic Church, 19 Roosevelt, F.D., 58, 60 Roundtree, W., 67 Rubio, M., 182 Rusk, D., 86 Russia Pessimistic Pragmatism, 192 ROSATOM, 195, 204 Russkiy Mir, 197 S-300, 195, 196 S-400, 182, 204 Tartus Naval Base, 195–196 S Sadam Hussein, 19 Samaras, Antonis, 90, 159, 161, 162, 171, 172 Schäuble, Wolfgang, 160, 171, 172 The Septemvriana, 1955, 88 Sharp Power, 190, 196, 198, 199, 208 Shia Islam, 22, 140 Sidi Bouzid, 105–107 Smith, W.B., 60 Somalia, 1991, 28 South-Eastern Europe, 45, 90, 174, 182, 196 Soviet Union Red Army, 56, 60 Stalin, J., 55, 58, 59, 173 State Department, 6, 11, 67, 78, 84, 86, 93, 94, 111, 116, 117, 123, 124, 131, 142 Storchak, Sergei, 165

Index The Straits convention, 57 Crisis, 1945, 60 Straits of Tiran, 72 Strasbourg–Kehl Summit, 2009, 170 Suez Crisis Nationalization of the Suez Canal Company, 1956, 67 Suez Canal Base Agreement, 1954, 65 Suleiman, O., 125 Sunni Islam, 113, 140, 145 Syria Alawite, 139, 146 Hama’s massacre, 141, 146 Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (Partiya Yekitiya Demokrat (P.Y.D)), 205 T Tahrir uprising, 123, 125, 127, 128, 195 Talbot, W.P., 82, 84 Tartus Naval Base, 195 Tehran Conference, 1943, 58 Tevfik Rustu Aras, 202 Thucydides Thucydides’ Stasis, 107, 108 Thucydides’ Trap, 188, 191 Tito, Josip Broz, 55 Transatlantic ideals, 2 Treaty of Paris, 1783, 3, 43 Trujillo, Rafael, 85 Truman, H.S. Point IV Program, 67 Truman Doctrine, 8, 41, 52–62, 95, 156, 200 Trump, Donald Make America Great Again (MAGA), 181 Tsipras, Alexis, 161–169, 171–173, 175–177 Tufts Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, 14 Tunisia, 49, 105–107, 111, 115, 116, 122, 123, 129, 141 Turkey Turkish narcissistic revisionism, 199, 207, 208 Varlik Vergisi, 87 Turkish narcissistic revisionism, 204 U Unified Democratic Left (Ενωμένη Δημοκρατική Αριστερά), 77 U.N. Security Council, 18, 73, 83, 88, 132, 134

221 U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 (Responsibility to Protect), 134 U.S. Financial Crisis, 2008, 115 U.S. Marines, 26, 48, 51, 52 U.S. Navy Squadron in the Mediterranean, 1801, 44 U.S. Sixth Fleet, 147, 193, 194 V Vandenberg, A., 61 Varoufakis, Y., 164–168, 171, 176 Venizelos, Evangelos, 171 Vietnam War Vietnam Syndrome, 25 Vladimir Chizhov, 205 Vladimir Putin, 127, 198, 206 von Bismarck, O., 28 Vyacheslav Molotov, 58 W Warsaw Pact, 15, 18, 68, 90, 193, 203 Washington, G., 5, 12, 23, 41 White House, 11, 15, 21, 22, 24, 30, 32, 33, 50, 58, 61, 63, 64, 67, 69, 70, 73, 74, 76, 86, 94, 115, 117–121, 124–128, 134, 135, 142–144, 146, 169–172, 186, 194, 204, 207 Wieser, T., 167 Wilson, W. Wilsonian school of thought, 19–22, 26, 132 Winthrop, J., 12 Wisner, C.F.G., 125 X Xiaoping, Den, 184 Xi Jinping, 186 Y Yalta Conference, 1945, 58 Yugoslav Civil War, 14, 90, 117 Yugoslavia, 55, 63 Yusuf ibn Ali Karamanli, 50 Z Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, 106