The Corner

Gambling on Greece

Reading Giles Milton’s book about the 1922 destruction of Smyrna while pausing now & then in good journalistic due diligence to check headlines, brought up some odd dissonances.


Eurozone delays Greek loan lifeline

Greece crisis: Revolution in the offing?

Don’t Be Surprised If Athens Goes Up in Flames

Papandreou pleads for unity to tackle crisis

Etc., etc. Yet here I am reading about 1920, when it seemed for a short time as though the dream of restoring the Byzantine Empire, or at least of encompassing all ethnic Greeks in a single homeland without relocations, might come true. British Prime Minister David Lloyd George bet the bank on it. Milton:

“He is persuaded that the Greeks are the coming power in the Mediterranean both on land and on the sea and wants to befriend them,” wrote Britain’s senior field marshal, Sir Henry Wilson, in his diary. “The whole of Lloyd George’s foreign policy is chaotic and based on totally fallacious values of men and affairs.”

So it proved. It’s hard not to conclude — though of course there is much more to be said — that Greece belongs to the category of nations/ethnicities that are their own worst enemies, a category in which I’d include Ireland, Italy, the Arabs, and China. Compare, say, the Japanese, Israelis, and Turks, who, whatever their internal disagreements and dysfunctions, turn as one body to face the outside enemy.

A friend reminds me that among those commanding Greek troops in the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-22 was Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark. Among his other distinctions, Andrew was the father of Prince Philip, husband of the present British Queen. Philip turned 90 on June 10th. Happy belated birthday, Sir.

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