New York, NY | Originally published on: June 28, 2014
Speech held at Pan-Macedonian Association USA event
Reasons behind the Athenian defeat in the Peloponnesian War
Thucydides states that the three greatest events related to the Peloponnesian War were fear, honor, and self-interest.
Regarding fear, Thucydides indicates that the growth of Athens pushed Sparta to launch the war. On the other hand, Pericles paid tribute to the dead soldiers delivering the most famous statement, “any place is the tomb of prominent men; they are honored not only by columns and inscriptions in their own land, but in foreign nations on memorials graven not in stone but in the hearts and minds of people.”[i]
As Thucydides put it, the personal self-interest and the personal gain of those in power was the reason that Athens was driven to oblivion. Other historians, orators and politicians have collaborated Thucydides assessment on issues of private gain versus public interest and political flattery versus frankness and honesty. Pericles died in 429 BC, long before the end of the Peloponnesian War, and he was fortunate enough not to see the shameful end of the Athenian hegemony.
According to Xenophon, Athens surrendered to Sparta in 404 BC, and its allies surrendered soon after. The capitulation stripped Athens of its walls, its fleet, and all of its overseas possessions. The Athenian hegemony was over. Sparta’s allies, especially the Corinthians and the Thebans, demanded that Athens should be burnt to the ground and all its citizens enslaved. However, the Spartans, magnanimous as they were, refused to destroy a city that had done a good service at a time of great danger to Greece, alluding to the Persian Wars.[ii]
In 13 paragraphs, Thucydides enumerates what caused the Athenians’ failure. Malcolm Heath has summarized the reasons behind the failure, as follows:
a) Pericles' successors pursued projects which would bring honor and self-interest to the individual if they succeeded, but which would damage the city's war-effort if they failed; they did this out of private ambition and for private gain.
b) Pericles' unique position meant that he could speak his mind to the people. His successors, because they were competing with each other for political influence, had to say what the people wanted to hear.
c) The Sicilian expedition was defeated primarily because the Athenians at home did not provide adequate support to those in the field; this was a result of private quarrels in pursuit of political pre-eminence.
d) Even after the defeat in Sicily, Athens contrived to hold out against an apparently overwhelming coalition of opposing forces, until internal dissensions brought it down; in other words, the city defeated itself.[iii]
Two and a half millennia ago, political animosities, bickering, self-promotion, and especially philarchy were the reasons behind the Athenian defeat in the Peloponnesian War.
That was then. This is now. Examining the present situation is disheartening, not just in Greece, but here as well.
Copying the politicians of ancient Athens, the present politicians have brought the country to the brink of destruction not only for money, but also for personal glory. We have similar problems within the diaspora with flatterers who are concerned more about their self-promotion and their inclusion in supercilious circles both abroad and in Greece.
Greece has at least seven equally important issues of national security, national interest, and also cultural unity, i.e. Aegean, Thrace, Macedonia, Epirus, Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), Cyprus and Greek Genocide. Although not obvious, they are all vital to the existence of Greece and the Greek ethnos. They are vital in importance because they are directed toward the territorial integrity of Greece, its national security and national unity.
NATO and Skopje
Regressing to NATO’s past, we deem that the reasons for its expansion were accidental owing to the disintegration of the Warsaw Pact in 1991. It was not the result of a strategic plan, but the consequence of political spontaneity. The disintegration of the Warsaw Pact compelled the Alliance to change its role. NATO has evolved from a strictly defense organization to a framework of stabilization of a suddenly unstable geopolitical situation in Eastern Europe.
The emerging European Union was in no position to offer reassuring security, and so only NATO could soundly fill the void. The Eastern Bloc countries felt induced to join an Alliance that would secure their newly freed lives from communism. There was no way of preventing the spontaneous feeling of the former Warsaw Pact countries toward the only Western institution that could simultaneously assure their security and help them democratize. However, the unintended consequence of this spontaneous surge brought about an evolution, an unplanned transition that the Alliance had never before envisioned. From a static, defensive force, it changed to an expeditionary force, which in practice means that from a defensive alliance it became a security alliance.
Before the fall of the Wall, NATO accepted countries based on their geopolitical location and their geostrategic importance. After 1989, NATO changed the rules in order to reflect the new reality. Because the membership to NATO is voluntary, before a country joins the Alliance the new members have to adhere to all democratic principles as a matter of fact, not as a matter of fiction. And although the world has changed due to a proliferation of weapons and new technologies, making possible the specter of chaos and mass destruction in any of our capitals, the fact remains that future members must abide by the rules of the membership. The present situation is very different from the situation the Alliance was facing before 1989.
The understanding of how NATO brings stability to a region is based on false premises. Yes, it does bring regional stability, but only when each of the allied countries are already domestically stable, which is the result of democracy. Establishing stability within a country that fosters bad governance or lack of democracy is not NATO’s job; it never was.
The stability that NATO provides its member states is not domestic, but regional. If NATO intervened in the domestic affairs of country members, it would be in violation of the UN Charter.[iv] That is why NATO wants the candidate members to fully adhere to the set pre-conditions and criteria before they join the Alliance. Three countries adjacent to the FYROM are members of NATO, which means that Skopje cannot claim these countries are its enemies as it is incomprehensible that Skopje would want to join an enemy camp. Consequently, Skopje is fully protected from inimical forces.
We are opposing Skopje’s membership to NATO because Skopje is domestically unstable. That is Skopje’s own fault. Skopje cannot enact dictatorial laws such as the suppression of a free press, treating people of dissenting opinions as traitors, inciting intra-ethnic hatred, openly provoking its NATO neighbors, and then expecting NATO members to put out the fire that a quasi-dictator has started for his own glorification, fueling nationalism and hatred toward the adjacent NATO member countries. Such a Cold War mentality cannot be justified under any circumstances.
NATO is proud of the democratic values of its members and respects their independence. That is why the system of consensus was implemented. It is the manifestation of equality among member states. The West, and especially NATO, must insist on democracy in the Republic of Skopje, which in turn would bring regional stability. Regional stability will not exist without democracy, lack of which is the root of the problem.
The whole idea that NATO needs the Army of the FYROM is at best ludicrous. The Republic of Skopje has an army of 8,000 men. Of them, 2,000 operate various posts in the Ministry of Defense, diplomatic and other services. Of the remaining 6,000, only 1,000 are fighting soldiers considering that for every fighting soldier five to seven other soldiers are needed to support one soldier. It is incomprehensible that NATO is so desperate for soldiers that 1,000 soldiers poorly trained and equipped would make any real difference.
Regarding the name issue, the notion that Skopje has spread around is that pressuring their country to change its name is unheard of. It is unheard of only because all governments, including the Greek, keep silent. After the collapse of the Austrian Empire on November 12, 1918, the National Assembly of Austria officially declared the “Republic of German-Austria”. Between that day and September 10, 1919, the new republic operated under the name of German Austria. The song "German Austria, you wonderful country" (Deutschösterreich, du herrliches Land) became its new national Anthem.
The final Peace Treaty of St. Germain en Layé of September 10, 1919, officially dissolved the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which, however, although the victorious allies including the United States, under article 88 of the Treaty guarantying the independence of Austria, “refused to allow Austria to use its first choice name for the new republic – German Austria. The link with Germany was not accepted by the Allies and the new state had to adopt just ‘Austria’.”[v] Thus Austria changed its name from German-Austria or Deutschösterreich to Austria or Österreich.
This fact has set the precedent for Greece's insistence on the name issue and it has a legal basis in international law. Any name of the FYROM that includes Macedonia implies future union with the region of Macedonia of Greece. Selective amnesia is not an excuse for anyone, although it is pandemic among politicians.
Need for a Professional Greek Lobby
According to reports, members of both Chambers of the U.S. Congress support Skopje’s bid to NATO membership because they have found the Greek arguments on the issue of Greece’s objection to Skopje’s membership to NATO as presented by their “Greek friends”, “incomprehensible”. As a Greek, I find this situation completely unacceptable. That and similar incidents only prove that the Greek lobby is a myth. These so-called lobbyists did not have the knowledge, or the critical thinking, to connect the name issue between Greece and the FYROM to the name issue of Austria just after the end of the First World War.
We must understand that all the organizations that pretend to be part of the Greek lobby exist to make money. And if in their pursuit of self-interest they help on the sidelines any Greek national security issues, they market their promoted achievements as if those issues were their real target. The same lobbyists are also extraneous to the real issues behind the invasion of Cyprus then and the Macedonia name dispute currently. They only see the façade of the political upheaval because seeing the substance is out of their reach and understanding.
Real lobbies keep petitioning the U.S. officials by speaking in a language that members of the U.S. government understand, i.e. regional cohesiveness, crisis management, collective defense, regional stability and cooperative security. The Greek so – called lobby keeps following the “Alexander the Great was Greek” narrative. This is not a serious counter-argument aimed at Skopje’s exclusion from the Alliance! U.S. legislators do not care about Alexander the Great. They care about the present and the future, not ancient history.
An excellent indication of what American politicians are after was demonstrated when Joe Biden, the U.S. Vice President, visited Cyprus to confer about stability, and urged a solution to the issue of the Turkish occupation of the island. He further expressed the interest of the United States on the issue of energy, calling Cyprus a “strategic partner”. “Strategic partnership” is a formal alliance between two commercial enterprises, and in this case the American Vice President himself identified the Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone and, consequently, the Israeli and Greek Exclusive Economic Zone to be of national interest to the United States. Since no Greek official, nor Greek organization, have ever made the correlation of the Exclusive Economic Zones of Cyprus, Israel, Egypt and Greece to be of national interest to the United States, Mr. Biden did.
The EEZ offers Greece a wonderful opportunity to resolve its financial difficulties, and to provide revenue to modernize its economy. Yet Greece is still thinking about declaring the EEZ. This situation has been going on since 1982—over 30 years! One must know that the EEZ does not require any recognition by any government. Greece just has to declare it in accordance to the Law of the Sea Convention.
We must help the U.S. officials understand that by supporting the FYROM they do not help the people of that country, nor do they help the region’s stability. The Skopje regime has disenfranchised all ethnic groups through undemocratic means while it seeks to not only destabilize Greece and the region, but to fragment Greece, the only proven ally the United States has in the Balkan Peninsula.
Thus currently, the officials of the FYROM are getting two conflicting messages coming from the two sides of the Atlantic. One message is discouraging coming from NATO, but the other is optimistic for the Republic of Skopje. The discouraging message is that they have to change the name of the country if they want to see a NATO membership. The EU Parliament has already sided with Skopje mainly because of a pro-Turkish faction of the UK and the cooperation of some Greek elements.
The encouraging message for Skopje’s lobby and friends, which monetarily and morally Skopje supports, is making progress by pushing the concept of victimization of the FYROM by its NATO neighbors, especially by Greece. The emotional and intellectual appeal of Skopje has swayed supporters, even of the Greek caucus in the U.S. Congress.
Greece’s foreign policy is complex because of the way it was originally fashioned and subsequently has developed. The first political parties of Greece were serving interests other than Greek. The liberal English Party, the liberal French Party, and the conservative Russian Party dominated the Greek politics for almost half a century (40 years). The whole scheme of things was and is fundamentally based on whims of individual ministers and the understanding of their often impertinent advisers, who do whatever they want in accordance with their own political ideology, which is the only criterion for which they were hired for the job. In October 2010 in Brisbane, Queensland, a lawyer who had studied in Thessaloniki told me, “The Greek foreign policy lacks cohesion”.
The government of Greece, through the mouths of its ministers, has oftentimes declared that the Pan Macedonian Association cannot make Greece’s foreign policy. I would fully agree with such a statement as long as it was true. But it is not true. Greece’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs not only does not make its own foreign policy, but it has encouraged NGO’s such as ELIAMEP and KEMO to make foreign policy for Greece, which has been anything but national. Any and all solutions these NGOs have offered were and are against the national security of Greece and, of course, its territorial integrity. If those organizations can make Greece’s foreign policy, so can we!
Greek American NGOs along with some of Greece’s elected officials have already declared their support for the 1934 Comintern’s decision in favor of the existence of a [quote]“Macedonian nation” [unquote], the same Slavic nation which looks toward the incorporation of the Greek region of Macedonia under the Stalinist slogan of “eternal friendship” and “brotherly love”. According to Vladimir Bogdanovich Rezún, a former Officer of the Soviet Military Intelligence, 60 million citizens of the USSR were shot out of “brotherly love” and “eternal friendship”. We saw its implementation against East Germany in 1954, against Hungary in 1956, and against Czechoslovakia in 1968. The number of border clashes between the USSR and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) are too many to enumerate. Nikita Khrushchev even mentioned that the USSR was at the brink of war with China during the Stalin era.
Just as appeasement and docility did not stop Germany’s expansionism that brought about WW II, no one should expect that appeasement and docility toward Skopje or Turkey, for that matter, would stop them from materializing their national goal.
Even if an issue at hand is of a little value by itself, or it is hard to hold, its surrender under pressure would create a reputation of admitted weakness. Appeasing one’s opponent encourages him to think that one is weak. This is how Hitler perceived the illusions of appeasement that both Edouard Daladier of France and Neville Chamberlain of the UK had afforded him. On August 22, 1939, when Hitler was about to launch his attack against Poland, he reassured his Commander-in-Chief, “Our enemies are little worms; I saw them at Munich”. This should be a wake-up call for the devotees of “brotherly love” and “internal friendship”.
Politicians often state that we should look forward, not back. We fully agree with them and it is exactly why we rely on our experience in order to protect the future of Greece. We are opposing the name Macedonia in any form for Skopje’s final name. This is looking forward. If we do not take the matter seriously, the future of Greece, and specifically of Macedonia, will be murky and perhaps even bloody. That is what we need to avoid.
The existence of our home country is in very real physical danger because of ideological experiments of its incompetent politicians. We cannot afford such experiments anymore. Since the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, we have encountered Greek American public relations groups antagonizing each other and indeed actively opposing each other. These are not lobbies. Real lobbies with a common cause do not work fighting each other. When opposing groups find a common area of interest and can present a united front, they are extremely effective. Yet nothing like that happens. Instead, personal self-interest, self-promotion, name recognition, and money among other benefits have developed as the main reason for the existence of these groups. I understand that they are businesses aspiring to make money, but they should not proclaim themselves as defenders of Greece’s rights and interests. They are not.
We need to counter not just Skopje and Ankara, but anyone and everyone who wants to harm the natural and traditional friendship between Greece and the United States. We need close cooperation in order to deal with the strategic multi-faceted security challenges of the 21st century, which are more demanding than ever before.
But here is the problem. According to the U.S. State Department, Greek Americans constitute about 3 million people. What does it say to you that we are 40 years behind the Turks and 10 years behind the Skopjans, which have a negligible diaspora.
We keep reacting to trivial matters instead of acting according to a strategic, but flexible plan. For as long as we keep reacting instead of actively defending our positions, we end up playing into the hands of Ankara’s and Skopje’s proxies; and while they distract us with triviality, they are free to do their intended work without hindrance from us. This must stop!
SKOPJE HAS A DYNAMIC AND EFFECTIVE LOBBY; GREECE DOES NOT. THOSE WHO THINK THAT WE HAVE A LOBBY DO NOT KNOW WHAT A LOBBY IS.
The Greek American diaspora, and indeed Hellenism in general, is in need of a real honest to goodness reliable political pressure group that would fight and represent our views. We must launch an ACTIVE DEFENSE. We must reiterate to the U.S. officials the contribution of values that the West lives under because of Greece and the military support that Greece gave to the West since its independence. We must stress that Greece has clearly impacted NATO’s cooperative security, and we must present Greece as the pillar of military readiness. We had better be serious on our approach to issues of national security.
Letter writing by heads of organizations do not have the impact that letters written by a massive individual involvement do. Entreaty, wishful thinking, and false expectations are not part of professional lobbying. Access to U.S. government officials and members of the U.S. Congress, knowledge of the subject matter in all facets both academically and practically, money to contribute to the campaigns of politicians and anything that would give the ability to sway politicians who oppose one’s cause are part of a successful lobby.
We cannot afford to start training impertinent amateurs only because they think they have already formed a lobby. We need an advocacy group; we need a political pressure group; we need a lobby. Please, be careful. I am not advocating that we should start a lobby. We have no adequate expertise on issues of national security, geology, marine geology, ocean drilling and, of course, we have no access to the right places. What I am advocating is the initiation of a series of “Active Defense” fundraisers that will allow us to hire a lobbying firm with pertinent professionals who understand issues of national security and have access to the right people in the U.S. government.
We need professionals who totally understand the issues. I would like to see well-funded research institutes and think tanks staffed by political science professionals and cognate disciplines producing serious discussion papers, reports, articles and books and organizing conferences as part of the unified effort in the promotion of our national security issues.
We need to create academic chairs and publish serious books in telling the world about the Greek Genocide. These activities must not and should not be subject to political exploitation from the left or the right, nor should they be subject to the whim of each Greek political party in charge.
Greece needs political leadership that is visionary and defends its national interests and national security above all. Unfortunately, I do not see this emerging from the current crop of political leaders and political parties. Therefore, we, the Greek Diaspora, must shoulder the responsibility to organize ourselves in order to accomplish what we must. We can no longer rest on the achievements of our ancestors. We must add our own contributions to the world.
We must actively engage the mainstream media of the world, the social media, search engines, and other important publications. These resources of mass communication and dissemination of information have been neglected for too long. We have to change that. We have to lobby the present and all future governments of Greece demanding that they change their priorities or they had better prepare for a perilous outcome. The world lives in the year 2014 looking at the future, not in 1914 looking at 1830. The ostrich syndrome does not work anymore. We must take lessons from the past if we want to see a better future. It is either do or be the losers.
I am asking that the Pan-Macedonian Association to assume the leading role in the formation of a Pan-Hellenic Active Defense Foundation with the sole purpose of creating a political pressure group independent of any and all organizations. I am asking all Greeks and our non-Greek friends, regardless of the country of residence, regardless of political persuasion, whether business people, financiers, journalists, scientists, and others with pertinent expertise, to come together in support of such an effort. Jews and Armenians have an excellent lobbying arm, which we could learn something from.
We lack a flexible, realistic and implementable long-term plan prepared in a manner that makes sense. We need a plan that is the result of a collaborative effort, not just the efforts of one person or a small group of people. We are in need of a plan that is part of a continuous, frequently reviewed and updated process. It should directly involve everyone accountable for implementing it. The plan should also involve everyone in the organization at some stage, either directly or indirectly. The purpose of involvement is a way to secure a deep understanding and commitment. We need different means of communication, not only among ourselves, but also with the people whom we want to influence.
The Pan-Macedonian Association necessitates access to an online advocacy program such as Capwiz or Nationbuilder, or something similar in order to meet the 21st century needs. As part of our needs, a broader participation of all Greeks is our obligation. We must bring together all disenfranchised Greeks, especially the Youth, using electronically induced membership and electronically connected teams through social media or through instant messaging services that provide text, voice, and image communication in a friend-to-friend context such as Skype,Google Talk, Face Time, Viber, etc. Planning requires people who are more writers and coordinators, not a know-all, end-all of the effort. In order to have a successful operation, a team needs planning to succeed. Planning cannot be done by just one person.
This plan should be oriented toward the younger generations, which expect our guidance, not our control. We must engage our younger members to navigate the Pan-Macedonian Association to a future that makes sense to them and responds to the present and the future needs of our cause. Instead of telling them what to do, we had better listen to them and guide them when they ask for help. I hope the leadership of the Pan- Macedonian Association will initiate such an endeavor.
Finishing, I want to leave you with one more thought regarding what Greece can do in order to neutralize a few of its opponents.
A Possible Economic Project
Clausewitz considered war to be a political instrument, a continuation of political intercourse, a carrying out of politics, by other means. Although this is still true, it is not anymore absolute. Today we must redefine “war”, because it is not always an instrument of political prevalence by violent means. It can also mean prevalence by peaceful means such as world markets, economic growth, renewable resources, and progressive innovations. The series of the means that Clausewitz implicitly cited are resources that promote markets, markets that bring growth, growth that generates money, money that stimulates infrastructure, infrastructure that builds stability and stability that fosters security; but all of them necessitate democracy and political will.
These measures bring the necessary funds into the country along with the proper political will to enact and enforce robust legal rules that promote domestic stability. They are all the foundation of a solid national security with high morale and pride for one’s country, or patriotism. A country that is built on such concrete grounds would not have a problem in its military sector. Politicians must understand the link between the military and the market because the peaceful economic growth converts into a sound national security structure in a military sense.
So, with these things in mind, let me leave you with a thought. We all know the importance of the Exclusive Economic Zone in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. What if we do something that would accentuate the importance of the region? Just imagine the potential of Thessaloniki if the appropriate authority in Greece proposes a plan for a canal [=διώρυγα] from Thessaloniki to the Danube. If the FYROM does not go along with it, then have the governments of Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Germany explain a few things to Skopje. Even Kosovo, Romania and all the countries of the Black Sea, without exception, could benefit from such a canal. I want to see that Greece initiates such works! Technology exists and the tangible and intangible benefits of such a project outweigh the costs over a forward period with great potential financial return to the countries involved.
I am suggesting a canal similar to the Erie Canal that has united the Lake Erie with New York City. Think of the impact that such a canal would have to commerce, business, and finances in the region, especially if one adds the sea thoroughfare.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We must modify the meaning of the triptych “fear, honor, and self-interest” not just to Greece’s favor, but also to the region. We need to eliminate the fear from Greece’s neighbors, bring back the honor of our ancestors, and work together to secure Greece’s interests through democracy, growth and stability.
This is how I see it; if you agree, then it’s up to you to do something.
Remark: If there is political will, there can be at least three canals [διώρυγες] that could facilitate the transportation of merchandise from one place to another.
1. One from the Gulf of Strymon to the Gulf of Thermai.
2. One from the Gulf of Thermai to FYROM to Serbia to Danube
3. One from the Gulf of Strymon through Bulgaria to Danube. There is always the possibility of one more canal from Alexandroupolis to Svilengrad to Varna.
One must always consider issues of environment such as wetlands.
 “ἀνδρῶν γὰρ ἐπιφανῶν πᾶσα γῆ τάφος, καὶ οὐ στηλῶν μόνον ἐν τῇ οἰκείᾳ σημαίνει ἐπιγραφή, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐν τῇ μὴ προσηκούσῃ ἄγραφος μνήμη παρ’ ἑκάστω τῆς γνώμης μᾶλλον ἢ τοῦ ἔργου ἐνδιαιτᾶται.” (Θουκυδίδης Περικλέους Ἐπιτάφιος, Βιβλίον Β' ΜΓ')
 Xenophon, Hellenica, 2.2.19-23
 Malcolm Heath, “Thucydides’ Political Judgment”, Liverpool Classical Monthly, 1990, Monthly 15 (1990) 158-160. It regards Thucydides II, 65.
 Chapter I. article 2. para 7