The Greek-Amer­i­can lobby

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY ALEXIS PAPACHELAS

Within the space of just a few days, the two Greek Amer­i­cans upon whom some in Athens and cer­tain Greek Amer­i­cans had pinned their hopes left the White House. Reince Priebus was ex­pelled in the most de­cep­tive way pos­si­ble from his po­si­tion as chief of staff. Ge­orge Gigi­cos, the per­son who spent the most time by Don­ald Trump’s side dur­ing his pres­i­den­tial elec­tion cam­paign, has also de­parted his po­si­tion as White House di­rec­tor of sched­ul­ing and ad­vance. The Greek-Amer­i­can “mafia,” as some in the me­dia dubbed them, no longer ex­ists. As the other re­cent and not-so-re­cent ex­pe­ri­ence has demon­strated, just be­cause a Greek Amer­i­can is in a key po­si­tion doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean our prob­lems will be solved quite the way we imag­ine. The agenda these peo­ple have when they take up key po­si­tions is much greater than the “Greek” is­sues, which are much smaller by com­par­i­son. We also of­ten ex­pect too much of them be­cause we see them as a di­rect line to the US pres­i­dent, re­sult­ing in us ei­ther putting them in dif­fi­cult po­si­tions or mak­ing them hide from any­one with a Greek sur­name. The bad thing is that the Greek-Amer­i­can lobby is a ghost of its former self. It’s spent it­self on photo ops, for the sake of be­ing pic­tured next to the pres­i­dent. On March 25, Greek In­de­pen­dence Day, this year, a bouzouki band played at the en­trance to the White House and some be­lieved this held some sort of sig­nif­i­cance. But the truth is that for years the GreekAmer­i­can lobby has been with­out real lead­er­ship and in dan­ger of be­ing trans­formed into a sec­u­lar as­sem­bly with­out po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ven­tion. Lead­ers of the Church played a de­ci­sive role in the past, but since the pass­ing of Arch­bishop Iakovos there has been a void that has yet to be filled. Some use their in­flu­ence for busi­ness and self-pro­mo­tion. There are plenty of pa­tri­otic Greek Amer­i­cans but there is also a lack of lead­er­ship or any sense of ca­ma­raderie. Now that the il­lu­sions have been shat­tered, it’s time that the Greek-Amer­i­can lobby un­der­went some kind of re­con­struc­tion. If Greece wants to play ball, it must con­vince Wash­ing­ton that it holds strate­gic ad­van­tages for the US and that its po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship is ca­pa­ble of de­liv- er­ing – while of course claim­ing its own ben­e­fits as well. We’re at a com­pli­cated junc­ture. Yes, there are ten­sions with Turkey and se­ri­ous mis­giv­ings about its pres­i­dent, Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, but no­body wants to lose Turkey as an ally. The ques­tion is who are the ap­pro­pri­ate in­ter­locu­tors in Wash­ing­ton? The peo­ple who re­ally have any in­flu­ence over is­sues con­cern­ing us ap­pear to be Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence, US Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser H.R. McMaster and De­fense Sec­re­tary James Mat­tis. It is them that we need ac­cess to and who need re­as­sur­ance that they have se­ri­ous strate­gic in­ter­locu­tors in Athens, even if they’re not big on tzatziki and syr­taki.

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