Jacob Heilbrunn

The Greek Financial Catastrophe

Is there a silver lining in the collapse of Greece for America? Actually, there could be silver linings. One might be the collapse of the Euro and the European Union. Looked at from a realist perspective, it would perhaps not be a bad thing to see a big economic contender go under as a unified block. America would continue to play off European countries against each other. But perhaps the most salutary lesson is the example of chaos in Athens. The cradle of democracy is rocking wildly. Paul Pillar today excoriates the GOP for playing fast and loose with the budget. But what happens if outlays are not cut? Many Americans, especially independent voters, are frightened that Greece is an augury for the United States. Might not the truth be that the collision between the Democrats and Republicans is the necessary condition for reaching the painful sacrifices that will be necessary? Movement is already clear on the foreign policy front, where the GOP is returning, haltingly, to its older stance of restraint in foreign affairs. Pillar is right to indicate that the GOP compiled grotesque deficits during the Bush era. But perhaps it is starting to reinvent itself. If a genuine compromise is reached on both spending and taxes, it will be a potent sign that America is not headed the way of Greece. None of this, of course, is much consolation for Europe, which is tying itself into knots to relieve Greece. It needs to find a Grecian formula. And America needs to ensure that it never comes to that pass.