With the election to the Presidency of Donald Trump and the possible inclusion of Greek- Americans in the new Administration, new hopes and expectations of the Greek-American community and perhaps the Greek nation as a whole have arisen.
That said, the appointment of the retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General (LTG) Michael Flynn, former Director of the DIA to the position of the National Security Advisor could prove detrimental to any high hopes any Greek could have. LTG Flynn’s pro-Turkish stand is famous in the circles of the U.S. Intelligence Community and the politically savvy world. The appointment becomes more important when one thinks the Turkish surrogates in the south Balkans, i.e. the FYROM and Albania.
Due of the above facts, another reality has sprung up, which is the lack of a proficient Greek-American lobby in Washington. The answer begs the question whether the discussion regarding an effective lobby that represents the national interests of Greece as the Greek government sees them or the same interests as the Greek-American community understands those interests. The vision of Greece’s national interests as both sides of the Atlantic perceives them are dissimilar.
Such a disparity offers dramatic confusion into the matter. The dichotomy becomes more evident and complicates matters when one considers the fact that most of those who represent the Greek-American Community in the United States depend on the government of Greece or its politicians in a commercial, financial or social capacity creating matters of a tacit conflict of interest. Compiling the above one does not need much to understand the basic reasons behind our failure to establish a reasonably effective lobby.
National Issues vs. National Security Issues
In an attempt, to downgrade the string of failures of her foreign policy and to avoid the wrath of its citizens for damaging Greece’s national interests successive governments of Greece identified all issues of national security as national issues. The perception that the public entertains is the entailment of “national issues” with issues of “national security.”
National issues are matters of importance that includes elements of common interest and are subject to deliberation in public forums and training institutions for open debate, For example, the public discussion regarding the death penalty, abortion rights, or lesbians and gays in the military constitute a national issue.
Matters of education, or public health, for instance, are national issues but could develop into national security issues depending on their severity and priority. If they are vital for the survival of a country and they are prioritized as the core, they are construed as national security issues. Any national crisis regardless of its dimensions (physical or psychological) can convert from a national issue into of national security issue. Lack of fresh water due to mismanagement of natural resources (e.g. dismantling the EPA) can become an issue of national security. Desertification, destruction of landscapes by erosion, deforestation, atmospheric oxidation of landscapes, photochemical smog, cryogenic processes, oil pollution, pollution of streams are national issues that could change to become national security issues. In fact, a country could include anything it feels substantial into the realm of its national security; however, if a state includes everything in its national security, it fundamentally includes nothing.
On the other hand, a national security issue encompasses both national defense and foreign relations of a country with the purpose of the maintenance of effective control within its territory. One should take into consideration that effective control does not depend on the efficiency of a project or situation because outputs can increase without necessarily enhance their effectiveness. It goes without saying that economy and national security are inextricably linked. One cannot conceive the issue of national security without linking it to the country’s economy and especially trade and investment. It is why every country needs to pursue both in a coordinated effort for security. Tasks that governments choose isolating the economy from the national security indicates the lack of understanding in the government on what comprises national security.
Lobby is not a Hobby
Lobby is a working team of experts who share an equal or similar educational proficiency and practical know-how concentrating in a specific field of action. A team is an entity, the identity of which reflects the common qualities and consensus of its members, without eliminating their individuality. Such a concept of what constitutes a team means that all members of similar backgrounds work together for the common cause and each of the members is acknowledged for their role in the cause and expertise. The consensus is paramount since all members are equal bringing in their own flavor and experience. Web sites of truly professional lobbies always post biographical summaries of each of their members.
The institution of lobbying and what entails is widely misunderstood by most people regardless of their residence, profession, or education. By far most people misconstrue the concept, or they are ignorant of what lobby is, what its components are (legislation, advocacy, and public relations) and how an actual lobby operates. Lobbies can be trade associations, individual corporations, good government public interest groups, national security or national interests of a foreign power, or another echelon of government.
Lobbying on issues of national security, as the Greek-American community is geared to, one must exert a strategic thought which evolves to adapt to changing geopolitical contexts: from traditional nation-state alliances to a sophisticated contemporary environment shaped by multi-faceted national security, economic, diplomatic, informational and political co-dependencies. It applies in particular in the 21st century.
Since Greece encounters national security disputes with three adjacent countries, i.e. Turkey, the FYROM, and Albania, she faces various competing concerns. The quarrels with Turkey are multifaceted and thus more complicated (Continental Shelf, EEZ, Territorial Waters, Airspace, and Cyprus) than the disagreements with the FYROM and Albania. It does not mean the latter are negligible. While the various disagreements with Turkey are somehow related, they are, by no means identical, and because of it, they require their experts, strategies, and tactics. None of the above fall under the category one fits all. If a lobbyist has expertise in all of the above, the lobbyists have expertise in none of the above.
Non-state actors now play a more prominent role on the global stage than in previous eras. Understanding how the interplay of these evolving factors influences the formulation and execution of strategy, enhance the ability of future leaders to address emerging challenges.
Reasons we fail
Lobbying is not easy, and it is not for everyone. Can or should everyone assist? Absolutely. All of us must support the efforts of a valid and respectable honest to goodness lobby. However, it does not mean that all of us should get involved in areas that are out of our expertise regardless whether we think we understand. People must know their limits. It is not enough for people to know what they know; it is imperative for them to know what they do not know. “I know one thing: that I know nothing.” Such an understanding is the best guide in lobbying. It is why a lobby must include people of various skills who must not get involved in other people’s jobs hindering any progress. One can learn by observing, not by distracting. True experts will be unable to continue their job while trying to train others on how to think. The last thing a lobby needs is people who are involved in every aspect hindering thus the work of those who know what they do. Any conversation between an expert on a subject matter and a non-expert would be reminiscent of a conversation between an adult and a child who keeps asking, “why?”
Developing a plan for the establishment of a lobby in all of its facets specializing on issues of national security must include finding the appropriate people with suitable education and practical experience. Lobby needs individuals who understand the importance of the application of strategic theory, blending both components of national power (“hard” and “soft”) into an instrument that is both practical and adaptable. A lobby must survey the development of strategic thought which it places it in the global context in which the Greek- American or any other lobby must operate in today’s complex environment.
True lobbying is expensive, but with the right people at the rudder, it is very effective. To begin with, a lobby in Washington, DC, needs a minimum US$ 3 million to start. An average salary of a lobbyist is US$115,000 although professional top notch lobbyists with proven expertise in their field clear about US$ 200,000 annually over and above their expenses. Lobbyists with government experience clear a median US$400,000 (Sunlight Foundation). One must have robust and networking abilities as well as research skills with a preferred degree in political science or a cognate field (Comparative Politics, including area studies, International Relations, Political Philosophy or Political Theory, Public Administration, Public Policy), Communications, Economics or Public Relations depending on the issue involved. In cases of national security, as the Greek national security issues are, knowledge of Military Science and Strategic Intelligence are indispensable.
Lobby requires significant funding, which Greece allocates in the form of financing Greek mass media and NGOs of its choosing abroad at the rate of 300,000 to 400,000 annually each under the guise of promoting Greek causes. Whether one considers this specific funding as hush money or not, promoting Greek causes and lobbying are not identical and neither are interchangeable. Besides this money are allocated so that the media reach the Greek diaspora, which is equivalent to preaching to the choir.
Since Greece is unwilling to support a true lobby, the Greek diaspora should take over ipso facto if the diaspora wishes to have a country to call home. Whether Greece will have under her effective control half of her present territory by 2050 is not questionable but rather a realistic though sad prognostication. One could convincingly argue that Greece has already lost her effective control over Western Thrace whereas half of the Aegean moves slowly but steadily toward that direction. First, comes the effective monitoring of a region and then comes a change of borders.
Common forms of lobbying include testifying before a legislative hearing, formal and informal discussions with elected and appointed officials, seeking publicity on the issue, drafting potential legislation, and organizing letter-writing campaigns. The tactics to such a concern is a combination of rewards and punishment to induce behavior also known the use of carrot and the stick. One without the other is half a job. It is that capacity we fail. We might have the carrot, but we no stick to support it.
Lobbyists dealing with national interests of foreign powers, such as Greece’ national security require adherence with the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). Without such registration, is becomes tough for a country to have its lobby. It is why all thoughtful countries needing a lobby in the United States hires already established firms registered with FARA. Besides, one cannot expect an outside professional paid lobbying firm to keep changing strategy in the pursuit of a favorable for Greece outcome because Greece lacks a national foreign policy. They have a reputation of effectiveness to maintain. Thus no matter who does the lobbying, the result will be the same.
Could the diaspora pay for such a service? Wealthy so-called pillars of the diaspora are willing to contribute but personal and political rivalries and bitter resentments prevent them from doing so. Amateurism on behalf of lobbyist wannabe’s or nickel and dime “patriots” with self-promotion in mind do not help either.
About 20 years ago, Turkey was spending US$10 million annually excluding the donations its lobby received from the U.S. Military-Industrial Complex and their friends. In the first place, regarding its foreign policy Greece has an unclear path to its national interests. Each government strictly follows the ideology of the governing party instead of discharging a national coherent and cohesive foreign policy based on intelligence received from various sources, especially from diplomatic missions. In governments where prudence prevails, intelligence guides the national security policy; it does not follow the national security policy which dictates both foreign and domestic policies. Furthermore, politicians use terminology that differs from that of common people.
Another element connected to the failure of getting together a lobby is that people desirous of participating in the lobby, have overinflated egos accompanied by ignorance of what entails to be part of a lobby having no relevant education, skills, or empirical knowledge. Others expect favors from each Greek government acting as its puppets and taking orders from Greek diplomatic missions with the sole purpose to quietly disrupt any process and favorable outcome.
Another contributor of lobbying failure is that Greece’s Representatives (Βουλευταί) in the Parliament are hypocritical. When the Greek Representatives visit the United States, they praise our unity. The reality is that not one of them wants to see us united; if they did, they would have taken ALL offices of their political parties from our midst. Greece’s diplomatic corps already represents the country abroad. Why do we need the presence of political parties that are the source of our division?
Greece refuses to allocate funding for an effective lobby expecting from the diaspora to establish and pay for one rooting to their patriotism. The diaspora is over-crowded with people who repeat the same mistakes many times over while maintaining a know-it-all attitude, a mindset of self-righteousness, disobedience, narcissism, “doing God a favor,” self-pity, and as their justification for their errors it is always someone else’s fault. Perhaps the worst of all is the complete ignorance of how the U.S. Government works because not one of the know-it-all “experts” have ever read nor understood the U.S. Constitution. It is why we spin our wheels.
Such an attitude along with ignorance or intricacies of the U.S. government create a reactive attitude to important matters, Trying to repair the damage that proactive adversaries already inflicted is much more challenging, because impressions have by this time created an unfavorable climate for Greece. A dynamic approach projects the perception that eliminates problems before they appear.
The whole matter comes to the point that we should start earnestly digesting what Thucydides wrote in his book The Peloponnesian War (Book II: 65. 7-10) and avoid doing the same. By the same token, one only hopes that our diaspora reads and understands “the Cave” by Plato (in Republic – Πολιτεία), as well. Most people of our Community see only the shadows before them lacking the concept of sunlight and thus the big picture. Degrees irrelevant to national security issues that Greece faces are also irrelevant in lobbying for such matters. The diaspora needs leaders of people instead of the managers it possesses at present. We do have many leaders, who either avoid getting involved or they are shunned by the dexterous, but cunning managers.
To put all pieces of a broken glass together, one needs crazy glue and patience; saliva will not do it.