Recent remarks by Admiral James Stavridis at a discussion hosted by the Washington-based Turkish Heritage Organization left many in the Greek-American Community shocked. Stavridis termed Turkey’s violation of the U.S. CAATSA law through the purchase and impending deployment of the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system “a disagreement between friends.”
He went on to say that “I continue to be the strongest supporter imaginable of Turkey and its role in the alliance… It is nonsense to speak about this as a potential reason that Turkey would leave the alliance.” NATO’s former Supreme Allied Commander suggested that the U.S. should allow Turkey to use the powerful missile defense system to maintain harmony in NATO. ““Let’s figure out a way that the S-400, that is bought, paid for, and deployed, can be used but not in an integrated fashion with NATO,” arguing for the procurement of a second U.S. or European system that can be integrated alongside.
Stavridis’ statements will hopefully lead to increased vetting of honorees by Hellenic organizations. The Turcophile admiral has previously been honored by institutions such as the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Leadership 100, and the Chian Federation. He also sits on the board of a major Greek Public Benefit Foundation.
Admittedly, Stavridis’ personal accomplishments speak for themselves and he seemed like a rising star in Washington. In 2016, he was vetted for Vice President by Hillary Clinton and subsequently invited to discuss a cabinet position in the Trump Administration. The thought of a Greek-American holding such a central governmental post would ordinarily seem like a major asset. However, it’s important to also remember that Stavridis is an Operating Executive consultant with the Carlyle Group, which has major investments in defense and national security markets.
Regardless of political preference, the Trump Administration’s acceptance of Turkey’s flaunting of U.S. law should be denounced by all Greek-Americans. Stavridis’ position on this matter must be judged no differently, because it defies the concept of the “rule of law.”
This successful lobbying argument was masterfully advanced by former TNH publisher and AHI founder Eugene Rossides, who, ironically, passed away only recently. Rossides, a former top Treasury Department official and leading Greek lobbyist, was the driving force behind perhaps the most successful Greek-American intervention against Turkish aggression – the passage of an arms embargo against Turkey in 1974 – and remains a paradigm of what the Community should look for in its leaders.
The ethos and patriotism that the ever-memorable Rossides demonstrated for his Greek and American homelands should serve as a timeless example of the virtues that the Community should expect its favorite sons to embody. It should also teach and inspire Community honorees, reminding them of their duty to their ancestry, as well as to posterity. The idea that lawless Turkey, which has recently hijacked hydrocarbon rich Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone and encroached upon Greece’s (yet undeclared) EEZ will have fully operational S-400s to add to its weapons arsenal in the hybrid war it is already waging against Greece, Cyprus, and other nations in the area – all without any sanctions – is unconscionable.
History teaches that those who do not learn from their mistakes are destined to repeat them. Similarly, those occupying leadership positions in the Greek-American Community, but everyday members as well, must study the causes of this embarrassing development and apply the lesson to future decisions. There needs to be a serious dialogue initiated regarding the Community’s hierarchy of needs and mid to long-range goals.
In a separate, but not unrelated event, the Archdiocesan Cathedral announced that its middle school would not be operating as of the coming school year due to low registration, and that classes would only operate through Grade 5. This marks the second school closure in less than a year, continuing the vicious cycle of school closures of the past decade.
According to Cathedral School officials, plans are being made to re-establish the middle school grades in the coming years, once the school recalibrates and registrations increase. This pledge is somewhat consoling, but for the moment it is just empty words. No school that closed down in the past two decades has managed to reopen or restore its grades. Hopefully, the Cathedral can reverse this trend and set an example, but a clear-cut plan is required.
Other schools are also suffering at present and may be mulling cutbacks. Many may point to the economic fallout from covid19, but like the disease itself, the crisis’ danger arises from exposing and exacerbating underlying weaknesses. It’s important that the systemic weaknesses of our parochial school system are not attributed entirely to the effects of the lockdown, because, while convenient, it will allow for no real “metanoia,” or change in our thinking.
Schools are closing because they lack a “unique selling point;” a raison d’etre. A school centered on offering students tangible skills (bilingualism), discreet advantages (familiarity with modern and classical Greek – the language of the Gospel), and a unique worldview (participation in cultural immersion through exposure to the treasures of Hellenism and Orthodoxy) will continue to draw interest from Greeks and non-Greeks alike, because it addresses universal ideals and values served by Hellenism/Romanity.
VIPs and dignitaries come and go. Some just make pitstops to collect pins and medals, and then move on. Others, like the late Eugene Rossides, make serving it their labor of love. We need to invest in and target the latter, and use their knowledge and example to help us plan solutions to long-term challenges threatening our vitality. After all, in the Hellenic tradition, the citizens elect the generals, not the other way around.
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