As disorder erupts with increasing frequency around the world, it is easy to feel relief at the current stability in Greece. The State Department, through leaks and newspaper feelers during the past several weeks, has apparently decided that the military junta is moving toward the restoration of constitutional government. Therefore, according to "State Department officials," the Administration is considering relaxing restrictions on military aid to Greece.
The aid limitations which were imposed shortly after the coup last April 21 were never more than a token sign of displeasure but the current trend toward complete restoration of favor is an even more disheartening sign. Greece and its military rulers depend heavily upon military assistance from the U.S., which has supplied $1.3 billion in such aid since 1950. In recent years, it has been about $80 million annually.
Ever since the coup overthrew the constitutional government shortly before the Greek national election campaign was to begin, the State Department has refused to apply pressure forcefully or openly for a restoration. The junta, with complete control of the Greek news media, has led both the literate urbanites and the rural people to believe that the U.S. was--and remains--solidly behind the junta. No matter what Secretary McNamara or Ambassador Phillips Talbot may tell the Greek diplomats in private, it comes back to the Greek citizenry in only one way: "approval."
The U.S. did quietly withhold some flashy weapons, such as tanks and guns. But minor hardware and spare parts are the crucial materials which must be withheld in order to pressure the regime into calling elections. Opponents of a serious cutoff (Talbot is among them) offer three basic arguments; it could weaken the Greek defense, and hence, NATO; it could lead to civil war; and it is unnecessary since the junta is already moving to wards a new constitution.
The first argument overestimates the importance of the Greek army in the NATO structure, as well as the long-term effect of a provisionary cut-off. It neglects the fact that the Common Market and NATO countries violently disapprove of the coup. The EEC may no wrefuse to allow membership to Greece, and the Investment Bank has already withheld $72 million of the $125 million planned for Greece. Such political isolation of Greece can in no way strengthen the alliance. And the hostility of Cyprus' President Makarios has damaged U.S. influence there.
The contention that the fall of the junta might lead to civil war is partially valid--it might. But to strengthen the present dictatorship with military aid in the name of stability would be morally unjustified and would also lead to a more bitter reaction from the people. The political polarization would be far greater than in 1965, when a large majority of the electorate bitterly opposed the King after he had dismissed Prime Minister George Papandreou.
The role King Constantine has so far played in Greek politics makes the third argument--that the regime is gradually aiming towards a constitutional restoration--hopelessly optimistic. During the two years before the coup, with the army at his command, he refused to allow elections in Greece. He cooperated with the right-wing in setting up a series of puppet governments. When the constitution prevented him from postponing elections any longer, he appointed his rightist minority as the caretaker government to run the elections. Still, the Papandreou liberal Center Union Party was clearly bound to win. Constantine's (and Talbot's) opposition to the Papanodreou Party tacitly invited a coup.
As for the military colonels themselves, they continue to exhibit fascist-like authoritarianism, puritanism, extrfeme nationalism, and anti-intellectualism. Their obsession with mini-skirts, beards, independent prelates, actresses, and song-writers indicates an inability to face serious economic and administrative problems Their announcement to the effect that an expert committee will draw up a constitution provides no assurances that anything like a democratic government will be restored; their own actions provide even less assurance. It is the responsibility of the U.S., as the perennial Greek army builder, to quit buttressing the colonels and withhold aid until the present regime agrees to constitutional guarantees.