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August 22nd, 2017

Insight

All the news that isn't

Paul Greenberg

By Paul Greenberg

Published July 20, 2015

    All the news that isn't

The script had been blocked out for at least a year now, but the last act still had to come as a surprise. Or the audience might not have stuck around for the Happy Ending, which has been in the works for so long it was getting dusty. It's an old script (original title: "Peace in Our Time"), and any resemblance to reality may be only coincidental, but it's got to be advertised as Breaking News, as in: IRAN, U.S. REACH HISTORIC AGREEMENT.

The big challenge was to maintain the faux suspense. To do that, the cast had to act as if it really didn't know it was putting on the kind of farce that's really a tragedy. As appeasement often is.

But for the moment this deal with Iran is being billed as a Signature Achievement of the administration's foreign policy, much as Obamacare was of its domestic policy. Just don't examine the details too closely. They'll only confuse you. Just take the president's word for it. ("If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. If you like your health-care plan, you can keep your health-care plan.")

And if you trust the mullahs in Tehran, all will now be well. And this agreement won't blow up in our faces -- in the shape of a mushroom cloud.

Here's the essence of this week's news out of the negotiations in Vienna, or what newspaper types call the nut graf: Given a choice between deterring this fanatical regime in Tehran now or trying to contain it later, our president has again chosen the path of least resistance in foreign policy. As he tends to do. Deterrence, like other hard choices, is so much trouble.

With this administration, procrastination took the place of policy some time ago. Or does anybody really think our fumbling, bumbling leaders are going to out-bargain the mullahs in their own Persian bazaar? In that case, how about a flying carpet on easy credit terms.

At this point it's all over but the formal signing of another worthless treaty, complete with cheers and applause. Give 'em a happy ending every time. At least for a while. Isn't that how North Korea got its Bomb? Next, Iran.

Call it The Great Sham, which had to be maintained in tandem with the mullahs' Great Stall, which won them ever more time to expand Iran's network of nuclear plants from Fordow and Bushehr to Arak and Parchin. ... The road ahead has already been cleared. And it leads right over a nuclear cliff.

Meanwhile, the Greeks and their European creditors continue to make non-news. One day there's no chance of Greece's politicians and Europe's bankers making a deal that will keep the Greeks in the Eurozone. ("Creditors give Greek leader an ultimatum/ Athens has 3 days to meet their demands or quit euro.") The next day, break out the champagne and caviar: A deal has been made! ("Greece agrees to debt plan/ Creditors tie $96B bailout to policy changes' passage.") Cheers and applause.

But the pendulum will swing back soon enough, and those who keep up with these things, and hype them, will be in Crisis Mode again. And so alternately, indefinitely, drearily on.

Somebody please wake me when it's over -- either for Greece or the euro or both. If it ever is.

Ah, but this time, "There are strict conditions to be met." So says Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, meaning there are no strict conditions to be met, but all will prove negotiable. Again. The parties on the left and right of Greece's "governing" coalition are already rebelling against the latest deal. Syriza's Left Platform says it's "the worst deal possible," as it "maintains the country's status (as a) debt colony under a German-run European Union." Another partner in this ramshackle coalition of different parties with different ideologies calls the deal a German "coup."

It turns out the deal isn't quite a deal yet. And may never be.

This is what happens when a whole continent decides to establish an economic union without establishing a political one first. It's the reverse of what another debt-ridden republic, the still new United States of America, did in another century. Thanks to visionaries like Alexander Hamilton, this country first adopted a constitution, and only then set up a central bank that would issue a common currency and use its assets (all those western lands) to pay off its debts.

But there's no Greek or European version of Alexander Hamilton in sight. Or, for that matter, an American leader of his stature today -- and leadership is all in such matters. Without it, there is neither vision nor stability. Just as there is precious little of either in Brussels or Athens today. Or in Washington.

But do stay tuned if you can bear it. For this Greek drama is scheduled to be playing indefinitely. And if you don't catch the next performance, there'll be another one the next day and the next....

So steel yourself, Gentle Reader, for there's never a shortage of non-news, and more of it is sure to come.

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Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

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