The recriminations over the euro may also poison the notion of European citizenship itself. Even if Greece stays in the European Union, relations with fellow EU members will never be the same -- sort of like the spendthrift brother-in-law who welches on family loans and at tense holiday dinners sulks off by himself. After all, would Germany ever loan Greece money again after being conned for billions of euros while being insulted for its largesse?
History was never kind to the loud and proud but vulnerable Greeks, who have suffered centuries of invasions, occupations, civil wars, coups and famines. The year 2012 may be terrible, but familiarly terrible in the sense of 1922, 1941, 1946 and 1967 -- or for that matter, 1460 or 338 B.C. The Greeks live in a tough region at the junction of Islam and Christianity, where Africa, Asia and Europe collide in the eastern Mediterranean. Tripoli, Cairo and Istanbul are far closer to Greek soil than are Paris, Berlin and London. Ottomanism -- the historical bane of the isolated Greeks -- is on the rise in Turkey, fanning ancient grievances over Cyprus, oil and gas rights in shared waters, and poorly demarcated air and sea boundaries.
The European Union's rapid-response military force is a joke. With looming cutbacks and a new orientation in the Pacific, a directionless and underfunded NATO soon may be too. Polls show that an indebted America is still unpopular in Greece; and Greece, to the extent it registers with Americans, is not a favorite of the United States.
Without much foreign exchange, the modern Greek military will die on the vine. Will cash-strapped Greeks prefer keeping up their stockpile of imported smart bombs at the cost of doing without Siemens CT scanners or Bayer's ciprofloxacin?
Take away the veneer of European membership, and Greece is a tiny, broke, isolated and terribly vulnerable nation -- once again. Given its neighborhood and its inner demons, the current insolvency is the very beginning, not the end, of Greece's problems.