From the American standpoint, the best outcome is concerted European action to keep Greece within the fold, while the second best outcome is a strategy that delays the inevitable until Europe can strengthen its defenses against contagion.
But there’s a problem: Many key European officials and observers have concluded that a Greek exit is both inevitable and manageable. A lengthy article in Der Spiegel makes this case, going so far as to argue that the consequences of doing what would be necessary to keep Greece in the monetary union would be worse than allowing it to leave. And Germany’s powerful Bundesbank agrees. Its most recent monthly report states: “A significant dilution of existing agreements [concerning Greece] would damage confidence in all euro area agreements and treaties and strongly weaken incentives for national reform.” Crucially, Germany’s central bank has concluded that Europe could successful deal with a Greek exit: “The challenges this would create for the euro area and for Germany would be considerable but manageable given prudent crisis management.”
To be sure, many other leaders—especially in France and Italy—are far more concerned about Europe’s ability to contain the consequences of Greece’s departure. France’s new president, Francois Hollande, is pushing the European Central Bank to provide further liquidity and intervene in sovereign debt markets. But the stark fact is that right now these leaders’ views don’t matter all that much.