Friday, September 25, 2009

Summits are a farrago of show-offs.

Gaddafi just does it better than mostThe UN and the G20 are gigantic junkets, giving leaders the glamour of the world stage while precisely nothing is done

Simon Jenkins, Thursday 24 September


The man who has the measure of all this is Muammar Gaddafi. On Wednesday he strutted, ranted, joked and did everything but "confer" for an hour and 40 minutes. His rambling parody of the blogosphere encapsulated the vapid spirit of a UN plenary session. He mused on swine flu, JFK's assassination and the rotten constitution of the UN. He tore up the UN charter, pointing to the hypocrisy of security council members proclaiming equality between nations while rich ones waged war on poor ones. He even told his listeners that they were jetlagged and should go to sleep.

Gaddafi brilliantly mimicked the tedium of such farragos. The uncritical respect accorded them by statesmen and commentators is absurd – largely because they are all enjoying a gigantic junket. Like meetings of the G8 and G20, they are not just a waste of time and money – they convey a false impression that statesmen are acting, rather than parading. They imply that policy is somehow being influenced by the physical communion of the great and not so good. As such they induce cynicism among those they claim to be helping........

To most non-nuclear nations it is hypocritical for Obama, Brown and leaders of the other nuclear states to declare that nuclear arms are vital (and safe) for their national security, but unnecessary (and dangerous) for anyone else. There is no realistic scenario that renders Nato deterrence meaningful, but there are plenty that might apply to Iran, with potential nuclear threats across its west, north and east borders. Why should a weapon that is claimed to "work" for a dozen or so states – not all stable or democratic – be an intolerable aspiration for others? That at least is how many of those others see it.......

The UN exaggerates rather than resolves these hypocrisies and bullyings. It accords them the glamour of the world stage, of screaming limousines, bodyguards and lobster, posing, posturing and pretence. Apologists may claim that it does the world good to see such awfulness on display. The diplomatic sceptic Conor Cruise O'Brien used to say with a shrug: "It is so the world can let off steam." I am no longer sure. Such gatherings reinforce a belief in the public mind that grandstanding has become a statesman's substitute for action."

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