Politics & Policy

Big Eight

Sometimes griping is the only apparent goal in Heiligendamm.

The G8 summit in Germany, like other G6, G7, and G8 summits before it, is all about opportunity — specifically, the opportunity for politicians to get together for the usual class photo, for “anti-globalization activists” to break out their red snap-on noses and for every professional special pleader on Earth to lodge a complaint in a setting that guarantees maximum attention from a press that shares your concerns, whatever they are.

The five biggest complaints this year? The European press covers them so you can shout ’em out.

1. The green plan isn’t green enough! That daily catalog of crackpot complaints, the Guardian, reports that environmentalists are unhappy! Dog bites man? Not quite that newsworthy. More like dog sort of growls at man, then goes back to sleep.  Environmentalists are the crazed, angry ex-wives of the planet: You can give them all the money you want, but you can’t shut them up. As the Guardian’s Mark Tran artfully put it, “Environmental groups today dismissed a declaration from the world’s leading industrial powers on climate change as not worth the paper it was written on.” Not worth the paper? Tran, my man, these are environmentalists you’re talking about here, people for whom every piece of paper is a slice of forest primeval. That declaration, Tran, is only worth a small piece of pristine paradise, that’s all.

2. Too much defense is offensive! The complainant in this case: George W. Bush’s friend, Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia. Vladimir — “I call him Vladimir,” Bush explained to reporters — objects to a U.S. missile defense shield based in the Czech Republic and Poland for purely domestic political reasons. Vladimir is dog-and-pony all rolled into one big, confusing show: There’s a new cold war, he said, but that’s fine because his new missiles render all foolish American anti-missile systems useless — plus, he said last week, he’d target Russian missiles at Paris, London or Berlin just to say “boo!” A nervous twitch rippled across Europe. Somehow, that all explains why, as Le Figaro reports, he wants Bush to move the anti-missile bases to beautiful Azerbaijan and share the local radar with the Russians — which is what Bush offered last month, but without the downmarket location and with better radar. Bush said the proposal was “interesting” in four syllables. French president Nicolas Sarkozy, the paper adds, offered to “help” with discussions, presumably by speaking French to Vladimir and Bush. Meanwhile, Anatole Kaletsky, at the Times, tries to take it all seriously by asking that age-old question, “Why is hostility to the West so popular in Russia?” Maybe because hostility to the West is so popular in the West? They want to be just like us.

3. There’s not enough transparency in hedge funds! Making this mind-numbing complaint is hard enough in English. German chancellor Angela Merkel, to whom this is a big deal, made it in German. The response, as the FT Deutschland observes, was a multilingual snore.

4. Africa isn’t getting enough money! A continent held hostage by generations of crooks and cons is always likely to pose the kind of problem debt relief and planeloads of cash can’t solve. The fact that a half-century of African “leaders” have destroyed the lives of their people and blamed it on the half-century of colonialism that preceded them is outrageous. Almost as outrageous as Kumi Naidoo, the chair of something called “The Global Call to Action Against Poverty,” writing in the Guardian, who frames his complaint as a question: “Why is it that 60 years ago billions in aid could be delivered to reconstruct war-torn Europe, but the rich are reluctant to do so with their former colonies in Africa and the rest of the developing world today? It is starting to feel as if the anti-racist struggle of my youth in South Africa needs to move to a new global level.” Right. Help fighting AIDS is one thing. But just give us the money? What a sad mess. Required reading for all Naidoos: The Fate of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence by Martin Meredith. Something tells me Kumi can afford the hardcover.

5. Serbia’s still claiming Kosovo! What’s their problem? Well, it’s complicated, and you won’t be getting an explanation because 1) All we’ve ever known is what we’ve read in the papers; and 2) You’d have to have a G200 to have Serbia as a member, so the Serbs have to rely on Russia to do their talking and prevent the U.S., the U.N. and NATO giving independence to a province of their country run by the rump of a former terrorist army financed by Islamic extremists — including guys like this one, arrested for plotting to attack American soldiers in Ft. Dix.Kosovo independence is also the ultimate goal of Sarkozy’s so-called “middle way,” which as described by l’Express, is more finger than way, at least to the Serbs. The U.N. peacekeepers there hides from all conflict and the current Kosovar régime does little to make the few remaining Serbs left in the province feel safe as they dodge bullets and bombs. The Serbian dictator Milosevic was a murderous thug and a very stupid man, but most Serbs aren’t, and creating a “Kosovo Solution” in which violent reverse ethnic cleansing is the accepted method for gaining independence has implications — and not only for Ft. Dix, either.

These conferences have the lasting significance of Shriners’ conventions, but without the little cars and the funny hats — which is why the media watches the protesters who this year, as always, represent a rainbow of middle-class slackers, but who are solidly united behind one, single over-arching purpose: To get on TV by wearing stupid clothes. That’s why we have Dancing with the Stars, kids.

Denis BoylesDennis Boyles is a writer, editor, former university lecturer, and the author/editor of several books of poetry, travel, history, criticism, and practical advice, including Superior, Nebraska (2008), Design Poetics (1975), ...


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