I’ve been meaning to blog on this article (“The truth of Secret Diplomats’ Business”) for some time. I tore it out of last Saturday’s Age and have been carrying it around in my pocket since, waiting for an opportunity to blog a bit.
Forget all the other commentary you have been ploughing through in relation to the Copenhagen meeting. This one short article explains it all. Here is the essence of this (very funny) column by Neil Brown:
UNLIKE most people, who think Copenhagen was a failure, I think it was a great success. It has preserved the golden rule of international diplomacy.
Years ago, when I was a young fellow and started to go to international conferences, an old hand who was about to retire took me aside. ”I’ll be shoving off into retirement soon,” he said, ”so I thought I might pass on the golden rule of international conferences.”
…”The most important item on the agenda at any international conference,” he resumed, ”is to fix the date of the next meeting – and of course the location.”
However – and it was a big however – if a conference succeeded in wiping out poverty or pestilence, there would be no prospect of trying to go to another conference the following year on the same subject. Concentrating on the date of the next conference would guarantee poverty and pestilence would still be there the next year and would provide the excuse for another year’s travel, entertainment, spending other people’s money, passing pious resolutions and generally being self-important, all of which are the only reasons for being in politics or diplomacy.
…Thus, despite the fact that almost everyone says that Copenhagen was a success because it narrowly avoided being a failure, the cognoscenti know it was a great success because it was such an appalling failure.
…[S]ince Kyoto and again since Bali, we were told incessantly that Copenhagen was the last chance to prevent the world being plunged into a watery grave. Everyone was going to Copenhagen in the belief that it was a last chance to save the planet.
When I heard this, I mourned for the international political and diplomatic brotherhood of which I was once a part; they clearly were not going to be able to stretch climate change beyond Copenhagen as the excuse for more conferences, new taxes, tougher and more complicated laws and the perpetual extortion of money from poor workers in rich countries to rich kleptomaniacs in poor countries that foreign aid has become. Some other issue would have to be found.
Fortunately, this has turned out not to be the case. Mercifully, climate change will be there for at least another year to take its vengeance on a profligate and decadent world. It will provide the excuse for conferences next year and for years beyond.
This article would be simply a funny bit of writing except for one fact: it rather seems to explain everything. It is simply too believable.
There is another little snippet in the middle of the article that bears repeating too. Had me chuckling for hours.
Sir Owen Dixon told me that when he was appointed the first UN troubleshooter on Kashmir, he went to New York to recruit an assistant. Someone recommended a young man in the UN building who, believe it or not, actually had the job description ”to bring peace to the world”.
”Do you like your job?” Sir Owen asked. ”Well, at least it’s permanent,” he replied.
As Jesus said, “The poor will be always with you.”