What if Europe gave a party and no one came? This from the New York Times:
Nov. 27 - In a summit meeting marked as much by who was not there as who was, the European Union opened a two-day conference here on Sunday aimed at renewing its commitment to developing and democratizing Muslim nations on the Mediterranean's southern rim ...with the goal of replicating in the Muslim world some of the European Union's procedures for integrating Central and Eastern European countries.
Many of the North African and Middle Eastern leaders who had agreed to come to the meeting announced last week that they could not attend. Their absence weakens European claims that their approach to the Muslim world - based on economic development, dialogue, strengthening the rule of law, and other forms of soft power - has greater credibility with the region's leaders than what they see as the Bush administration's more aggressive approach.
The lack of interest in the meeting was highlighted by Reuters: "while nearly all 25 EU leaders attended, only two of the 10 Mediterranean partners -- Turkey and the Palestinian Authority -- sent their top leaders to the two-day conference." The main items on the agenda were immigration and terrorism. The Financial Times says that the poorly attended conference "has shown the limits of the soft (political) power that Europe likes to vaunt and contrast with US hard (military) power."
All environmentally responsible countries signed up to the Kyoto climate agreement, right? The Toronto Globe and Mail reports that the UN Climate Change Secretariat shows that "Canada's emission record is far worse than even the United States, where the Bush administration has refused to ratify Kyoto. Mr. Bramley said the United States is 'actually ahead of Canada in just about every area' of environmental policies used to curb emissions. And he said the record of individual states 'is far ahead of any province in Canada.'" In fact, if increases in greenhouses gases since 1990 are used as a measure, Canada performed nearly twice as badly as the United States. Interestingly enough, the one time world levels of greenhouses gases fell dramatically was when Ronald Reagan took a hand.
The report shows that a huge, one-time greenhouse gas reduction occurred after the economic collapse of the former Communist countries. The former East Bloc's emissions fell from 5.7 billion tonnes in 1990 to 3.4 billion tonnes in 2003, a stunning drop equivalent to eliminating three times Canada's total annual contribution to warming the planet.
One of the most important functions of labels is to summarize a large quantity of information in a single symbol. Because people don't have the time to comprehensively analyze the specific attributes of a product they often rely on labels or simply branding information to serve as a proxy indicator of the properties they wish to measure. Labels perform a similar function in politics. The term "soft power" sounds like it might be better than "hard power". Countries which don't sign up to the Kyoto climate agreement are presumably rogue states intent on polluting the planet. Greedy, money-grubbing capitalist countries are presumably less environmentally friendly than gentle Socialist countries.
People buy on the basis of labels; people vote on the basis of labels, and sometimes they are misled. The power of labels creates an opportunity for hucksters to substitute fiction for reality, as anyone who has ever bought a Rolex made in Pakistan knows. For years the United Nations presented itself as a saintly organization bent on saving the whales when it wasn't preserving world peace. Reality fell somewhat short of this ideal, and the process of disillusionment is always painful to watch. In a way, even those who didn't believe in the fake labels can feel a sense of loss at watching the hope, and then the belief fade from the faces of those who have been suckered. The truth will set you free; but first it will make you miserable.