Washington, DC – Our head of state is now in Cannes, France, at the G-20 summit, gallivanting with elites from the planet’s most powerful economies. For the first time since his 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama isn’t the center of attention. The stars of this week’s party on the French Riviera are German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy – architects of a “bailout plan” to save the European Union’s artificial euro currency and keep the PIIGs (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain) from going bankrupt. It’s all a sideshow, designed to convince us that governments can continue to binge on social programs without consequences.
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou – not an official participant in the summit – has been handed the role of “skunk at the picnic.” Last Friday, Merkel and Sarkozy handed Athens a plan that required banks holding Greek government bonds to accept 50 percent losses while “new lenders” provide Greece with another $140 billion in loans - on top of the $153 billion they were given last year. Instead of inking the deal, Papandreou had the temerity to call for a public vote on the measure. Stock markets around the globe promptly plunged. In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average plummeted nearly 300 points.
Not to worry. The “summiteers” have convinced Papandreou to re-think his crazy idea of allowing the people of the world’s first democracy to vote on the plan. And before the rest of the “world leaders” pose for their group photo on Saturday, they will create another faux “stay of execution” to sustain the fiction that elites at the International Monetary Fund and “cooperative measures” taken by the international community are capable of averting a global economic meltdown. The real goal, of course, is much simpler: to postpone the looming fiscal catastrophe until after Sarkozy, Obama and Merkel stand for election. Obama, exercising his now familiar “leadership style” and apparently convinced this is all above the ken of mere Americans, said through his White House mouthpiece, “It is a European problem that has to be addressed.”
That approach may even work for the next 20 months or so unless real world events intervene – the kind of things not even on the agenda in Cannes. Here are just three of the issues that won’t be addressed by those sipping French wine and munching on canapés during their revelry on the Riviera:
In Libya, secret stockpiles of chemical weapons are now being found on a nearly daily basis. That’s being taken by some as a good sign. It’s not. In 2004, Moammar Gadhafi famously promised then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair that he would “turn in” his weapons of mass destruction. We believed him. International inspectors - dispatched from the U.S., NATO, and the UN - verified that the Libyan dictator had indeed done as asked. We now know it wasn’t true. We also know that 20,000 or more man-portable surface-to-air missiles are missing from Gadhafi’s arms depots. One would hope that the economic consequences of just one of these weapons bringing down a commercial airliner might be on the agenda in Cannes. But it’s not.
The hasty withdrawal of all American troops from Iraq has emboldened pro-Iranian Shiite factions in the Land Between the Rivers. Thousands of Iraqis who have helped U.S. forces with intelligence collection, civil affairs and translation services are desperately trying to get out of their country – not unlike the final days of the Vietnam War. Desertions from Iraq’s armed forces have spiked since Obama announced the pullout on October 21. It might be logical to assume the world leaders frolicking in France might take note of the economic consequences should the government in Baghdad prove unable to protect the country’s oil infrastructure. But it’s not on the agenda.
In Iran, Iraq’s neighbor to the east, support for radical Islamic terror and efforts to acquire a nuclear arsenal continue unabated, despite hollow promises of “tougher sanctions” by the so-called international community. Israel – facing an existential threat from the Ayatollah’s atomic weapons – took the extraordinary step of demonstrating how it could respond to an attack by test-firing one of their own nuclear-capable ICBMs this week. The Fars News Agency – an organ of Tehran’s despotic regime – simply noted: “These arrogant threats have no credibility or value to us.” Unfortunately, that’s true. Though the leaders of the world’s leading economies may not be talking about it, the ayatollahs are committed to an Armageddon-like end-of-the-world scenario far more devastating than anything that can be altered by a bailout. But this isn’t up for review on the Riviera.
And in case it still matters to any of our “economic partners” in Cannes - or the present occupants of the White House - November 4 marks the 32nd anniversary of the U.S. Embassy’s being sacked in Tehran and the start of a horrific 444-day ordeal for 52 American hostages.
George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” True. But those who ignore the present sabotage the future for our children.