October 1, 2004


By the way. A "summit meeting" or "summit conference" is a meeting between heads of government. A high-profile meeting, presumably on an important and difficult topic. It is very different than the ordinary negotiations and discussions of governments, which are conducted by people of lower rank.

A summit meeting is not entered upon lightly, because the prestige and credibility of the leaders is being put on the line. If the big meeting is held without results, the leaders look incompetent and weak. (If one of the leaders is strong enough, he can wield a powerful weapon, by being willing to walk away from the table, as Reagan did to Gorbachev at Reykjavik.)

A summit meeting is usually held after negotiations have reached a point where agreement is a distinct possibility, and when both sides would like to come to agreement. The big leaders have the authority and freedom to horse-trade on various deal-breaking issues in a way that cautious underlings can't. And are powerfully motivated to do so, if only to justify the investment of their political capital.

A summit does not have any magic ability to solve otherwise intractable problems. To think so is similar to the way fluff-brains will say, "If only everyone would get together and talk, we could solve these problems." A summit is a very specialized tool, for use in rather unusual conditions.

Loose talk about having summits tends to be an evasion, a way to avoid grappling with problems.

Posted by John Weidner at October 1, 2004 5:57 PM
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