George and Shinzo, together again

So old chums George and Shinzo have gotten together again, this time in Heiligendamm on the sidelines of the G8 summit, to chat about their mounting unpopularity abductions (surprise! Bush still supports Abe’s position) and climate change.

I wish, I wish, I wish I could rouse up some interest in what’s happening in Germany, aside from the scheduled meeting between Abe and Putin, but I fail to see why the G8 matters. Seriously, when was the last time a G8 meeting had a practical impact on global governance? 1987, when the Louvre Accord helped push Japan’s asset bubble to new heights of excess? The past twenty years have seen a dramatic decline in the relevance of the organization, as suggested by this op-ed by former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing, one of the founding heads of state. Giscard wonders whether the current composition — the US, Canada, France, Germany, the UK, Italy, Japan, and Russia — has significant clout to see its conclusions implemented.

I wonder if that’s but one problem, and not even the most significant. The expansion — and growing level of abstraction — of G8 agendas, with the agenda becoming a catch-all for whatever issues the member nations find important to them. There seems to be little acknowledgment of the limits of the resources and will of the countries involved. But the world is too complex, and power too diffuse, to pretend that the G8, no matter how wealthy or militarily capable its members, has the ability to solve even a fraction of the problems that the leaders gather to discuss. (Does anyone really think that more European involvement in the North Korea crisis will bring it any closer to a satisfactory outcome for Japan?)

So the media will continue to cover the summits, because the interaction between world leaders makes for interesting drama — and as for the Japanese media, they love to report on the G8, because it shows Japan as a world leader (hence the ongoing coverage of next year’s summit, to be hosted by Japan) — but as far as I’m concerned, the G8 is just another antiquated global forum.

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