Every now and then I cannot help asking the question, though. Take the article today about Gordon Brown refusing to attend the EU-Africa Summit if Robert Mugabe is invited.
As far as most people are concerned and that must include even readers of the Observer, that is possibly the only statement Gordon Brown has made, with which one can agree wholeheartedly (give or take the fact that many of us think an EU-Africa Summit is a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money).
Furthermore, by refusing to countenance Mugabe’s presence in Lisbon, Gordon Brown shows himself to be the only leader of an EU Member Country to stick to the letter and content of the Common Position on Zimbabwe. Did all those Member States not agree as part of the common foreign policy to refuse to admit Mugabe as well as his friends and relations to European soil? Is that not one of the great advantages, as we were told by the Independent some time ago, of having the EU – that there can be a common position of this kind and it can be enforced?
None of which matters. What is of importance (well, apart from the fact that Gordon Brown shows himself to be an imperialist by his disapproval of one of the bloodiest kleptocrats in Africa) is that it will all be so embarrassing.
No one wants a repeat of 2000 when Tony Blair boycotted a conference over Mugabe's presence, or of 2003 when a summit in Lisbon was abandoned over the same issue - EU sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe in 2002 included a travel ban on the dictator. And this year, the Portuguese hosts say, the potential rewards of closer ties between the two continents outweigh antagonism between the leaders of Britain and Zimbabwe.Then there will be the embarrassment of other African leaders not turning up because Mugabe is not invited.
Whitehall sources insist Brown's decision to boycott is not meant as a rebuke to Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates, who will host the meeting. 'In the coverage it has been about the Prime Minister and Mugabe,' the source said. 'That is not how he sees it. The assumption is that Mugabe is going. If he is there, the Prime Minister doesn't want to attend. But he is not saying he should not go. He is not dictating who should attend. He is just saying he will not go.'
Other nations have weighed in - Zambia's President Levy Mwanawasa has stepped up to say if Mugabe doesn't go, then he won't either, and two empty African chairs would cause considerable embarrassment to fledgling African unity.Well, diddums. What all these people should be embarrassed by is the fact that for all their high-falutin’ chatter they do not care what happens to Africa or Africans. That goes for all the aid merchants as well.
As we suspected, if Brown holds firm he may well find the Scandinavian countries on his side and the Summit will be so embarrassing that it will not happen. Well, one can dream, can’t one.
Will anything useful come out of the Summit? Doubtful. Does anyone even have any useful ideas to discuss? It doesn’t look like it. Will we continue to pour aid into that benighted Continent for it all to be stolen by the tyrannical kleptocracy? You bet. Will we ever understand that the best thing we can do is get out, trade with the African countries and let private enterprise develop? Not in the foreseeable future.
So why have the Summit? Oh well, you know, it is good to talk and useful things can come out of it and, anyway, the Chinese are establishing their hegemony in Africa. And that is our problem because …. Oh wait, it is not our problem.
The Chinese will establish their hegemony by buying and selling. They need energy and other resources and they are ready to sell arms for it. Nothing to be done about that unless we can somehow put pressure on China. Summits with African countries will not help.
As for aid – that stupid the Chinese are not. They give when they want something in return and they make sure that they get that something. They don’t even bother to set up Communist or quasi-Communist parties the way the Soviets used to do. On the whole it might be quite a useful way of handling the African problem. Certainly no less useful than Summit Blather and large amounts of moolah handed over to the nasties, which seems to be our chosen method.