I didn’t think the day would ever come when I would agree with US vice-president Dick Cheney. But his decision to send the US delegation to Doha, Qatar, for the WTO ministerial meeting was undoubtedly the right one.
According to the Financial Times, Cheney overruled trade representative Robert Zoellick in the face of security concerns that have been termed “substantial”.
Why is it right to go to Doha? Think of the signal that switching the venue (Singapore was available) would have sent. It would have said: “The Arab world is unsafe. We can’t protect our officials. We don’t care that Qatar stuck its neck out when no one else would [after the debacle in Seattle, Qatar was the only country prepared to host the WTO].”
There is some understandable black humour in trade circles. “What do we hope to get out of Doha?” one US official apparently said. “We hope to get out of Doha.” The good news is that the serious differences on the draft document seem to be narrowing. And with fewer officials and fewer business lobbyists expected in Doha thanks to security concerns, there might actually be a streamlined, decisive meeting.
“Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem said yesterday that he had underestimated the tenacity of the Afghan troops because he had not understood that the Taliban ‘don’t see the world the same way we do’.” Maureen Dowd spotted this reassuring sign of intelligence at the top of the military.