A long hard week of summitry
So which of this week's various summits would you like me to write about? You can choose from the climate change or Middle East summits on Tuesday; the UN General Assembly summit on Wednesday; the nuclear disarmament summit yesterday; or the G20 summit today ...
You know what? I'll deal with them all, simultaneously, just as if I were a world leader.
Because the thing about summits, so we're told, is that they concentrate leaders' minds; they establish deadlines - after all, which world leader worth his or her salt wants to stand up before the world's TV cameras and say: "Er, sorry, I don't think I've got much to offer on this ..."?
No. What they do - or rather what their officials and advisers do - is spend months ahead of the summit preparing positions, discreetly sounding out friends and allies, drawing up a strategy which they hope will work as well in PR terms as it does politically.
I've written before, I think, that I tend to regard these events as worth rather less than the participants would have us believe. But even I will accept that when you get all the world's most important leaders in the same place at the same time, talking about more or less the same things, that is bound to be both interesting and important.
So what did we get? Well, on climate change, President Hu Jintao of China seemed to create the most excitement - after all, it's his country that now pumps out more carbon gas into the atmosphere than anyone else, and it's his country's economy that is growing faster than anyone else's. So when he says China will reduce its carbon emissions as a proportion of economic output "by a notable margin", that's seen as a big step forward. But how "notable" is "notable"? For now, no one knows ...
On the Middle East, President Obama insisted that Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority turned up to meet him, a bit like errant schoolboys summoned to the head teacher's office. He wagged his finger at them, told them they need to do better, and sent them home again.
At the UN General Assembly, Muammar Gaddafi of Libya and Mahmoud Ahmedinejad of Iran both did pretty much what was expected of them, apparently revelling in their reputation as Bad Boys of the International Leaders Club. Colonel Gaddafi attacked the UN Security Council as a "terror council" and spoke for more than one and a half hours, rather than the 15 minutes each leader was allotted. (Mind you, President Obama spoke for nearly 40 minutes, so Gaddafi wasn't the only one who ignored the clock.)
President Ahmadinejad said nothing about Iran's nuclear programme, attacked Jews as "a small minority [who] dominate the politics, economy and culture of major parts of the world", and accused foreign forces in Iraq and Afghanistan of spreading "war, bloodshed, aggression, terror and intimidation".
Which brings us to Thursday and nuclear disarmament. Well, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution drafted by the US which sets out a path towards what President Obama describes as "a world without nuclear weapons". Gordon Brown proposed doing without one of Britain's nuclear-armed submarines as a way of signalling his government's support, although I've seen some analysts suggest that his announcement may not contain a huge amount of substance.
And as for the G20, well, they're still at it in Pittsburgh as I write, but I somehow doubt that their final communique will have you dancing in the aisles. The consensus seems to be the worst of the economic crisis is over, we seem to have prevented a slide into the abyss, but we're going to need to remain vigilant. Oh, and we really don't think banks should be paying out million-dollar bonuses to some of their top people - but we won't say so too loudly because neither the Americans nor the Brits think it's right for governments to decide how much people should be paid.
So, all in all, a good week's work? Ask me in five years' time.