Main Street summitry
The best thing about the Venice summit was that it took place. The word "summit" may have been cheapened by easy application to too many meetings. The cynics may talk about summits as show-window diplomacy with everything decided in advance. But there is no substitute for world leaders getting together like neighbors from time to time, particularly now and into a future where the perspectives of space and communication turn the planet into Main Street.
The next best thing about the Venice summit was that the assembled leaders of the seven major industrial democracies displayed an increasingly necessary sensitivity to the unrepresented rest of the neighborhood. This appeared not only where it served the leaders' obvious interests -- as in expressing solidarity with the United Nations General Assembly and the Islamic Conference in reaffirming condemnation of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. It also appeared in agreement to ensure that the third world will not lack the means to achieve economic growth and social prgress -- and in calling on the oil-producing and communist states to join in the aid effort.
Even such responsiveness to the developing nations' needs might be said to serve the interests of the industrial world, of course. For the security of the "haves" is linked to the international stability that is seen to be increasingly dependent on the "have nots" sharing equitably in the opportunties for advancement in the global neighborhood.
Yet our impression is that the summiteers' heightened awareness of the world beyond their rarefield realm reflects a heightened sense of neighborly responsiblity among their constituents. It is something that must not be diminished under the temptations to self-seeking offered by the international economic situation, including the severe challenges presented by energy and other needs.
The Venice summit lent impetus to attacking these challenges by joining in the assault on inflation and in various measures for energy efficiency and alternative fuel production to reduce the drain on oil.
Sometimes, fi the mixed results of national policies are any indication, it looks as if even the combined efforts of the summit members are uncertain solutions to the tasks at hand, whether of economy or East-West relations. But in all these matters, the steadfast cooperation in seeking progress is what counts. As Winston Churchill said in the 1953 speech when he coined the term "summit" in calling fora top-level conference on Korea and East-West affairs: "It would be a mistake to assume that nothing can be settled with Soviet Russia unless or until everything is settled." So it is with the whole array of problems that need settlement with the help of today's summiteers.