Michael Hastings writes: On Sunday morning, I picked up my official NATO Summit press credentials, went through an extensive security check from my hotel (dogs, metal detectors, Secret Service, all in the The Hyatt Regency, where most of the NATO media is staying) and boarded a bus to McCormack Place, the massive conference center where most of the summit is taking place.
Both the trip there and the trip back seemed designed to keep the chaos at bay, out of sight and out of mind, with roads closed down to secretly slip us by the potentially angry people in the streets. If Chicago residents were going to get annoyed by the traffic, and NATO protesters annoyed by the heavy handed police tactics, the global elite weren’t going to be bothered by any of it.
Compared to the reality of the Chicago streets — the heat, the smells, a sense of manic purpose — the cavernous McCormack place felt very sterile. World leaders faces were broadcast on big screens, played in endless loops exchanging pleasantries. (Example: “It is great to be back in Chicago,” says NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. “Welcome each and everyone of you to my hometown,” says President Barack Obama.)
The international press corps covering NATO must be one of the most boring collectives of journalists ever assembled. They seem very keen on not missing any press releases handed out at the NATO media desk.
The summit itself is mostly a symbolic affair — we nations gather together and affirm our commitment to one another. In Afghanistan’s case this is no longer true, however: the commitment is really to get out of our commitments as quickly as possible.