Summit benefits hard to find
SouthtownStar editorial May 24, 2012 7:36PM
Updated: July 3, 2012 9:30AM
The NATO Summit has come and gone, smoothly, with no rioting in the streets. Peace, more or less, reigned — along with major inconvenience for many thousands of Chicago-area residents.
We’re glad that the worst scenarios were averted, considering how much security firepower was arrayed to control a few thousand rag-tag protesters. Nothing much offensive happened other than a surge in self-congratulatory preening by civic leaders. That was the good part of the summit. But the narrative of the event hinged on two major presumptions, neither of which is true.
The first is that this summit was essential to the business of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to maintain its worldwide vigilance and deter aggression against the free world. NATO must have a summit, so it might as well be in Chicago.
That’s absurd. Nothing important occurred at this summit, including the announcement of a “deal” to end the miserable war in Afghanistan. That deal was already done in private by expert staff. This was mostly for show.
Virtually everyone in NATO wants to get out of the Afghan disaster ASAP, and only the United States holds out for patience, apparently out of a misguided notion that the backward country can become a bastion of democracy.
The second theory is that the summit would showcase Chicago, add to its international luster and enhance its business climate and future. How to accurately judge that? But we think this event was more about manicured political egos than community benefit. Some of our leaders see those two qualities as the same thing.
And where were signs of that supposed $128 million in direct economic benefit from the summit? The Loop was relatively deserted over the weekend, and many business owners complained about a sharp drop-off in customers.
As for the official visitors, many were likely impressed, not that they saw anything but Postcard Chicago. Overall, a lot of effort and expense without widespread benefit. City residents are used to that.