Know When to Fold ‘Em

French President Nicolas Sarkozy got a side meeting in London with Chinese President Hu Jintao after all. France, like Britain before it, reiterated its longstanding Tibet policy — which amounts to public relations stunts to burnish human rights bona fides, while officially giving Tibetan aspirations for independence the shaft. For its part, China agreed to take the diplomatic high road and let bygones be bygones.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev got acquainted in a very lawyerly way during their side meeting. They have agreed to agree on what they agree on (START negotiations), while reserving the right to not mention everything on which they don’t. Nice to see, too, that they both committed to “move beyond Cold War mentalities” so soon after the Cold War, you know, ended.

This is the post-ideological, multipolar world at work, folks: short memories, wide networks of friendly relationships — which is not the same thing as friendships — and ad hoc, momentary coalitions. Best-case scenario is the anti-pirate patrols off of Somalia, where interests converge and everyone agrees on both means and ends. Take your pick for the worst-case scenario. Darfur, Burma and the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea all strike me as contenders.