Unkind critics declared the Chinese set piece of Obama's Asian trip a near diplomatic disaster. The hallowed wisdom of summitry is that you do not let the president embark upon such an odyssey without the final decisions agreed upon, the protocol set, the farewell communiqués written well in advance. But on the Obama trip there were no breakthroughs to trumpet, the Chinese orchestrated press conferences without questions, obliged the US president to tiptoe around human rights issues like Tibet, and rigged a public "town hall" meeting not with ordinary folk, but selected young communists.
Meanwhile, the president has been snubbed by Israel, ignored by North Korea, charged with dithering on the length of time he took to decide on his commander's request for more troops for Afghanistan, dallying on his overly optimistic promise to close down Guantánamo, and has been stiffed by Iran announcing a plan to build 10 new uranium enrichment plants. The Chinese seem surprised by the Iranian announcement, as do the Russians, but while Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has suggested in the past that he might go along with US-urged sanctions against Iran, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has suggested he would not. No doubt it will emerge in time who is really running Russia.