Saturday, October 26, 2013

Berlin 2013 Day 4: The Irishman and the Chinaman

I write this at 1230 on Saturday, after having lounged in my bed post-late night with new friends.  It occurs to me how wonderful it is to feel as I do now, refreshed, accomplished (sleeping past noon), ready for a (somewhat shortened) day.  When I used to drink, days rarely started like this.

I was unable to write you at the end of the day yesterday, as the events of our convention concluded and we then headed out for a final dinner together.  It was a wonderful day, even if it did start out somewhat oddly.  Without going into incredibly boring detail, the United States Senate has never ratified the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas, and this fact really, really sticks in the craw of much of the rest of the world, especially Europe.  Generally speaking, all Democrats support the treaty and some Republicans do--but the Republican minority has been able to keep the Treaty from being ratified for three decades.  Interestingly enough, the United States DOES however follow almost every provision of the treaty, especially those that pertain to its Navy, Coast Guard, etc.  And because we are the worlds largest economy with the world's largest and most global Navy, the plain truth is that the Treaty is tremendously boosted by the US, its ratification notwithstanding.

It is the job of the American at international conferences to be apologetic and somewhat embarrassed that we have not yet ratified the treaty, and over the years, I have seen many Americans play the part quite well.  It seems however, that I was unable to do so.  Here's how it went.  After my presentation on day 1 (Thursday), there was of course the predictable question/comment on the horrors of the US having not ratified UNCLOS.  In response, I repeated basically what I said above, that "I did not lose sleep over our not having ratified the treaty, since we possess the world's largest oceanborne economy and the world's largest Navy, I figure we do pretty much more than anyone else to support the provisions of the treaty."  Not exactly playing the role I was supposed to play.

On day two, the first panel, the man who had sat next to me the entire first day--an international lawyer from Ireland--gave a presentation, which was excellent.  Toward the end, he took the opportunity to add that he was "disappointed in our esteemed colleague from the United States' view on ratification of UNCLOS, and further, I cannot believe that a minority of Senators on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee could have blocked its ratification last year." 

Knowing full well which American colleague to whom he was referring, I raised my hand for the question and answer period, and when called upon, said the following:  "I would like to add some texture and insight to the views of the unnamed American colleague cited by Professor (XXXX) in his remarks, and remind the Professor that I THOUGHT I heard the unnamed American indicate that he slept easy at night BECAUSE the US ---the largest maritime economy with the largest Navy--were FOLLOWING the overwhelming majority of the Convention.  And furthermore, I realize that he may not be familiar with American law, but his beliefs notwithstanding, treaties in the US must be ratified by a 2/3 majority, which means BY DEFINITION they can be defeated by a minority."

My did I feel good.  Perhaps unfairly, my comment was slipped in under the last few seconds of the conference, so the Irishman didn't have an opportunity to counter-counter.  Within seconds I received emails from two other convention goers which were essentially electronic "atta-boys".  It was the closest thing one can come to a touchdown in an international affairs conference.  In the coffee break afterward, the Irishman approached me and we extended hands.  He said, "I hope I wasn't too tough on you" to which I answered, "you would have been disappointed in my Irish blood if I hadn't called you on that", to which he agreed and laughed--thus beginning what I hope to be a solid, transatlantic friendship.

The conference proceeded without incident, and the Irish Professor and I chit chatted with far more purpose on day two than we had on day one, to the point where he expressed a desire to "get you over to Ireland so that you can talk with some of my clients" as he is also a consultant to Irish a number of Irish businesses.  Yes please.

At 1945, we gathered in the foyer of the hotel for dinner, and the Chinese People's Liberation Army Senior Colonel who had joined us approached me, rotating his left shoulder as if in pain.  "Colonel, are you in pain?" I asked, to which he answered yes, there was some tightness in the middle of his back.  I thought little more of it until at dinner, where he was seated just across the table from me, I could see he was in discomfort.  "Colonel, are you ok?" I asked.  He said "my chest hurts and it is hard to breathe".  He looked to be in pain and uncomfortable, but not yet in distress.  I spoke to the Italian admiral across the table from me in German, telling him that I thought the Chinese guy was having a minor heart attack and that we should get him out of here.  The Italian watched him for a bit, agreed, and we brought it to the attention of the conference organizer, who arranged to get the Colonel to a hospital.  The Colonel was a tough bugger, sorta resisting the efforts of the group---and so I grabbed him by both sides of his head as he was moving around to my side of the table and said--looking directly in his eyes--"Don't be a f*****g idiot.  You need a doctor", to which he nodded and moved off with his attendants.  Don't know how things turned out, but I hope to ask some others by email who might know.

After dinner, a group of us went for a few drinks and we spent a wonderful evening chatting.  Only three of us were coming back to the hotel in which I was staying, including the Irishman. He, I and an Englishman who has worked in some of the world's most famous shit-holes alighted to the hotel bar where we watched German couples dance in the low light to the sounds of a German woman singing American hip-hop, something that could have come straight out of a 1970's East German bar.  Having had enough, I headed to my room for the sleep which extended right up until drafting this blog post.

UPDATE: Others from my group confirmed that the Chinese Senior Colonel was up and around smiling and making jokes this morning.  No word on what was the cause of his discomfort last night.


Mudge said...

"...having lounged in my bed...with new (male) friends"

Sometimes punctuation can be your friend too.

Seriously, excellent travelogue exceeded only by winning over an international audience but standing proud of the USA rather than giving a passive endorsement of their follower nation world views. Well done and BZ, Shipmate.

"The Hammer" said...

Goddamn Irish! What was he doing there to start with? Hell, Cleveland is bigger than Ireland and their Navy consists of an three old Liberty ships.
But I'm glad you rhetorically bitch-slapped his Trinity College (or UCD), tweed jacket with patches on the elbows, Bushmill's on the breath arse.

I. M. Raciss said...

"The Irishman and the Chinaman"...sounds like a set up for a joke.

"...the Irishman turns to the Chinaman and says, "I said 'whiskey' not 'risky'""

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