Here is what we think we know:
1. The preferred agenda of the Group of 20 Summit in Pittsburgh is to liberalize world trade and disentangle government meddling from markets.
1a. To the extent that that is indeed useful, U.S. farm subsidies are an embarrassment -- as damaging to U.S. long-term strategic interests as Abu Ghraib. Everybody in a position to know this already knows this, except most Congresspersons.
2. Financial sector regulations, debt relief and economic justice, climate change and carbon emissions will seize portions of the G-20's energy and initiative only if member participants are engaged politically, in the present tense -- with one another and with their constituencies and audiences.
3. The best lever "the protesters" have at their disposal presently is President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, pictured here. He has been making veiled threats to "walk out" of the Summit if issues somewhat similar or related to many protester issues are not addressed.
4. Just guessing here: it might be best to appeal to Sarkozy's ego.
5. If France walks out on its own, it will be a total clown and the G-20 will move on without it. That's why France definitely, definitely won't come close to walking out on its own.
6. Germany and Canada are likely to team up with France on several of these matters. So may as-yet-unidentified countries without huge banking sectors, or with axes to grind generally.
7. How far are Germany, Canada and their as-yet unidentified allies (Japan would be nice!) willing to go down Sarkozy's rhetorical route? What if five or six countries start making noises about leaving if "nothing urgent is being discussed" -- not beyond heartwarming bromides?
8. If the G-20 Summit actually were to break down, that would be seen as a dreadful failure of American leadership, obvious to everyone.
9. How awesome would President Obama come across as if by "handling" Sarkozy in the intelligent manner, he is seen at once to have allowed the more vain politician his moment in the sunlight, while avoiding a headache? Obama could save face from altering a few positions by "at last unleashing the creative potential of the Franco-American alliance", making history you could say -- simply by inserting something flashier than imagined about bankers' bonuses into the language of the post-summit Communique.
10. Meanwhile, I do not think the U.S. notion to urge certain G-20 countries to consume more imports in order to balance trade makes any sense yet. And I'm not sure the International Monetary Fund, with its 51%+ stake held by the U.S. alone, is the most appropriate or even most fertile institution to begin vesting with powers.
In summation, today I prescribe healthy doses of "Go Sarkozy, Go!" banners as the best way to disrupt, and to hopefully reorient, the G-20 Summit around more overtly humanitarian priorities. Stay tuned.
And by the way, the success point for the happiness economic indicator is not "making it into the Communique" (unlikely) but rather getting funded and professionally utilized by some halfway credible international institution (looking better). The success point for climate change is a U.S. Presidential commitment to attend Copenhagen in December. The success point for debt relief and economic justice has yet to be apprehended.