It could have happened to anyone…

So, I got up *bloody* early this morning to get to the capital city of a neighbouring country, where I was due to have a 0945 meeting with someone in the local equivalent of the Prime Minister’s office.

So about 0930 I was wandering around the main government district of the capital, and not quite sure where I should go, and stopped in at the nearest official looking entrance and said I was to meet Mr X in meeting room Y.

And they said, Oh, we see Mr X here occasionally, but meeting room Y is in our second building around the corner. And a passing official offered to walk me there, so I went with her.

So I got to their second building about 0940, and they said, Hmm, no Mr X on our books here; have you tried the third entrance across the road? Of course I hadn’t, and it sounded not unreasonable to me.

So at the third entrance, they had no Mr X and no meeting room Y. But they kindly realised that since meeting room Y was at the second entrance where I’d just been, and so they called the receptionist there who went and checked that meeting room Y was indeed empty and devoid of any meeting happening.

So they suggested I try the Foreign Ministry building next door, and since I had not previously heard of Mr X or meeting room Y, but I knew our meeting was about foreign affairs (since that’s what I do for a living) I thought it was a fair bet. And I tried two separate entrances to the Foreign Ministry but they knew of no Mr X, let alone meeting room Y.

So I gave up and checked into my nearby hotel, as I had been trogging my luggage around with me throughout all of this. And twenty minutes later came a call from Mr X. He had been waiting for me at his office in the first place I went to, and had planned to walk over with me to the second place for our meeting with a bunch of other medium-level important people, and the receptionist had never received his instructions, and it was now far too late to do anything about it.

I haven’t filled in the blanks, because it could happen to any country; indeed on the whole I find this particular country usually fairly professional. But I think it illustrates that you should never assume that foreign policy comes from a deep, reflective, mature sequence of thoughts and earnest meetings reflecting profound consideration of all the issues at hand. Simple human error plays a much greater part than people like to think, and cock-up is always a much more likely explanation than conspiracy.

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