Sunday, May 20, 2007

"Carterism" in Retrospect, pt. 2 - In a recent interview with the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, former President Jimmy Carter expressed his distaste for George W. Bush (an mp3 of which is available here).

I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history. The overt reversal of America's basic values as expressed by previous administrations, including [those of] George H. W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and others, has been the most disturbing to me.
In his comments, he condemned President Bush for blurring the line between church and state, particularly in regards to Bush's support of faith-based initiatives, and Carter was equally unstinting in upbraiding the President for his policies towards the environment. In a separate interview with the BBC, Mr. Carter followed up his criticism of Bush with a similarly strident critique of Tony Blair, with Carter condemning the British PM for being "apparently subservient" in his support of President Bush in the Iraq War.
One of the defenses of the Bush administration, in the American public and on a worldwide basis — and it's not been successful in my opinion — has been that, OK, we must be more correct in our actions than the world thinks because Great Britain is backing us.

And so I think the combination of Bush and Blair giving their support to this tragedy in Iraq has strengthened the effort, and has made opposition less effective and has prolonged the war and increased the tragedy that has resulted.
As discussed previously, Mr. Carter doubtless has an incentive to attempt to beef up his post-Presidential portfolio. For good reason, he has been seen as a largely ineffectual leader; his tenure was marked as much by a depressed morale at home as by foreign policy impotence abroad. There is no point in recounting the foibles of the Carter administration at this juncture, as we have neither the time nor the stamina to recount his every outrage against effective executive leadership. Suffice it to say that every President since has had to work to "unwind" Carterism.

For his part, Carter has done much to ensure that the unwinders will have long-term job security. His verbal jabs at his successors not withstanding, Mr. Carter has much for which to account in a material way, as he has been as unhelpful as an ex-President as he was ineffective as President. While the complete primer on Carter's ante- and post-Oval Office exploits comes to us from Commentary, we recall his meddlesome interference with the foreign policy initiatives of those who succeeded him.

Carter worked assiduously to prevent George H. W. Bush from taking military action against Iraq for invading Kuwait, utilizing all of his contacts with world leaders to encourage the U.N. Security Council to reject American leadership and "provide
unequivocal support to an Arab League effort, without any restraints on their agenda.
" (It is beyond ironic that an unabashed liberal was attempting to thwart the efforts of Bush the Elder to build an international coalition to deal with Saddam Hussein, even as progressives pillory George W. Bush for not garnering more American support for his incursion into Iraq.)

In a like fashion, Carter's largely unsanctioned parallel foreign policy in North Korea allowed for the implementation of the "Agreed Framework" by the Clinton administration, thereby abetting Pyongyang in its duplicity as it continued to work on its nuclear program. So to has Jimmy Carter been less than helpful in his tilting towards the PLO vis-a-vis the Arab-Israeli conflict. To this hour, it is unclear to me how anyone can look at the situation in the Middle East presently and conclude that it is Israel that is the stumbling block to peace. Nevertheless, Carter has made his bias evident as of his latest writing on the matter, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid (as discussed in Commentary.)
To make Israel the culprit of his historical narrative, Carter is compelled to turn many things upside down. In the 1970's, he writes, "rejection of Israel was shared by the leaders of all Arab nations, following four wars in the previous 25 years." This sentence gives the impression that the "four wars" somehow caused Arab rejectionism, when the inverse is true: rejection of Israel was the reason for the wars. In another inversion, he claims that Israeli plans to divert water from the Jordan and the Sea of Galilee were what prompted the founding of the PLO in 1964. In fact, when the Arab states turned down a U.S. plan for the distribution of water because it would allow "the Zionists to consolidate their existence," Israel secured American approval to divert a smaller amount on its own, to which the Arabs retaliated by diverting water upstream of Israel and by forming the PLO as an anti-Israel guerrilla movement to continue the war of annihilation by other means.
To be sure, while the record of Jimmy Carter's time on the world stage is crystal clear to others, it seems to remain a blur for Mr. Carter himself. He aches to be seen as some sort of statesman; his naked pursuit of a Nobel Prize speaks volumes. But as long as Carter refuses to see the world as it exists as opposed to how he imagines it, he will continue to be seen as naive - and that will be the charitable interpretation. If his work with Habitat For Humanity is any indication, Carter has a tremendous capacity for personal charity and service to others. But in as much as he is unsure about (or indifferent to) America's essential morality - preferring instead to place his trust in despots of all stripes - Carter will be confounded by the perception that his presidency was an obstacle for others to overcome.

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