Jimmy Carter instructing George Bush on foreign affairs? He did it in a recent interview in Der Spiegel. In my neck of the woods, this is called chutzpah.
Let’s see. On Jimmy’s watch, Fidel Castro was on the march in Africa and fueling potent Marxist revolutionary groups throughout Central America. El Salvador and Honduras were under siege. Grenada actually went Communist in 1979. Nicaragua was taken over by Marxist thugs in the same year.
Jimmy’s astute analysis: Fidel was not a problem.
Even his State Department was telling him otherwise.
When the Sandinistas seized Nicaragua, Jimmy proclaimed to reporters: “I do not attribute at all the change in Nicaragua to Cuba.”
Apparently, he had never read the letter the State Department’s Michele M. Bova, director of the Office of Central American Affairs, had written to Ed Koch when he was a congressman. Bova noted that the Sandinista movement “was founded in Havana”—imagine that!—and that “probably the most important source of [its] external support has been Cuba.”
Ah, well, Jimmy didn’t think the Soviets were much of a problem either, given his rallying cry for America at Notre Dame University in 1977: The U.S., Jimmy happily pronounced, “was now free of an inordinate fear” of communism.
Then—surprise!—the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in December 1979. Finally alerted to Soviet perfidy, Jimmy decreed that the U.S. would boldly boycott the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.
The Soviets, alas, refused to fold. Nor had they apparently been impressed with his hollowing out of the U.S. military or his casually tossing aside such critical assets as the B-l bomber, vigorous anti-missile research, the neutron bomb (which caused an uproar among our NATO allies), et cetera, ad nauseam.
But there’s more. While Jimmy was in the White House, Iran changed from a pro-Western, friendly government (under the Shah) to the grisly rule of Ayatollah Khomeini and his fundamentalist followers, who seized more than 50 American hostages. And haven’t things been sweet ever since?
The civilized world is in great pain because of the power-mad fanatics running Iran these days, and there is a school of thought that Jimmy’s human rights policy encouraged the shah’s overthrow. In any case, Carter did nothing to forestall that revolution or lessen its catastrophic impact.
Jimmy has always been bitterly envious of the success of the man who beat him and pursued what some have called the anti-Carter foreign policy. Under Ronald Reagan, the hostages were freed, the Soviets were driven from Afghanistan (with Stinger missiles, not Olympic boycotts) and, in fact, the entire Soviet empire collapsed. Carter has never conceded the point, finding it far easier to fume bitterly at Republicans than acknowledge his own failures.
Carter largely failed because he was in the habit of attempting to fill his foreign policy-national security slots with men holding many of his own screwball ideas. Human Events wrote furiously against Carter’s effort, for instance, to install writer-lawyer Ted Sorensen, JFK’s speechwriter, as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Even the Washington Post blanched. (See Jan. 8, 1977, cover story in HE.)
Sorensen not only had no pedigree for that critical position, but he also was a McGovernite who had been a “conscientious objector” during the Korean War and refused to repudiate his “pacifist” beliefs after Carter nominated him.
(Realizing the Senate would turn him down, Sorensen withdrew his name.)
Then there was Carter’s UN ambassador, Andy Young, only recently removed from Wal-Mart’s public relations program for indulging in a Mel Gibson moment. He accused Jews, Koreans and Arabs of using disreputable business practices to rip off blacks.
After Carter nominated him, Young claimed Castro “brought a certain stability” to African nations, hinted Ayatollah Khomeini was a “saint,” lyrically hailed such Marxist thugs as Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe and suggested we had “hundreds, perhaps thousands, of political prisoners in our jails.”
Similar oddball characters dotted the Carter landscape.
Jimmy Carter can sport one genuine triumph in foreign affairs: the Camp David accords, but that success was not nearly as difficult as Jimmy himself portrays it.
The reason: Egypt’s Prime Minister Anwar Sadat was eager to make a stable peace deal with Israel’s Menachem Begin. Moreover, Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger had prepared the way for that peace agreement in their deft handling of the 1973 Egyptian-Israeli war.
Thus, when Carter takes Bush to task for his entire Mideast policies, ignoring the ousting of al Qaeda and its terrorist bases in Afghanistan and Libya’s surrender of its WMD program, this is a hard pill to swallow. Bush hasn’t been up against a softie like Sadat, but ferocious killers and messianic murders such as Osama, Saddam, Nasrallah, Ahmadinejad and other horrific figures.
The Iranian fanatics plus their acolytes in Lebanon and Iraq may be our most difficult foreign policy problem at the moment. Does Carter say anything in Der Spiegel that tells us how he would deal with the gang in Iran, which came to power while he was in charge? He doesn’t address the issue.
He opposes the war in Iraq, but would he have left Saddam in power if the CIA had pledged it was a “slam dunk” case that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction? He doesn’t say. Did he offer a single syllable of criticism of Iran, Hezbollah or Hamas? No.
Harsh remarks are aimed solely at the President, the Israelis and the evangelicals who support Israel’s right to exist.
When it comes to Jimmy Carter, the phrase “successful foreign policy President” does not immediately leap to anyone’s mind, except, perhaps, Jimmy’s.