Jimmy Carter’s pathetic need for political rehabilitation following a presidency widely regarded as one of the worst in American history is once again making news. He reportedly will meet this week with Khaled Mashaal, the Syrian-based leader of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestinian arm, Hamas – an internationally recognized terrorist organization.
Mr. Carter maintains this is no big deal since he has met with Hamas officials before. Indeed, in keeping with his Carter Center’s self-appointed status as global election monitor, the former president did officiate in January 2006 when the Brotherhood’s terrorists defeated those of Fatah led by Yasser Arafat’s longtime crony, Mahmoud Abbas.
In point of fact, it seems there is scarcely a serious bad actor on the planet with whom Jimmy Carter has not met. He is a serial tyrant-enabler, the very personification of Rodney King’s risible appeal, “Can’t we all get along?” Mr. Carter has come to epitomize the notion that “dialogue” is always in order, no matter how odious or dangerous the interlocutor – or the extent to which they or their agendas will benefit from such interactions.
As Barak Obama (whom Carter has all but endorsed) is as wedded as the former President to the idea of condition-free dialogue with tyrants, it is worth reflecting on just a few of the many example’s of how this Carteresque practice has produced disastrous results:
* In 1979, then-President Carter undermined the Shah of Iran and made possible the Ayatollah Khomeini’s return to Iran and subsequent Islamic revolution. Although the uber-mullah returned the favor with the sacking of Embassy Tehran and seizure of its personnel that assured Carter’s would be a one-term presidency, the regime thus born has ever since been a blight on its own people and a state-sponsor of terror and nuclear wannabe that represents an ever-growing menace to its region and the world.
* In 1994, Citizen Carter made a mission to Pyongyang at a time when then-President Bill Clinton was first confronting evidence of North Korea’s illegal pursuit of nuclear weapons. The former president’s intervention gave rise to a deal that lent invaluable prestige to the regime, perpetuated its hold on power and utterly failed to preclude the North’s acquisition of a nuclear arsenal.
* In 2004, Jimmy Carter ignored abundant evidence of official vote-rigging and election fraud in a Venezuelan referendum, handing victory to Hugo Chavez and clearing the way for the most destabilizing accretion of power in the Western hemisphere since Fidel Castro’s communist revolution in Cuba – a model and inspiration for Chavez.
In short, thanks in no small measure to Jimmy Carter’s proclivities and meddling, the world is a considerably more dangerous place. Following his lead now will make it more so, for three reasons:
First and foremost, “talking” to tyrants legitimates them. Dictators go to great lengths to conjur up the perception of authority and permanence. They are particularly anxious to do so for domestic consumption, to ensure their continued rule. To the extent that outsiders recognize, to say nothing of embrace, them, it enhances their stature at home and validates their misconduct on the world stage.
Second, such efforts generally have the effect of emboldening these thugs. After all, they are being rewarded for bad behavior. The result is predictable: even worse behavior. That can mean redoubled efforts to: acquire nuclear weapons, destabilize their neighbors, raise the price of oil and engage in other activities inimical to U.S. interests.
Third, it is ironic but true that – even as Carter-style enabling of tyrants makes matters worse – it typically encourages in this country the impression that vexing problems with those regimes have been made more tractable. Diplomatic placeboes reduce the perceived need and popular support for more effective, albeit more difficult, alternatives.
It is instructive that even an Israeli government known for appeasing terrorists has finally had it with Jimmy Carter. Israel’s ceremonial head of state, President Shimon Peres, met with him Sunday for the purpose of publicly denouncing Carter’s “activities over the last few years [that have] caused great damage to Israel and the peace process.” Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his foreign and defense ministers have gone so far as to decline requested meetings with Carter.
The one possible up-side of the latest instance of tyrant-enabling by Jimmy Carter is that it puts in sharp relief an issue that should feature prominently in the 2008 U.S. elections: Do we want to entrust the job of commander-in-chief to someone who believes, as Mr. Carter does, that dialogue with our sworn enemies – notably, Iran, and its vassal, Syria – is a good and necessary step?
This is, of course, the oft-repeated position of Barak Obama and other Democratic opponents of the effort to secure victory in Iraq. Is it the view though of what the former condescendingly calls “ordinary” Americans, people who have generally shown more common sense than the likes of Messrs. Carter and Obama?
In the final analysis, Jimmy Carter will be best remembered by history as a man whose time in and out of high public office was almost unblemished by success. Notwithstanding a Nobel Peace Prize (given by an awards committee avowedly anxious to rebuke President Bush) and assorted good works on behalf of Habitat for Humanity, his role as a tyrant-enabler will be an object of scorn and derision rather than the vindication he so transparently, and desperately, seeks.