Jimmy Carter rides again
9/6/2002 12:00:00 AM - Mona Charen
Jimmy Carter has come out sniveling. Writing in The Washington
Post, he airs his disgust with the current administration's handling of
international affairs -- starting with its supposed "abandonment" of
interest in human rights and extending to its support for Israel.
Carter, as you may not recall since he cast quite a small shadow
as president, made "human rights" the foundation of his foreign policy. No
longer would we judge nations by whether they were on our side or with the
communists. No indeed. Early in his term, Carter freed us from an
"inordinate fear of communism." Instead, we'd make respect for human rights
our only concern.
Before it was all over (his four-year term lasted at least a
century), 13 new countries were overtaken by communist coups d'etat,
American helicopters lay burning in the Iranian desert, and U.N. Ambassador
Andrew Young had burbled that the United States shouldn't criticize the
Soviet Union since we had plenty of political prisoners of our own.
Carter doesn't quite remember it that way. (And don't ask him to
tell you what interest rates were on the day he left office, either.) He
wrote: "Formerly admired almost universally as the preeminent champion of
human rights, our country has become the foremost target of respected
international organizations concerned about these basic principles of
democratic life." Translation: When I was president, the whole world loved
and respected the United States. Today, that's all gone down the drain.
Many years ago, I happened to find myself at the same dinner
table with George McGovern. I asked him why he thought he had lost the 1972
election. He answered unhesitatingly, and rather as if it were so obvious as
not to require explanation, that it was the "Eagleton business." Sen. Thomas
Eagleton had been McGovern's first pick as Vice President and was forced to
leave the ticket. This caused a fleeting scandal -- but it was scarcely a
drop in the ocean of unsuitability McGovern demonstrated throughout that
Experience is the best teacher -- but not every student is
capable of learning.
Carter is deluding himself rather massively. Far from
engendering worldwide admiration, his combination of self-righteousness and
weakness invited scorn. During the 1970s, the Soviets became convinced that
what they called the "correlation of forces" had shifted dramatically in
their favor. And thugs from Grenada to Tehran felt emboldened to stick their
thumbs in Uncle Sam's eye.
Worse even than Carter's sanctimony was his obliviousness. For
while he claimed to view human rights as the loadstar of his foreign policy,
he assiduously ignored the massive human-rights nightmare of the communist
What are these "respected international organizations concerned
about these basic principles of democratic life?" There are some wonderful
countries in the world, but it's difficult to think of a single
international organization that is more devoted to liberty, human rights and
the rule of law than the United States.
Regarding Iraq, Carter reassures us that "there is no current
danger to the United States from Baghdad. In the face of intense monitoring
and overwhelming American military superiority, any belligerent move by
Hussein against a neighbor, even the smallest nuclear test ... or sharing
this technology with terrorist organizations, would be suicidal."
There is an example of the kind of thinking that convinced the
American people that they could do without a second Carter term. How would
we know whether a terrorist group obtained a nuclear weapon from Saddam? Our
intelligence agencies can't find 5,000 Al Qaeda members living in the United
And is Carter suggesting that we must wait until New York or
Washington is incinerated and then retaliate against Iraqi civilians with a
massive nuclear counterattack? Is that preferable to military action now,
before Saddam has nuclear weapons?
Why is Carter so eager to believe (against all the evidence)
that a criminal like Hussein is so tractable? We can all hope that Saddam
Hussein will prove sane and reasonable. The difference between Carter and
the foreign policy team he so derides is that they are unwilling to bank on