Friday, October 01, 2004
On this day:

President Carter's Birthday

President Jimmy Carter turned 80 yesterday. Unfortunately, he is still every bit as clueless about the way the world works as he was at age 56 when President Reagan booted him from office. The sound you hear when you read this birthday interview published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is the sound of the interviewer's lips firmly attaching themselves to the former President's posterior.

Some of the more revealing parts of the Q/A:

Q: You have identified the growing chasm between rich and poor as the greatest problem facing the world in the 21st century. Do you still believe that?
A: There's no doubt about it. As this disparity increases, it does two very troubling things. It wipes out the interest, concern and knowledge in the richer countries about people who are so

The "chasm between rich and poor" is a bigger problem than nuclear proliferation and Islamic extremism?

Q: We just don't know about them.
A: We don't know about them. We don't care about them. We don't even realize they're there. The other thing is it breeds an awareness in those poverty-stricken communities of their plight. Fifteen years ago, a family in Ghana or Burkina Faso didn't really know the rest of the world was so much better off. Now they resent it: Why am I so poor? Why can't I have a decent education? Why can't my children have health care? It generates hatred in many cases of the rich and unconcerned. It also is a breeding ground for terrorism.

Here, Carter resorts to form by blaming the United States and other rich nations for the plight of the Third World. They are so poor because their societies are largely based on tribalism and dictatorship. The rule of law is not strong enough to ensure that private property rights are respected and that free markets can operate. They can't have education, health care, etc. for the same reasons. And no amount of grandiose statements by out-of-work Presidents can justify the misdirection of their resentment towards "rich" nations.

Q: When you talk about the growing chasm, it strikes me that many people might disagree and say Islamic extremists pose the greatest threat. I hear you saying that those two ideas are somehow linked.
A: I wouldn't say Islamic extremists are directly a result of the growing chasm on income, but the alienation people feel and the lack of attention to their plight is a very important thing. The Islamic extremism is greatly exacerbated by the lack of progress and peace in the Middle East. Until three years ago, there was always a hope progress would continue in resolving the differences between Israel and its neighbors. There is no hope now among many people.

On the contrary, Mr. President, hope for progress in the Middle East regained a new life three years ago. President Bush is the first President to call for the establishment of a Palestinian state. But, he recognizes that there is no moral equivalence between Palestinian terrorists and the citizens of Israel who only seek to live freely and in peace. Therefore, the President has refused to meet with corrupt and double-dealing leaders like Yasser Arafat. His message is that the Palestinians must mend their ways before they can expect help from the U.S. In addition, Mr. Bush unambiguously supported Israel's right to defend itself, occasionally raising only mild "concern" over "extreme" Israeli measures like the security fence and assassination of terrorist leaders. The Palestinians have had chance after chance to negotiate for peace on favorable terms and have rejected them all. As the terms become more unfavorable, maybe there's a better chance Palestinian leaders will cut their losses and go home.

Q: How do we combat extremism?
A: People need the prospect of peace in their lives, of justice, freedom and alleviation of their suffering. When those vital elements of life are missing, that breeds violence. Sometimes it results in civil war. Sometimes it results in the lashing out in a suicidal mission. Sometimes it results in the hurting of other people. That's why I think our country should be a nation of peace. Everybody in the world should say, "If I want to seek peace, the United States is my standard. It resolves its differences and its problems peacefully."

There he goes again...justifying the unjustifiable.

Q: That doesn't seem to be the case with the current perception of the United States.
A: No, I think now above any other time in history, our country is looked upon as resorting very early in a crisis to military attack. It's impossible to find a nation where a majority of people look with favor on our country.

Q: Is that because of President Bush's doctrine of pre-emptive war?
A: Yes. That's an unprecedented and very disturbing and revolutionary concept. For years, we maintained that we would never use atomic weapons unless our country was attacked. Now the Bush policy is we reserve the right to use atomic weapons against others.

Preemptive war is neither unprecedented nor revolutionary. It is accepted that nations have the right to act preemptively in their own defense when others are preparing to do them harm. Carter also seems to misunderstand U.S./NATO military doctrine during the Cold War, saying that we agreed never to use nukes unless we were attacked. This isn't entirely correct. Due to Soviet superiority in conventional weapons, the first use of nuclear weapons was a central element of the U.S. and NATO "flexible response" doctrine to defend Western Europe in the event of a Soviet invasion.

Q: Why should we care what the rest of the world thinks of us?
A: It would be very helpful for the United States to be the center of approbation and friendship and cooperation and unity and alliances among the Arab countries like Jordan and Egypt.

It might very well be helpful to have their approbation. However, we have our own interests and obligations to attend to, as do they. By the way, Egypt is the second largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid. It is set to receive $1.8 billion in economic and military aid this year. Jordan will receive $456 million. Therefore, those two countries generally find it to be in their interests to keep in our good graces.

Q: And there are some practical ramifications for that?

A: Of course. When we want to accomplish anything — sell American products, control global inflation, deal with poverty, be benevolent to poor countries, eradicate or control the spread of AIDS or fight terrorism — international relationships are crucial.

I love how "fight terrorism" comes in last in Jimmy's list.

Q: President Bush has identified an "axis of evil" consisting of Iraq, Iran and North Korea. If he is re-elected, how will that affect U.S. policy toward those countries?
A: The quagmire and disappointment and failure in Iraq has probably sent a very sobering message to the White House. I think they would be much more unlikely to launch a pre-emptive war against Iran or North Korea now that their pre-emptive war in Iraq has been such a failure.

The war in Iraq was not entirely preemptive. There were certainly preemptive reasons that influenced the timing of the war, but that could be said of almost any war. The real reasons, though, dated back to the first Gulf War in 1991 to repel Saddam Hussein's forces from Kuwait. Since signing the cease-fire agreement to end those hostilities, Saddam Hussein had consistently failed to live up to his end of the bargain. Kicking the weapons inspectors out when their activities became inconvenient to the regime was one of his main tactics. The Bush administration found that those tactics had become tiresome.

Q: Has the U.S. invasion of Iraq increased or decreased the threat posed to the United States by terrorists?
A: It's increased the threat of terrorism globally. It's stirred up the fires and passion and willingness of many more people to resort to terrorism and to suicide attack. There was no detectable connection between Iraq and al-Qaida or the major organizations of terrorism until after the invasion of Iraq. Then, because we didn't have enough troops to guard the borders, there's been an influx of terrorists who come from Jordan and Iran and from other countries into Iraq.

The war in Iraq probably has done these things. But, in the long term, it will likely make us safer. I guess Mr. Carter forgot that Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal "committed suicide" in Saddam Hussein's Iraq in August, 2002. The Abu Nidal organization was considered one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations in the 1980's. I guess he also forgot that another Palestinian terrorist, Abu Abbas, was captured by U.S. Special Forces outside Baghdad in April, 2003. Iraq's contacts with Al-Qaeda have been documented. How extensive those contacts were is not well known, or at least hasn't been made public, but many intelligence agencies have attested that they did occur.

Q: When historians look back on your presidency, what are they likely to say? What major points would you like to be considered in your legacy?
A: The two things I would like associated with my name are peace and human rights. We kept our nation at peace, protected the interest of our country and promoted human rights around the world, which has resulted in democratization of many regions that previously weren't so blessed. We doubled the size of our national parks. We tripled the size of our wilderness areas. Israel and Egypt had been formidable adversaries for 25 years — there had been four wars. The treaty we negotiated between them has not been violated — not a single word. We normalized diplomatic relations with China. We were afflicted toward the end of my term with the memorable holding of American hostages. My response was that I would be able to protect the interest of my country and that every hostage would come home safe and free. Those prayers were answered. The war between Iran and Iraq resulted in dramatic reduction in world oil supplies, which resulted in global inflation. So global inflation and the hostages were very damaging politically; they will be part of my legacy. In the four years I was in office, we never fired a bullet. We never lost a missile. We never dropped a bomb. And at the same time we protected our country's security.

U.S. Federal Reserve policy and high marginal tax rates which restrained productivity growth were much bigger contributors to the high inflation during the Carter administration than the reduction in oil supplies.

And perhaps it is because President Carter was unwilling to "fire a bullet" that the Iranian hostage crisis unfolded as it did. Or, that the Soviets were emboldened enough to launch an invasion of Afghanistan on his watch. Or, that Cuba and the Soviet Union increased their support for Marxist governments and insurgents in places like El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Angola without a strong U.S. response. It took the election of Ronald Reagan to finally dedicate the resources and energy required to truly protect our security.