The Moral Foreign Policy of Jimmy
If anyone is capable of commenting on
President Bush's morally simple picture of foreign relations,
it's Jimmy Carter. Like Mr. Bush, Mr. Carter wore his faith as
a born again Christian on his sleeve while in office. Unlike Bush,
Carter put his Christian values to work making peace and helping
to feed and clothe the world's poor, a practice he has continued
to do out of office and around the world.
While Dubya's early foreign policy was
about inviting the presidents of Mexico and Russia to an outdoor
barbecue, Jimmy Carter successfully negotiated a lasting peace
between Egypt and Israel in the first Camp David Accord, negotiated
arms control with the Soviets and a peaceful end to the conflict
over the Panama Canal. If the terrible events of 9/11 hadn't occurred,
Mr. Bush would still be blissfully ignorant of the leader of Pakistan's
name and America would be going its own unilateralist way, oblivious
to the forces slowly marshaling against it.
If Carter's successors had adopted his
idealistic foreign policy politics and his self-sufficient energy
policies, 9/11 might never have happened. Carter chose negotiation
over conflict, and the exporting of America's democratic values
as foreign policy instead of choosing to arm "the enemy of
my enemy," and worked to achieve America's energy independence
from the OPEC Cartel.
Carter came from a family of dirt poor
farmers, the first in his family to be college-educated. He had
no silver spoon, no political dynasty, and no Hollywood good looks
or career to vault him into politics. By force of will and intellect,
Carter attended and graduated the Naval Academy, graduating near
the top of his class.
He served his country in nuclear submarines
until his father's illness led him to return to Plains to take
over the family farm. Carter earned just $200 in his first harvest,
but turned his father's farm into a profitable business that bought
and shelled peanuts from neighboring farms. As Georgia's governor,
Carter turned 300 inefficient state departments into 22 superagencies.
As president, Carter found himself the
political outsider, distrusted as too liberal by Southern Democrats
and too conservative by Northern Democrats who controlled Congress.
Yet despite their lack of support, he kept a balanced budget and
a tight economic ship at time when the economy faced the twin
disasters of economic inflation and stagnation--the "stagflation"
unique to this period of American economic history. Facing political
opposition, the technocratic Carter founded the departments of
Education and Energy, departments Republicans have always complained
about but never dared eliminate.
Facing the expansion of OPEC and the loss
of Iran as a US ally, Carter recognized that US energy self-sufficiency
was a key element in any effort to prevent the use of oil as an
economic weapon against America. The Energy Department he organized
dedicated itself to exploring the increase of coal, nuclear, solar
and domestic sources of oil and oil shale with the goal of making
America energy independent. He broke a long-standing government
policy by removing price controls over domestic oil and gas.
Unfortunately, the bulk of Carter's energy
programs were gutted by the Reagan and Bush administrations, who
preferred to import cheaper foreign oil -- and station US forces
in the Middle East to guarantee its flow.
Carter's able Camp David negotiations
led to an improvement of relations in the Middle East between
Israel, Egypt, and eventually Jordan. Carter's negotiations over
the Panama Canal defused a Latin American crisis over the canal's
sovereignty. Despite the moaning of conservatives, the canal treaty
continues to be effective after two decades.
Carter preferred negotiation to war. His
successor's preferred conflict to negotiation. To combat the rising
tide of Iranian fundamentalism, they supported Sadaam Hussein.
To fight the invasion of the Russians, they trained and equipped
Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar.
In the years since Carter left the presidency,
he has if anything become a more effective representative of his
ideals. While Carter's ex-presidential peers make money giving
speeches, Carter demonstrates concern for homeless by building
homes. He has shown a concern for the poor and sick by setting
up an organization - The Carter Center - to rid Africa of Guinea
worm disease; his love of democracy by serving as an election
monitor in South America, and his desire for peace as a facilitator
of the peaceful transfer of power from dictatorship to democracy
in Haiti. Lately, he and Gerald Ford have worked together to improve
America's helter-skelter electoral system.
Today the US maintains troops in Saudi
Arabia to defend the oil we depend on from former US client Sadaam,
and we have troops in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Georgia, and the
Philippines fighting guerillas we formerly supported. The Arab
on the street hates the US because we talk about freedom but support
repressive Arab regimes just so we can drive our gas guzzling
SUVs. Jimmy Carter continues his concrete efforts to support democracy
and to feed and house the poor--George W. Bush would do well to
listen to him and follow his example.
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