"President Carter's Rebuttal". Foreign Policy, March/April 2010, Issue 178, p. 10.
I was never a big fan of Jimmy Carter. He seemed to be elected not so much for what he was as for what we wasn't--Gerald Ford. Personally I think he will go down in history as one of the worst presidents unless history forgets about him altogether. My opinion dropped even lower after reading this recent issue of Foreign Policy.
In the last issue there was an article entitled "The Carter Syndrome" by Walter Russell Mead to which President Carter took offense. FP printed the president's rebuttal in this issue. Here are some doosies from that rebuttal.
"There was no pressure on me to launch a peace initiative in the Middle East, but I did so from my first days in office." I think we see today the results of that initiative were minimal.
'We had no hesitation in providing weapons to the Afghan resistance after the Soviet invasion in December 1979, and I made It clear in my speech to Congress a month later that I condemned this action and had informed the Soviets that any further aggression would be construed as a direct threat o our nation's security and I would respond accordingly, not necessarily limiting ourselves to the use of conventional weapons." Would all those who honestly believe we would have "gone nuclear" over Afghanistan in 1979 please stand. Of course, if we had done that then we certainly wouldn't be there now.
"Our policy in Iran was to make it possible for the shah to retain his leadership by urging him to adopt political reforms while preventing fanatical extremists from seizing power, but ultimately that could only be accomplished by the Iranians themselves." He seems to say that he tried, it failed, but it was the Iranian people's fault, not his.
But my all time favorite is his response on the hostages held in Iran. He mentions he "could have ordered massive destruction in Iran with our mighty military power, but this would have resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent Iranians, and it is certain that our hostages would have been assassinated." The assassinations would have surely happened but recall that he could not even successfully run a rescue operation. His micromanagement of that relatively small operation resulted in utter failure and I think it is remarkable that it did not result in the assassination of the hostages. But that is not all. In discussing the ultimate release of the hostages he says:
"Instead, we persisted with patience, exhausting every possible mediation avenue that might have been helpful. Finally, with the help of the Algerians and others, I negotiated around the clock for the last three days I was in office, while President-elect Ronald Reagan and his advisors chose not to be involved or even informed about progress. The hostages were on a plane and waiting for takeoff several hours before the midday inauguration, and they were finally permitted to depart immediately after I was no longer in office--all of them safe and free."
How he can see this as a success if baffling to me. Does he really think it was his negotiations and not his departure from office that resulted in their release? In my opinion this was a slap in his face by the Iranians essentially telling him that they had no respect for his presidency but they either feared or wanted to have a better relationship with Reagan. If his negotiations truly had anything to do with the release, other than work out logistics, and if the hostages were on the plane several hours before departure, why were they not released until after Carter was out of office?
President Carter concludes by stating that he sees no reason to apologize and I agree. I think he made some bad decisions, I think he was an ineffective president, and there are those who will disagree. I do think he did what he thought was best. My objection is that he is seemingly attempting to rewrite history and make himself appear more effective than he really was. From his rebuttal I get the feeling he wants to take all credit for relations with China, peace in the Middle East, the fall of the Soviet Union, and the release of the hostages from Iran.