Could We Become What We Abhor
September 5, 2002 4:31 PM   Subscribe

Could We Become What We Abhor and compromise the very ideals that we hold dear. Here, Jimmy Carter traces some of the fundamental changes that are taking place in the historical policies of the United States with regard to human rights, our role in the community of nations and the Middle East peace process -- largely without definitive debates.
posted by karlcleveland (48 comments total)
Dude, you know you've wandered off alone when Jimmy Carter is dissing you.

That said, we have in many ways become the rogue nation that we keep warning everyone else about.
posted by shagoth at 4:39 PM on September 5, 2002

I, for one, already abhor our country, and myself inasmuch as I am a citizen of it. The last post is a great example of why. On 911 I was taught how brutally violent and hateful people can be. In the year since 911 I learned how absolutely disgustingly addicted to money people are every day. I'm still trying to figure out which makes me want to hurl the worst...

I hope Cali secedes...
posted by zekinskia at 4:54 PM on September 5, 2002

Bush should take advice from the least successful President in living memory?

Jimmy had his own little Gulf War. It ended with lives lost and burnt helicopters strewn about the desert. Hilarity then ensued amongst our enemies. Perhaps instead of dispensing advice, Jimmy should just come to terms with his own failure.
posted by paleocon at 4:56 PM on September 5, 2002

Bush should take advice from the least successful President in living memory?

Wait two more years, 'til they can fully evaluate Duh-bya's "Presidency," Paleocon...
posted by zekinskia at 4:58 PM on September 5, 2002

paleocon...clarify, please (or not since your premise is full of shit).
posted by Wulfgar! at 4:59 PM on September 5, 2002

Carter's legacy may not be the greatest, however he has demonstrated his love for his country and has served it well. Listening to what he has to say is a right he has earned. Agreement is something else, but listening is a good idea. Did everyone who commented so far read the piece? Or was the Carter name enough to turn you off?
posted by cell divide at 5:02 PM on September 5, 2002

"I hope Cali secedes..."

You and everyone in the other 49 states.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:03 PM on September 5, 2002

cell divide, I read it. Does that change my challenge? Chill!
posted by Wulfgar! at 5:06 PM on September 5, 2002

He didn't have a very successful presidency, but how much of that was problems that were handed to him from previous administrations? And look at what he's done since, a long string of successful diplomatic and humanitarian efforts. Jimmy Carter has done more in the struggle to stabilize the turmoil in the Middle East than any other president before or since. I wouldn't call him a failure, and I think George Bush could do much worse than to listen to him.

Let's face it... we've become the stereotype that other countries have had of us. We are the ugly Americans.
posted by RylandDotNet at 5:07 PM on September 5, 2002

Carter may not have been our best president. Was Nixon? But what needs to be argued is not his presidency but rather what he is saying. And what bothers me is this:
"There is an urgent need for U.N. action to force unrestricted inspections in Iraq. " Now, just how do you force unrestricted inspections in Iraq without mustering a large military and going in? After all, Saddam has already booted inspecters out. Carter then is saying what seems ok but alas in not going to work, and that is without ever evaluating what the UN is capable of doing with its jumble of non-democratic nations who outvote those countries that are democracies.
posted by Postroad at 5:32 PM on September 5, 2002

We are the rogue state.

"We Americans claim to be a peace-loving people. We hate bloodshed; we are opposed to violence. Yet we go into spasms of joy over the possibility of projecting dynamite bombs from flying machines upon helpless citizens. We are ready to hang, electrocute, or lynch anyone, who, from economic necessity, will risk his own life in the attempt upon that of some industrial magnate. Yet our hearts swell with pride at the thought that America is becoming the most powerful nation on earth, and that it will eventually plant her iron foot on the necks of all other nations." -- Emma Goldman, 1911

"It would be easy for us, if we do not learn to understand the world and appreciate the rights, privileges and duties of all other countries and peoples, to represent in our power the same danger to the world that Fascism did." -- Ernest Hemingway

"Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes. And armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended. Its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war . . . and in the degeneracy of manners and morals, engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare." -- James Madison, April 20, 1795
posted by Nicolae Carpathia at 5:36 PM on September 5, 2002

I find the talk of California seceding to be rather interesting. It's funny, because I've had similar thoughts myself. I'm not really sure what to think, but frankly, this administration scares me, and I do'nt always know what to think. If California seceded, do you think other states would follow? Oregon? Washington? New Mexico? Arizona?

I'm worried.
posted by ookamaka at 6:01 PM on September 5, 2002

Now, just how do you force unrestricted inspections in Iraq without mustering a large military and going in?

That's the whole point. If the UN demands renewed inspections and Iraq then ejects the inspectors, the international community has a reason to be suspicious and further investigations into possible weapons of mass destruction can begin. This method solves quite a few problems; helping to get us back in the good graces of the world community, showing that we're not warmongering fools, saving hundreds and possibly thousands of american and iraqi lives as well as giving us the backing of the international community should a military strike become necessary.

ookamaka: Oregon has already seceded. We just haven't told anyone yet.
posted by fatbobsmith at 6:26 PM on September 5, 2002

He didn't have a very successful presidency, but how much of that was problems that were handed to him from previous administrations?

And future ones, given that it's growing increasingly plausible that Reagan's team, during the 1980 election campaign, basically stitched things up with the Iranians (which, correct me if I'm wrong, is outlawed in the Constitution, even before being treasonous) to drag out the crisis until Reagan's election.
posted by riviera at 6:30 PM on September 5, 2002

since your premise is full of shit

or not.
posted by paleocon at 6:32 PM on September 5, 2002

So let us say that California (I am a native and lived there for 42 years and never heard the term "Cali") decided to ignore history and attempt to take all their produce and steal away. Well, would Alaska be far behind? And what of proud Texas? It would be funny to see the Shrub try to decide which way to fact if the whole country imploded it might keep him busy and out of mischief.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:36 PM on September 5, 2002

And by the way I read the article because it was written by Carter-- the only living president that I admire.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:37 PM on September 5, 2002

Jimmy had his own little Gulf War...

That's calling apples oranges. There's quite a difference between mounting a rescue mission and launching a full-scale war. The point is not that it is wrong to use international force, it is a question of in what instances and in what manner. Carter's most compelling point, imo, is that the current track of this administration threatens to undermine the architecture of international relations constructed painful brick by brick during much of the last century.
posted by Kneebiter at 6:43 PM on September 5, 2002

Explain how Carter was less successful than Ford's lame-duck presidency.

Johnson was so unsuccessful he couldn't even run for a second term. Carter wasn't the greatest prez ever. But he spent a lot of time cleaning up others' (Nixon/Ford/Agnew) messes. He also was perhaps the most honest president in living memory, something I truly respect him for.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 7:12 PM on September 5, 2002

since your premise is full of shit

or not.

Considering the reasoned responses here:
Or so...
posted by Wulfgar! at 7:23 PM on September 5, 2002

Explain why the relative success or failure of Carter's presidency is necessary to evaluate his comments today. A quarter of a century later. Jimmy is a good man and a smart man, and his comments on the current administration ring true to me. I don't care if he wasn't the best or most popular president in history. At least he WAS president, and none of the goobers on this board can claim that distinction. And if you think Jimmy's term was more disasterous than Dubya's, you've got another thing coming.
posted by spilon at 7:25 PM on September 5, 2002

~chuckles at being called a goober aka a peanut~
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:30 PM on September 5, 2002

Wulfgar!, you really are a cheeky boy, saying 'Chill!' to any one with your swift to irritation style.
posted by dash_slot- at 7:34 PM on September 5, 2002

Cheeks rosy and sweet. Thanks.
posted by Wulfgar! at 7:55 PM on September 5, 2002

Besides, I don't like being accused of not having read what I've read. Sorry, that just makes me ... cheeky.
posted by Wulfgar! at 7:57 PM on September 5, 2002

paleocon: "Bush should take advice from the least successful President in living memory?"

Mr. Carter has done much both foreign & domestic since his presidency, and knows quite a bit about foreign policy. He's more than an ex-president from a terrible time in history. He's been an ambassador. He's observed the problems of our society and others, and in his own way he's tried to help. He's even built shelters for the underprivileged.

I'd like to see what you would have done under the conditions of his presidency. He came to terms with his own failures, and learned from them. So yes. Shrub should definitely learn from a man who has stood in his shoes and lived to tell about it.

I think Jimmy Carter deserves more respect.

As for what Carter is saying, he's right on target, yet his words will fall on deaf ears of an administration that doesn't know any better. Just like parents who recall a rebellious adolescence trying to warn their children not to hang out with the wrong crowd. Shrub will do what he wants, including going to war, and just under half the voting Americans will be there alongside him cheering him on.

Violence begets violence. Sometimes I think it's gonna take the death of humanity before we figure that out.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:05 PM on September 5, 2002

It is crucial that the historical and well-founded American commitments prevail: to peace, justice, human rights, the environment and international cooperation.

Carter mentions "the environment" and "international cooperation" but not liberty, property rights and/or the pursuit of happiness? Guess he would make a fine prez for that Cali Nation of yours...
posted by dagny at 10:37 PM on September 5, 2002

I always thought that if Clinton were really serious about his legacy, he would do best to follow Carter's example. Carter's one of the few people, president or otherwise, who says what he believes in and then actually carries it out, without calling attention to himself or lining his pockets in the process. We'll never have a president that decent again.

magby...given that Carter's piece has a world view and does not mention 'American Idol' even once, the commitments he refers to are ours to the rest of the world. In any case, the terms he chooses cover all the bases.
posted by troybob at 10:48 PM on September 5, 2002

There are a lot of really doubtful statements in that op/ed piece. As only one example:

Several hundred captured Taliban soldiers remain imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay[...]

They aren't Taliban soldiers. The Taliban soldiers have been joined into the regular Afghan army, or returned to civilian life. The guys at Guantanamo are Al Qaeda fighters, and it's a real quandary what to do with them. Ordinary POW's can be repatriated after you win (or lose) the war. For example, the US kept lots of Italian POW's in the continental US during WWII. Those that didn't marry American women (quite a few did), were repatriated to Italy after the war, because Italy had been beaten, and posed no danger.

But Al Qaeda hasn't been beaten, it's still very active, and very interested in terror. If we release the Al Qaeda fighters, they'll just go back to being terrorists, any place in the world Al Qaeda is.

OTOH, the war on terror may well take as long as the Cold War, and that took almost half a century. It's unreasonable to keep the Al Qaeda fighters jailed that long.

It's a real problem, and Carter isn't dealing with it. He's blurring important distinctions, and trying to make difficult ethical/human rights/geopolitical decisions seem simpler than they are.

Which, come to think of it, was also one of the problems with his presidency.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 10:51 PM on September 5, 2002

George Bush I won a popular war and lost re-election to an unknown Governor from Arkansas. That seems pretty unsuccessful to me.
posted by owillis at 10:54 PM on September 5, 2002

"We have ignored or condoned abuses in nations that support our anti-terrorism effort, while detaining American citizens as 'enemy combatants,' incarcerating them secretly and indefinitely without their being charged with any crime or having the right to legal counsel."

Carter only briefly addresses the civil liberties vs. security issue, but Dahlia Lithwick's latest article is a refreshingly reasonable analysis that expands well on these concerns.

"It is not a lot to ask that if this 'war' on terror is to continue, this simple test be instituted: Civil liberties may not be suspended unless some principled government objective is articulated and the proposed measure is carefully tailed to meet that objective. If the government feels that giving Yasser Esam Hamdi access to an attorney imperils American security, it should tell us why."
posted by homunculus at 11:05 PM on September 5, 2002

If California seceded, do you think other states would follow? Oregon? Washington?

All hail the Republic of Cascadia.
posted by kindall at 11:09 PM on September 5, 2002

"So maybe what evil is, on some level, is when you get- when you believe in something so utterly that you lose your sense that a human being is a human being" ? is bush the pot calling the kettle black? as an american - im asking myself that question..?
posted by specialk420 at 11:35 PM on September 5, 2002

Can our government be competent?
Jimmy Carter says, "Yes."
Can our government be honest?
Jimmy Carter says, "Yes."
Can our government be decent and open?
As our 39th President he has spoken:
"Yes." Jimmy Carter says, "Yes."

Sorry, way off topic. But I figured, this far into it, who's reading anyway?
posted by mikrophon at 6:51 AM on September 6, 2002

Nicolae Carpathia (may I call you "Anti" for short?): Thanks for the great quotes. Keep 'em coming.
posted by languagehat at 8:04 AM on September 6, 2002

He's blurring important distinctions, and trying to make difficult ethical/human rights/geopolitical decisions seem simpler than they are.

Your example does not seem to support this conclusion, and it is particularly weak. The truth is that you don't know who's actually being held at Guantanamo and for what reasons, and the US has had to resort to tricks to justify keeping them there (e.g., we're at war with terrorists, yet they're not prisoners of war; we're holding them, but not on our land, so they don't qualify for legal representation). I think the rest of the world questions our human rights record because, like our corporations, our government operates within loopholes rather than law.

I think the decisions you mention are actually simpler than we make them. The problem is that we're so inconsistent on these issues, primarly because we have to balance ethical, human rights, and geopolitical decisions with greedy corporate interests, requiring us to do things like undermine democratically elected governments, or destabilize a region because they have a resource we feel we are entitled to. If this weren't the case, our Department of Defense might actually be in the business of defending our country (and if it were, we wouldn't need a Department of Homeland Security) rather than defending a narrowing focus of economic interests.
posted by troybob at 8:41 AM on September 6, 2002

Alberta, British Columbia, Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon could all secede and become an *incredible* powerhouse. (Heck, Alberta & BC alone could do it.)

We'd have all the resources: ample oil, water, hydroelectricity, cattle, fruit, wine, pot, potatoes, salmon, trees, tourism...

If it weren't for our federal governments shafting us westerners all the time, we'd be rolling in dough.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:06 AM on September 6, 2002

The secession of Western Washington, Oregon and Northern California has been already proposed by someone (couldn't find a link). I think they wanted to call the new nation Cascadia.

Count me in, and if BC wants to jump on the bandwagon I say great!
posted by edlark at 9:42 AM on September 6, 2002

Yeah...the only problem with the idea FFF is that in fact, the Federal government makes your existance possible. Ample hydro? Only beacuse the Feds used the wealth of a continental nation to develop it.
posted by pjgulliver at 9:52 AM on September 6, 2002

Republic of Cascadia.

Google is your friend.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:46 AM on September 6, 2002

Oops, sorry kindall.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:47 AM on September 6, 2002

This was a great link, thanks. You know, when history records the leaders of the late 20th century...I really think Carter will be recognized and remembered more fondly than he was during his administration. (If that makes much sense.)

What I mean is, he'll be shown to be more of a visionary and a thinker than he was given credit for during his term.
posted by dejah420 at 10:47 AM on September 6, 2002

Anytime the discussion of "successful presidencies" is brought up, there opens a massive can of worms.

The definition of "success" is extremely subjective. Even historians of presidential history will admit to this--moreso, that there are differing categories of "success". Clinton could claim his presidency was a "success" (he kept himself in office despite more scandals than one could possibly imagine); Bush Sr. could say he "kicked Saddam's butt", Carter could say, "I changed the White House to a more 'thoughtful' place considering the past 15 years", etc. etc.

Hell, Bush's supporters will say he was wildly successful because all of his crony supporters will have gotten what they wanted!

Point being: Carter is not remembered well because of many missteps and errors in execution. His intentions were probably the most genuine of any president in recent times. Here was a man that genuinely believed in alternative energy programs (going to far as to install solar panels on the White House), human rights, and the true benefits of a "peace dividend". His domestic policy goals were very admirable, though sadly, his staff (and he) executed their programs very very poorly.

So was he an effective president? No, he was not effective because he did not accomplish much of what he wanted (in a timeframe when he had a very very good opportunity to do so, before Iran, etc.). But was he pointed in the right direction and had good goals? Undeniably.

For a good read on such things, read, "Thinking in Time" by Neustadt and May.
posted by tgrundke at 11:34 AM on September 6, 2002

Secret Life of Gravy: Cali, Cali, Cali.

Carter's my hero. Thanks for the link, karl.
posted by acridrabbit at 12:32 PM on September 6, 2002

Ok, once again I prove that I don't hang with the cool street crowd. I guess I'm just not a hater from Cali.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 2:01 PM on September 6, 2002

The feds, pigulliver, take far, far more money from BC and Alberta than they ever return back. As for hydro-electricity, almost all the generating stations are owned and operated by BC Hydro, not the feds.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:55 PM on September 6, 2002

Anyone know where I can get a few letters of transit to the Cascadian Republic?
posted by octobersurprise at 11:25 PM on September 6, 2002

Johnson was so unsuccessful he couldn't even run for a second term.

Um, Yelling At Nothing, the one and only one reason Johnson couldn't run again was because of his part in the war in Viet Nam. Which will be forever on his record. Of course, one president, one secret plan to end the war and four years later, by the way, we were still in Viet Nam.

If Johnson were to be judged by his domestic record alone, he would be on one of our higher denomination dollar bills. Three Words: Voting Rights Act. Two words: Affirmative Action. One word: Medicare. If you want to contest these, fine, go ahead--but start with the Voting Rights Act first and do explain why this was so bad for our country. For me, it was one of our finer moments.
posted by y2karl at 7:18 AM on September 7, 2002

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