Carter On A Roll
March 9, 2006 - 1:38pm ET
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Jimmy Carter has, of late, been breaking the unwritten rule that former presidents shall not contradict sitting presidents on major issues of policy. He did it yesterday, when he called the Iraq War unjust, unnecessary and based on false pretenses. Today, the 2002 Nobel peace prize winner did it again, right here on TomPaine.com.
Today's op-ed by the 39th president, "Colonization Of Palestine Precludes Peace," is perhaps even more significant than Carter's remarks yesterday in Seattle. In arguing that the primary obstacle to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands, Carter is breaking with the Washington convention of either ignoring the 25-year old Israeli policy of expanding settlements—or at least placing more blame for the lack of progress on the Palestinian leadership.
It's a bold statement that speaks to the gravity of the situation.
Carter, of course, understands what the stakes are in the Middle East. It was Jimmy Carter who, as president, issued his eponymous "doctrine" stating that the U.S. would treat any threat to Persian Gulf energy supplies as a direct threat to the United States. It was Jimmy Carter who hammered out the Camp David Peace Accords that have formed the foundation for all subsequent efforts to build a lasting peace in the region.
Placed in that context, President Bush's belligerent record in the region is a shameful echo of the policies forged by the peanut farmer from Plains. Where Carter authorized back channels led by Warren Christopher to defuse the tension and negotiate with the Iranians during the hostage crisis, Bush is running headlong into a major unilateral confrontation with the Islamic Republic. Where Carter brought the leaders of Israel and Egypt together to sign a peace agreement, Bush has done everything possible to isolate the Palestinians and avoid a peace agreement.
And of course, President Bush launched what Richard Haass called "a war of choice " against Iraq, choosing to mislead the American people and Congress in the process. Already, senior foreign policy experts from both sides of the aisle admit that the war was the single greatest strategic mistake in American history. After Roosevelt's conduct of World War II, and Truman's decision to contain the U.S.S.R., I'd argue that the Camp David accords are the next greatest strategic victory for America in the 20th century.
But this battle is too big for a retired president to wage on his own. The Democratic leadership must stand with our former commander in chief and finally agree: America's current strategic direction is damaging to our national security. It's not enough to say Bush is a bad implementer. He is that too, but his strategic bearings are bankrupt. Our allies are saying this regularly. Our accounts are telling us constantly.
Thank you, Jimmy, for calling a spade a spade today. I only hope today's generation of Democrats stands with you.
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