Thursday, August 17, 2006

Jimmy Carter Power

Yesterday I wrote about anti-Americanism as reflected in a book by a typical lefty intellectual. Julia Sweig disparages US foreign policy since WWII and recommends a new strategy based on a policy of “generosity, modesty, discretion, cooperation, empathy, fairness, and manners.” I wondered how well that policy would have worked with guys like Hitler and Stalin.

Today I want to discuss the time when Sweig’s policy was actually employed by the US government. You may remember our former president Jimmy Carter’s exercise of soft power in his dealings with the Ayatollah Khomeini.

In October, 1979 the ayatollah's prime minister met with US national security adviser Zbigniew Bzrezinski. Carter had addressed a flattering letter to Khomeini, praising the ayatollah as "a man of God" and, in a show of goodwill, Carter lifted the ban on arms exports to Iran.

A few days after the meeting, however, Khomeinist militants raided the US Embassy in Teheran and seized the diplomats. The drama was to continue for the last 444 days of the Carter presidency. In a piece for the New York Post (“America can’t do a thing” 11/2/04) Amir Taheri analyzed the Carter response. Following are excerpts.

According to his late son Ahmad, the ayatollah feared "thunder and lightning" from Washington. But what came, instead, was a series of bland statements by Carter and his aides pleading for the release of the hostages on humanitarian grounds. Carter's envoy to the United Nations, a certain Andrew Young, described Khomeini as "a 20th-century saint," and begged the ayatollah to show "magnanimity and compassion."

Carter went further by sending a letter to Khomeini, an appeal from "one believer to a man of God." Carter's syrupy prose must have amused Khomeini, who preferred a minimalist style with such phrases as "we shall cut off America's hands."

As days passed, with the US diplomats paraded in front of TV cameras blindfolded and threatened with execution, it became increasingly clear that there would be no "thunder and lightning" from Washington. By the end of the first week of the drama Khomeini's view of America had changed.

Ahmad Khomeini's memoirs echo the surprise that his father, the ayatollah, showed, as the Carter administration behaved "like a headless chicken."

What especially surprised Khomeini was that Carter and his aides, notably Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, rather than condemning the seizure and the treatment of the hostages as a barbarous act, appeared apologetic for unspecified mistakes supposedly committed by the United States and asked for forgiveness.

Once he had concluded that America would not take any meaningful action against his regime, Khomeini took over control of the hostage enterprise and used it to prop up his "anti-imperialist" credentials.

The surprising show of weakness from Washington also encouraged the mullahs to come up with a fresh demand each day. For instance, one demand was for the United States to capture and hand over the shah for trial. The United States was asked to apologize to Muslim peoples everywhere and, in effect, change its foreign policy to please the ayatollah.

Matters worsened when a military mission to rescue the hostages ended in tragedy in the Iranian desert. The force dispatched by Carter fled under the cover of night, leaving behind the charred bodies of eight of their comrades.

In his memoirs, Ahmad nicely captures the mood of his father, who had expected the Americans to do "something serious," such as threatening to block Iran's oil exports or even firing a few missiles at the ayatollah's neighborhood.

But none of that happened. It was then that Khomeini coined his notorious phrase, "America cannot do a damn thing."

He also ordered that the slogan "Death to America" be inscribed in all official buildings and vehicles. The U.S. flag was to be painted at the entrance of airports, railway stations, ministries, factories, schools, hotels and bazaars so that the faithful could trample it under their feet every day.

The slogan "America cannot do a damn thing" became the basis of all strategies worked out by Islamist militant groups.

That slogan was tested and proved right for almost a quarter of a century. Between Nov. 4, 1979, and 9/11, a total of 671 Americans were held hostage for varying lengths of time in several Muslim countries. Nearly 1,000 Americans were killed, including 241 Marines blown up while sleeping in Beirut in 1983.

For 22 years the United States, under presidents from both parties, behaved in exactly the way that Khomeini predicted. It took countless successive blows, including the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York, without decisive retaliation. That attitude invited, indeed encouraged, more attacks. The 9/11 tragedy was the denouement of the Nov. 4 attack on the U.S. embassy in Tehran.

The peace loving Jimmy Carter pleaded for the hostages on humanitarian grounds, begged for "magnanimity and compassion," appealed to "a man of God," apologized to Muslim peoples everywhere for unspecified mistakes, asked for forgiveness and the Muslims concluded that "America cannot do a damn thing." How about that for a successful strategy, Julia Sweig? Do you know what worked better? It was the election of Ronald Reagan when the 444 day hostage crisis ended the day he entered the White House. Ever wonder why?


Blogger Yolo Cowboy said...

Jimmy Carter is the worst American President of the last half century. His pacifist approach started this whole mess with the Islamo-fascists, Reagan's withdrawal from Beirut didn't help much, but he had bigger fish to fry. And he did, landing the biggest fish in the sea, the Soviet Union.

Carter could be described as a catch and release kind of President, but he never went fishing, so he never caught anything to release.

Who knows how the Middle East would look if Carter had parked an aircraft carrier off the coast of Iran and told the Ayatollah “ For every day we don’t have our hostages back safe, we run a few bombing missions into Tehran, and by the way, you no longer have a open sea port to ship your oil, I hope you guys are thirsty, you have a lot of crude to drink.”
Heck we already had a gas shortage and cars lines up for miles, America would have told Carter to do whatever it takes to get our people home, we will make do. Instead he did nothing but beg for the Ayatollah to be a good guy. Wrong tactic in that part or any part of the world.

Now Carter is the darling of the left. He is sooooo smart and soooo wise, he has a Nobel prize to prove it. Maybe the 20 something Nutroots folks didn’t experience the warm and glowing times known as the Carter years? Does the phrase ‘Misery Index’ ring any bells?

Andrew Jackson, who is mot my favorite President to be sure, as a judge once arrested a man who had resisted and beaten up two parties of lawmen sent to capture him. When they asked the fugitive why he came when Jackson came to bring him in, the man said “He had shoot in his eyes.”

That is what Carter lacks.

6:03 PM  
Blogger gary daily said...

Readers of this post should be aware of the fact that Amir Taheri has been challenged by scholars and news sources on a number of occasions for his sloppy research and undocumented “facts.”

9:38 PM  
Blogger gary daily said...

I guess I just can't let yolo cowboy get away with this:
"Heck we already had a gas shortage and cars lines up for miles, America would have told Carter to do whatever it takes to get our people home, we will make do. Instead he did nothing but beg for the Ayatollah to be a good guy. Wrong tactic in that part or any part of the world."
Remember the grief Carter got for sitting next to a fireplace in a cardigan--you know the drill, TURN DOWN THE THERMOSTAT. The man was a seer in the land of the blind. And has anyone been reading Bill on the glories of the internal combustion engine!? Thomas Freidman writes today about Syria and Iran shipping oil money (USA bucks a big part of this boodle) to terrorists, but does the president or the Congress have a real energy policy, a policy that would require pain and sacrifice at home? Nothing on the radar screen. And Michael Moore catches hell from everyone for hinting that Iraq is about oil while most of us are ready and willing to stick our heads into the bloody sands (some of it American blood spilled in pursuit of a failed, counter-productive policy) of the middle east and think this will solve the problem that comes out of that hose we shove into gas guzzlers twice a week.

9:59 AM  
Blogger Yolo Cowboy said...

Gary, first to your point about Carter and his thermostat; what does that have to do with getting the hostages back?
Did Carter tell Americans 'look if you just turn up your thermostats we will get out people back'?

No the Carter policy of price controls was a disaster for our economy. It took years to recover.

As for the Michael Moore and the 'war for oil' crowd, please show me where we have taken any Iraqi oil, or Kuwaiti oil for ourselves. The first Gulf War was supposed to be about oil too. Maybe the Pentagon did get the memo. “Kick the crap out of Hussein and plant a Texaco flag on every oilfield you come to.”

Second, the Democrats have stood against drilling in ANWR, off the West coast and almost anywhere else. We could start becoming energy independent if the left would get out of the way. We are not going to conserve our way out of making the Middle East thugs rich. India and China will soon overtake the US as the worlds largest oil importers, if we cut our demand in half in ten years, the world market will take up the slack and then some.

I do believe you make a point about sacrifice here at home, not about "gas" being the problem, terrorism is the problem.

Switching to E-85 Ethanol or something less drastic than riding a bike to work is something I would like to see. The economy is in great shape, I can't think of a better time to say, this is going to hurt a little, but our kids will be much better for our sacrifice.

By the way, my wife's car gets 39 MPG and my truck gets 28. Who you calling a gas guzzler?

4:34 PM  
Blogger gary daily said...

Four years back, Republican hit-men were running ads of Tom Daschle and Saddam Hussein informing the public, in that nuanced prose Tom DeLay and his ilk are so justly infamous for, that both men opposed drilling in ANWR. Get it!?!

Instead of guilt by association tactics, and grabbing at straws, or, more correctly, leaking pipes snaking through the pristine tundra of Alaska, we should all remember that ANWR, on a good, no leaks day, would produce 1 million barrels of oil a day. We consume 20. The world produces 75. I think the Kerry-McCain fuel efficiency standards legislation, a non-starter in a nation of petroleum addicts, would have saved at least three times as much oil a year as ANWR would produce. And ANWR would not go online for 7 to 10 years. And ANWR is, like all oil reserves, a finite resource.

If ANWR is a step toward energy independence, then George Bush actually read and understood Camus's _The Stranger_.

9:42 PM  
Blogger Bill Lama said...

Sorry gary, you are no match for the Cowboy.

Your thinking is just so convoluted it makes little sense.

Cowboy listed two of Carter's failings as (1) the hostages in Iran and (2) the gas shortages. Somehow you tie them together and claim that Carter was "a seer in the land of the blind."

Then Cowboy points out that "Democrats have stood against drilling in ANWR, off the West coast and almost anywhere else. We could start becoming energy independent if the left would get out of the way."

Your response is to single out ANWR which could generate 5% of our needs (right now if the Dems had not been in the way during the Clinton years) and ignore all the rest.

There is enough oil off the coast and in the Rockies to supply 100% of US needs indefinitely -- if only we were allowed to get it.

Cowboy is right. You are wrong -- again.

1:50 PM  

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