If the policies of former President Jimmy Carter seem more successful in their college classroom retelling than they do when matched up against the historical record, it might be because so many alumni of the one-term chief executive’s administration are themselves academics.
This revolving door of jumps from a presidential cabinet to a tenured professorship is always an easier leap for Democratic political appointees than their Republican counterparts. You can find three times as many Carter appointees on college campuses than you can Bush (41) Administration officials.
The former president Jimmy Carter gets to brief Emory University freshmen on the world according to himself. That view, according to Emory undergraduates who have been exposed to it, is that the current president has made the world a more dangerous place.
Carter’s old hands trumpet the same line. His Undersecretary of State, Richard Moose, for example, gave a talk at Louisiana State University, little more than a month before last year’s presidential election, in which he none-too-subtly compared the current U. S. military effort in Iraq to the protracted American involvement in the controversial Vietnam War.
“When I went to Iraq for a few weeks last year,” Moose told students, “I was very much reminded of Vietnam.”
President Carter’s last ambassador to the UN, Donald F. McHenry, serves as a distinguished professor in the Practice of Diplomacy at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. As UN ambassador, McHenry succeeded the flamboyant Andrew Young, who exited the position after casting an anti-Israel vote.
“On the Middle East,” Professor McHenry said in an interview with Nadia Crisan, “the veto power has been used by the United States for domestic political reasons, not substantive reasons, nor foreign reasons…That is unfortunate.”
Dr. McHenry is not shy about his criticism of the U. S.’ conduct of the war in Iraq. However, he also joined UN ambassadors from the last four presidential administrations in calling for reform at the United Nations.
“We had a number of issues which we had to handle: the Soviets in Afghanistan, the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia, the conflict in Cambodia, the Iran crises, other problems in the Middle East, Southern Africa, Namibia,” Dr. McHenry remembers of his own tenure as U N ambassador. “It was not an ideal situation, but not an impossible situation…Sometimes we were successful, sometimes we were not.”
Truth be told, the record is mostly negative:
- The Soviets did not leave Afghanistan until the first President Bush was in office.
- Both Vietnam and Cambodia have racked up deplorable human rights records over the past three decades. Witness the Boat People fleeing Vietnam and the mass graves in Cambodia.
- A radically fundamentalist Islamic government overthrew the comparatively liberal, pro-Western Shah of Iran and took more than 400 American hostages who were not released until Ronald Reagan, who defeated President Carter in his reelection bid, gave his inaugural address.
The pressure that the U. S. used on the white government of Rhodesia was exerted in order to bring Soviet client Robert Mugabe to power.
When voters in Zimbabwe, the former Rhodesia, elected a black Methodist bishop, Abel Muzorewa, the Carter Administration would not lift the sanctions in place to protest colonial rule that served as a barrier to U. S. trade and investment in the African nation. When the sanctions forced a second election, and voters chose Mugabe as their head of state (mostly, as the Freedom House report on the balloting indicates, at gunpoint). The Carter Administration not only lifted sanctions but gifted the new prime minister millions in U. S. aid.
Currently, Mugabe, who is still Zimbabwe’s chief executive, is trying to maintain power by subduing real and perceived opponents, a process that involves bulldozing churches, orphanages, and mosques. When Mugabe made his first state visit to the White House in 1980, President Carter brought McHenry and his predecessor, Andrew Young, there to receive him.
“They never let me forget your struggle,” President Carter told Mugabe. Someone should remind Dr. McHenry of the role that he played in bringing this brutal thug to power.
Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.