‘Barack Carter’: Obama is Leaving America Weaker on the World Stage than Carter DidPosted: June 29, 2014
For decades, Carter’s presidency was synonymous with weakness on the world stage. The late 1970’s was the era of double-digit inflation, a worldwide oil crisis, Iranian hostages and Soviet military advances from Latin America to Afghanistan. So pathetic was America’s predicament at the time that the late Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy mounted a primary challenge to Carter from the left.
“It is barely remembered today, but, for all the derision heaped upon Carter as a weak and feckless President, he eventually responded to foreign aggression in tough and concrete ways.”
Obama’s rise to power mirrored his Democratic predecessor’s in many ways. Both men came to office in the wake of widespread public disenchantment with the political establishment, and promoted themselves as outsiders and breaths of fresh air. Both men spoke of surmounting what they portrayed as Americans’ exaggerated anxieties about the dangers hyped by fear-mongering conservatives.
“The correlations between the world situation in the twilight of the Carter administration and in the second Obama term are hard to ignore.”
For Carter, in a 1977 commencement speech, it was “our inordinate fear of communism” that Americans needed to overcome. For Obama, in his 2009 Cairo address, it was the “fear” and “mistrust” that had grown between the West and Muslim world in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Both men came into office emphasizing the promotion of human rights as a crucial dimension of American foreign policy. And both men gave the impression that their good intentions would be enough to accomplish these Herculean tasks.
Unfortunately, as is often the case, the reality of the world came crashing down.
It is barely remembered today, but, for all the derision heaped upon Carter as a weak and feckless President, he eventually responded to foreign aggression in tough and concrete ways. In November 1979, Iranian revolutionaries — fresh after having overthrown the American-allied Shah — seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran, taking 52 American diplomats hostage. In December, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.
Gone was the President Carter who had scolded Americans for their “fear” of the communist behemoth.
By January, Carter announced a series of proposals directed at weakening America’s adversaries. First was a 5% increase in defense spending, a move that angered many of his Democratic allies in Congress who had taken to slashing the defense budget in the wake of the Vietnam War.
In his State of the Union address, Carter announced what would later come to be known as the Carter Doctrine: that the United States would use military force to protect its vital interests in the Persian Gulf.
Next came an embargo on grain and agricultural technology to the Soviet Union. Carter also declared that the United States would boycott the 1980 Moscow summer Olympics unless the Soviets withdrew their troops from Afghanistan. When they did not, he began covert funding of Afghan rebel fighters.
Conservatives like to credit Ronald Reagan with ending the Cold War. To the extent that the collapse of the Soviet Union was brought about by American policies and not the internal contradictions and weaknesses of the communist system itself (a debate that engages historians to this day), the last year of the Carter administration laid the groundwork.
The correlations between the world situation in the twilight of the Carter administration and in the second Obama term are hard to ignore…(read more)
Kirchick is a fellow with the Foreign Policy Initiative.
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- How Jimmy Carter Ruined America Twice (personalliberty.com)
- Barack Hussein Carter (steveprestegard.com)
- Remember When Presidents Stood Up To Russia? (weaselzippers.us)
- The great unraveling (powerlineblog.com)
- Carter: Russian invasion of Crimea ‘inevitable’ (wfaa.com)
- If Only Obama Were as Tough as Carter (nationalinterest.org)
- Russians back down when presidents stand up (examiner.com)
- Carter: Obama should do what I did with Russia (hotair.com)