"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Jimmy Carter: still crazy after all these years

Jimmy Carter likes to think of himself as a moral compass, which may be true if said compass had been struck by lightening a few times and then spent a cozy night in an electomagnetic particle accelerator, and perhaps dropped from a plane cruising at 30,000 feet for good measure. A recent interview in Spiegel is illustrative of how warped this old man has become.

His grasp of history is tenuous at best: "there's no doubt that this administration has made a radical and unpressured departure from the basic policies of all previous administrations including those of both Republican and Democratic presidents." He cites a non-existent policy of never going to war unless "our own security was directly threatened" which may be true, with notable exceptions including early 20th-century "Banana War" interventions in Central and South America, our declaration of war against Nazi Germany even though it was Japan that attacked us, participation in the Korean and First Gulf War under U.N. mandates rather than in response to any transgression against us, and humanitarian interventions in Somalia and Kosovo. Apart from that, yes, we never go to war unless someone rams airliners into our buildings.

Famous for his moral equivalency, Carter applies it to the recent Israeli-Lebanese conflict: "I don't think that Israel has any legal or moral justification for their massive bombing of the entire nation of Lebanon." Perhaps this perception can be forgiven, as the media was notoriously led by the nose by Hezbollah to the handful of places that Israel truly devastated, making it easy to confuse the repeated coverage of the same spots with nationwide destruction. Still, his lumping together of Israeli and Hezbollah tactics makes me think that his compass is somewhat askew. Apparently Israel's arrest of "10,000 prisoners" (prisoners, mind you, jailed for no reason that he mentions, like, say, involved in terrorist operations against the security of Israel) is the equivalent of suicide bombings, indiscriminate rocket attacks, and, finally, cross-border incursions resulting in the death and kidnapping of the soldiers of a sovereign state. And he's bought into the current absurd but popular idea that the accidental death of civilians during military operations is the same as an "attack on the civilian population". Why his indignant compass needle points to attacks on military targets (i.e. rocket launcher sites) in which civilian deaths are a tragic byproduct, rather than rocket attacks on civilian population centers in which dead civilians are the only goal, is puzzling and disturbing.

His list of complaints is long and distinguished only their detachment from reality, from Bush's refusal to negotiate with Yassir Arafat (a man who never met a promise he didn't break), to his bland acceptance of charges of torture at Guantanamo (absolutely horrible, that non-desecration of non-existant Korans in non-existant toilets), to the "unfortunate" outbreak of patriotism in America after 9/11, to the "false pretexts" for invading Iraq that were so false only every major intelligence agency and multiple U.N. resolutions agreed with them, to his best wishes for his good friend and major human rights violator Fidel Castro to recover.

I don't like picking on an old man, so maybe we can lay his moral unhinging on the doorstep of senility (a not unreasonable assessment, given that Jimmy thinks many Americans agree with him even though his book is not even a blip on the radar screen on bestseller lists). I've always thought ex-presidents should quietly and humbly return to the shadows, emerging only to do really nice things like organize tsunami relief in Asia. Criticizing a sitting adminstration leaves the ex-exec open to a reexamination of his own time in office, with the blistering clarity of hindsight adding fuel to the fire. Carter, of all living ex-presidents, should be the last person to want that (for a man obessessed with negotiating everything, he seemed to have a lot of trouble talking American hostages out of Iran). But he insists on opening his mouth again and again and again, and consistently moralizes himself onto the anti-democratic and anti-American side of any argument. That might pass as modern morality in Europe, but America and the rest of the free world deserve a better compass.

On to other things, and quickly.
John Keegan on why he thinks we are where we are in Iraq. He is probably one of the most respected military historians of our time, and certainly a favorate on my bookshelf. His opinion is worth taking to heart.

A short but incisive
analysis on why Israel came up so short in its Lebanese campaign. And finally, Mark Steyn on the hypocrisy of "proportionality".

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