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Jimmy Carter on War & Peace

President of the U.S., 1977-1981


1980: Planned second Desert Storm, after first one failed

Most of us remember Operation Desert Storm, a hostage-rescue attempt by our military early in 1980 that ended up dead-in-the-desert, got eight Americans killed, and resulted as a major embarrassment for Carter. During negotiations after that, Iran was demanding of the Carter people that we exchange $150 million in American military equipment that they'd already ordered and paid for, before the Shah was overthrown and the Ayatollah Khomeini took power. Carter said he wouldn't deal with arms merchants, When Saddam Hussein's forces invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990, before Bush's invasion, former President Jimmy Carter wrote to members of the United Nations Security Council and asked them not to support the use of force against Hussein. On Nov. 29, 1990, the UN passed a resolution calling on Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait by Jan. 15, 1991, after which UN member states could use all means necessary "to restore peace and security in the area."
Source: The Family, by Kitty Kelley, p.495&497-8 , Mar 9, 2010

OpEd: re-election failed with 1980 Iranian hostage crisis

We didn't know it right away, but Jimmy Carter's reelection hopes probably went south on him the night in April 1980 when the attempt to rescue the US hostages being held in Iran turned into a fiasco. There was a dust storm raging and one of the helicopters the military had sent in crashed into a transport plane, starting a fire that killed 8 soldiers.

The next day we found out Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, who had opposed the rescue attempt, had resigned in protest.

We were in a tough spot with Carter sticking to his Rose Garden strategy of staying at the White House and sending out the Vice President and First Lady to campaign for him. You need your biggest star to go out there and get people excited.

Source: What A Party!, by Terry McAuliffe, p. 30 , Jan 23, 2007

Iraq does not meet Christian standard of Just War

Not realizing that the top leaders of the US and Great Britain had already agreed to invade Iraq almost a year earlier, I wrote these words for an op-ed piece on March 3, 2003, entitled "Just War, or an Unjust War":
Source: Our Endangered Values, by Jimmy Carter, p.152-154 , Sep 26, 2006

Iraqi War did not reduce the threat of terrorism

A basic question to be asked is, "Has the Iraqi war reduced the threat of terrorism?" Unfortunately, the answer is "No." Not only have we lost the almost unanimous sympathy and support that was offered to us throughout the world after the attack of 9/11, but there is direct evidence that the Iraqi war has actually increased the terrorist threat. In testimony before the Congress, CIA Director Porter Goss stated, "Islamic extremists are exploiting the Iraqi conflict to recruit new anti-US jihadists [holy warriors]. These jihadists who survive will leave Iraq experienced and focus on acts of urban terrorism." He added that the war "has become a cause for extremists."
Source: Our Endangered Values, by Jimmy Carter, p.158 , Sep 26, 2006

1990: Urged UN Security Council against use of force in Iraq

When Saddam Hussein's forces invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990, before Bush's invasion, former President Jimmy Carter wrote to members of the United Nations Security Council and asked them not to support the use of force against Hussein. On Nov. 29, 1990, the UN passed a resolution calling on Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait by Jan. 15, 1991, after which UN member states could use all means necessary "to restore peace and security in the area."
Source: The Family, by Kitty Kelley, p.495&497-8 , Sep 16, 2004

Afghan & Iraq invasions were not "Just Wars"

Given Bush's religious orientation many expected that the administration's answers to 9/11 would be drawn from the theology that had guided Christians in their thinking about war for centuries: the "Just War" theory.

Though the Bush administration did not invoke the Just War theory at first, much of the debate about the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq outside the administration clearly centered on these ideas. For example, in a widely cited article, former President Jimmy Carter expressed his opposition to the Bush doctrine on a Just War basis: "As a Christian and as a president who was severely provoked by international crises, I became thoroughly familiar with the principles of a Just War, and it is clear that a substantially unilateral attack on Iraq does not meet these standards."

Source: The Faith of George W. Bush, by Stephen Mansfield, p.143-144 , Apr 12, 2004

Admired the Shah of Iran until his overthrow in 1979

In 1953, Iran was evil, the epitome of evil. Why? Because it had a conservative nationalist elected government that was trying to take control of its own resources, which had been run by the British up until then. So it was the epitome of evil. The government had to be overthrown by a military coup carried out by the US and Britain. The Shah was reinstated.

Then for the next 26 years it was good. The Shah compiled one of the worst human rights records in the world. President Carter particularly admired the Shah. Just a couple of months before he was overthrown, he said how impressed he was by the Shah's "progressive administration," and so on.

In 1979, Iran became evil again. They pulled out of the imperial system. And since then they have been evil. They haven't been following orders.

Source: Power and Terror, by Noam Chomsky, p.128-129 , Mar 19, 2002

Oversaw Camp David accord: peace between Egypt & Israel

The highlight of the Carter foreign policy came on March 26, 1979, with the signing of a peace treaty by Israeli Premier Menahem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat. The so-called Camp David accord represented a high point in the Carter presidency, although later negotiations to implement it foundered.
Source: Grolier’s Encyclopedia, “The Presidency” , Dec 25, 2000

Iranian hostages clouded 1980; made deal for release

Probably the most perplexing problem facing Carter was the seizure in November 1979 of American diplomats and embassy employees in Teheran. [Carter responded with] more than a year of inconclusive negotiations with the Iranian government, plus an unsuccessful airborne attempt to rescue the hostages. Although many people were dissatisfied with Carter’s handling of the hostage seizure and many blamed his administration for not having protected embassy personnel in the first place, the delicate problem was muted somewhat as an issue owing to the paucity of reasonable alternative plans, the erratic nature of a succession of Iranian governments, and fears generated by Iranian threats to punish or kill the hostages.

Much of the 1980 presidential campaign was played out under the cloud of the hostage problem. The hostages were finally released on Jan. 20, 1981. Their freedom was obtained in exchange for concessions that included the unfreezing of Iranian assets in the United States.

Source: Grolier’s Encyclopedia, “The Presidency” , Dec 25, 2000

Kept our country at peace, and extend peace to others

Q: You've been Q: You've been criticized for responding late to aggressive Soviet impulses, and a paralysis in dealing with Afghanistan and Iran.

CARTER: What we've done is to use that enormous power and prestige and military strength of the US to preserve the peace. We've not only kept peace for our own country, but we've been able to extend the benefits of peace to others. In the Middle East, we've worked for a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, successfully, and have tied ourselves together with Israel and Egypt in a common defense capability. This is a very good step forward for our Nation's security, and we'll continue to do as we've done in the past. There are always troublespots in the world, and how those troubled areas are addressed by a President, alone in that Oval Office, affects our Nation directly. That is a basic decision that has to be made so frequently by every President who serves. That's what I've tried to do, successfully, by keeping our country at peace.

Source: The Reagan-Carter Presidential Debate , Oct 28, 1980

Strength is imperative for peace, but goal is peace

REAGAN: We cannot shirk our responsibility as the leader of the Free World, because we're the only one that can do it. And therefore, the burden of maintaining the peace falls on us. And to maintain that peace requires strength.

CARTER: The buildup of military forces is good for our country, because we've got to have military strength in order to preserve the peace. But I'll always remember that the best weapons are the ones that are never fired in combat, and the best soldier is one who never has to lay his life down on the field of battle. Strength is imperative for peace, but the two must go hand in hand.

Source: The Reagan-Carter Presidential Debate , Oct 28, 1980

Continue 4-decade challenge of mounting Soviet power

Since the end of WWII, America has led other nations in meeting the challenge of mounting Soviet power. Between us there has been cooperation, there has been competition, and at times there has been confrontation.In all these actions, we have maintained 2 commitments: to be ready to meet any challenge by Soviet military power, and to develop ways to resolve disputes and to keep the peace.
Source: Pres. Carter's 1980 State of the Union message to Congress , Jan 23, 1980

No US war in Yugoslavia even if Soviet Union sent in troops

Q: President Tito is old and sick. It's pretty certain that the Russians are going to do everything they possibly can after Tito dies to force Yugoslavia back into the Soviet camp. But you said, "I would not go to war in Yugoslavia even if the Soviet Union sent in troops." Doesn't that invite the Russians to intervene?

CARTER: According to the leaders in Yugoslavia, there is no prospect of the Soviet Union invading Yugoslavia should Mr. Tito pass away. The present leadership there is fairly uniform in their purpose. I think it's a close-knit group. I would never go to war--or become militarily involved in the internal affairs of another country--unless our own security was directly threatened. And I don't believe that our security would be directly threatened if the Soviet Union went into Yugoslavia. I don't believe it will happen.

FORD: I firmly believe that it's unwise for a President to signal in advance what options he might exercise if any international problem arose.

Source: The Third Carter-Ford Presidential Debate , Oct 22, 1976

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George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
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Ronald Reagan(R,1981-1989)
Jimmy Carter(D,1977-1981)
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Page last updated: Jul 05, 2014