Sun Tzu says that we are, by our very nature, unable to see our own position. This is why we have to actively gather information from "outsiders," that is, those who don't show our point of view.
Perhaps recent American history provides no greater example of this problem than former President Carter who recently pronounced Bush the worst American president
. While I think Bush is one of the poorest leaders we have had in terms of communication, by every objective measure--military, political, economic, and especially, moral--President Carter was EASILY the worst president in American history and, by attacking the current president, he only draws attention to the fact.
I was a lifelong Democrat though fairly unpolitical during the time Carter was in office and voted for him twice, but even at the time, even to Democrat, even to someone not that interested in politics, Carter's weaknesses were much more apparent than his strengths. Like most Americans and Democrats, I was relieved when he left office and surprised by how quickly things changed for the better once he was gone. Like many Americans, I had bought his analysis that his problems were really the result of America's defects. Though I generally think American presidents have much less control over immediate events than the media claims, Carter demonstrated how quickly an American president's mistakes can damage worldwide progress toward better lives for most of humanity.
For those of you who have blocked this period from your mind, let us do a refresher:
1. Upon taking office
, Carter declared the energy shortage as permanent, the need for a "leaner" military, and need of international diplomacy to make us more popular abroad.
2. The most dramatic domestic result of his economic policies was "stagflation," double digit inflation coupled with a non-existent economic.
3. During his first month in office, he cut the defense budget $6 billion dollars.
4. He signed the Panama Canal treaties, surrendering the canal to a corrupt, brutal political dictator (Trujillo).
5. He supported the communist Sandinista revolution, causing decades of strife in that country that still echoes through South America.
6. He did nothing to stop Pot Pol's killing spree in Cambodia.
7. He started the SALT II nuclear disarmament talks, which gave the Solviet Union the hope it could continue to compete militarily with the US despite Russia's failing economy.
8. He refused to support Bishop Abel Muzorewa as the prime minister of then Rhodesia because Marxists were not allowed to run in his election, leading directly to the current economic horror that is now Zimbabwe.
9. He (not Reagan) started a 40 billion dollar program training Islamic fundamentalists to oppose the Russion invasion of Afghanistan.
10. He refused to support the Shah of Iran against a fundamentalists revolution, leading directly to the current government in Iran.
11. When America was attacked during his term in the office with the take over of our embassy in Iran, he allowed Iranian fundamentalists to hold Americans hostage for more than two years, refusing in any way to take action against them.
Though the "roots" of Islamic terrorism have nothing to do with America, the impetus for terrorism as we know it today is clearly rooted in the policies and actions of the Carter administration. It was Carter who told the world both directly and in his actions that America would no longer fight for our historical allies (Iran), against human suffering (Pot Pol), or for our own interests when we were attacked (the Iranian embassy). It was Carter who began training Islamic fundamentalists to use terror against the Russians in Afghanistan.
We could go on and on. Even his greatest "victory," the Camp David Accords, which created a treaty between Israel and Egypt, was, at best, a pyrric victory in terms of resolving anything. (One interesting fact is that to Nicolae CeauÅŸescu, the butcher of Rumania, was Carter's representative to the PLO during these negotiations.) This "peace" accord set the states of the Middle East on the course of supporting terrorist organizations in a proxy war against Israel instead of fighting Israel directly. Before Camp David, we had wars between states: 1948 Arab-Israeli War, 1956 Suez War, 1967 Six Day War, 1970 War of Attrition, and 1973 Yom Kippur War. After Camp David, we had a continued program of terrorism: the First Intifada, 1982-2000 South Lebanon conflict, al-Aqsa Intifada, and the 2006 Lebanon War. Because of Camp David, Israel is no longer fighting states, who can be defeated on the field of battle, but terrorists, who hold civilians hostage, first in Israel and later in Lebanon.
Carter turned his back on the traditional position of America. He did not believe in a better future. He did not believe the way to make the world a better place is by actively working against tyrants and deadly economic totalitarian systems. While other American presidents flirted with small tyrants on the basis of Realpolitik in the greater war against communism (by far, the 20th century's worst killer of civilians), Carter was the president who made it American policy NOT to use American force to oppose tyranny. The Rosie O'Donnel school of history, which blames US economic and military actions, for all the woes of the modern world can be traced directly back to Carter, who has continued to preached that belief around the world.
Meanwhile, the world suffers largely because to much of it doesn't embrace free market values and because it has become harder and harder for the good guys to fight the bad guys by military means because the good guys gave to obey all kinds of rules that no one applies to the bad guys. Bushes failures as a communicator are all his own, but his failures in Iraq are large because he is trying to play by Carter's rules.