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Carter and what might have been
By Bruce Walker
Conservatives and other sensible Americans understand just how great Ronald Reagan was in the history of our nation. He articulated and implemented sound policies across the board, producing economic growth, increasing energy production, inspiring dispirited Americans, and winning the Cold War. Perhaps the greatest gift President Reagan gave to America and to the world, however, may have been keeping Jimmy Carter from winning re-election.
The sordid and sneaky political campaign that Tom Daschle, Bill Clinton, and the other Copperheads of the Democrat Party have been waging against the President recently are just one example of a political party placing the most transitory political gains above the survival the freedom and security of America in a world teeming with vipers.
Most conservatives have tended to view Jimmy Carter as somehow outside this muck and mendacity. Carter, after all, went to the Naval Academy. He honored his marriage vows. When he left office in 1981, after a Reagan landslide that swept in thirty-three additional Republican congressmen as well as twelve additional Republican senators (giving Republicans control of the Senate for the first time in a long time), most conservatives were content to be gracious towards Carter.
There were, to be sure, dumbfounding statements coming out of Carter's mouth as president. He seems to have discovered fairly late in his presidency that the Soviet Union was not a peace-loving socialist paradise. He also seems vaguely to have grasped that his political party - the home of Tammany Hall, the Ku Klux Klan, Communist agents, big city machines like Hague, Daley, and Crump, and violent labor unions - was not morally superior to the Republican Party.
So why, twenty-one years after the fact, is Jimmy Carter - in the middle of a global war against America - sipping tea with Castro in Cuba and lauding the health care system of the worst enemy our nation has in this half of the globe? Why is he propping up one of the worst human rights violators among the dictators of the last century? Carter's apparent recognition of evil in the world during his last year as president was, like so very much of this little man, disingenuous.
Thankfully, this moral midget can be safely disregarded in the world of grown-ups. Which brings home the chilling question of a second term for Jimmy Carter in 1980. What if Ronald Reagan had not run in 1980? His eloquent articulation of deeply held values may well have been the difference in that election. If Carter had been re-elected, what would have happened in the first four years of the 1980s?
The NATO allies, except for Maggie Thatcher, were very soft allies. The
Soviets had the military force to crush Solidarity, the focus of Polish
resistance to communism, provided that this would have been ignored and
quickly forgotten by the democracies, as was the crushing of the Hungarian
Revolution in 1956 or the Soviet end of the Prague Spring in 1968.
Iran and Iraq were locked in a deadly war, and the Red Army might well have marched into the Persian Gulf on the side of one power or the other, convinced that the vacillating Carter would not fight to stop the Kremlin. The oil fields of the Middle East would have given the Soviets vast influence over the European democracies and over Japan, insuring that America would have few allies in any war against this newest Tsarist acquisition.
UNITA in Angola, under the fearless anti-Marxist guerilla leader Jonas Savimbi, prevented the Soviets from consolidating a hold upon the southern third of Africa, and the ghastly crimes of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe gives us a stark idea of how bad this part of the world could have become. Cuban proxy armies in Angola and Mozambique were already imposing that form of primitive Marxist hell that North Koreans, Cambodians and Albanians "enjoyed."
Jimmy Carter would not have liberated Grenada or supported the opposition to the communist dictators of Nicaragua, who have never won a free election in that nation. He would have sat passively as the Caribbean Sea became an area dominated by Soviet satellites, just as he allowed the Panama Canal to be transferred to an unstable, small nation.
Although the Iranian hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan would have led to a belated increase in defense spending, it is obvious now that Carter would have done as little as Congress and public opinion demanded. He would certainly have thrown away the trump card of SDI, without gaining any concession in return.
Carter would not have returned the Iowa-class battleship to active service or committed America to a six hundred ship navy. He would not have returned pride to the America fighting soldier, sailor and airman. His policy towards the Cold War would not have been the Gipper's famous: "How about this: we win, they lose?"
Little Jimmy would also have opened up even more quickly the horrors of international terrorism to America. Remember when Muammar al-Qadhafi was threatening the United States Navy with his "Line of Death" in the Gulf of Sidra? Reagan sent in our carriers and shot down the Libyan fighters sent up to harass our warplanes. Then, when it began obvious that Qadhafi had participated in terrorism against Americans in Great Britain, Reagan sent in powerful air strike that shut Qadafhi from then until today.
Picture a disaster like September 11, 2001 occurring in September 11, 1981 under Jimmy Carter. America is not the only world superpower. It is not even the world's strongest power. The Soviet Union, which controls not only the oil supplies of Siberia but also the Middle East and through Caribbean proxies, has Venezuela cowed. These oil exporting nations announce a hard embargo on all oil exports until the democracies accept "New Realities in the Correlation of Forces."
America cannot project power into the terrorist protégée nation both because it lacks the military power and because the Soviet Union has placed that nation under its protection. Nothing can protect us from other varieties of terrorist attack, abetted by the extensive Soviet and Warsaw Pact networks of agents operating in our borders.
The governments of France and Italy, under intense external economic pressure and subtle military threats, agree to bring their very large Communist parties into the governing coalition, and both "suspend" their membership in NATO, pending a general election. The young democracies of Spain and Greece move out of NATO and into "non-aligned" status.
We have forgotten just how dangerous and how nasty a world Jimmy Carter left us. Had Ronald Reagan not defeated Carter in 1980, the world might well have by now descended into either the slow spiral into the black hole of totalitarianism or exploded into a thermonuclear supernova.
As this most banal and pointless of ex-presidents strolls around with Castro, a man self-taught in political theory by reading Mein Kampf, we should all of us give silent thanks for the great American who may have saved America and its promise to the world from inevitable and permanent defeat against an evil largely beaten now, but very real twenty-two years ago.
Neville Chamberlain died in November 1940, shortly after the RAF had won the Battle of Britain, and he died knowing just how wrong his policy of appeasement had been. Little Jimmy Carter even today does not see how dumb and craven he was a president. Thank you, President Reagan, again.
Walker is a senior writer with Enter Stage Right. He is also a frequent
contributor to The Pragmatist and The Common Conservative.
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