Tags: Foolish | People | and | Without | Understanding

Foolish People, and Without Understanding

Sunday, 19 May 2002 12:00 AM

During his recent visit to Cuba, former president Jimmy Carter announced that he believed Fidel Castro, not the American government, and denied that the communist dictator was developing biological weapons of mass destruction. Carter also denied that Castro was aiding the pro-terror regimes of Libya and Iran. But Carter offered no evidence to support his assertions.

Castro reciprocated by praising Carter as the most intelligent of the 10 U.S. presidents during his 43-year reign. Likewise, Castro offered no evidence to support his assertion.

What a scene! An aging former president, respected for his humanitarianism, shaking hands with an aging dictator who is estimated to have murdered 15,000 political dissidents and imprisoned 100,000 more. A man who was voted out of office meeting on equal terms with a man who cannot be voted out of office. A man who claims to value human rights expressing friendship for the longest-lasting dictator on earth.

I have nothing against Jimmy Carter as a human being. I would like to have him as a neighbor. But I have a great deal against him as a role model. His moral myopia is so severe that even the thickest lenses could not correct it. He is to politics what Mr. Magoo is to cartoons – a ridiculous fellow who keeps blundering into danger because of his poor vision.

But there is a key difference. Mr. Magoo endangers only himself as he teeters, blissfully unaware, on the brink of cliffs. Mr. Carter endangers others as he teeters, blissfully unaware, on the brink of moral chasms.

What value has friendship, if it is offered indiscriminately to friend and foe, to oppressed and oppressor? What does it mean that someone is my friend, when he is an equal friend to those who hate me and want to see me dead? What significance has a handshake, when an equally warm handshake is given to a bearded tyrant?

Jimmy Carter is only the symptom. The disease is moral myopia. It is a regrettably common disease that is characterized by:

But everyone isn't like us. We want to resolve differences by peaceful means and get on with our lives. Some people enjoy violence – revel in it. They don't envy our free elections, free speech, women's rights, or cultural and religious diversity. They despise them. They don't want to take what we have; they spit on it. They want us dead. Not just soldiers or political leaders, but also women and children. All of us. Ask the Israelis at Sbarro's Pizzeria. Ask the workers in the World Trade Center.

And what was Carter's contribution after 9-11? He condemned President Bush's superb "axis of evil" address. Of course, it is difficult to argue about an axis of evil with one who is chronically incapable of recognizing evil.

Good intentions are good only insofar as they lead to good actions. But if they substitute for good actions, they become harmful. They allow us to feel good about ourselves without doing good for others. They allow us to "visualize world peace" without doing a thing to bring it closer. They allow us to believe that bumper-sticker slogans substitute for intelligent action.

Dangerous people remain dangerous, no matter how complacent we are. We have no halos, no matter how egotistical we are. If we blunder into danger, we and those with us may get seriously hurt, no matter how good we feel about ourselves. Our peaceful demeanor only attracts predators. If we "build a bridge" to those who hate us, they will use it to get at us. If we offer friendship, they will see it as weakness.

When we feel superior to "average" Americans, it is easy to identify with their enemies. Why else is pro-Castro and pro-Palestinian sentiment so strong in academia? Do you suppose the self-anointed, elitist "intellectuals" really care one iota about Cubans or Palestinians? No, they give verbal support only because communist tyrants and bombers of pizzerias hate America even more than they do.

Is this too harsh? Then answer one question. Where is the support for the hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of black Africans who have been murdered, starved or enslaved by the Sudanese regime? Where are the demonstrations on campuses? After all, blacks are being persecuted by non-blacks. Where is the outrage?

There is no outrage, because Sudanese atrocities have no relevance to American politics. There would be no political "mileage" in coming out in favor of Sudanese blacks. But there are demonstrations for the Palestinians, because Israel is our ally. There are pro-Castro demonstrations, because Castro is our enemy.

The motivation of the pro-Castro or pro-Palestinian activists often has little to do with Castro or Palestinians, and everything to do with anti-Americanism. The activists aren't really pro-anything; they're merely anti. Sympathy is expressed not for all suffering groups, but only for those groups hostile to us and to our allies. This highly selective sympathy is revealing.

Castro is not the first tyrant Jimmy Carter befriended. As Jay Nordlinger notes in National Review, Carter opposed the Gulf War against Saddam Hussein, and said nice things about the Romanian Ceausescu, the Syrian Assad, the Ethiopian Mengistu, the North Korean Kim, the Nicaraguan Ortega, and the Palestinian Arafat – quite an assortment of anti-American dictators, mass murderers and megalomaniacs.

When the Shah of Iran was in trouble, then-president Carter pulled the rug out from under our longtime ally. Carter's emissary met Ayatollah Khomeini in Paris, where he lived in exile, and pronounced him a "saint." Carter then told the shah's generals to stand aside and let the revolution proceed. The generals did as they were told, and most of them were killed when Khomeini seized power. Some "saint."

And what was Carter's reward? Did the Iranian fanatics see him as a friend? No, they saw him as a weak fool. They seized our embassy and imprisoned our diplomats. The prolonged crisis caused Carter's defeat in the 1980 election. But Carter learned nothing from his own experience, just as he had learned nothing from the appeasers' failure to stop Hitler. His mind remained closed.

Clearly the shah's regime was no model of democracy, but the Khomeini regime was much worse. Don't take my word for it; ask Iranian-Americans. And no one can say for certain that the shah would have been able to retain power even with our help, although those who were there believe this to be the case.

But we can say that the Iranian revolution's success encouraged religious fanatics elsewhere. The increasing fanaticism of Islam in Saudi Arabia and in other nations surely was stimulated by the example of Iran, where the rights of non-Muslims were virtually eliminated, as were women's rights, while "unbelievers" were slaughtered.

That is, being anti-American and anti-human rights proved to be the way to power in Iran – and served as a model throughout the Middle East. Some model.

Of course, if we are self-righteous enough, we easily forgive ourselves for the untold misery caused by the fall of the shah and the rise of the fanatics. "It's not our fault," we tell ourselves. "We had good intentions," as if that absolves us of all responsibility for the harmful effects of our actions.

Even worse, what happened in Iran showed that it is more dangerous to be our friend than our enemy. That was a lesson easily learned by both potential friends and potential enemies.

How we treat Israel now will be watched keenly throughout the world. We can reinforce the lesson by abandoning Israel. Then what will restrain communist China from invading Taiwan? What will restrain other would-be aggressors from crushing their neighbors? What reason will remain to be our friend?

Or we can reverse the lesson by remaining steadfast. No, Israel isn't a perfect ally. The shah was less perfect, and Stalin was still less. Yet we stuck by him in our war against Hitler, and we emerged from the war stronger than ever, physically and morally.

The real world requires difficult moral choices. But try as we might, we cannot avoid making them. We should choose to side with those who support our values, however imperfectly, and against those who violently oppose our values.

The real world is a dangerous place filled with dangerous people. Severe myopia can be a fatal handicap. Mr. Magoo makes an amusing cartoon character but a poor role model and a lousy statesman.

We have eyes with which to see the evildoers in the world. We have ears to hear the cries of those who suffer under tyranny. It is our duty to use them. Otherwise, we are foolish people, and without understanding.

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During his recent visit to Cuba, former president Jimmy Carter announced that he believed Fidel Castro, not the American government, and denied that the communist dictator was developing biological weapons of mass destruction. Carter also denied that Castro was aiding the...
Sunday, 19 May 2002 12:00 AM
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