Carter speech haunts Obama appearance at university.
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Once the new terminology was squared away and duly communicated to a watching world, the administration wrapped up its internal debate about its strategy for the war in Afghanistan. In a blink the behind-the-scenes discussions were on the front page of the New York Times. Predictably, Vice President Biden — who had insisted the surge in Iraq would not work — was warning of a “political and military quagmire” ahead in Afghanistan, according to the Times. The final (for now) decision is a lesser variation on the Iraq surge, targeting al Qaeda by sending an additional 4,000 troops — yet forbidding them from participating in combat. Rather, the objective will be to train the Afghan army and national police. In other spheres of U.S. foreign policy, Obama has told the Russians he wishes to “reset” the U.S.-Russian relationship, in part by standing down on the deployment of U.S. missiles in Poland in return for assistance on Iran, sent his envoys to Syria (where the Bush administration had reportedly sent U.S. warplanes to destroy a partly constructed nuclear reactor), invited Iran to a conference on the future of Afghanistan and indicated the U.S. is prepared to talk with the Taliban. Only days ago Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was on Fox appealing to the North Koreans to talk to the administration.
“Words matter,” President Obama is fond of saying, and so they do. Jimmy Carter’s words at Notre Dame in fact mattered a great deal, as did the actions that flowed from those words. As the date draws near for the Obama appearance at Notre Dame, it is a useful reminder that this same occasion 32 years ago became the stage on which the words of Jimmy Carter set the Carter presidency, America and the world on a fateful course. The world — which very much included the Soviets, the Iranian mullahs and the Nicaraguan Communist guerillas among many others — was watching and listening.
The results included the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the establishment of a Soviet and Cuban base of operations in Central America, the establishment of an Islamic Republic in Iran, the taking of American hostages in Iran, the mass murder by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and finally the wreckage of Carter’s presidency. (And that doesn’t even count the crippling of the US economy with double-digit inflation, interest rates and unemployment.) Perhaps most disturbingly, the Carter era as represented by Carter himself in his Notre Dame speech would eventually set in motion the creation of Al Qaeda and the Islamic terrorist zeitgeist that has engulfed the world ever since.
A bare two-plus months into the Obama era it appears the new president is guiding his administration and the country almost precisely along the same path of moral equivalence Carter began to tread at Notre Dame. Sending the entire world a message outlining the spirit in which President Obama intends to govern. Unintended consequences be damned.
You might call it Jimmy Carter’s Spirit of Notre Dame.
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