At 89, Jimmy Carter Reminds Why He Was A Poor President

HE MAY BE DECREPIT, but he remains lucid enough to be a menace; Jimmy Carter — at an ominous and dangerous point in global affairs — has served up a salutary reminder of why he was such an ineffectual, impotent and downright dangerous President of the United States. His vacillation over a hypothetical pardon for traitor Edward Snowden is typical, and shows that 34 years after losing to Ronald Reagan in a landslide, Carter still doesn’t get it.

I have read an article in The Age this evening that has me shaking my head, and it’s not possible for me to sleep on it without making some comment. Even in his dotage, Jimmy Carter seems to have learnt little from the passage of time.

The presidency of Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) might not have ever occurred, had Richard Nixon not fallen so spectacularly from grace — and office — in August 1974; certainly the 1976 presidential election was one of the closer races, with replacement President Ford and his running mate, Bob Dole, carrying a majority of states but not votes in the United States’ electoral college. The unfancied peanut farmer and former Governor of Georgia became President, and his shortcomings paved the way for the popular actor and national security hawk , Ronald Reagan, to win the Presidency in 1980 in a canter.

Carter’s presidency was marked by economic torpor in the United States, and characterised by confused foreign policy at a time (similar to that which exists today) of great international unrest, and flux in the order of global security; Carter was faced with a militarily resurgent USSR led by Leonid Brezhnev, which invaded Afghanistan on Carter’s watch in late 1979.

Under Reagan, of course, the USA and the USSR came arguably nearer to direct conflict than they had since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, although Reagan’s strategy of engaging in profligate military spending and expansion he knew the Soviets couldn’t match but were obliged to attempt to do so eventually achieved its aim of busting the USSR from within.

Even so, the seeds for what in retrospect was the dangerous decade of the 1980s were sown on Carter’s watch, with a passive and unconfrontational foreign policy that was tantamount to appeasement of the Soviets, and decades later it is clear that Carter still doesn’t get it.

In even considering a pardon — in a hypothetical sense — for US traitor Edward Snowden, Carter has neatly shown the world that the same shortcomings that cruelled his period in the White House persist today, and whilst he was at pains to specify that even as a hypothetical question he was unsure as to whether he would grant a pardon, the fact he would even consider it at all beggars belief.

Carter is right to point out that the question of pardoning Snowden is to some extent obsolete, given Snowden has neither been tried nor convicted for the allegations and accusations he faces. This, however, is where the rectitude of his position begins and ends.

Snowden’s alleged misdemeanours — that he leaked thousands of pages of highly classified material about sensitive internal processes and the intelligence activities of the United States and its allies — may not have found their way into a court of law. And they are unlikely to ever do so, with the fugitive traitor currently being shielded in Russia by the Russian government, which refuses to countenance his extradition to face what would be a certain death sentence for treason if he were to be convicted.

Snowden himself, meanwhile, has virtually admitted responsibility for the leaks he stands accused of, and has shown no remorse in those of his utterances that have been published.

It’s telling that Carter — who as readers will see from the Fairfax article I have linked — vacillates in the interview over the question of a pardon, but then says he would “certainly” consider one were Snowden to face a capital penalty despite initially trying to dismiss the question as a hypothetical.

Of course, the question is hypothetical. But Carter’s answers highlight the same pusillanimous confusion on national security matters that marked his administration and inform American voters, at the very least, of how fortunate they are not to have such a dangerous idiot in charge of their defence at a time their country one again faces a militarily resurgent Russia bent on mischief and expansion.

Not that Barack Obama is any better, mind; in fact, I can recall having quite a heated debate in London in August 2008 with learned friends who were starstruck by Obama and his soaring rhetoric. I said it was of “paramount importance” that John McCain beat Obama in November that year; he didn’t. And it is now that the US might truly rue the outcome of the 2008 election.

Carter, for his part, at least acknowledges that he thinks “Putin has to be stopped” but of course offers no ideas as to how this can be done beyond suggesting that Obama throw his weight behind whatever proposed course of action Secretary of State John Kerry (another dodgy Democrat, beaten to the White House in 2004 by a re-elected George W. Bush) cares to put forward.

But back to Snowden.

It has to be remembered that Edward Snowden has already caused the US enormous diplomatic embarrassment. His activities have also impacted America’s friends — the stoush between Australia and Indonesia over activities undertaken by the Rudd government is a case in point, the can for which is being carried by Prime Minister Tony Abbott — and Snowden has made it known that the material he has released to date represents a mere fraction of the total amount he was able to sequester from the NSA prior to going on the run.

And it must be remembered that the likes of Snowden and his Australian counterpart Julian Assange are quite capable of starting international incidents that can escalate into wars: there are good reasons the material they steal and leak are subject to secrecy provisions, and in most cases those secrecy arrangements are not incompatible with notions of open and accountable government.

Very simply, and to simplify the point, if governments are unable to conduct certain business and engage in certain conversations behind closed doors then of course international ramifications will folllow. Yet that doesn’t bother these idiots, and the proof in the pudding of their despicable actions is the fact that the leaks they perpetrate are targeted against selected governments: their objectives of “open government” are not universal, with the political Right in democratic Western countries almost invariably being the primary targets of their activities.

Snowden and Assange are not heroes. They are not agents of liberty and freedom, or openness and accountability. They are traitors, enemies, and what the North Koreans might call “despicable scum,” a commodity North Korea is well and truly familiar with the perpetration of itself.

I would say to Jimmy Carter that if Snowden, Assange, or anyone else who sees no problem peddling national secrets with a view to creating international trouble and otherwise compromising the host country are ever brought to justice and tried for treason, then a capital penalty is exactly what they deserve.

Treacherous dogs of their kind do not merit leniency, or sympathy, or indeed forgiveness, and the question of pardoning Snowden for his crimes against the USA — if he is ever able to be convicted for them — should be an open and shut exercise in outright refusal.

The fact a death sentence might be involved, to me, is neither here nor there. Yes, I support capital punishment, and I accept many others worldwide do not.

But if the penalty for treason in the United States is execution, then so should it be: and the grotesque spectacle of a one-time holder of the Presidency even contemplating the prospect of a pardon should send a shudder down the spine of any American citizen who cares whether or not their country survives, prospers, or indeed progresses.

Cater hasn’t changed. And whilst I have close to nothing favourable to say about Barack Obama as a leader in any way, shape or form, at least he isn’t Jimmy Carter.

Eyeball to eyeball with a nuclear-armed Russia whose renewed expansionist objectives remain unclear, Americans — and everyone else in the free world — can at least be thankful for that tiny mercy.



Spy Scandal: Everyone, Including Indonesia, Needs To Get A Grip

WHAT SHOULD have been a storm in a diplomatic teacup has blown up into a major international typhoon whose only target is Prime Minister Tony Abbott; the Indonesians, the Fairfax Media, the ABC and the ALP are fanning the fury of forces that may well spiral out of control. They should get a grip.

Whichever way you cut it, the unseemly brawl that has erupted over the Rudd government’s decision to eavesdrop on a number of key Indonesian figures in 2009 centres on activities that are far from unique, and is one from which nobody will emerge with the upper hand in any moral sense.

At least, that’s how it should be.

The outrage in Indonesia over revelations that the mobile phones of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his wife were being tapped in 2009 — after three Australians were killed in a jihadist atrocity in Jakarta — would be laughable were it not for the fact the Indonesians are taking it (and themselves) so seriously.

At first blush, it’s easy to view the reaction as rather convenient; SBY has long attracted criticism in the Indonesian press over perceptions he’s too close to Australia; a topical example of this is the clemency appeal made by convicted drug trafficker Schapelle Corby, which SBY responded to by granting a five-year cut from her 20-year sentence.

So at the outset, let’s be clear: the harder Yudhoyono rails against and hits Australia now, on a very convenient pretext, the better it will play for him to a domestic audience.

It brings up the rather uncomfortable truth — always in evidence but rarely spoken of — that all countries spy on each other; whether you call it espionage or intelligence gathering, everyone does it.

And so everyone should, especially in a western country accountable to democratically elected leaders; just look at the uproar that was directed at US President George W. Bush in the wake of the atrocities of 11 September 2001, when it was revealed that US intelligence had failed to identify — and circumvent — those attacks.

Imagine the stink if it happened in Australia; the same pack now hunting Tony Abbott — the Greens, the ABC, the Fairfax press, other troglodytes of the Left — would be baying for blood, and the loudest of their criticisms would be the failure of Australian intelligence.

You can’t have it both ways.

Former Indonesian intelligence chief General Abdullah Mahmud Hendropriyono admitted in 2004 that his country intercepted and monitored political, military and civilian communications in Australia.

He has resurfaced in the past week to urge restraint on his President, saying such surveillance is “normal” and “a technical thing.”

And despite the vehement denials by Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natelegawa in recent days that Indonesia conducts surveillance on Australia, it is well-known — if unspoken — that both countries gather intelligence on each other.

Yet like sharks to a bleeding corpse, the frenzy of the Left and its media mouthpieces has been crazed; the ABC seems more concerned that the remunerative arrangements of its staff were published than it was at the leakage of Australian intelligence activities, whereas the Fairfax press seems to have got it into its collective head that this is its big chance to destroy the Abbott Prime Ministership less than three months after it began.

Andrew Bolt had it about right in his assessment of the Left and the media on these issues; an excellent column that appeared in the Murdoch press yesterday can be found here.

Indonesia — in a move calculated to hit Abbott and his government hard, and on the most politically sensitive issue on foot in Australia — has declared an end to all co-operation on the issue of people smuggling and stopping boats leaving Indonesia for our shores.

Its military personnel, in Australia for joint military exercises, simply downed tools and walked away.

Further measures will apparently follow if the Indonesians are dissatisfied with the Australian response to their mostly unreasonable demands.

For there are calls for Tony Abbott to apologise to Indonesia, after the fashion of US President Barack Obama’s apology to German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the wake of almost identical revelations between those countries, and to guarantee intelligence surveillance of this kind is never again conducted on Indonesian figures.

Emulating Barack Obama and his idiosyncratic politics is foolhardy at the best of times; were it not for Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie lavishing Obama with praise for his handling of the Hurricane Sandy disaster in the dying days of last year’s presidential campaign, Obama probably wouldn’t even be President now.

The Australian government — and Abbott especially — has nothing to apologise for when it comes to conducting intelligence gathering and other security measures, in the national interest, among members of the international community.

To go a step further than that and to rule out ever doing so in the future — as some in Indonesia expect Abbott to do — is, in short, to put Australia over a barrel and instruct it to drop its trousers.

Such abject capitulation would be a surrender of legitimate prerogative, at best. At worst, it could lead anywhere. Appeasement, as history shows, invariably and horrifically does.

Yet Abbott and Australia are not without options of their own; for now, SBY is playing to the Indonesian press and the Indonesian public. The measures he has announced to date in retaliation for what his own generals have admitted his own country also does are regrettable.

But should they continue, the Commonwealth could consider abandoning the $600 million or so it gifts Indonesia in foreign aid payments every year.

I would further observe that the $5 billion or so that Indonesia spends with Australian produce farmers each year is money we can ill afford to forego. But Indonesia needs the food more than Australia needs the money; a trade embargo would return fire, like for like.

I don’t seriously advocate such measures and I don’t think it will come to that.

But virtually all of the commentary emanating from non-Murdoch sources, condensed to a single statement, is that Australia — and Abbott in particular — must appease Indonesia and Yudhoyono, who holds the power in the relationship and the upper moral hand.

Such pap is patent nonsense, and should be seen as such.

It is true that Yudhoyono feels angry and aggrieved and in many ways those sentiments are understandable.

Abbott and his government do not escape unencumbered; they have a responsibility to mollify without appeasing, and to respond without a sellout. And they need to remember that as much as we need Jakarta, Jakarta  needs us.

I think that Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been a very good friend to Australia; on his watch neither Australia nor Indonesia have got everything they asked of each other, but neither has been left empty-handed either.

That fact is common to Australian governments of both political persuasions, and it would be a tragedy and a shame to jeopardise it.

Even so, there are limits, and Abbott’s first responsibility — as he has correctly stated — is to ensure Australian security.

Ultimately, it is also to govern in Australia’s best interests — not Indonesia’s.

Those on the Left braying for Abbott’s blood — and effectively using Indonesia as the instrument with which to extract it — should remember that not so long ago, the atmospherics of the Canberra-Jakarta relationship were ominous, and comparatively icy. There are some in Indonesia who wish to see that situation return. The Left, in its senseless bollocking of Abbott, is doing its part to ensure that it happens.

I’m not even going to talk about Labor “leader” Bill Shorten and his conflicting, opportunistic prescriptions over these events. Even some of his frontbenchers are openly refusing to disclose what Shorten has instructed them to say. Enough said.

Frankly, everyone involved — Australia and Indonesia, both governments, the two leaders, and not least the ranting hordes of the Australian Left — need to take a collective step back, a deep breath, and get a grip.

There is far too much at stake, on both sides, to squander a blossoming international relationship of this kind over what should really be no more than a diplomatic spat.

But for those who really want to crucify a culprit — and to ensure their slings and arrows hit the right target — the likes of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden should be cut off and left to rot in whatever bolt-hole they find themselves in.

These treacherous dogs are not defenders of “freedom” nor champions of “openness.” They are not “whistleblowers.” They are not “defenders of liberty.” They tip buckets of stolen state secrets over governments they take an arbitrary political dislike to. There is a reason these matters did not come to light sooner and that was, very simply, because Snowden did not wish to damage Kevin Rudd.

Once upon a time, the Assanges and Snowdens of the world and their ilk were executed for treason. The situation playing out between Australia and Indonesia is a stark illustration as to why. Both are said to be in fear of their lives. Yet it is almost certain they retain tomes of additional ill-gotten official secrets and will continue to use them at will.

It’s almost laughable to say this, but the situation between Indonesia and Australia that Snowden’s leaks have triggered is mild indeed compared to what something more serious might have engineered elsewhere, and between more potent potential combatants.

Next time the Left wants to bark about the crisis being Abbott’s fault, they might like to reflect upon that singular fact.