At highwayscribery we like to say Carter’s the best mistake America ever made.
His book "Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis" is something of a radical tract done in a civil way. The treatise, a searing indictment of the Bush administration, provides left-wing viewpoint with the "cover" of Carter's being a good Christian. He prays, but he still thinks things stink (stunk); much the way the guy with dreadlocks and drum in the street has been saying for, oh, ever now.
Not everybody loves Carter, and this literary, frontal assault made him no friends among the screeching heads.
Which is why people in other countries do things like invite him to monitor the fairness of their elections and give him Nobel Peace prizes. Because then we'll have to pay at least a little attention to him.
The book provides a nice (Christian) insider's view of how fundamentalists slowly assumed leadership of Christian movements in the U.S. and committed them to political action. Very similar, Carter points out, to what we are grappling with in the Muslim world (and everywhere else).
Rather than go back over the book we'll discuss how the Bush crowd bungled the whole business with North Korea by way of example.
According to the book, Carter had then-President Clinton's blessing to work out a deal with Kim Il Sung, dad of the current leader, Kim Jong Il. What he got was a commitment by North Korea to cease its nuclear program at Yongbyon and permit International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to ensure that spent fuel stayed spent fuel.
Sung died and Jong kept the old man's word. In South Korea, Kim Dae Jung held out a whole bouquet of olive branches to the northern nemesis and gained the Nobel Peace Prize for 2000.
Peace, compromises and olive branches.
Then came W.
"North Korea," Carter writes, "was publicly branded as part of an `axis of evil,' with direct and implied threats of military action against the isolated and paranoid nation, and an official policy was established that prohibited any direct discussions with the North Koreans to resolve differences."
Things fell apart, of course. IAEA inspectors got booted from the Korean peninsula and N.K. dropped out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a document Bush has never cared much for either, according to Carter.
Everybody hated everybody and nuclear testing ensued; the diplomatic equivalent of the middle finger, but more dangerous than a mere symbol. Now this nut has the bomb.
What happened? Here's the former prez: "The primary obstacles to progress are a peremptory United States demand that North Koreans renounce all nuclear activity and a decision that communication between our two countries will be accepted only within six-nation forum, while Pyongyang leaders have insisted on resumption of bilateral discussions and a clear statement from Washington that American leaders have `no hostile intent' against them."
Bush wouldn't give them that and so we got nothing.
You can't just talk to people you like around the world. You have to talk to those you don't like. That is the essence of diplomacy. The news out of Pyonyang was the essence of its failure.
Anyway, Carter's book is blessed with things you didn't know, but should. He's been there when a lot of stuff has gone down, sat in the meeting as it were, and the eyewitness expertise lends weight to the argument and a degree of fascination to the account.