Jewish World Review Oct. 15, 2002 / 9 Mar-Cheshvan 5763

Paul Greenberg

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Carter gets his Nobel --- at last | A quarter of a century after he earned it, Jimmy Carter has got his Nobel Peace Prize. He deserved it for his tireless efforts as referee of the 13-day Egyptian-Israeli negotiation and wrestling match at Camp David in 1978. That ordeal produced just about the only breakthrough for peace in the Middle East that has endured.

Unlike Henry Kissinger's Nobel for negotiating a surrender in Vietnam in the guise of peace, Jimmy Carter's is deserved. May he live long and enjoy it in good health.

Private Citizen Carter didn't get his Nobel just for brokering a peace between Egypt and Israel, impressive as that achievement was. He's been campaigning for peace ever since. There was no place he wouldn't go, however distant or dangerous, to supervise an election or try to reconcile armed factions. There was no dictator, however unsavory, he wouldn't try to reason with.

Jimmy Carter's itinerary began to read like a roll call of the hopeless: North Korea, Haiti, East Timor, Sierra Leone . If he failed time and again, he never stopped trying. And here and there, light broke through. He has never given up on peace, and, if at times his dedication has been hard to distinguish from gullibility, there is no doubting his sincerity or perseverance.

Sometimes those qualities paid off. Too often the former president just kept trying the same methods with the same lack of success. Which was the essential problem with his unsuccessful presidency: He stuck with his favorite theories long after they'd proved failures, whether he was wrestling with the oil embargo, gas lines, Iran's hostage-taking ayatollahs or ruinous inflation.

It took the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to wake up the Carter White House to the danger of Soviet expansionism. A president who early in his tenure warned against the American people's "inordinate fear of communism" suddenly discovered that the American people had been far ahead of him.

Let it be noted that Jimmy Carter did finally awaken, but it took a shock. And by the time he saw through the Nixon-Kissinger detente with the Soviet Union, it was dangerously late. It was left to Ronald Reagan to revive this country's confidence in itself and its ability to defend freedom in the world.

After he left the White House, Jimmy Carter was free to pursue humanitarian projects, whether Habitat for Humanity or his peace center. Over the years he went from failed president to trusted peacemaker. He's been as successful an ex-president as he was an unsuccessful president. That is, he has been a great ex-president. Just as he was probably the least effective president in the last half century.

Now once again an American president is preparing to confront a dangerous dictator. The Norwegian politician who announced Jimmy Carter's prize did so with a graceless slap at George W. Bush's leadership. (And, no, the Norwegian's name was not Vidkun Quisling.) This president is moving against the gravest threat to peace in our time by means Mr. Carter, now a Nobel laureate, clearly disapproves.

Neville Chamberlain would probably have won the Nobel Peace Prize, too, after his appeasement of Herr Hitler at Munich in 1938 -- if only it hadn't been followed so swiftly by the events of 1939.

There is a time for peace and a time for war, as the Good Book says. But in Jimmy Carter's book, it's always a time for peace.

There's never been any doubting Jimmy Carter's good intentions, or his deserving this Nobel Prize, but we all know where the road paved with good intentions leads.

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