Friday, September 14, 2007

Remember the Hostage Crisis? Some of Us Old Folks Still Do

There's a meme going around about Carter (or even Gerald Ford), that the only reason he got a reputation for being weak abroad was because the Republicans cynically saddled the Democrats with the blame for getting us out of a crazy, lost war. Let's leave aside the small detail that the Democrats got us into that crazy war and a Republican president got us out of it.

Even if we brush that off as a detail (we all know that Republicans are always war-mongers, right?) still, the young'uns need to be told by us senior citizens that Carter wasn't hurt just, or even mostly, by the legacy of Vietnam.

What made Carter look like a week president? Let's see . . . Sandinistas take over Nicaragua and ally with Cuba? Soviet Union invades and occupies Afghanistan? Shah is overthrown by Iranian revolutionaries, who proceed to take American diplomats hostage and hold them for over a year? Yup, those were the big foreign policy issues of the day, as I remember; especially that last one.

Imagine: Hillary is president, withdraws from Iraq, which then becomes an isolated and self-absorbed anti-American satellite of Iran. Voters could take that.

But then suppose FARC does a victory march into Bogota. And then Iranian troops parachute in to prop up Hezbollah's newly proclaimed Islamic Republic of Lebanon. And finally anti-American revolutionaries of some new and troubling stripe seize power in Nigeria, take American diplomats hostage, and our attempted rescue fails ignominiously when the helicopters break down en route.

The result, if that were to happen? People would think Hillary is weak, and not because she withdrew from Iraq.