October 17, 2002

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Carter’s well-deserved honor

At about the same time Congress was giving President Bush authority to wage war against Iraq, Jimmy Carter was awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. The contrast has hardly gone unnoticed. In fact, upon awarding Mr. Carter the Peace Prize, the Nobel committee said, “In a situation currently marked by threats of the use of power, Carter has stood by the principles that conflicts must as far as possible be resolved through mediation and international cooperation based on international law, respect for human rights and economic development.”

Jimmy Carter earned the Nobel Peace Prize for his lifetime commitment to peace, democracy and human rights. As president he helped broker a peace agreement between Israel and Egypt. After losing his bid for re-election in 1980 to Ronald Reagan, he used his standing as a former American president to do great things throughout the world. He has monitored elections in countries worldwide, mediated potential crises in North Korea and Haiti and negotiated a truce in Bosnia.

For his part, Mr. Carter has said he does not think the U.S. should act unilaterally against Iraq. After it was announced that Mr. Carter had won a Nobel, the 39th president said he would not have voted for a resolution passed last week in the Senate authorizing the president to use force against Iraq. Mr. Carter also said the U.S. should work through the United Nations to meet its goal of disarming, and ultimately, toppling Saddam Hussein.

Much of the focus of the Bush administration’s war on terror is justified, including its efforts to destroy the terrorist network al-Qaida. But this war is complicated, and the terrorist bombing on the Indonesian island of Bali proved al-Qaida will not go away easily. Meanwhile, the steady drumbeat of a war against Iraq grows louder in Washington, though the music is confusing. The CIA, for instance, released a memo stating that Iraq is not an urgent threat, while the Bush administration continues to insist that if we don’t act first, Saddam will.

Before the U.S. goes to war with Saddam, it should follow the Nobel committee’s strong message: first seek out peaceful means to resolve conflicts. A war with Iraq may eventually be the only way to end Saddam’s tyrannical reign, but for now, the president must work to strengthen international support for his plans.

After a long career waging peace, Jimmy Carter should know something about getting that job done. The president would do well to follow Mr. Carter’s lead.


—Robert Mihalek