The former president surveys 25 years of global good works, both political and humanitarian.
After leaving the White House, Carter (Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis, 2005, etc.) wished to create a nonpartisan agency dedicated to action in the service of peace, freedom, democracy, human rights, environmental quality, nuclear-arms control and the alleviation of suffering from disease. So was born the Carter Center, an institution designed to be subtle and respectful of cultural byways, knowledgeable and sophisticated regarding the complexity of intervening in international affairs, admonitory when necessary, unbending in its core values. In a series of stories, he describes the Center’s work and the specific ways in which it’s carried out. (Carter, normally a fireside-worthy chatter, can be awkward here: “I awoke one night and sat up in bed, surprising Rosalynn….‘What’s the matter, Jimmy? Are you ill or did you have a nightmare?’ ”) These tales provide a ground-level view of the action, much of it edge-of-the-seat and not a little dangerous. Carter rekindled the Camp David Accords when he felt the Reagan administration was dragging its feet. He also tweaked the State Department’s nose by traveling to North Korea to discuss nuclear armament and he castigates President Bush for deriding peace efforts with that country. He is diplomacy in motion, a come-let-us-reason-together guy, and he has been successful by any measure: averting an invasion of Haiti and calling foul in unfair elections, among other stellar moments. Explaining his controversial characterization of Israel’s “security fence” as kin to apartheid, he writes, “This configuration would severely restrict Palestinian access to the outside world and make any peace agreement almost impossible.” Occasionally, Carter falls overboard in his optimism, as when he speaks of “bringing an end to Sudan’s twenty-one-year civil war.” Readers may wonder where Darfur and slave raids figure into the picture.
Makes a strong case for the Carter Center as an effective tool for international diplomacy, human welfare and social reform.