Past Speakers of the: LANDON LECTURES

Landon Lecture by Jimmy Carter,

Former U.S President
April 26, 1991

by Jimmy Carter

Mr. President, thank you for the nice words. Governor, Jim Slattery, Dan Glickman, my good friends from the Congress, distinguished guests, members of the Board of Regents, students, visitors, and friends of Kansas State University, I am delighted to be here.

First of all, I think I should announce that there is life after the White House. I am now in my ninth year as a distinguished professor at Emory University in Atlanta, a fine private college where I have enjoyed teaching. As a matter of fact, when I was young man, if you had asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, my first choice was to be a Naval officer. My second choice would have been a college professor. And thanks to Ronald Reagan in November 1980, I reached my goal four years earlier than I had anticipated, but I have enjoyed it nevertheless.

Jon pointed out that [Rosalynn and I] have written several books. We have really made our living since we left the White House writing books. They have all been on the bestseller list, as a matter of fact. One of them was No. 1 on the New York Times Best Seller list. It was the one that my wife wrote, as a matter of fact. But I would like to announce that all of them are still on sale if you are interested in good literature!

I do not make many lectures any more. I am basically not on the lecture circuit. This is a rare occasion for me, but I have known about the Landon Lecture Series, which is perhaps one of the best in the whole nation, not only because of its distinguished founder and namesake, but also because of the [lecturers] you have had here before me. It is an honor to be the 88th lecturer in this forum for discussing international and national affairs.

I just returned from China a few days ago, and I was reminded that Alf Landon, when he gave his first of these lectures back in 1966 or 1967, called for normal diplomatic relations with China. And although President Nixon went to China in 1972, and declared there was one China, he did not say which one. It was only after I came into office that I decided to normalize relations. So I am delighted to be here associated not only with a great university, but also with a great lecture series and a great man whose name this series enjoys.

Usually when I give a lecture I try to tell a funny story. I am not a good joke teller. When I announced for president back in 1975-1976, most people said, "Well, he does not have a chance," "A southern governor never has served in Washington," or " [He's] not well known, but at least he will liven up the campaign because he can tell good jokes." Most southerners know a lot of jokes. As a matter of fact, they were disappointed, as I did not tell very many jokes. It turned out that my successor in the White House was a good storyteller. But I have had a few successes in that realm. When I was in office as president, as a matter of fact, my jokes seemed to go over quite well for four years. When I left the White House, I lost that capability, except for one notable example that always comes to mind.

I went over to China and to Japan in 1981, and on the way back I stopped in Japan to make a few speeches, one to a very small college near Osaka. I did not get paid a fee, by the way, for this speech in Japan. But the college was very nervous, and the student body was fairly small. The parents were there, the professors were there, and I was just recently out of the White House. They were uptight about having a famous person come, and I was a little bit nervous, too, speaking to a Japanese audience really for the first time, certainly since I left the White House. And I had a very good interpreter, and if you have ever made a speech in Japan in English, it takes a lot longer to say it in Japanese. I decided I would break the ice by telling the shortest joke that I knew. It was not the best joke I knew, but it was the shortest joke I knew, left over from my governor's campaign years before.

So I told my joke, the interpreter told the joke, and the audience just collapsed in laughter. I never got a better response from any audience in my life. So I could not wait to get through the speech and talk to the interpreter and ask him, "How did you tell my joke?" He was very evasive. He would not tell me how he told it. I insisted, and he finally ducked his head and said, "I told the audience, 'President Carter told a funny story. Everybody laugh.' "

So you can see that there are some advantages in having been president of the United States.

One of those advantages is coming to talk to you this morning. I have been asked to concentrate on the Middle East, but I want to talk about some other things, including the kind of agenda that has occupied me and my wife, Rosalynn, and a few people at the Carter Center since I left office. When I did take the responsibility of being a professor, I also wanted to build a presidential library, which was done and turned over to the government.

[Then] we organized the Carter Center, and we established for ourselves some very strict guidelines that are quite interesting to some people.

One was that we do not duplicate what others do. If we feel that the United Nations or the World Bank or the U.S. government or Brookings Institution can do something, we do not do it. Second, everything we do there is nonpartisan or bipartisan in nature. When we address a difficult or sensitive issue like democracy in this hemisphere, human rights, world debt, U.S. Soviet relations, nuclear arms control, or Middle East peace we bring in distinguished Republicans to join me on an equal basis. President Ford has been there a number of times, and Henry Kissinger, Howard Baker, and others have come in to join me in that effort.

Another thing that we used as a guideline is that we do not undertake conferences or meetings or studies just for an academic reason, although I see that as a very important element in the university system in our country. But unless it has a direct action component we do not undertake it.

We have maintained a strict and nongovernmental academic environment. So in that kind of atmosphere, with me and President Ford extending invitations, we are able to bring into the same forum, on several occasions, Israeli leaders, Palestinian leaders, leaders from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. So we are able to delve quite deeply into those kinds of issues.

We have a wide range of subjects that we undertake. One of the things we have is an executive director who is one of the foremost leaders in preventive health care. And at the Carter Center we have the task force on child survival, organized about six years ago. What it does is to coordinate the effort of the world health organization of UNICEF, various governments, and others in the immunization of the world's children.

All the immunization programs for the entire world are conducted with the supervision or coordination from the Carter Center. You might be interested in knowing that five years ago only 20 percent of the world's children had been immunized against polio, measles, diphtheria, typhoid, whooping cough, and so forth. As of last December, 80 percent of the world's children have now been immunized against those diseases, and the effort continues.

Another very important thing that we are undertaking is to deal with some of the world's foremost environmental problems. We are just organizing a task force to deal with forestry, protecting the global rain forest and others that still exist, and replanting those areas that have been denuded of trees, particularly in the Third World. And this ties directly in to the other serious environmental issue, and that is population growth.

It is a subject of an entire conversation or lecture, but let me just say that the main factor that is effective in controlling population growth will certainly surprise you, unless you are an expert. And that is to reduce the infant mortality rate. This seems to be an anomaly, but it is not. There has never on earth been a nation where the infant mortality rate went down, that the population growth rate did not also drop precipitously. If you look at a list of nations that have the highest infant mortality rate, you will find that invariably they also have the highest growth rate of population.

There are some psychological and practical medical reasons for this. One is that we teach women how to save their children's lives by various means. Immunization is obviously one that I have already mentioned. Others are that women should breast feed babies for 18 months or so. We teach women in the Third World who have in the past just been baby-bearing machines to respect themselves, to respect their own bodies, to stand up for their own rights, and we also work in this way with their husbands.

Another factor is that in the Third World, there is no social security program, except to have surviving boy babies. When you reach the retirement age, which in many of those countries might be 40 or 45 years old, the number of sons that you have living determines the quality of your retirement life. And if [a mother and father] believe that their babies are going to live, then [they] do not have multiple births as a top priority.

We also are dealing with food production in Africa. In the last 20 years, for instance, the average production of food per person has gone down in Africa every year. The average citizen in Africa today has 70 fewer calories than 20 years ago. This is a devastating indictment of world society, including us.

We are trying to build the capability in Africa of small farmers to increase their food production. We have been working with small farmers to increase their food production. We have recently had 200,000 farm families in Ghana alone working with our program, which we have named Global 2000, under the director of Dr. Norman Borlaug [a former Landon lecturer]. [Farmers] are able to triple, the first year, their production of basic food grains like maize and sorghum, and to some lesser degree, millet and wheat. That is another thing that we do.

Another [issue] that we monitor very closely is the human rights situation in the world. I was known for my position on human rights, trying to put forth the United States as holding the banner high for this particularly deep commitment of our country. I said in my farewell address that, "We did not invent human rights in the United States, human rights invented America." And we try to extend that at the Carter Center.

We have a very tiny staff, but we work very closely with Amnesty International, with the Lawyers Committee on Human Rights, the Physicians for Human Rights, the America Watch, the Helsinki Watch, the Africa Watch, the Asia Watch, and so forth. And these organizations come to us to me, to be frank about it with their most disturbing cases. I go directly to the leader in the nation involved in execution of people for political activities or nonviolent activities; in incarceration without trial; and in torture in prisons. And I point out to them the devastating effect that reputation has on their country. And in a surprising number of cases that has been changed.

One other thing that we do, the main thrust that the Carter Center will initiate in the future, is to expand upon what we call the International Negotiating Network. Let me give you a quick statistic that is quite interesting and perhaps will be as disturbing to you as it is to me. We will take one day: we can take the first of this month, or we can take the day before Iraq invaded Kuwait, the first day of August last year. We have monitored at the Carter Center all the conflicts that goon in the world.

On that particular day last August, there were 112 conflicts on earth. Thirty of them were major conflicts, major wars. We define a major war as one where more than 1,000 people have died on the battlefield, a fairly substantial war.

Some of them are horrendous in scope. For instance, in the Eritrean Ethiopian war, more than a million people have died. In the Sudan war, 260,000 people died in 1988 alone. And that many are likely to die this year. That is a very disturbing thing. Another interesting fact is that of those 30 major wars, not a single one was between two nations. These wars are among neighbors not crossing international borders. That is interesting.

The tragedy of it is that the United Nations and the U.S. government are precluded from dealing with those wars, except in very rare cases, because it is not proper for a U.S. ambassador or an official of the United Nations to even communicate with revolutionaries who are trying to change or overthrow a government that is a member of the United Nations or to which our ambassador is accredited. So this leaves a vacuum, a horrible vacuum on earth of multiple conflicts that wreak havoc on the lives of people in those regions. We hardly know about it.

Many of these people are Asians or Africans. They do not have oil. They are not prominent in the superpower confrontations, so we pay no attention to them. But the suffering is truly disturbing.

And the International Negotiating Network has already been involved in 20 or so of these conflicts, and we are trying to figure out ways to recruit interest in them and get others to join us in resolving these conflicts. One very interesting way to resolve these conflicts is something that we have evolved the last few years, and that is holding elections. It is almost impossible to get antagonists or enemies to sit down across the same table from each other and negotiate. All you have to do is imagine the Israelis sitting down across the table from Yasir Arafat, the PLO, to envision how difficult this is.

The same thing exists in many conflicts. But what we have depended upon, as Congressmen Slattery and Glickman and the governor would know, is what we call self-delusion of politicians. Everybody who runs for office a mayor of a city, a city councilman, a U.S. Congress member, a governor, or a president thinks that if the voters just have an honest chance to vote, and if they know me and know my opponents, they are going to vote for me.

And quite often in order to end a war we go in and talk to the revolutionaries and the incumbent government and try to get them to let us conduct an honest election. And on occasion this is a means by which we can end the war. Jim Slattery helped me monitor the elections in Nicaragua, bringing about an end to that contra war, and now, of course, there is a relatively stable government there.

This brings to mind the devastation of war. We have just been through a very popular war in the Gulf region brought about by Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. I personally was against the initiation of conflict because there had not been any good faith efforts made to resolve the conflict, or the invasion of Kuwait, through negotiations. And last fall, speaking for the Carter Center, for myself as an individual, I wrote letters, personal letters to President Bush, to President Mitterrand, to President Gorbachev, to Premier Li Peng in China, and to others, urging them not to approve a U.N. resolution to commence military operations until after good-faith negotiations had been exhausted. That was not done.

The war took place. We won a wonderful victory. A thousand Iraqi soldiers died for every one that we lost. But in the process I am not sure that anyone really won. The Kuwaitis are no closer to democracy and freedom than they were before. Their country has been destroyed. Iraq, according to the United Nations assessment, has been bombed back into the preindustrial age. We have a million Kurds who now have found themselves bereft of support, uncertain about their future, betrayed perhaps into a military [situation] that they did not understand at the beginning, and we have added another million refugees, perhaps, to the 30 million that already exist.

The point I am making is not that we did not win a glorious self-congratulatory victory using advanced technology and weapons that the Iraqis could not hope to meet as a third grade nation. But the devastation of war, the suffering, falls not on Saddam Hussein, who is still there, still in power, but on the civilian population. And those are the ones in a modern war who die. It is not the pilot of an F-15 who dies, it is the civilian population that suffers, and we do not know how long it will take before the Gulf region can be repaired from the ravages of that war.

This does not include environmental damage that has been done with the release of oil and the burning of the 500 oil wells that still have not been extinguished.

That brings me down to the final thing I would like to say: what is going to be done in the future about the Middle East? As Jon mentioned in the introduction, I was obsessed with the Middle East when I became president.

Obviously, that was not the only thing I could deal with, but I never have thought that there was a likelihood anytime of war in Europe between the two superpowers. The Eastern Europeans and the Warsaw Pact were too uncertain as allies for the Soviet Union to command them to attack their neighbors in western Europe. But I have always felt that the Mid East [nations were] uncontrollable friends and allies. Like Israel on our side, the PLO [and] perhaps the Palestinians and Syria on the other side might precipitate a confrontation.

So I spent a lot of time studying and working with the leaders of the Middle East. We evolved the Camp David Accords, which is a very brief document. I would urge all of you to read it. It is a very good set of principles, which is all it claimed to be. It was called that, and not a final solution. But it sets out a procedure that can be followed, guidelines for ultimate peace involving Israel and her neighbors, the Palestinians, the Lebanese, the Syrians, the Jordanians, and the Egyptians.

From that document, which was called a framework, we moved six months later and finally concluded a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt that has stood the test of time. For more than 11 years now, every detail in that peace treaty has been meticulously honored by the Egyptians and the Israelis.

And as far as I know, there are no outstanding issues in contention between the Israelis and the Egyptians. What can happen in the future? Nobody knows. I have been monitoring with great care the latest visits by Secretary of State Baker to the region. It is the first time he has ever been there, after the Gulf War was over, which I think was a mistake for him. But now at least he has become involved in this very difficult and sensitive interrelationship. I hope and expect that he has learned a lot. Whether his missions are successful, I do not know yet. The likelihood is that they will not be, but I hope that this will at least be an educational process for him.

And I also pray that he will not look upon this disappointment as an end to his efforts. Because there has to be [a way] to find peace in the Middle East between Israel and her neighbors, and a persistent, coherent, understandable policy in that region. So that in the future when anybody wants to make one more tiny move toward peace, they know that they will have a receptive and eager ear in the White House and in the State Department.

Right now, of course, not much progress is being made. Secretary Baker was really trying to get those interested parties to talk about holding talks that would lead to talks that might address the issues. It was a three-step process, and he was only involved in the first of the three steps. I do not think he has gotten beyond that point yet, which is no reflection on him.

The point is that the basic issues are there, and they are described very well in the Camp David Accords, which has some significance, not because I was the author of it, but because it was signed by President Sadat and it was also approved in the Knesset of the legislature, the parliament of Israel. It is still a binding document on Israel, just like a treatied document is on the United States once the Senate ratifies it. So it is a framework.

What can be done? Well, I do not know for sure. I have gone to the Middle East several times, but only when there was no interest from Washington. There is no need for me to go and be competitive in my presence there. But I have a unique capability, which some people criticize. I am one of the few leaders in the world that can meet freely with the Likud leadership and with the labor coalition leadership in Israel. [I can go] into the West Bank and Gaza and meet with the Palestinians without embarrassment, meet with the Peace Now people, the Human Rights organizations in Israel, as well as the great scholars who devote their lives to studying the intricacies of this troubled region. And I do not have any reticence about meeting with President Assad, with the leaders in Lebanon, with Yasir Arafat, and with the PLO leaders.

You can see that not many people are free of political restraints or can meet with that whole gamut of those who might shape, ultimately, an agreement. For instance, I notice that in the last couple of days Secretary Baker has been trying to get Assad to agree to have a peace conference sponsored just by the Soviet Union and the United States. He agreed completely with me to do that a little more than a year ago, in March of last year. And now he has backed off a little, but I do not have any doubt that he would go that far.

And I think that once we have some assurance from Israel that they are willing to comply with the Camp David Accords and the United Nations Resolution 242, that is, exchanging territory for peace, then the Arabs will be willing to negotiate in good faith under a proper sponsorship. But as long as the Israeli government is adamant in saying that it will not give up one square inch of the West Bank and Gaza, there is not much incentive for the Arabs to come forward.

There are some good faith things that can be done even in the interim period. For instance, the university system in the West Bank and Gaza has been shut down now for more than four years. Thousands of young people have never had a chance to have one good day of instruction at the university or college level. And this is something the Israelis could do, open up the universities and guarantee [that they] stay open. Another one, of course, is to grant the Palestinians autonomy. This does not have to be negotiated.

In the Camp David Accords, Prime Minister Begin said, "We do not want to give the Palestinians autonomy, we want to give the Palestinians full autonomy." Full autonomy, which is in the Camp David Accords. They have not been given any autonomy. This can be done with a unilateral grant. Let them have some local elections. Let them collect their own garbage, run their own grammar schools, dig their own wells, plant their own trees, market their own crops. That could be done. Another thing is that there could be some joint efforts to build an adequate health system in the occupied territories, or adequate programs for housing and education at all levels.

On the other hand, what can the Palestinians do? I think that they could declare an end to the military aspect of intifada, and the PLO organization itself should eliminate from its charter those provisions that call for the destruction of Israel. Well, those are just good-faith measures that could relieve tension and let them move forward.

I might add that all of those can be done without any negotiations. Either side can make concessions if it feels that the other might respond, but it takes an intermediary, like Secretary Baker or others, who can work out these kinds of measures to prove both sides want peace. Let us just get down to the last point I want to make, and that is an international conference. [Without an international conference] I do not think there is any chance of having a comprehensive settlement there to deal with Israel's security, Israel's recognition by the Arab nations, an opening up of trade with the Arab world, an end to the trade embargo, and human rights for the Palestinians.

Let me just outline briefly for your own information what might be done. First of all, it should be convened, I think, by the two superpowers, which is what Secretary Baker is advocating now. The convening should not be just a superficial thing, but the first step should be to let the Israelis have two hours, or whatever, to present their best case to the world. And I think you would agree that every news media in the world would want to be focusing its TV camera on that two hour presentation of Israel's best case. Let the Palestinians give their best case to the world, and the same with the Jordanians, and the Lebanese, and the Syrians.

I think they would be very moderate in their presentations. They would not be radical; they would not be disruptive. I think they will say, "Well, this is my only chance in the world's limelight; I am going to make our case look reasonable and rational and peacefully oriented." And then after that is done, let them adjourn into direct talks between Israel and each of the parties involved.

I think they probably would need some kind of mediation effort. I have seen this happen over and over again in my own career; you need some kind of mediation effort. If they have a problem or hit a dead end, let them come back, maybe confidentially, to the convening powers and say, "We need some help here. What can be done about this?"

We ought to have a commitment from the superpowers: "We will not interfere in your negotiations. We will not try to put pressure on Israelis or any of their neighbors. We will not veto any agreement that you work out, but if there is a peace agreement maybe not comprehensive, but step by step we will guarantee to raise the money necessary to implement it." This might be a fairly substantial amount of money, but the United States, Japan, the rich oil countries, and others could put in whatever is required. The war in the Gulf cost $70 billion. I would not be surprised just to think that peace agreement would have to cost maybe $20 billion in all.

This could be done over a four or five year period; it is not a big deal. All of this sounds like a lot of money, and some joint economic efforts would have to be made.

This could come before a peace treaty, and this is another thing on which the Carter Center is working. Let me give you two examples. First of all, I have been very disturbed about the environmental problems in the Palestine area. For instance, water is not only becoming a crucial item in the United States and other parts of the world, but also in the Middle East.

It is one of the main impediments to finding peace there. The Jordan River is just about dried up. I went over for the first time in 1972, and I went swimming in the Dead Sea just as a curiosity. It is quite an experience to float along like a cork on top of the water. You come out kind of slimy. I went back last year, and the water was 300 yards away because no water is getting to the Dead Sea to keep its level stable. The Dead Sea is falling in level about this much every year. Before long we are going to have two small Dead Seas because the bottom's going to be exposed in the middle. This is a very serious change in the basic ecology of that region and perhaps will affect the world.

But right next to that, the Gulf of Aqaba, the ocean not too far away, has adequate supplies of water, and this could be channeled into the Dead Sea through turbines that generate an enormous amount of electricity. They could produce nitrogen out of the air, urea, and tremendous deposits of phosphate and potash. Farmers in this audience, you know what I mean. You could have a balanced fertilizer not only to use in that region, but also to sell worldwide.

And the electric power would be extremely great in its volume. There's a 1,400 foot drop between the ocean and the Dead Sea. That is equivalent to eight Niagara Falls in height. You can see what a tremendous opportunity that would be. Can you imagine the excitement in the world with the Israelis, and the Jordanians, and the Palestinians all working together to design and build and operate such a system? I think it would transform the hopes and dreams of the world. That would take some money and some engineering, I know.

The other thing I will mention in closing, and it will not take any money or engineering, and that is to open up the political borders between the countries there. And just think about the tourism possibilities.

Wouldn't you like to go to Canaan and to Nazareth, and to Bethlehem and to Jerusalem, and walk along the Jordan River and visit the Dead Sea? Or stroll beside and then cross the little Jordan River, which is just a little creek, and see Mountain Neho where Moses looked at the promised land, but could not go in. Maybe [you would] go up to Damascus and Syria and see where St. Paul lived and where [his friends] lowered him over the [wall] in a basket. And go right on down just a few miles to Egypt and see Mount Sinai and then see where Jesus went with his mother and daddy when he was a little baby and where the Israelis came.

You see what a tremendous tourism possibility it would be there if you could go just few miles across borders that are now closed. It would not cost anything except maybe to expand the bridge to handle the traffic. But people would pour in there from all over the world.

And as they always said in Georgia, "It's a lot easier to pick tourists than it is to pick cotton." This would not require a great investment. But the excitement that would come to the world!

I think if we could see some progress toward peace in the Middle East, it would lessen tensions, strangely enough, in countries all over the earth. That is why I get so excited talking about the Middle East. It is not a hopeless case. It sounds like a dream. A lot of people have been frustrated, and a lot of political careers may have been lost because of controversial stands on Middle East issues. But the reason I feel optimistic, although I am not naive, is that there is hope.

There is hope because of one factor that does not change: the Israeli people want peace. The Palestinians want peace. The Jordanians want peace. The Syrians want peace. God knows the Lebanese want peace. The people want peace. The world wants peace. It is a matter of overcoming their reluctance. It is just a matter of overcoming the reluctance of a few recalcitrant political leaders who do not have the vision to see that they could go down in history as great saviors of the people of a precious focused region of the world, the Holy Land. I would like to see one day the Holy Land be a land of peace.

Thank you very much.

The transcription of this Landon Lecture was accomplished through the cooperation of the Kansas State University Libraries and the Office of Mediated Education.

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