03 June 2010

50. Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis

Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis - Jimmy Carter

I read this book knowing that I disagree with much of Mr. Carter’s political ideals and that I think his way of caring for people I see as counter-productive in the long run. Despite my feelings for his political beliefs I decided to read his book. Sometimes it is good to read the views of others even when you know it is different than your own.

I found that Jimmy Carter wrote a very good book which covers both the religious and the political realms. I found him to much more eloquent than I remembered. Maybe that is because I was pretty young when he was President.

Mr. Carter discusses many different subjects over the course of this book. These included: pre-emptive war, women's rights, terrorism, civil liberties, homosexuality, abortion, the death penalty, science and religion, environmental degradation, nuclear arsenals, America's global image, fundamentalism, and the welding of religion and politics. He managed to keep tying these back to a moral code which he believes is the code this country was founded upon and should be living within today.

What this came down to for me was a difference in political philosophy and a difference in the interpretation of what is required of Christians. He believes the government has a moral duty to care for and support its citizens. This moral duty is tied to a few scriptural quotes and some explanation of the traditions of the Baptist Church.

One: I agree the government should care for and support its citizens, but I do not think we should be going nearly as far with this aid as Mr. Carter wishes. I think his form of aid becomes a trap for people who become dependant on the aid and are stuck in a Nanny-State system.

Two: I am not a Baptist. I do not think like a Baptist. I do not have beliefs like a Baptist. I do not think America’s values are or should be based on Baptist Church beliefs.

Add one and two together and I get a general disagreement with much of Mr. Carter’s conclusions. What I did learn is that I respect the man for thinking through his ideas and having reasons for his convictions.

One thing that did strike me as dead on accurate with my own beliefs the last few years concerned nuclear non-proliferation. Mr. Carter rambled on about different treaties signed and ratified and broken and discarded. It was all interesting.

What it comes down to is that he wants to eliminate nuclear weapons from the planet. I agree with that completely. I will even go as far as to suggest we should do it unilaterally. We have an abundance of nuclear weapons. Do we need them? Will we ever use them? Can we save a heck of a lot of money by dismantling them?

I have tried to think of a scenario where we would use a nuclear weapon. Even if we were justified in the use of such a weapon, would the United States actually launch and detonate a warhead? Would we launch a first strike against anyone? Would we launch a retaliatory strike against Moscow of Beijing? Would we nuke Tehran if Iranian terrorists detonated a dirty bomb in New York City? Would we obliterate a marauding horde of Arabs overrunning Israel?

I think the answer to all these scenarios and any others I can think of would be no. We would NEVER push the button and actually launch the weapons. So, then why have them?

Are we keeping them around in order to deter someone from attacking us because we will turn them into vapor? I don’t think anyone in the world thinks we will use nukes and therefore they are not actually the deterrent we claim them to be.

Then there was the display of power in Iraq. The world saw what the American military is capable of. We are so far above and beyond any other force on the planet that we don’t need nukes. We can obliterate anyone with conventional arms in exactly the same way we did in Iraq.

So, Mr. Carter and I disagree in many ways, but we definitely agree in one that is pretty major.

As for the book, I found it very interesting to hear his point of view and work through the reasoning for his conclusions. I enjoyed the read.


  1. Great review. Although I disagree with your point that we would never use nuclear weapons. Only 65 years ago we dropped two atomic bombs on two Japanese cities. Few ever imagined our leaders would do that. We are still capable of extraordinary horrors.

  2. Yeah, I struggle with the scenarios for use of nuclear weapons myself.

    I think about scenarios and try to put myself into a position where I would be the one making the decision to launch. I just can't reach the point where I can say that any rational person would do it. Would an irrational person? Sure, but they probably won't be the ones with the power to execute the command.

    As for the correlation to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs I think there are a few differences.
    One... we didn't really know all that much about what these weapons would do.

    Two... we designed them specifically to drop on the Japanese cities. We did not want a land battle on main-land Japan where we would suffer heavy losses. That scenario would be vastly different with todays technology.

    Three... we have weapons that are multiple times more powerful and have a darned good understanding of what a detonation would mean.

    Four... there would be unanimous condemnation from the world.

    Five... it would be political suicide here at home once the trailer trash red-necks and the anti-everyone but America crowd stopped cheering and passed out on a Budweiser drunk, again.

    Six...one detonation would render a huge part of the earth unusable and uninhabitable. That alone is not in the interests of our National Security. Every place where we could have a potential conflict has some resource we need in the area. Every place has historical and cultural value that would be gone forever.

    (If we nuke Iran then Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Khazakstan, all the other stans, China, etc etc...all get fallout that will cause problems on a global scale. Agriculturally alone would be a huge catastrophe globally)

    Seven...Launching these weapons could be the trigger that causes fanatical religious zealots to claim the apocalypse is upon us and cause riots and anarchy in the streets of American cities. That would suck.

    Eight...Diplomacy could never be used again. Nobody would believe us or trust us. All other nations would think we are blowing smoke in their butts and do whatever we want anyway. Oh, wait...I forgot...we ARE doing that. Disregard Eight. :-)

    Anyway, I still think that there are scenarios where the use would be discussed and contemplated, but that the actual decision to launch would never be made.

    Also...if we don't have them then we can't use them. That would be nice. :-)