To Create a New World? American Presidents and the United Nations

By John Allphin Moore Jr.; Jerry Pubantz | Go to book overview
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relations with Congress were, given the resurgence of congressional independence, reasonably good. 4

While Americans tend to remember the anguish of the Iranian hostage crisis and the Soviet incursion into Afghanistan, Carter could also cite accomplishments in foreign affairs. He skillfully guided the Panama Canal treaties through the Senate; he normalized relations with China; he brought the Israelis and Egyptians together in the Camp David Accords; and he markedly improved America's relations with developing countries, particularly in Africa.


Carter and Foreign Policy

Carter's approach to diplomacy quickly became evident. He, like Nixon before him, was determined to control foreign policy decisions from the White House. He was what would be called a "hands-on" president in almost every aspect of executive leadership. He studied issues carefully before making final decisions, and observers often portrayed him as an extremely well-informed president, even the details of any topic. 5 His press conferences revealed an intelligent leader who was both thoughtful and knowledgeable.

The president surrounded himself with capable foreign policy advisers who sometimes disagreed with one another. 6 But he was always willing to make final decisions. As secretary of state he named a New York lawyer, Cyrus Vance, a graduate of Yale and Yale Law School who had served in many government posts. Vance and his wife Gay became close friends of the Carters. 7 Initially at least, Vance seemed to mirror the president's own views regarding a more idealistic foreign policy. For example, Vance saw international organizations, like the United Nations,

____________________
4
Jimmy Carter, Keeping Faith: Memoirs of a President ( New York: Bantam, 1982), 88. Congressional Quarterly Weekly, January 16, 1988, shows that in his relations with Congress Carter compares quite favorably with his predecessors and with President Reagan.
5
Zbigniew Brzezinski, Power and Principle: Memoirs of the National Security Adviser, 1977-1981 ( New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1983), 94. UN Undersecretary-General Brian Urquhart said that Carter was "remarkably well informed." Brian Urquhart, A Life, 278.
6
Gaddis Smith, Morality, Reason, and Power: American Diplomacy in the Carter Years ( New York: Hill and Wang, 1986), 35-45.
7
Carter, Keeping Faith, 51.

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