Forty-one years ago, in September of 1978, President Jimmy Carter shepherded a brilliant series of talks over 12 days between the previously hostile nations of Egypt and Israel. Carter’s master stroke was significantly aided by the willingness of the two heads of state, Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin. What Sadat wanted to rechristen “the Jimmy Carter Accords” became more prosaically known to history as “The Camp David Accords,” and garnered for Sadat and Begin equal shares in that year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
This was an event so justly famous in its day that even the then 32-year-old make-believe millionaire Donald Trump was probably aware of it. That he may have managed to retain the memory of that diplomatic coup of long ago, despite the depredations of chemical hair treatments, penis-enlargement pills, very little exercise and an appalling diet of junk food, is problematic. Naturally, various poison spiders whispering in his ear, beginning with the likes of Stephen Miller, no doubt were available to jog his adderall-addled memory if necessary.
This is speculation, of course, but it is an interesting coincidence that Trump’s recent aborted attempt to meet with members of the Taliban was to take place in September, and it was to happen in Camp David, and previous such talks redounded down through history to the glory of Jimmy Carter, and that Carter’s talks consequently ended with two Nobel Prizes. Above all, Trump very much needs a victory. In a presidency almost routinely disastrous, the last couple of months have been particularly disastrous for Donald Trump. While the Camp David Accords didn’t save Jimmy Carter’s presidency, it certainly didn’t hurt, and gave Carter something that Trump lacks to a degree one would have not thought possible three years ago: a legacy.
It may actually be true that twelve people had to die for Trump’s befuddled, clumsy attempt at recreating history, when a car bomb blast took their lives in Shash Darak. The Taliban, not exactly history’s most rational group, may have murdered those people, or allowed them to be murdered, to test Donald Trump ahead of the talks and to see how much they could get away with. That Trump cancelled the talks is proof that even Donald Trump is capable of doing something sane, if only by accident.
For Trump there will be no trip to Oslo to pick up his Peace Prize. It’s easy to imagine the speech he would have given, how only he could bring peace to Afghanistan, how utterly Obama failed, and how truly great he is. I think any of us could have told him that wasn’t going to happen in any event without asking. The great pity of it is, it’s very possible that today 12 people would still be alive if Donald Trump weren’t so jealous of Jimmy Carter and weren’t so incompetent at doing the job some Americans elected him to do.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.