There was a time that, when a head of state came to Washington, after some haggling, he would agree to go along with the United States on some foreign policy objective the president had in mind. In exchange for this agrrement, the president would announce that he was giving the head of state some of America's latest military hardware.
President Carter seems to have changed to protocol. You no longer have to agree with anything the United States wants and you still get the weapons.
Last week King Hussein of Jordan was in town and didn't budge an inch on the Camp David accords. The president the announced that, in spite of their differences, he would be happy to sell the king 200 M-60 tanks.
Some people might say this is stupid, but there are others who say that when it comes to foreign affairs Mr. Carter knows exactly what he's doing.
Meanwhile, back at the palace in Amman, Jordan, King Hussein was being congratulated on his successful trip.
"How did you manage to do it, Your Majesty?" a courtier asked.
"I told the president that I would have nothing to do with Camp David or any agreement that the Egyptians and the Israelis came up with."
"He must have been furious," the courtier said.
"He was. He said to me, 'In that case, I will only give you 50 M-60 tanks." Then I got angry and said, 'Your entire Middle East strategy is a shambles and the United States is losing all influence in the area.'"
"That must have hurt him."
"It did. He said I was sabotaging the chance for peace in the Middle East and I was the biggest stumbling block to any chance of an agreement. He then told me that if I persisted in my intransigent attitude he would only give me 75 tanks."
"You stood up to him, of course."
"I certainly did. I said that as far as I was concerned my trip to Washington was a waste of time for him and myself. I could see nothing coming out of it except another diplmatic defeat for him, but since he's had so many of them this year, it probably didn't matter."
"How did he take that?"
"He smiled. As you know, the angrier he gets, the more he smiles. He said, 'Well, Your Majesty, if you feel that strongly about my handling of foreign affairs, perhaps I'll only give you 100 tanks."
"I told him I refused to be threatened, and that we may be small country but we have out pride and he could not blackmail me be offering to sell us America's latest tanks."
"Then what happened?" another courtier asked.
The king continued, "Brzezinski whispered in his ear, and then the president said, 'You leave me no alternative. If you leave Washington without signing some sort of an agreement supporting my peace efforts in the Middle East, we will ship you 150 tanks with night-fighting capabilities.'"
"He's tough," someone said.
"So am I," the king said. "I told him what he could do with his peace-keeping efforts, and I got up to leave the room. Then he looked at me with those cold eyes and said, 'I'm sorry you feel the way you do. I am ordering the Pentagon this morning to send 200 tanks to Jordan, at very Favorable financing.'"
"Good work, Your Majesty. You came out smelling like a rose."
"I'm not sure. I believe if I had been even more unyielding he would have thrown in a squadron of F-15 fighter planes as well."