Nearly 30 years since he became president of America, Jimmy Carter offers a lesson to today's world leaders.

His was a voice of reason in a world that often seemed consumed by violence. Mr Carter's most important legacy is the signing of a peace agreement between Israel and Egypt, a force for good which still stands today.

The veteran politician remains a respected voice in the Middle East, able to command the ear of leaders on all sides due to what appears to be a natural inclination to diplomacy rather than violence.

Perhaps it is a policy born out of being a man of faith. How different then to the current US president who also proclaims to be a man of religion.

Today George Bush's foreign policy is being discredited both within the US and beyond as is that of Britain's which has been closely linked to its trans-Atlantic partner.

One wonders if Carter would have responded to 9/11 by launching a crusade against those he deemed to be on the side of evil in the Middle East.

Much of America's foreign policy in recent years seems to have been fuelled by a desire for revenge. Some believe Bush junior's attack on Iraq had elements of unfinished business on behalf of Bush senior.

It was the great Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi who proclaimed that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. Following a path of diplomacy rather than weapons must surely always be the right course to pursue until the ultimate end.

It could be argued that the current mess in Iraq and the increasing death toll of British and American soldiers is a result of a belief that fire should be fought with fire.

The coming American elections are likely to prove that many people have had enough of that approach.

Carter's presidency, however, also shows the pitfalls of diplomacy. His attempts to negotiate with militant forces in Iran following the hostage crisis of 1979 proved unsuccessful.

A military solution was eventually sanctioned after more than a year of talk which, incidentally, also proved unsuccessful and is largely credited with ending Carter's presidency.

Since then he has worked tirelessly in pursuit of the holy grail of peace in the Middle East fuelled, possibly, by the ghosts that still haunt him from that period in history.

One could speculate that Tony Blair's current role as Middle East peace envoy has a similar cause.