Iran was not Jimmy Carter’s fault

Want to blame someone for Ayatollah Khomeini's Islamic revolution? Try Dwight D. Eisenhower

Topics: Jimmy Carter, How the World Works, American History, Energy, Iran,

Iran was not Jimmy Carter's faultPresident Jimmy Carter in July 1980, and former Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1988

For a president regarded by many Americans as essentially ineffectual, Jimmy Carter still stirs up plenty of passion. My post yesterday pondering why right-wing bloggers rank him as the worst American of all time proved to be a hit with readers. And enough conservative Carter-haters have chimed in that I think it’s worth taking a closer look at one key point: Carter’s supposed responsibility for the Iran debacle.

Here’s a typical comment from a conservative reader:

“He is personally responsible for this mad regime in Iran.”

The general line of argument seems to be as follows: Carter should have responded to the hostage crisis by nuking Iran, or otherwise initiating military action that would have prevented the establishment of a fundamentalist Islamic regime. But he didn’t, which emboldened the forces of revolutionary jihad. The subtext: If Carter had taken a stronger line then (perhaps even before the hostage crisis, by providing military to support to the embattled Shah), maybe we wouldn’t be facing such a mess now in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is of course impossible to know what would have happened if Carter had invaded Iran and restored the Shah to power. Our recent track record in invading Islamic nations does not build confidence in the efficacy of such methods in solving long-term problems. Certainly, invading Iraq and Afghanistan hasn’t improved our standing with Muslims. It’s entirely possible that an invasion in the late 1970s could have hastened the emergence of al-Qaida-style terrorism. Maybe we’d be even worse of now.

You Might Also Like

But that’s all speculation. The real problem with such an analysis is that blaming Carter for the success of the Iranian revolution completely misses the historical point — which is that U.S. strategic interests, primarily tied to oil, generated profound antagonism in Iran decades before Ayatollah Khomeini’s rise to power. If we want to blame someone for this “mad regime” why not Dwight Eisenhower, who was president in 1953 when a U.S-British backed coup overthrew the democratically elected government of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh?

Mossadegh’s sin? Attempting to nationalize the British-owned Anglo-Iranian oil company, itself a direct offshoot of Western imperialism and the global race to exploit MidEastern oil resources.

The aftermath of that coup poisoned any chance that the majority of the Iranian population would ever view the United States in a positive light.

As one of the hostage takers told an outraged American embassy staffer: “You have no right to complain, because you took our whole country hostage in 1953.”

The crisis in Iran that destroyed Carter’s presidency was rooted in American and British actions in the MidEast dating back many decades. It strains our understanding of objective reality to call it his fault. In fact, it was Carter, as I wrote yesterday, who pointed his finger at the real villain — American addiction to foreign oil.

Upon further reflection, it may be that Carter’s real downfall was that he told Americans that if they wanted to wean themselves from dependence on foreign oil, they needed to change their ways, and we just didn’t want to hear it. So we elected someone who told us we could have it all. You won’t find a more eloquent articulation of this fundamental difference between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan than in this snippet of an interview with Andrew Bacevich conducted by Bill Moyers.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>