SocraticGadfly: Afghanistan: US meddling began with Jimmy Carter, courtesy Zbigniew Brzezinski

August 30, 2021

Afghanistan: US meddling began with Jimmy Carter, courtesy Zbigniew Brzezinski

Some of the Reagan-generated tropes about Jimmy Carter are rightly being revised. He wasn't "bumbling." He was right about renewable energy. (And, he was and always has been maritally faithful!)

But, some of the tropes that were NOT spread are true.

Carter was in many ways our first neoliberal president. His deregulation of airlines did lower prices, but it was not the only cause for that. It did also lead in part to the air traffic controllers strike that happened under Reagan's first year in office.

He deregulated trucking, which led to semi drivers being made independent contractors, and Reagan further pushing that, and using the dereg to push all states into 53-foot lengths and 80,000-pound lengths.

And, his meddling in Afghanistan is more than many Americans realize and many Democrats admit.

We didn't have to try to "pick winners and losers" in who we wanted to oppose the Soviet invasion. We could have just stayed out. Or, we could have tried to organize a non-communist but also non-Islamist opposition. But that's just the tip of the iceberg.

John Pilger reminds us that we're reaping what we sowed with our coup in the late 1970s after the overthrow of King Zahir Shah. Behind the US-backed coup? Zbigniew Brzezinski, the biggest Darth Vader of US foreign policy this side of Kissinger. That coup is what led the Soviets into Afghanistan in the first place. More here on Carter-era meddling, and picking the wrong side when we did. And, more yet on how Carter also intervened in an inter-Yemen war when there were two of them, also prompted in part by Zbig. (Blue Anon leaders like Josh Marshall don't want to go back this far.)

Bottom line is that unarguably on foreign policy, and arguably for everything in his presidency, hiring Brzezinski as national security adviser was Carter's single worst decision. Zbig argued for a last arms sale to the Shah. Zbig poo-pooed warnings of how fragile Iran was, especially the warnings of special envoy William Sullivan. Zbig pushed Carter from inside the administration, as Kissinger and David Rockefeller did outside, to push for the Shah to be admitted to the US. Zbig pushed Carter to see post-Shah Iran in Cold War terms, which then led to looking at Afghanistan that way.

Kai Bird, in his new good but not great bio of Carter, gets at the edges of a lot of this, but not really the full meat. And, there's no meat at all on why Carter didn't rein in Zbig more. Perhaps Carter, at least then, was more of a Cold Warrior than he lets on today. Note those other meddlings, like Yemen.

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