Failing the Crystal Ball Test: The Carter Administration and the Fundamentalist Revolution in Iran

Failing the Crystal Ball Test: The Carter Administration and the Fundamentalist Revolution in Iran

Failing the Crystal Ball Test: The Carter Administration and the Fundamentalist Revolution in Iran

Failing the Crystal Ball Test: The Carter Administration and the Fundamentalist Revolution in Iran

Synopsis

With the Iranian revolution as her focal point, Seliktar offers a systematic analysis of predictive failure in foreign policy at the paradigmatic, policy, and intelligence levels. Seliktar first examines how social science paradigms determine conceptualizations of political change, and then applies that analysis to understanding New Internationalism, the Carter administration's foreign policy philosophy at the time of the Shah's fall from power. Based in part on classified documents seized during the takeover of the American embassy, Failing the Crystal Ball Test is a valuable addition to Middle Eastern studies, international relations, and comparative politics collections.

Excerpt

On February 1, 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini arrived in Teheran. His tumultuous welcome provided the crowning touch to the revolutionary turmoil, which swept away the shah of Iran and the Pahlavi dynasty. The fundamentalist republic that Khomeini established was destined to send shock waves throughout the Middle East and the world. The impact was felt most keenly in the United States, where it contributed to President Carter's failure to get reelected and discredited the foreign policy vision of his administration.

The subsequent politics of Iranian fundamentalism have never left the headlines. International terrorism and the kidnapping of American hostages embroiled the Reagan administration in the Iran-contra scandal. The power vacuum in the region led to the prolonged Iran-Iraq war, which, in turn, served as a prelude to the Gulf War. The spread of fundamentalism in Algeria, the Sudan and Egypt are, at least, partially attributable to Iran's drive to promote Khomeini's political philosophy.

American experience with the Iranian revolution has been a subject of a long and passionate debate. The battle over "who lost Iran" and why has been fought along ideological, partisan, institutional and personal lines, with supporters and opponents of the administration arriving at diametrically opposed conclusions. Academic experts have focused on the role of human rights, the intelligence community, the structure of the administration and Carter's personality. Among the more theoretically oriented scholars, the events in Iran have rekindled an interest in uncovering universal laws of revolutionary change.

Although these perspectives are all valid, virtually all deal with narrow segments of the process that led the Carter administration to overestimate the en-

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