The Political Olympics: Moscow, Afghanistan, and the 1980 U.S. Boycott

By Derick L. Hulme Jr. | Go to book overview

2
The Boycott Decision

Jimmy Carter's decision to boycott the 1980 Summer Olympics was motivated by two main considerations. First, the Soviet Union was to be punished for its actions in Afghanistan. The White House sought to increase the political costs to be borne by Moscow, and determined that as Olympic host the Kremlin's investment in prestige, propaganda, and other resources was of such magnitude as to make a boycott especially effective. Second, Carter desired to show the rest of the world that the United States still had the will to resist Soviet aggression. In the post-Vietnam era, American determination to act forcefully to protect and/or promote its international interests had become increasingly suspect both at home and abroad. The helpless position in which the United States found itself as a consequence of the Iranian hostage crisis only reinforced such perceptions. It was in an effort to counter this negative assessment of U.S. foreign policy that Carter moved to support the idea of a boycott. A U.S.-led disruption of the Moscow Olympics would not only punish the Soviet Union, it would also help restore respect for U.S. leadership.

Of the options the White House had at its disposal to punish Moscow, it determined that a boycott of the Olympics would have the most far-reaching consequences. Lloyd Cutler, counsel to the president, stated the administration's belief that the Moscow Games "may be the most important single event in the Soviet Union since World War II." It was thus logical, he continued, that to disrupt the Games would "deny them what was going to be an enormous propaganda victory." 1 It was this belief that Moscow was going to achieve a propaganda coup of global proportions that would confer legitimacy not only upon the regime and its political system but also upon its actions in Afghanistan

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The Political Olympics: Moscow, Afghanistan, and the 1980 U.S. Boycott
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Copyright Acknowledgments iv
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - The Boycott Decision 17
  • 3 - The Domestic Campaign 21
  • 4 - The International Campaign 43
  • 5 - Consequences of the Boycott 75
  • 6 - Endemic Obstacles to the Boycott 89
  • 7 - U.S. Shortcomings 105
  • 8 - Evaluation of the Use of the Boycott 123
  • Notes 129
  • Selected Bibliography 169
  • Index 171
  • About the Author 181
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