On November 1979, when 66 Americans were taken hostage in Iran, Jimmy Carter confronted a difficult decision. From the first days of the crisis he rejected all military options. He chose Secretary of State Cyrus Vance's plan to use diplomatic pressure and patient negotiation. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and others urged him to take tougher action.
Carter biographer Douglas Brinkley sees it as a moral issue for Carter. "You see the moralism of Carter, the Christianity affecting his foreign policy making... His belief in each human life having a great sanctity to it."
But it was more than a moral question. On the eve of a failed rescue mission, Carter told Vance, "my greatest fear all along is that this crisis could lead us into direct confrontation with the Soviets."
"It is hard to remember that it was the Cold War. The possibility of a superpower confrontation in and about Iran had always been there. And now, under these circumstances, it was much higher," Jody Powell says. Historian Roger Wilkins says, "it was the first time that the United States really was demonstrated to be vulnerable to the kinds of people that [Osama] bin Laden ultimately became."
Do you think Carter should have launched a military attack against Iran during the hostage crisis?
Yes (Blue): 45%
No (Pink): 54%
Total number of poll participants: 1919
Of the participants polled, 839 watched at least half of the film; of those, 332 said the film influenced their vote.
My American Experience
Who was your favorite 20th-century American president? Was it FDR? Kennedy? Reagan? Or one of the other 14 men who helped usher the United Sates through the 1900s? Who do you think was the most influential?