The Jimmy Carter Crisis

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On the morning of November 4, 1979, revolutionary Muslim students overtook security at the United States embassy in Tehran, Iran and occupied the building, taking everyone inside hostage. For the next 444 days the United States stood paralyzed with fear and anger as the diplomats were held as prisoners. Immediately after the capture of the sixty-five Americans public pressure began to mount on the government to bring the captured citizens back home. President Jimmy Carter responded by slapping sanctions on Iran and negotiating for the return of the hostages. At the same time he faced a reelection battle in 1980 that certainly affected his response to the crisis, especially standing next to Ronald Reagan, who favored shows of force to Carter’s preferred diplomacy. The crisis dominated headlines in the media with nightly updates and analysis of the situation in Iran. Famous CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite famously ended every newscast with an update on the number of days the hostages had been kept captive. Driving the swift Presidential response as well as the intense media scrutiny was the angry reaction of the American people. Patriotism rose during the crisis as Americans took to the streets to voice their displeasure with Iran and the official American response. The intense anger by the American people and media scrutiny had a negative impact on Jimmy Carter’s attempts at diplomacy, and the perception of him as weak during the crisis cost him the election and left him permanently branded as a weak president. However, he is also to blame for his unpopularity for acting indecisive and granting concessions to the Iranians. While he may be unfairly blamed for the extent of the crisis and had to deal with the intense reaction from th... ... middle of paper ... ...tensely scrutinizing the issue and making the hostages nationally known due to its personal interest stories that dominated the coverage. The American people were angry and the media coverage only exacerbated their emotions. However, despite media scrutiny, falling approval ratings and public protests, Carter should not have given into popular demand and stayed the diplomatic course. If he decided to be aggressive from the start maybe it would have worked or maybe it would have escalated into a large-scale conflict. However, since he decided to take the diplomatic approach, Carter should not have begun using force, as this is antithetical to diplomatic strategy. Jimmy Carter ultimately has no one to blame for the mishandling of the Iran Hostage Crisis and his landslide loss to Reagan in the 1980 election can be greatly attributed to his poor handling of the affair.
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