Part 8 of Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States covers the Ford, Carter and Reagan presidencies.
The Ford Presidency
Gerard Ford, appointed to the vice presidency after corruption charges forced the resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew, assumed the presidency (with Nelson Rockefeller as vice president) when Nixon resigned in 1974. Ford’s most notable foreign policy was to end the détente* negotiations Nixon initiated with the Soviets to minimize the risk of nuclear war.
The Carter Presidency
Peanut farmer and former Georgia governor Jimmy Carter narrowly defeated Ford in 1976 on a platform that promised to end the arms race, reinstate détente negotiations and end US military intervention in third world countries.
According to Stone, Carter’s National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski (also Obama’s long time member) destroyed Carter’s presidency by forcing Carter (who had no foreign policy experience) to renege on his election promises. Under pressure from Brzezinski, Carter refused to return the Shah to Iran for trial following the 1978 Iranian revolution,** as well as restoring military aid to El Salvador’s right wing dictatorship in 1980 and secretly funding and training a jihadist Muslim insurgency to oppose the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
The Reagan Presidency
Like Carter, former California governor Ronald Reagan also had no foreign policy experience and allowed anti-communist CIA and Pentagon hawks to fill this vacuum. Under Reagan, CIA director William Casey stripped the CIA of any officials who resisted his policy of falsely blaming the Soviets for CIA-inspired terrorist activities. Casey also started the illegal Contra army that tried to overthrow Nicaragua’s democratically elected government, in addition to funding and training death squads in El Salvador and Guatemala to assassination union officials, intellectuals and human rights advocates. Casey and National Security Council member Oliver North also initiated the illegal arms deal with Iran that financed the Contras after Congress discontinued their funding.
In 1985 President Mikhail Gorbachev approached Reagan about negotiating a bilateral disarmament package that would phase out all nuclear weapons by 2000. Initially receptive, Reagan rejected Gorbachev’s condition that the US keep their Strategic Defense (Star Wars) Initiative in the lab. Reagan also refused Gorbachev’s proposal to participate in a joint peacekeeping force in Afghanistan following Soviet troop withdrawal.
Reagan left office in 1988 in disgrace over the Irangate scandal. He was also responsible for doubling the national debt, thanks to a massive increase in military expenditures coupled with sizeable tax cuts. In 1985, the US switched from being a creditor nation to being the biggest debtor nation.
*Détente is defined as the easing of hostility or strained relations between countries.
**This decision would cost Carter the 1980 presidential race when Iranian militants took 52 US Embassy employees hostage in 1979.
Part 8: Reagan, Gorbachev & Third World: Rise Of The Right