"Will you shoot them in the shoulder, or what?" Christopher asked. "No sir," replied the commander, "we're going to shoot them each twice, right between the eyes." Christopher's response: "You mean you're really going to shoot to kill? You really are?"
This attitude was also evident in policy, particularly in regard to the CIA, the bogeyman of the Cold War and, as far as the administration was concerned, the cause of global anti-Americanism. Hoping to improve America's image, Carter's CIA director fired 800 operatives. Naturally, this adversely affected the agency's ability to operate in Iran before and during the crisis. For instance, Delta Force would need ground transportation in Iran once the rescue operation was under way. But since the CIA had been gutted, the unit had to bring an agent in Germany out of retirement to travel to Iran to buy trucks.
Because the Carter administration repeatedly demonstrated an abhorrence for force and preference for diplomacy, dangerous precedents were set. When the American embassy in Iran was attacked in November 1979, it was not for the first time: it had already been targeted in February as the revolution got under way. Since Carter had relied on the interim administration which had replaced the Shah to restore safety to the embassy in February, the hostage-takers rightly assumed he would do the same thing again. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's current president, was among the hostage-takers in 1979 and had been involved in the plan from its inception. He initially advocated taking the "Marxist anti-God" Soviet embassy rather than the American embassy: he was outvoted not only because the hostage-takers viewed the US as the more satanic of the two superpowers, but also because they understood that the Soviets would treat any intrusion as an act of war and kill the attackers. The Americans, on the other hand, would presumably rely on the Iranian government — by this point sympathetic to the hostage-takers-to deal with the problem, as they had done before. The hostage-takers were vindicated in their assumptions. Khomeini observed: "There's not a damned thing Carter can do about it."
The Obama administration has also sent the wrong messages. Like Carter, Obama set out to be different to his predecessors. He set his sights on American military spending, which he planned to cut by half a trillion dollars over the next decade. Combined with another $500 billion of automatic cuts, the trillion-dollar reduction in defence spending deflates America's global ambitions and, as with Carter's CIA cuts, also its capacity.
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