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Politics around Benghazi tragedy distract us from bigger issues in Middle East

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Meanwhile, Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign is reportedly crafting a “Jimmy Carter strategy” and “October surprise” around the Benghazi tragedy. Both terms recall President Carter’s failed 1979 attempt to rescue the hostages in Iran, which remains our central symbol of American weakness on the world stage. But America’s sometimes-blind focus on avenging terrorism – then and now – diverts us from asking hard questions about its historical roots. And by looking back at Washington’s role in Mideast affairs, we might also question some of its dubious alliances today.

Mr. Affleck’s movie does address a small part of that context in Iran. The film begins with shots of the CIA-assisted coup that installed the corrupt and murderous Shah Reza Pahlavi on the Iranian throne in 1953. And, to his credit, Jimmy Carter spoke out against the shah’s human rights abuses when he was running for president in 1976.

Once he got to the White House, however, Carter joined his predecessors in coddling the Persian dictator. With oil prices rising – and the Soviet Union threatening Afghanistan – America needed a loyal ally in the region.

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