Learn more about Carter Doctrine
The Carter Doctrine was a policy proclaimed by President of the United States Jimmy Carter in his State of the Union Address on 23 January 1980, which stated that the United States would use military force if necessary to defend its national interests in the Persian Gulf region. The doctrine was a response to the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union, and was intended to deter the Soviet Union—the Cold War adversary of the United States—from seeking hegemony in the Persian Gulf. After stating that Soviet troops in Afghanistan posed "a grave threat to the free movement of Middle East oil," Carter proclaimed:
- Let our position be absolutely clear: An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force. (full speech)
This, the key sentence of the Carter Doctrine, was written by Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's National Security Adviser. Brzezinski modeled the wording of the Carter Doctrine on the Truman Doctrine, and insisted that the sentence be included in the speech "to make it very clear that the Soviets should stay away from the Persian Gulf." ()
In The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power, author Daniel Yergin notes that the Carter Doctrine "bore striking similarities" to a 1903 British declaration, in which British Foreign Secretary Lord Landsdowne warned Russia and Germany that the British would "regard the establishment of a naval base or of a fortified port in the Persian Gulf by any other power as a very grave menace to British interests, and we should certainly resist it with all the means at our disposal."
The Persian Gulf region was first proclaimed to be of national interest to the United States during World War II. Petroleum is of central importance to modern armies, and the United States—as the world's leading oil producer at that time—supplied most of the oil for the Allied armies. Many American strategists were concerned that the war would dangerously reduce the U.S. oil supply, and so they sought to establish good relations with Saudi Arabia, a kingdom with large oil reserves. On February 16, 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said the "the defense of Saudi Arabia is vital to the defense of the United States." On February 14, 1945, while returning from the Yalta Conference, Roosevelt met with King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia on the Great Bitter Lake in the Suez Canal, the first time a U.S. president had visited the Persian Gulf region. (During Operation Desert Shield in 1990, this landmark meeting between Roosevelt and King Ibn Saud was cited by Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney as one of the justifications for sending troops to protect Saudi Arabia's border.)
The Persian Gulf region continued to be regarded as an area of vital importance to the United States during the Cold War. Three Cold War United States Presidential doctrines—the Truman Doctrine, the Eisenhower Doctrine, and the Nixon Doctrine—played roles in the formulation of the Carter Doctrine. The Truman Doctrine, which stated that the United States would send military aid to countries which were threatened by Soviet communism, was used to strengthen the security of Iran and Saudi Arabia. In October 1950, President Harry Truman wrote to King Ibn Saud that "the United States is interested in the preservation of the independence and territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia. No threat to your Kingdom could occur which would not be a matter of immediate concern to the United States." The Eisenhower Doctrine in turn called for U.S. troops to be sent to the Middle East to defend U.S. allies against their Soviet-backed adversaries. Finally, application of the Nixon Doctrine provided military aid to Iran and Saudi Arabia so that these U.S. allies could ensure peace and stability in the region. In 1979, the Iranian Revolution and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan prompted the restatement of U.S. interests in the region in the form of the Carter Doctrine.
Because the United States did not have significant military capabilities in the Persian Gulf region at the time the Carter Doctrine was proclaimed, the doctrine was criticized for being not backed by sufficient force. The Carter administration began to build up the Rapid Deployment Force, which would eventually become CENTCOM. In the interim, the administration expanded the U.S. naval presence in the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean.
Carter's successor, President Ronald Reagan, extended the policy in October 1981 with what is sometimes called the "Reagan Corollary to the Carter Doctrine", which proclaimed that the United States would intervene to protect Saudi Arabia, whose security was threatened after the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq War. Thus, while the Carter Doctrine warned away outside forces from the region, the Reagan Corollary pledged to secure internal stability. According to diplomat Howard Teicher, "with the enunciation of the Reagan Corollary, the policy ground work was laid for Operation Desert Storm." Some analysts have argued that the implementation of the Carter Doctrine and the Reagan Corollary also played a role in the outbreak of the 2003 Iraq War.
 See also
- Brzezinski, Zbigniew. Power and Principle: Memoirs of the National Security Adviser, 1977-1981. New York: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 1983. ISBN 0-374-23663-1.
- Klare, Michael T. Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America's Growing Petroleum Dependency. New York: Henry Holt, 2004.
- Teicher, Howard and Gayle Radley Teicher. Twin Pillars to Desert Storm: America's Flawed Vision in the Middle East from Nixon to Bush. New York: Morrow, 1993.
- Yergin, Daniel. The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991.
 External links
- National Security Directive-63 (PDF), a policy outline written by Brzezinski and signed by Carter, giving an overview of the goals of the Carter Doctrine
- "A Cold War Legacy of Persian Gulf Conflict"
- Department of the Navy—Naval Historical Center
- Straits, Passages and Chokepoints, A Maritime Geostrategy byJean-Paul Rodriguez
- Carter Doctrine in Perspective, US Air Force’s College of Aerospace Doctrine, Research and Education (CADRE) at Maxwell Air Force Base
- Nuclear Strategy and the Modern Middle East
- Interview with Michael Klare, in which he cites the Carter Doctrine as one of the causes of the 2003 Iraq War.
- "President Roosevelt and King Abdulaziz - The Meeting at Great Bitter Lake"
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