The Role of the Afghan War in America's Shift to the Right during the Carter Presidency


Fri, 02/21/2020 - 3:00pm to Sat, 02/22/2020 - 2:59pm


Part of the Spring 2020 Middle Eastern and North African Studies Colloquium Series

David Gibbs, Professor of History, The University of Arizona

During the period 1979-1983, the United States underwent a substantial military buildup, combined with greater willingness to use force overseas. One of the major justifications for this policy shift was that it constituted a defensive reaction to the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, which was considered a dire threat to world peace and security. In this lecture, Professor Gibbs will reevaluate the policy debates from this period, based on newly available documentary evidence, both on Afghanistan itself and also on US domestic politics. Based on the documentary record, he will argue that Afghanistan was of little intrinsic strategic value, and that claims to the contrary amount to an extended myth. The Afghan invasion served largely as a pretext to generate public support for increased military spending, which had long been favored by vested interests and lobby groups.


David Gibbs is a Professor of History at the University of Arizona and has published widely on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the former Yugoslavia, and Afghanistan. His publications have appeared in both academic and popular venues, such as the London Guardian, Los Angeles Times, and Le Monde Diplomatique. He also recently debated the topic of humanitarian intervention at the Oxford Union Society in the UK. Professor Gibbs is currently finishing his third book, on the rise of American conservatism during the 1970s, to be entitled "How America Became a Right Wing Nation."