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Abstract

Jimmy Carter is known for championing peace and pro-democracy causes in his post-presidency and is widely respected as a moral leader. Few Americans, however, are aware of the fact that in his last two years, Carter presided over a huge increase of the military budget that amounted to the largest in history to that point and promoted the adoption of fancy new military technologies which would be applied in wars waged by his successors. This paper examines Carter’s foreign policy and his embrace of the so-called Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA), which aimed to reinvigorate American military power after Vietnam through the embrace of the digital revolution, and development of new precision guided weapons, stealth bombers and drone warfare capabilities. Neglected in many academic studies, the RMA, with its emphasis on precision-guided strikes and “smart weapons,” built on long-standing techno-fanaticism in U.S. culture which prioritized technical solutions to major social problems, in this case the prospect of American imperial decline after Vietnam. It in turn complemented Carter’s human rights agenda in its aim of facilitating a more “activist foreign policy” by fostering the illusion that future wars could be waged cleanly and with limited collateral damage.

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