It is certainly true that, more than any previous Cold War president, Jimmy Carter challenged global containment: the doctrine that, in order to safeguard the United States, America must oppose every communist advance anywhere in the globe. That doctrine, first proposed by Harry Truman as a way to justify aid to Greece and Turkey in 1947, had by the 1970s turned catastrophic in Vietnam. In that war, the United States lost 58,000 service members, killed millions of Vietnamese, spent hundreds of billions of dollars, and wrecked America's image overseas. All on the theory that if one backward former French colony thousands of miles away went communist, the global system of alliances on which American security depended would collapse.
Carter's move away from global containment rested on two basic premises: his respect for nationalism and his optimism about democracy.