Seventy years ago, "Who lost China?" was one of the queries that bitterly divided the United States. From the late 1940s through the 1950s, Sen. Joseph McCarthy and his supporters persecuted hundreds of Americans for being "communists" or "communist sympathizers." That was a period known as the Second Red Scare.

Thirty years later, a similar divisive question was raised in 1979 following the collapse of the shah's empire in Tehran. "Who lost Iran?" was a favorite topic of the time. A Washington Post article harshly criticized former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's comments that U.S. President Jimmy Carter should be held responsible for the fall of the shah.

Yes, Carter's authorization of the shah's entry into the U.S. led to the hostage crisis at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. The question, however, hasn't been fully answered, since recently declassified documents suggest that the Nixon and Ford administrations created an environment for cornering the shah's corrupt regime into a revolution.