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«THE RHODESIAN CRISIS IN BRITISH AND INTERNATIONAL POLITICS, 1964-1965 by CARL PETER WATTS A thesis submitted to the University of Birmingham For the ...»

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politicians and officials pursued several initiatives during 1964 and 1965 in the hope of inducing greater cooperation from the Rhodesian Government and preventing a UDI. In Australia and New Zealand, however, the prevailing attitudes moderated the degree of support that they were prepared to give to Canadian initiatives. The major conclusion of Chapter Four is that if Britain and the Old Commonwealth had acted in concert to a greater degree, especially in providing inducements to greater cooperation on the part of the Rhodesian Government, it might have been possible to avert a UDI.

Chapter Five broadens the discussion of the Commonwealth dimension by firstly examining the reasons why the Rhodesian Government resisted Commonwealth interference in, or advice about, Rhodesian constitutional development. The chapter argues that the attitudes of the Rhodesian Front towards the Commonwealth were similar to those of many Australian and New Zealand politicians and civil servants. Yet despite the Rhodesian Government’s disdain for the principle of multiracialism, paradoxically it still claimed to be a member of the Commonwealth, and sought to obtain the support of the Old Commonwealth against the vociferous criticism articulated by the African member states against Rhodesia. This contributed to Britain’s difficulties in trying to manage the Rhodesian Crisis, especially in the context of the 1964 and 1965

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restlessness of the African Commonwealth members in advance of these Meetings, and Le Breton replied, ‘It is interesting to note how both Kambona [Tanganyikan Foreign Minister] and Sithole [Leader of the Zimbabwe African National Union] regard the Australians as the best channel for exerting influence on Field and his Government and also on ourselves.’ Le Breton, CRO, to P. A. Carter, British High Commission, Dar Es Salaam, Letter, 25 February 1964.

observes how Ghana in particular was relentless in drawing attention to the worsening situation in Rhodesia. The major purpose of Chapter Five is to explain why contemporary fears that the Rhodesian Crisis would precipitate the dissolution of the Commonwealth did not come to pass.

Part Three: The United States and the Rhodesian Crisis The prominence of the United States in British contingency planning to deal with UDI suggests that it was, in effect, a ‘fifth constituency’ in Wilson’s calculations. Yet the Rhodesian Crisis has attracted only moderate interest among scholars of U.S. policy towards Africa, and academics in the field of Anglo-American relations have tended to focus on other aspects of the Wilson-Johnson period, particularly Vietnam. 50 There is some merit in linking the Rhodesian problem with Vietnam, since American co-operation Excellent studies within the bounds of U.S. archival sources include Andrew DeRoche, Black, White and Chrome: The United States and Zimbabwe, 1953–1998 (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2001); and Thomas J. Noer, Cold War and Black Liberation: The United States and White Rule in Africa, 1948–1968 (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1985). Some recent examples of the continuing significance of Vietnam in the historiography of Anglo-American relations during the Wilson-Johnson period are: Sylvia Ellis, Britain, America, and the Vietnam War (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2004); Kevin Boyle, ‘The Price of Peace: Vietnam, the Pound, and the Crisis of the American Empire’, Diplomatic History, Vol. 27, No. 1 (January 2003), pp. 37-72; and Wm. Roger Louis, ‘The Dissolution of the British Empire in the Era of Vietnam’, American Historical Review, Vol. 107, No. 2 (February 2002), pp. 1-25. Scholars have also recently paid more attention to Anglo-American defence relations during this period. See, for example, Saki Dockrill, ‘Forging the Anglo-American Global Defence Partnership: Harold Wilson, Lyndon Johnson and the Washington Summit, December 1964’, The Journal of Strategic Studies, Vol. 23, No. 4 (December 2000), pp. 107-29; and Andrew J. Priest, ‘In American Hands: Britain, the United States and the Polaris Nuclear Project, 1962–1968’, Contemporary British History, Vol. 19, No. 3 (September 2005), pp. 353-76.

on the former partly explains why the British Government felt compelled to support American involvement in the latter. 51 However, in Chapter Six it is argued that the Rhodesian Crisis deserves to be considered as a separate issue because it reveals a great deal about the nature of Anglo-American relations during the Wilson-Johnson era and therefore adds to the literature on the special relationship, which until recently marginalised the significance of this period. 52 One weakness of the existing American literature on the Rhodesian Crisis (aside from being sparse) is that it has, on the whole, utilised only those archival sources most readily accessible in the United States, such as those in the National Archives, Washington, and the Lyndon B. Johnson Library, Texas. 53 Whilst these sources give a good indication of views within the Johnson administration, they do not provide a comprehensive understanding of how misunderstandings surfaced in Anglo-American relations as a result of the Rhodesian Crisis. Chapter Six therefore seeks to provide a fuller understanding by adopting a multi-archival approach, using sources from American archives in conjunction with sources from British and New Zealand archives. The use of New Zealand archival sources in this context may seem Pimlott, Harold Wilson, p. 382.

Limited regard for the significance of the Wilson-Johnson era is evident, for example, in J. Dickie, ‘Special’ No More. Anglo-American Relations: Rhetoric and Rivalry (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1994); D. Dimbleby and D. J. Reynolds, An Ocean Apart: The Relationship Between Britain and America in the Twentieth Century (London: BBC Books, 1988); and Wm. R. Louis and H. Bull (eds.) The ‘Special Relationship’: Anglo-American Relations Since 1945 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986). Donald Cameron Watt went so far as to argue that: ‘Anglo-American relations in this period were characterised by their Succeeding John Bull: America in Britain’s Place, 1900–1975 (Cambridge: Cambridge absence.’ University Press, 1984), p. 146.

One book informed by a multi-national, multi-archival approach is Gerald Horne, From the Barrel of a Gun: The United States and the War Against Zimbabwe, 1965–1980 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001).

surprising, but as a result of regular briefings by officials in the State Department’s Office of Eastern and Southern African Affairs, the New Zealand Embassy in Washington was often better informed about developments in U.S. policy than the British diplomatic establishment. The memoranda and cables from the New Zealand Embassy therefore provide a valuable insight into Anglo-American relations during 1964 and 1965. 54 The chapter explores Anglo-American consultation in great detail, observing the considerable misperception and miscommunication between Washington and London, which caused disappointment and even suspicion at senior levels of government on both sides. The chapter explains the misunderstandings and frustrations in Anglo-American relations by applying some important theoretical perspectives on alliance politics, which are usually neglected by historians. 55 The chapter demonstrates that there were serious structural problems in the special relationship, which had not been corrected since the Suez and Skybolt crises. Again, this makes a distinctive contribution to current scholarship. 56 The utility of the New Zealand Archives for this part of the thesis was an accidental find during the course of research on the Commonwealth and the Rhodesian problem.

None of the studies mentioned above employ a theoretical framework for analysing the significance of the Rhodesian problem in Anglo-American relations. Theoretical approaches to Anglo-American relations can of course be found in international relations journals, for example: Raymond Dawson and Richard Rosecrance, ‘Theory and Reality in the Anglo-American Alliance’, World Politics, Vol. XIX, No. 1 (October 1966), pp. 21-51; and John Baylis, ‘The Anglo-American Relationship and Alliance Theory’, International Relations, Vol. 8 (November 1985), pp. 368-79. Richard Neustadt, Alliance Politics (New York: Columbia University Press, 1970), was a seminal study and I have used Neustadt’s theories extensively in my analysis. Neustadt’s theories are tested in Louise Richardson, When Allies Differ: AngloAmerican Relations During the Suez and Falklands Crises (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996).

See Carl P. Watts. ‘The United States, Britain, and the Problem of Rhodesian Independence, 1964-1965’, Diplomatic History, Vol. 30, No. 3 (forthcoming, June 2006), pp. 439-70.

Chapter Seven examines the making of U.S. policy on Rhodesia from the perspectives of bureaucratic politics and pluralism. It argues that the U.S. position was conflicted because the desire to counter Communist subversion and infiltration in southern Africa (by tacitly supporting the so-called ‘white redoubt’) did not sit comfortably with the need to assuage U.S. domestic opinion on the sensitive matter of racial discrimination. These incompatible objectives, combined with conflicting departmental interests, generated extended, well-documented bureaucratic contests. The Rhodesian Crisis therefore illuminates the process of policymaking in the Johnson administration. The chapter examines the policymaking process from the point of view of G. Mennen Williams, a former Governor of the State of Michigan with a strong record on civil rights, who was Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs between 1961 and 1966. 57 The chapter demonstrates that Williams argued a strong case for greater U.S. involvement in the Rhodesian Crisis based on strategic and moral factors. However, Williams was ultimately unsuccessful due to implacable opposition from the highest levels of the Johnson administration. Chapter Seven also explains the limited influence of pluralist pressures on U.S. policy towards Rhodesia. It argues that although there was some connection between the domestic civil rights campaign and foreign policy issues like white minority rule in South Africa and Rhodesia, this never became fully and effectively developed.

African-American interest groups lacked the knowledge and the political skills necessary to wield sufficient influence in Washington, and the White House was hostile to the development of a separate African-American voice in U.S. foreign policy. The chapter See Carl P. Watts, ‘G. Mennen Williams and Rhodesian Independence: A Case Study in Bureaucratic Politics’, Michigan Academician, Vol. XXXVI, No. 3 (2004), pp. 225-46; and Thomas J. Noer, Soapy: A Biography of G. Mennen Williams (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005). Both studies are based on the under-utilised G. Mennen Williams papers deposited at the Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.

therefore contributes to the recent literature on the linkage between U.S. domestic and foreign policies in the 1960s. 58 Conclusions Two underlying themes run throughout this thesis. First, it argues that although the problem of Rhodesian independence was highly complex, a UDI was by no means inevitable. There were courses of action that were dismissed or remained under explored (especially in Britain, but also in the Old Commonwealth, and the United States), which could have been pursued further and may have prevented a UDI. Second, the thesis argues there were obvious structural weaknesses in the machinery of government of each of the major actors, but particularly in Britain, which of course bore primary responsibility for Rhodesia. This made the management of the Rhodesian Crisis more difficult, contributed to the likelihood of a UDI, and exacerbated tension in relations between Britain and its international partners. In stressing these themes the thesis is therefore closer to some of the earlier critical literature on Wilson’s handling of the Rhodesian Crisis than it is to the more recent sympathetic revisionist literature.

See Thomas Borstelmann, The Cold War and the Color Line: American race relations in the global arena (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001); Mary L. Dudziak, Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000); and Michael L.

Krenn, Black Diplomacy: African Americans and the State Department 1945-1969 (New York: M. E.

Sharpe, 1999).

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Introduction Between the formation of the Central African Federation in 1953 and its dissolution ten years later, the Labour Party maintained a continuous record of opposition to white minority rule in the Federation as a whole and in Southern Rhodesia. When the Labour Government took office in October 1964, it initially adopted a public position on the issue of Rhodesian independence that was consistent with the principles that the Party and Harold Wilson had articulated whilst in Opposition. Privately, however, Wilson and his Government were prepared to compromise the principle of immediate African majority rule in Rhodesia, which reflected their belief that this was the only realistic way that a settlement might be achieved. Negotiations with the Rhodesian Government ‘were essentially aimed at finding a formula which would enable Britain to grant independence on the basis of white minority rule but with some form of guarantee that at some future date black majority rule would be achieved.’ 1 Although the British Government remained publicly optimistic that a settlement was possible – and Wilson and his ministers expended tremendous effort in their negotiations with the Rhodesian Front – in private it was accepted that a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) was highly likely. The British Government decided at a very early stage that it would not use force to prevent or terminate a UDI. Ministers and their officials therefore became engaged in an enormously complex contingency planning operation to deal with the huge range of Clive Ponting, Breach of Promise: Labour in Power, 1964-1970 (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1989), p.


domestic and foreign consequences associated with a UDI. The effectiveness of this operation was undermined by a range of factors: the number of different committees that were involved; a tendency to defer important decisions; and bureaucratic conflict between the Foreign Office and the Commonwealth Relations Office, which reflected their

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