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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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possibility the administration could see would be action pursuant to a resolution by the United Nations Security Council under Article 41 of the Charter. As far as the Zambian contingency plans were concerned, Secretary of State Rusk and Secretary of Defense McNamara expressed a preference for maximising use of railway routes rather than airlift supplies in and copper out of Zambia, but if an airlift became necessary, civil rather than military aircraft should be used. 48 Stewart’s report of the outcome of the Washington talks was therefore pessimistic. 49 It also did not go unnoticed in London that some of the information the British delegation had provided to the Americans regarding British contingency plans was incorrect. 50 It is significant that even when discussions were conducted at a high level, the Americans left the talks without accurate information about British contingency plans and the British failed to obtain any assurance that the United States intended to assist in the implementation of those plans. The British Government’s In December 1965 the British Government imposed an oil embargo on Rhodesia and the Rhodesian Government terminated supplies to Zambia. Britain and the United States arranged an airlift that enabled the Zambian copper industry to continue functioning. The U.S. Government contracted the Lockheed Corporation to fly copper out of the country, whilst TransWorld Airlines and Pan-American Airlines were contracted to deliver oil and petroleum products. Between January and April 1966 they delivered 68,921 barrels containing 3.6 million gallons of oil. In 1968 a pipeline was completed between Dar Es Salaam and the copperbelt, which ended the Zambian dilemma. Noer, Cold War and Black Liberation, 204-05; and DeRoche, Black, White and Chrome, pp. 127-28.

TNA: PRO, DO 183/619, Dean to Foreign Office, Cable No. 2585, 11 October 1965. Stewart advised: ‘I am bound to say that the American response was not very reassuring. Mr Rusk and Mr Ball were unable to give me any general assurance (which is understandable in that they will no doubt have to consult the President).’ TNA: PRO, DO 183/619, Sir Arthur Snelling, CRO, to Private Secretary, Foreign Office, 13 October

1965. Snelling pointed out that the British Government had not decided to ‘cut off all trade’ with Rhodesia in the event of a UDI.

confidence in the Johnson administration was also shaken by Washington’s apparent reluctance to support Britain’s efforts to prevent a UDI.

U.S. diplomatic support for Britain Throughout 1965 the U.S. Government kept a watchful eye on developments in Rhodesia, and on negotiations between Harold Wilson and Ian Smith. In its bilateral relations with the Rhodesian Government the U.S. Government made a number of efforts to dissuade Smith from moving towards a UDI, though the Rhodesian Front struggled to understand why the United States supported the British position and resented U.S. interference in Rhodesia’s affairs. As the negotiations between the British and Rhodesian governments entered a critical phase, Wilson hoped that American pressure would exert a restraining influence on Rhodesia, but he discerned a degree of reticence in the U.S. Government that he felt was not in keeping with the special relationship. Wilson failed to appreciate, however, that the U.S. Government was not terribly well placed to discharge the deterrent role that the he assigned to it.

In April 1965 the U.S. Representative on the United Nations Human Rights Commission, Marietta P. Tree, made an unequivocal statement on Rhodesia, in which she castigated the Rhodesian Government for its oppressive practices and refusal to move away from minority rule. She expressed support for British policy and emphasised the responsibility of the British Government for bringing Rhodesia to independence. She made clear the American view that ‘the answer to the painful problems in Southern Rhodesia is not immediate independence.’ 51 This statement was prompted by Rhodesian failure to comprehend that the Americans were squarely behind the British. The State Department thought that the Rhodesian Government ought to have been convinced of this when the U.S. Government refused a Rhodesian request to purchase some military aircraft. 52 However, Salisbury protested the U.S. refusal in ‘exaggerated and derogatory terms.’53 The State Department was incensed by the ‘insulting, offensive’ protest, and told the British Embassy that the U.S. Government was reluctant to receive the new Rhodesian Minister in Washington, Air Vice Marshal Bentley. 54 The poor state of bilateral relations between the United States and Rhodesia was exacerbated by a speech given by G.

Mennen Williams, the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, in which he stated

unequivocally the position of the United States:

–  –  –

LBJL: NSF, Files of Edward K. Hamilton, Box 3, ‘Statement of Ambassador Marietta P. Tree to the United Nations Committee of Twenty Four’, 14 April 1965.

ANZ: ABHS 950, W4627, 245/8/3, Part 11, G. R. Laking, New Zealand Ambassador, Washington, to Secretary of External Affairs, Wellington, 13 May 1965.

LBJL: NSF, Files of Edward K. Hamilton, Box 3, McClelland to State Department, 16 April 1965.

LBJL: NSF, UK Country File, Box 207, ‘Cables Vol. III 2/65–4/65’, Rusk to Kaiser, Cable No. 6875, 28 April 1965.





British officials reported that the speech had little impact in Salisbury. 56 It did, however, make relations difficult between Bentley and Williams. At their first meeting Williams ‘launched out on a sharp … and rather heavy footed denunciation of the Rhodesian Government and all its works’ and annoyed Bentley by his reference to African politicians being ‘in prison’ instead of ‘under restriction’. Williams urged the Rhodesian Government to show some willingness to start a dialogue with the African leaders, to which Bentley replied that his Government was ready but the Africans were not willing to conduct such a dialogue on any reasonable terms. Bentley also suggested that the United

States might practice what it preached vis-à-vis Hanoi. The British Embassy observed:

‘On this elevated note they seem to have parted the worst of friends’ and advised it was unlikely that this particular dialogue could be pursued ‘at all fruitfully in the foreseeable future.’ 57 It was therefore evident by mid-1965 that the relationship between the Johnson administration and the Rhodesian Government had deteriorated way beyond the point where most Americans could exert any friendly influence, which meant that the United States could play almost no positive role in encouraging Rhodesia to adopt a more Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan: G. Mennen Williams Papers, State Department Files, Microfilm Edition, Series I, ‘Correspondence’, Reel 5, ‘Speech to the Chicago Chapter of the American Federal Bar Association’, 15 June 1965.

TNA: PRO, DO 183/691, ‘American Attitude to a UDI’ (Extract), Salisbury F.S. No. 13 (65), Part II, 23 June 1965.

TNA: PRO, FO 371/181873, Killick to Le Quesne, WCAD, Foreign Office, 1 July 1965.

flexible position in its negotiations with Britain. 58 Nevertheless, the National Security Council (NSC) remained hopeful that the U.S. Government might ‘be able to help at least marginally to forestall UDI.’ 59 Prior to Ian Smith’s departure for talks in London, the State Department instructed its Consul General in Salisbury to deliver an oral statement advising the Rhodesian Prime Minister that ‘it would be a grievous error to assume that the United States could in any way condone an attempt of the Government of S[outhern] Rhodesia by unilateral action to deal with such important issues as are involved in the discussions which concern the future of your country.’ 60 However, Sir Saville Garner blocked this message because he thought that it would antagonise Smith. Garner argued that since the ostensible purpose of Smith’s visit to London was to reach agreement with the British Government, it would be a mistake to deliver a message that assumed he would fail to do so. The State Department yielded to Garner’s advice and Consul General McClelland was instructed to tone down his message to simply indicate American concern and express hope that a solution would be found. 61 This is significant, because it Former Secretary of State Dean Acheson was ‘Smith’s most famous champion in the United States’.

After UDI he opposed the Johnson administration’s policy of sanctions against Rhodesia and supported Rhodesia’s claim for independence until his death in 1971. DeRoche, Black, White and Chrome, pp. 147 and 151. See also Thomas Borstelmann, The Cold War and the Color Line: American race relations in the global arena (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001), p. 197. The position that Acheson took after UDI suggests that he would not have been an ideal emissary before UDI because he was proRhodesian.

Memorandum, Komer to the President, 29 September 1965, FRUS, p. 807.

Ball to McClelland, 29 September 1965, FRUS, p. 808.

FRUS, p. 808, note 3. Smith responded that he considered it ‘ironic’ that the British Government was appealing to the U.S. Government for assistance, alluding to the fact that it had itself established its independence by rebellion against the Crown. He asserted that the Rhodesian Government did not intend to do anything ‘rash or irresponsible’, but it was his duty to prevent Rhodesia from becoming infiltrated by indicates that the State Department was willing to adopt a firmer deterrent line towards Rhodesia than CRO officials were prepared to countenance.

Further evidence of divergent thinking in London and Washington emerged shortly before Smith arrived in London. Wilson wrote to Johnson indicating his pessimism about the forthcoming talks and suggesting that once they broke down the President could ‘approach Smith in whatever way you think best calculated to bring home to him the gravity of the step which he is apparently contemplating.’ 62 Ulric Haynes, a junior member of staff on the NSC, argued that Wilson’s request for a presidential message to Smith after the breakdown of negotiations was a bad strategy: ‘From the point of view of U.S. interests, our deterrent efforts should be aimed at encouraging a UK-Rhodesian accommodation before the break-down. The minute the break-down occurs, the UDI ball bounces out of the UK court where assorted players like the Afro-Asians and Communists are waiting to take a swing at it.’ 63 However, George Ball was extremely resistant to the idea of presidential involvement in the Rhodesian Crisis. He told National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy that the U.S. position should be to follow the British lead, so that if there was a ‘blowup’ the British would not be able to turn on the U.S.

Government. Although Bundy was also opposed to presidential involvement, he felt that ‘For Smith to go to London with the idea that the Americans don’t give a damn is a mistake’”. Bundy and Ball therefore agreed that an approach should be made, but this Communists. To that end the Rhodesian Government would if necessary take extreme measures and Smith hoped that the U.S. Government would refrain from interfering in the situation. He also warned that if sanctions were imposed on Rhodesia then the effects would be felt in Zambia and Malawi. McClelland to State Department, Cable No. 163, 2 October 1965, FRUS, p. 811.

Ball to Rusk, New York, Cable No. 53, 2 October 1965, FRUS, p. 814.

LBJL: NSF, Files of Ulric Haynes, Box 1, Memorandum, Haynes to Bundy, 2 October 1965.

should not be presented as coming directly from the President. 64 Accordingly, Ball instructed the U.S. Embassy in London to advise Ian Smith that: ‘The United States Government does not intend to deviate from its course of strong support for Her Majesty’s Government’s position now and – if it occurs – after a unilateral declaration of independence.’ 65 The U.S. Government was therefore steering a middle course, trying to meet British expectations of support without becoming too deeply involved in the Rhodesian Crisis.

The London talks broke down as Wilson had predicted, but he planned to fly to Salisbury in late October in a last effort to avert a UDI. At this juncture some officials within the State Department felt that the British Government should stiffen its resolve to take drastic retaliatory action against Rhodesia if a UDI did occur, including ‘a total embargo, supported by the Commonwealth, and the props knocked out from under the Rhodesian pound,’ which was somewhat at variance with the earlier emphasis on a cautious approach so as not to endanger the Zambian economy. 66 Ironically, the British Memorandum of Telephone Conversation, 5 October 1965, FRUS, p. 816.

Ball to Kaiser, Cable No. 1790, 6 October 1965, FRUS, 819-20. Smith replied that the Rhodesian Government was approaching the negotiations ‘in a spirit of goodwill and conciliation’ but asserted that it had the support of both Europeans and Africans for independence on the basis of the 1961 Constitution. He went on to state: ‘The Rhodesian Government would be failing in their duty not only to themselves but to the ordinary people of the country and to the cause of Western civilisation on the continent of Africa’ if they conceded to immediate majority rule. Kaiser to State Department, Cable No. 1569, 9 October 1965, FRUS, p. 821.

ANZ, Wellington: ABHS 950, W4627, 245/8/3, Part 13, Box 4170, Totara, Washington, to Secretary of External Affairs, Wellington, Cable No. 648, 2 October 1965. Totara reported that Edward Mulcahy, Deputy Director, Office of Eastern and Southern African Affairs, had expressed these views to the staff of the New Zealand Embassy.



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