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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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support for Britain and warning the Rhodesians of the dire consequences of unilateral action. Yet this vague hope was unrealistic, as the state of relations between the United States and Rhodesia was not much better than the relationship between Britain and Rhodesia. Moreover, U.S. trade with Rhodesia was relatively insignificant, so the Rhodesian Government was not greatly influenced by the prospect of American sanctions. A further cause of disappointment in London was that the British Government hoped (despite its protestations to the contrary) that the U.S. Government would offset some of the financial burden that Britain faced as a result of economic sanctions against Rhodesia and the Zambia rescue operation. This misconception probably originated as a result of the massive assistance provided by the U.S. Government to defend sterling shortly after Wilson came to power. 113 Thus, British policy-makers ‘perceived what they projected’ and in doing so ‘they set the stage for their own disappointment and its aftermath in paranoid reactions.’ 114 Yet the same is true of policy-makers in Washington, who failed to perceive accurately the reasons for British prevarication on the Rhodesian issue and became frustrated by their indecision. Wilson managed the Rhodesian problem in Cabinet sub-committees to avoid dissent in the full Cabinet, which is an important reason why so few authoritative decisions were taken before UDI. 115 The division of responsibility between the Foreign Office and Commonwealth Relations Office also compounded British procrastination, though the U.S. administration was more aware of The U.S. Government provided a $3 billion currency package to end speculation against the pound.

LBJL: NSF, UK Country File, Box 213, ‘Off-the-Record Meeting of the President With Prime Minister Wilson’, Memorandum of Conversation, 7 December 1964. The sensitivity of the meeting is clear from the minutes, which record: ‘It was agreed to begin with that this was a meeting which never occurred.’ Neustadt, Alliance Politics, p. 69.

Crossman wrote: ‘quite elaborate contingency plans for action existed but nobody wanted to reveal what they were’. Diaries of a Cabinet Minister, Vol. 1, p. 344, entry for 8 October 1965.

the problems that this created in respect of Rhodesian policy. However, there is clearly some validity in Neustadt’s contention that disappointed expectations can be explained by the failure to appreciate the differing political contexts that exist in London and Washington. 116 In his analysis of the Suez and Skybolt crises Neustadt contended that Anglo-American friendship contributed to unquestioned expectations of mutual support, and when such expectations were disappointed it resulted in paranoid reactions on both sides. This contention is also supported by an examination of the Rhodesian Crisis, in which fears about abandonment and entrapment permeated governments in London and Washington.

In this analysis, the concept of ‘the secondary alliance dilemma’ is extremely useful. 117 Glenn Snyder has observed that the alliance security dilemma has two phases. In the primary phase the dilemma is whether or not to form an alliance in order to achieve greater security, but in the secondary phase the dilemma involves the extent of support to be given to an ally in a conflict situation. In the secondary phase the fear of being

abandoned by one’s ally is always present and abandonment may take a variety of forms:

diplomatic realignment, abrogation of the alliance contract, failure to make good on explicit commitments, or failure to provide support in contingencies where support is expected. 118 In the Rhodesian Crisis, the British Government obviously feared the last scenario, as evidenced by Harold Wilson’s pessimism over U.S. commitment to economic sanctions in October 1965. Also characteristic of the secondary phase of the alliance Neustadt, Alliance Politics, p. 69.

Glenn H. Snyder, ‘The Security Dilemma in Alliance Politics’, World Politics, Vol. XXXVI, No. 4 (July

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security dilemma is fear of entrapment, which means ‘being dragged into a conflict over an ally’s interests that one does not share, or shares only partially.’ 119 Clearly, this was what concerned the U.S. Government throughout 1965, as indicated by George Ball’s anxiousness not to be ‘pushed out in front’ on the Rhodesian issue. 120 Conclusion This chapter has focused upon a relatively neglected area of historical research, demonstrating that attempts to co-ordinate policy on the Rhodesian issue were a significant feature of Anglo-American relations in the Wilson-Johnson era. To be sure, British and American interests were asymmetrical; Britain had far more to lose as a result of a UDI than the United States. Nevertheless, the U.S. Government considered it essential to support the British throughout the period of their negotiations with the Rhodesians, but without becoming too deeply involved in the Crisis. As Anthony Lake has commented, ‘Their approach was to find and follow the course of least resistance.’121 The United States established a policy very early on of following the British lead, which constituted an unusual departure from the normal pattern of relations between the two states. However, this depended upon effective consultation and co-ordinated action, which was sorely lacking primarily as a result of structural weaknesses and bureaucratic conflict on both sides. The Rhodesian Crisis therefore gave rise to mutual fears of Ibid., p. 467.

After UDI Harold Wilson was enthusiastic about the possible appointment of a State Department coordinator on the Rhodesian problem. Ball told Bundy: ‘because of this we had felt we were being trapped.’ LBJL: Box 6, GB, ‘S. Rhodesia 10/2/65–5/10/66’, Memorandum of Telephone Conversation between Ball and Bundy, 29 November 1965. Cited in DeRoche, Black, White and Chrome, pp. 120-21.

Lake, The ‘Tar Baby’ Option, p. 60.

entrapment and abandonment, which exacerbated problems in the special relationship posed by thornier issues such as Vietnam. This chapter has also sought to demonstrate the principle that ‘history must be regarded as the proving ground for theory; it provides the acid test against which general propositions about political behaviour can be either verified or falsified.’ 122 The chapter has argued that although Neustadt’s analytical framework is now well over thirty years old it still retains considerable utility for comprehending the misunderstandings and frustrations within the special relationship during the Wilson-Johnson period, at least in relation to the Rhodesian Crisis. However, one case study does not of course prove the general utility of a theory, and other scholars might therefore wish to consider Neustadt’s paradigm in relation to other aspects of Anglo-American relations during the Wilson-Johnson era.

J. C. Garnett, Commonsense and the Theory of International Politics (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1984), p. 5. Quoted in Baylis, ‘The Anglo-American Relationship and Alliance Theory’, p.


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Introduction As the previous chapter has demonstrated, the Rhodesian Crisis was a significant focus of Anglo-American relations during 1964 and 1965. It also suggested that bureaucratic conflict in the U.S. Government contributed to the problems involved in Anglo-American consultation and cooperation. This chapter develops that theme in detail, by briefly outlining the bureaucratic politics model and then examining the battles fought within the Johnson administration over its Rhodesia policy. Particular attention is paid to the role 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. 1 This chapter focuses on the same policy issues discussed in the previous chapter – Gerhard Mennem Williams (1911-1988). Born in Detroit to parents Henry P. Williams and Elma Mennen. His maternal grandfather founded the Mennen Company, which manufactured toiletries, hence his nickname ‘Soapy.’ Graduated Princeton (1933) and University of Michigan Law School (1936).

Despite his family’s Republican sympathies, in 1948 he stood as a Democrat and was elected Governor of Michigan and served in that capacity until 1960, when he was appointed Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. Resigned March 1966 to campaign in Michigan for election to the Senate, but was defeated by Republican incumbent. Served as Ambassador to the Philippines, 1968-69. Elected to Michigan Supreme Court in 1970 and became Chief Justice in 1982, in which capacity he remained until mandatory retirement in 1986. See William Howard Moore, ‘Williams, G. Mennen’, in J. A. Garraty and M. C. Carnes (eds.), American National Biography, Vol. 23 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 462-64. See also Thomas J. Noer, Soapy: A Biography of G. Mennen Williams (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2005).

maintenance of the Zambian economy, and U.S. diplomatic support for Britain – but this time seeks to demonstrate how and why Williams failed to overturn the U.S.

Government’s cautious approach to, and limited involvement in, these aspects of the Rhodesian Crisis. The chapter then goes on to briefly outline the pluralist perspective of U.S. foreign policy formulation and analyses the reasons why interest groups – particularly African-American interest groups that naturally sought to exert influence in foreign policy matters involving questions of race – made little impact on the U.S.

Government’s Rhodesia policy.

The bureaucratic politics model and divisions over Rhodesia in the U.S. Government The bureaucratic politics approach to foreign policy analysis was inaugurated over thirty years ago with the publication of Graham T. Allison’s Essence of Decision. Building on the work of political scientists and organisational theorists, Allison examined U.S.

policymaking during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He refuted the ‘rational actor’ model, which posits the idea that governments are unified actors who make purposeful choices between alternative courses of action in order to best serve the national interest. Rather, Allison argued, the actions of the Kennedy administration during October 1962 were better understood not as rational choices but as resultants that emerged from ‘compromise, conflict, and confusion of officials with diverse interests and unequal influence.’ 2 According to this view, policymaking should be seen as an outcome of Graham T. Allison, Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis (Boston: Little, Brown, 1971), p. 138. Also quoted in J. Garry Clifford, ‘Bureaucratic Politics’, in Michael J. Hogan and Thomas G. Peterson (eds.), Explaining the History of American Foreign Relations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), p. 143.

conflict between competing bureaucratic factions within the government, each of which seeks to advance its own interests and interpretation of the national interest. The bureaucratic politics model tends to work well when it is applied to studies of U.S. policy because of the number of departments and executive agencies involved in the policymaking process, and their willingness to use the public arena, as Philip Darby has


Within the executive branch, under the President, the responsibility for foreign affairs is shared between the State Department, various other departments and agencies such as the Departments of Defense and Commerce, and the White House Office advisers. Perhaps inevitably, there has been a tendency for these bodies to speak publicly with different voices. It is thus of the nature of the American system that there is a fuller airing of different points of view and that positions are more often exaggerated or disguised for the purposes of bargaining than is true of

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The bureaucratic politics model lends itself very well to understanding the divisions within the U.S. Government on Rhodesia, and the making of U.S. Rhodesia policy during the mid-1960s. Anthony Lake (who served in the State Department from 1962) identified three groups in the Johnson administration with differing views on the Rhodesian problem. First, anti-Smith advocates of relatively strong American action. Second, advocates of any policy that would preserve American economic and military interests in P. Darby, Three Faces of Imperialism: British and American Approaches to Asia and Africa 1870-1970 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987), p. 145.

Africa, especially white southern Africa. And third, senior figures who had no interest in the Rhodesian problem and wished to marginalise discussion by the advocates of more active policies. 4 The last of these groups will be analysed first because its response to the Rhodesian problem conditioned the conflict over the issue within the American bureaucracy.

Within the U.S. executive branch the President is expected to give strong leadership in the field of foreign affairs. However, Lyndon Johnson began to prepare for the 1964 election almost immediately after being sworn in as President and his involvement in foreign policy during his first year in office was therefore muted. 5 As noted in the previous chapter, once the President was able to focus on foreign affairs much of his attention was taken up with Vietnam. African problems generally, and the Rhodesian Crisis in particular, were not a priority for Johnson. 6 In the absence of firm presidential leadership on Rhodesian policy, several government departments and executive agencies battled to articulate their interests. The State Department was of course central to the discussion and development of U.S. policy on Rhodesia, but its views were by no means monolithic.

Secretary of State Dean Rusk was involved in discussions with British ministers about Rhodesia, but he left the issue largely in the hands of Undersecretary of State George Ball. Ball was not terribly sympathetic to the special relationship with Britain because he A. Lake, The ‘Tar Baby’ Option: American Policy Toward Southern Rhodesia (New York: Columbia University Press, 1976), pp. 64-70.

John Prados, Keepers of the Keys: A History of the National Security Council from Truman to Bush (New York: William Morrow and Co., 1991), p. 148.

See above, Ch. 6, pp. 340-41.

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