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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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felt that it tended to complicate U.S. relations with Europe. 7 As discussed in the previous chapter, he felt that Rhodesia was a British problem and wanted to limit U.S.

involvement. 8 Ball enjoyed the loyalty of an extensive cadre of policymakers in several bureaus of the State Department, Johnson and Rusk trusted his judgment, and he was at the heart of policymaking on several key foreign policy issues (though he eventually resigned because he disagreed with Vietnam policy). 9 Ball’s pervasive influence was therefore a serious obstacle to those who wished to implement a more active U.S. policy on Rhodesia.

The attitudes of the two most senior figures within the State Department clashed with those of several subordinates. The most vocal proponents of a more active U.S. policy were found in the Bureau of African Affairs. G. Mennen Williams had been appointed Assistant Secretary of State by President Kennedy as a demonstration of the President’s interest in African affairs, and it did not take Williams long to draw public attention to the administration’s position. During a visit to East Africa in February 1961, a reporter in Nairobi asked Williams about U.S. policy towards Africa. Williams said: ‘What we want I am grateful to Dr. Andrew Priest, University of Wales, Aberystwyth, for this analysis. In his memoirs, Ball wrote: ‘so long as the peoples of Europe remained emotionally and politically locked up within tight national borders, they would be unable to participate effectively in affairs outside their narrow parishes.’ The Past has another Pattern: Memoirs (New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1982), p. 82. It has been suggested that Ball cannot be easily placed within the factions of the U.S. bureaucracy, as James A. Bill has observed: ‘Ball was neither strictly a Third Worlder nor a Europeanist. Although his experience would seem to have placed him in the Europeanist camp, some analysts considered him a Third Worlder/Africanist.’ George Ball: Behind the Scenes in U. S. Foreign Policy (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), p. 140.

See above, Ch. 6, passim.

Bill, George Ball, pp. 68-75.

for Africa is what Africans want for themselves.’ The resulting headline – ‘Soapy Says Africa for the Africans’ – raised eyebrows in the United States and the United Kingdom. 10 Williams and his deputy, J. Wayne Fredericks, were both deeply committed to the principle of majority rule in Rhodesia, and it has been suggested that this damaged their credibility within the bureaucracy. 11 However, their position was based on more than principle. In his statement to the House Appropriations Committee on the Foreign

Assistance Act of 1965, Williams observed that:

–  –  –

[Agency for International Development] program is to help African countries become politically stable and economically viable, so they can maintain their own independence and resist Communist efforts at

–  –  –

Kennedy defended Williams, saying that it ‘does not seem to me to be a very unreasonable statement … I do not know who else Africa should be for.’ Williams explained that in his view the term ‘African’ was inclusive and did not refer to any particular race or colour. G. Mennen Williams, Africa for the Africans (Grand Rapids: Williams B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1969), p. 159. See also Noer, Soapy, Chapter VI, ‘Africa for the Africans. Williams and the New Frontier, 1961-63’, pp. 223-69.

Lake, The ‘Tar Baby’ Option, p. 65. This issue is given further consideration below; see, ‘Neither welcome nor effective: explaining the limited influence of G. Mennen Williams and the Bureau of African Affairs’, pp. 371 ff.

Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, [hereafter, BHL]: G. Mennen Williams Papers [hereafter, Williams Papers], Undersecretary of State for African Affairs, Administrative Materials 1961-1966, ‘Congressional Hearings 1961-1965’, Box 7-N, ‘Statement of the Honorable G.

Mennen Williams, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Before the House Appropriations Committee on the Foreign Assistance Act of 1965’, [n.d.].

The Bureau of African Affairs repeated this strategic concern many times, but Johnson, Rusk, and Ball thought that it was exaggerated, and tended to be dismissive of warnings about Communist activities in Africa. The Bureau of African Affairs, however, was by no means isolated in its policy stance on Africa in general or the Rhodesian issue in particular. The United States Mission to the United Nations supported a tough line against Rhodesia because it was responsible for defending America’s international position in an arena where African votes and rhetoric could not be ignored. The Bureau of International Organization Affairs shared these concerns about the image of the United States, and the Bureau of African Affairs also drew support from elements within the Office of the Legal Adviser and the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. 13 By far the most important allies of the Bureau of African Affairs, however, were the staff on the National Security Council (NSC). Reporting to the National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy was Deputy Assistant Robert Komer, a former CIA analyst who was, inter alia, in charge of African affairs. Komer was sympathetic to Williams and Fredericks because he ‘had long held the view that independence throughout Africa was inevitable and that the United States should do what it could to identify itself with anticolonialism.’ 14 Although Komer did not always agree with the tactics that the Bureau of African Affairs used to advance its views, or with its emphasis on aid as an instrument of U.S. policy, he often counselled against what he regarded as the excessively cautious approach of George Ball to U.S. policy on Rhodesia. 15 However, there were limits to what Komer could achieve.

Lake, The ‘Tar Baby’ Option, pp. 66-7.

Ibid., p. 67.

Lyndon Baines Johnson Library, Austin, Texas [hereafter, LBJL]: National Security File [hereafter, NSF], Rhodesia Country File, Box 97, ‘Memos and Misc., 12/63-1/66’, Komer to Bundy, 2 November 1965, for Komer’s reaction to a suspected leak from the Bureau of African Affairs to the media.


NSF, Name File, Box 6, ‘Komer Memos’, Vol. II (1), Komer to the President, 19 June 1965, for Komer’s Lake notes that during the early phase of the Rhodesian problem, Komer sometimes acted on proposals from the Bureau of African Affairs without obtaining higher authority from Rusk or one of the Under Secretaries, but President Johnson curbed this tendency towards unilateral action in early 1964. 16 In between the advocates of a forthright approach to the Rhodesian problem and those who sought to marginalise them, were the Department of Commerce, the Treasury, and the Department of Defense. The Department of Commerce took the view that U.S.

investment in, and trade with, southern Africa was important in terms of the balance of payments and should not, therefore, be jeopardised. There was no threat from African nations to boycott trade if the United States did not take stronger measures against the white regimes in southern Africa and it was argued that the only immediate threat to U.S.

business interests was from the white regimes if the U.S. Government intervened against them too actively. The Treasury concurred with this analysis and also wanted to prevent any policy that might damage relations with South Africa and disrupt its role in the supply of gold to the international monetary system. 17 The Defense Department wanted to protect advantages that the U.S. military enjoyed in South Africa, and to maintain good relations with Portugal to avoid jeopardising its use of the strategically significant Azores base. NASA also opposed any policy that might threaten its tracking station in South

Africa. Lake observes that:

views on aid policy. For Komer’s advocacy of a more interventionist policy to prevent UDI, see Komer to Johnson, 29 September 1965, Foreign Relations of the United States 1964-68, Vol. XXIV, Africa [hereafter FRUS], (Washington D.C.: United States Government Printing Office for the Department of State, 1999), p.


Lake, The ‘Tar Baby’ Option, p. 67.

Ibid., p. 68.

These agencies had a far less important stake in Rhodesia, however, than they did in South Africa. While they therefore often found themselves at loggerheads with the State Department’s African bureau over American policy toward the latter, they did not weigh in so heavily on the American

–  –  –

Nevertheless, with so many different departments and agencies protecting or advancing their interests, the chances that Williams and the Bureau of African Affairs would prevail

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consequence of the bureaucratic conflict was that U.S. policy was slow to emerge.

Williams explained this not in terms of delays resulting from ‘vertical clearance’ (the need for approval from higher authority) but rather as a problem of ‘horizontal clearance’;

i.e., delays resulting from co-ordination of policy within the State Department and between the State Department and other government departments. 19 This can be demonstrated by an examination of the issues involved in U.S. policy and contingency planning prior to Rhodesia’s UDI.

Bureaucratic conflict and the making of U.S. Rhodesia policy, 1964-65 During 1964 and 1965 the Johnson administration gave consideration to two related issues, both of which caused considerable conflict within the bureaucracy. The first was what kind of support the United States could give to Britain’s efforts to deter Rhodesia from a UDI; the second was what action the United States could take to protect Zambian Ibid., pp. 68-69.

Williams, Africa for the Africans, pp. 164-65.

copper production in the event of economic warfare between Rhodesia and Zambia after a UDI occurred. The bureaucratic conflict intensified in the wake of UDI, but the influence of G. Mennen Williams and the Bureau of African Affairs diminished rapidly after George Ball took steps to gain control of the policy process.

The question of support for Britain Throughout 1965 the State Department and the National Security Council kept a watchful eye on developments in Rhodesia, and its negotiations with Britain. The NSC and Bureau of African Affairs argued that the U.S. Government could have strengthened its support of the British Government by exerting greater diplomatic pressure on Rhodesia. There is evidence, however, that their efforts were weakened by a failure to coordinate their recommendations. This allowed George Ball, who was critical and suspicious of Britain’s handling of the Rhodesian crisis, to avoid greater U.S. involvement.

By April 1965, NSC staffers were becoming increasingly concerned about developments in Rhodesia, and were trying to develop an interventionist strategy. A junior analyst on the NSC staff, Rick Haynes, pointed out to Robert Komer that there had been no ‘direct, high level’ U.S. approach to the Rhodesian Government. Haynes suggested that Averell Harriman was ideally suited to such a mission because he was ‘awfully good at scolding wayward Chiefs of State as a result of his acknowledged, world-wide reputation as an elder statesman.’ Haynes also observed, ‘such a trip could be attributed to the President’s desire to strengthen the peace-keeping aspect of US foreign policy.’ 20 Komer took up the

proposal with Williams:

‘Soapy’, its becoming more and more apparent that our position on the Rhodesian problem is (a) gaining us no friends in independent Africa and (b) doing nothing to discourage or delay UDI. Granted, the U.S. has little leverage in this situation. However, it seems to me we’re not using what

–  –  –

Komer suggested that if Harriman visited Salisbury after the Rhodesian elections on May 7, 1965 it could gain the United States ‘brownie points’ with the Africans and might dampen the enthusiasm of the Rhodesian Government for a UDI. 22 It is not clear from the archives what happened to the NSC proposal for a troubleshooting visit, but the Bureau of African Affairs may have sidelined the initiative during its preparations for the African Chiefs of Mission Conference convened to consider a ‘New Policy For Africa.’ 23 The NSC staff were also concerned that the Bureau of African Affairs was suffering from LBJL: NSF, Files of Edward K. Hamilton, Box 3, Memorandum, Haynes to Komer, 19 April 1965.

Emphasis in the original.

LBJL: NSF, Files of Edward K. Hamilton, Box 3, Memorandum, Komer to Williams, 28 April 1965.


Williams carried out the review at Johnson’s request. BHL: Williams Papers, State Department Files, Microfilm Edition, Series I, ‘Correspondence’, Reel 4, Henry Tasca, Acting Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, to Senator Long, 27 May 1965. Haynes considered the review a qualified success. He noted that it provided a feel for the political and economic climate in African states and broke down the parochialism of many U.S. Ambassadors who tended to see U.S. foreign policy only in terms of their countries of assignment. However, the conferences did not generate significant new ideas. LBJL: NSF, Files of Ulric Haynes, Box 1, Memorandum, Haynes to Bundy, 5 June 1965.

inertia as a result of Williams’ recent extended absences to make speeches. In June, Haynes advised Bundy that he had met with one of the President’s special assistants, Bill

Moyers, to obtain Johnson’s thinking on African affairs. Haynes reported that:

Bill urged that we light the fires under AF [Bureau of African Affairs] to get them to move forward with more preventive diplomacy to avert crises.

He advised that where State seems to be falling short in protecting and advancing the President’s interests in Africa, the NSC staff should not be

–  –  –

However, the criticism levelled at Williams was unfair, as he was at this time extremely active on African policy and Rhodesia. In June 1965 Williams put forward a very convincing rationale for a presidential visit to Africa. He argued that such a visit would counter African (and African-American) perceptions that the United States accorded a low priority to African affairs, and establish a level of trust that could allow the State

–  –  –

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