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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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however, was that Ball focused almost exclusively on the economic ramifications of UDI, particularly regarding Zambian copper. 48 DeRoche contends that Ball was concerned about the best interests of the black majorities in Zambia and Southern Africa, that he did listen to the views of African-Americans, and that G. Mennen Williams himself did not pigeonhole Ball as a ‘Europeanist.’ 49 One need not engage the question of whether Ball was a racist, although ‘the personal experiences, intellectual baggage, and psychological needs’ of policymakers may be significant determinants of the positions they take on any given issue. 50 Rather, the significant fact is that Ball and Williams had different views of the best way to protect the national interest.

Whereas Ball advocated limited liability, Williams was more inclined towards a fuller economic and political commitment in Africa.

Lake, The ‘Tar Baby’ Option, p. 82.

DeRoche, Black, White and Chrome, p. 122.

Ibid., p. 123.

John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, Oral History Interview Transcript, G. Mennen Williams, pp. 56-57.

Cited in DeRoche, Black, White and Chrome, p. 123.

Halperin, Bureaucratic Politics and Foreign Policy, p. 16.

Neither welcome nor effective: explaining the limited influence of G. Mennen Williams and the Bureau of African Affairs There are several reasons – objective and subjective – why Williams was on the losing side of the bureaucratic battle over policy towards Rhodesia. In his memoirs, Dean Rusk


Soapy Williams was one of the best Assistant Secretaries for African Affairs this country ever had. He was hardworking, knowledgeable, loyal, and always considerate, but we disagreed on the role the United States should play in Africa. Naturally he wanted us to put our best foot forward in Africa and send more foreign aid. But we were pinched for funds, and

–  –  –

Rusk’s emphasis on the limited availability of funds to support a more active U.S. policy in Africa partly explains why the views of Williams and the Bureau of African Affairs did not prevail. In 1962, Agency for International Development funds stood at $312 million,

–  –  –

background it is not surprising that Williams failed to secure American involvement in building the Tanzania-Zambia railroad. However, it is necessary to go beyond objective factors such as finance. As J. Garry Clifford has commented: ‘In its emphasis on individual values and tugging and hauling by key players, bureaucratic politics makes D. Rusk, As I Saw It (New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1990), p. 274.

DeRoche, Black, White and Chrome, p. 97.

personality and cognitive processes crucial to understanding who wins and why.’ 53 A

variety of factors determine the degree of influence exerted by policymakers, including:

temperament; bureaucratic skill; ability to mobilise outside support; and, most importantly, relations with the President. 54 When asked by a former colleague in the State Department to identify the quality that was essential in an effective Secretary of State, Dean Acheson is said to have replied without hesitation: ‘The killer instinct.’ 55 Acheson was referring not to the Secretary of State’s dealings with foreign governments, but to his relationship with other officials. Waldemar Nielsen has commented that Williams was not temperamentally suited to the bureaucratic policy process, which consequently diminished his influence: ‘Assistant Secretary Williams, who swung an effective broadsword in the area of general salesmanship and political speech-making, had neither the taste not the talent for the fine épée work required in day-to-day internal staff debate.’ 56 According to Anthony Lake, although Wayne Fredericks exhibited greater persistence than Williams, his effectiveness was undermined by the fact that he had ‘gained a reputation for committing one of the most terrible bureaucratic gaffes: He made no secret of his beliefs, and treated foreign policy problems as something more than technical issues.’ 57 Perhaps, therefore, the overt policy emphasis in the Bureau of African Affairs on principles of racial equality and democracy tended to run against the culture of the State Department.

Clifford, ‘Bureaucratic Politics’, p. 150.

Halperin, Bureaucratic Politics and Foreign Policy, pp. 219-32.

Joseph Kraft, Profiles in Power: A Washington Insight (New York: New American Library, 1966), p.

178. Quoted in Halperin, Bureaucratic Politics and Foreign Policy, p. 222.

W. Nielsen, The Great Powers and Africa (New York: Praeger, 1969), p. 293.

Lake, The ‘Tar Baby’ Option, p. 65.

Influence is also determined by the range of skills wielded by the bureaucrat, which includes the ability to write concise, persuasive briefs. Williams was adept at making his case on paper, as shown by his contribution to the debate over U.S. involvement in the Tanzania-Zambia railroad project, and his forceful advocacy of a presidential visit to Africa. In other respects, however, Williams was less effective. A crucial skill that Williams lacked or neglected is ‘knowing whom to call in a particular agency, because that individual is likely to favor what one wants done and can exert the necessary influence.’ 58 The documentary evidence suggests that Williams failed to coordinate his policy initiatives sufficiently closely with the staff on the NSC and other sections of the bureaucracy sympathetic to the position of the Bureau of African Affairs. Indeed, NSC staff formed the impression that Williams was inactive, even though he was in fact consistently engaged with major issues such as the Rhodesian problem.

Morton Halperin, a prominent bureaucratic politics theorist, has noted: ‘A major form of influence within the bureaucracy is the ability to mobilize the support of influential groups outside the executive branch.’ 59 Among the most significant groups are leading congressmen and senators and interest groups whose support the President needs.

Nielsen has commented that Williams ‘became the target of a sustained barrage of criticism by Republicans in Congress, much of the press, and certain influential Democrats outside the Administration.’ 60 This was no doubt due to the sensitive correlation between U.S. policy towards southern Africa and the domestic civil rights Halperin, Bureaucratic Politics and Foreign Policy, p. 228.

Ibid., p. 230.

Nielsen, The Great Powers and Africa, p. 293.

issue in the 1960s. The Bureau of African Affairs was conscious of and sympathetic to the activities of pressure groups such as the American Negro Leadership Conference on Africa (ANLCA). In June 1963, Williams encouraged Rusk to address an ANLCAsponsored dinner in New York, arguing that it would ‘lend renewed dignity to the efforts of both white and black groups to focus on national issues on which all can cooperate.’61 However, Williams’ advocacy on behalf of the ANLCA brought him no additional influence within the administration because the President and senior advisers were hostile towards the development of a distinct African-American voice in U.S. foreign policy. 62 Similarly, the fact that Williams cultivated close links with Senator Robert Kennedy was unhelpful to Williams because of the open antipathy between Kennedy and Johnson. 63 Halperin has acknowledged: ‘The single most important determinant of the influence of any senior official is his relationship with the President.’ 64 Williams acknowledged this fact when he recalled: ‘We had to go to the top many times … Some of them we won, some of them we lost.’ 65 The most significant reasons for the limited influence of the Bureau of African Affairs is that other factions in the bureaucracy exacerbated and BHL: Williams Papers, State Department Files, Microfilm Edition, Series I, ‘Correspondence’, Reel 5, Williams to Rusk, 7 June 1963. On that occasion Rusk declined, but he did address the organisation in September 1964, as noted below.

See below, pp. 385-87.

Williams sent Kennedy regular briefings on African affairs. BHL: Williams Papers, State Department Files, Microfilm Edition, Series I, ‘Correspondence’, Reel 5. For the conflict between Kennedy and Johnson, see J. Shesol, Mutual Contempt. Lyndon Johnson, Robert Kennedy, and the Feud That Defined a Decade (New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1997).

Halperin, Bureaucratic Politics and Foreign Policy, p. 219.

LBJL: Oral History Interview Transcript, G. Mennen Williams, 8 March 1974, p. 17.

exploited the weak personal relationship between Williams and Johnson, which had been clouded as a result of events at the 1960 Democratic Convention in Los Angeles.

Williams and the liberal wing of the Democratic Party were not sympathetic to Johnson running with John F. Kennedy because they felt (mistakenly, as it turned out) that Johnson was weak on civil rights. Robert Kennedy told Johnson that JFK wanted him on the ticket but warned him ‘Mennen Williams will raise hell,’ to which Johnson responded: ‘Piss on Mennen Williams!’ 66 Johnson was well known for his tendency to lash out when he felt injured, so the sentiment behind such language was probably not reserved for Williams. On the other hand, Williams’s outspoken opposition to Johnson in 1960 was a significant matter in Democratic Party politics. Helen Berthelot, Williams’s

campaign manager, has suggested it probably had a lasting impact:

A picture which was to cloud Mennen’s political future for many years

–  –  –

Transcript of interview conducted by Harry Middleton and Robert Hardesty, 19 August 1969. Quoted in Michael Beschloss, Reaching For Glory: Lyndon Johnson’s Secret White House Tapes 1964-1965 (New

York: Simon and Schuster, 2001), p. 442. Johnson, of course, put it somewhat differently in his memoirs:

‘I told Bobby that I appreciated his concern, but that his information did not greatly surprise me.’ The Vantage Point: Perspectives of the Presidency 1963-1969 (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1972), p. 92.

H. W. Berthelot, Win Some Lose Some: G. Mennen Williams and the New Democrats (Detroit: Wayne

State University Press, 1995), pp. 214-15. This incident is also described in Thomas J. Noer, ‘Phone Rage:

LBJ, Averell Harriman, and G. Mennen Williams,’ Passport: The Newsletter of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, Vol. 35, Issue 3 (December 2004), p. 42; and idem, Soapy, pp. v-vi.

Many in Washington assumed that when Johnson became President he would push Williams out of office, but surprisingly he did not do so. Williams recalled that soon after he was sworn in, the new President called Williams in and told him: ‘Now, Mennen, I want you to know that you’re going to be as welcome and as effective in the White House as you had been with Kennedy.’ 68 Johnson reassured Williams: ‘We’ve pulled down the curtain on Los Angeles that night. We’re a team.’ 69 However, other members of the administration quickly demolished the bridges that Johnson had built, publicly undermining Williams’s position. When Averell Harriman was appointed ambassador at large in April 1964, with special responsibility for Africa, he gave the press the impression that Williams had been demoted. Johnson was outraged by Harriman’s comments and ordered Press Secretary George Reedy to counter the humiliation that had been inflicted on Williams. Johnson also ordered Rusk to tell Harriman to put the press

straight and apologise to Williams. However, as Thomas J. Noer has commented:

‘Despite Johnson’s public relations efforts, the damage had been done. The Harriman appointment began a gradual erosion of Williams’ direct influence on diplomacy and foiled his attempts to make Africa a major priority in U.S. foreign policy.’ 70 Perceptions in Washington of the personal relationship between Williams and Johnson offer a convincing reason why Williams’s influence diminished once Johnson became President. This was compounded by the President’s lack of interest in African affairs, which was publicly known. When an article about this appeared in the Washington Post Ibid., pp. 20-21.

LBJL: White House Telephone Conversations, K6312.01, Lyndon B. Johnson and G. Mennen Williams, 2 December 1964. Quoted in Noer, ‘Phone Rage,’ Passport, p. 42, and idem, Soapy, p. 275.

Noer, “Phone Rage,” Passport, p. 43. See also idem, Soapy, pp. 278-80.

on April 4, 1965 Haynes wrote to Komer: ‘As for “Soapy”, it only serves to compound his already precarious position.’ 71 Against this background, and with a following in Michigan impatient for his return to state politics, it is not surprising that Williams resigned from the Johnson administration in March 1966. 72 Ironically, two months later Johnson made his only presidential speech on African affairs. On May 26, 1966 he told the ambassadors of the Organisation of African Unity that the United States was with them ‘heart and soul’ as they struggled to establish racial equality, and he criticised the racial policies of the illegal Rhodesian regime. Johnson made the speech partly to gain favour with African states and civil rights groups in the United States, but it chiefly reflected his concern to deflect attention from Robert Kennedy’s forthcoming visit to Africa. 73 Johnson’s short-term politicking contrasted sharply with the strategic and principled thinking that Williams had demonstrated whilst he was in office and which he highlighted in his memoirs. Reflecting on his time in office, he wrote that the national interest was a reasonable basis on which to formulate foreign policy but it sometimes obscured ‘the equally honest motivation of a desire to help fellow human beings who need help, and to make a better world.’ 74 In the case of Rhodesia, however, the weight of LBJL: NSF, Files of Ulric Haynes, Box 1, Memorandum, Haynes to Komer, 5 April 1965. The review of African policy undertaken in May 1965 was probably more of an attempt to correct the President’s negative image than a means to end speculation about Williams’ position.

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