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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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One Williams campaigner wrote: ‘We wanted him back in Michigan long before he actually returned. I don’t think his disappointments with Johnson had much to do with his resigning. He wanted to be a Senator.’ Judge Avern Cohn to author, 16 July, 2004. See Noer, Soapy, Chapter VII, ‘From Washington to Michigan to Manila. The Johnson Years, Electoral Defeat, and Ambassador to the Philippines, 1964-69’, pp. 271-311.

Lake, The ‘Tar Baby’ Option, p. 96; and Shesol, Mutual Contempt, pp. 300-01.

Williams, Africa for the Africans, pp. 6-7.

the U.S. bureaucracy did not agree with his judgment that ‘what is morally right proves to be diplomatically right as well.’ 75 Unfortunately for Williams, the notion of what was morally and diplomatically right for Rhodesia was also very vague in the minds of the U.S. public, even among those who took most interest in U.S. foreign policy and African affairs.

Pluralist influences and U.S. Rhodesian policy According to the pluralist perspective, political power in liberal democracies like Britain and the United States is widely dispersed between large numbers of individuals and groups, both inside and outside government. Consequently, pluralists argue that there is no dominant class or group in society (which separates them from Marxists and elite theorists). Rather, they suggest that groups compete to advance their sectional interests, and new groups emerge to advance new interests if such interests cannot be articulated through existing groups. 76 ‘Thus a context is set for foreign policy making in which the executive is constantly aware of and responding to a range of interests and views.’ 77 It has been suggested that in the United States the executive is particularly subject to pluralist pressures in foreign affairs, as Melvin Small has commented: ‘In few countries has public opinion played such a significant role in the development of diplomatic and Ibid., p. 7.

See, for example, Gabriel Almond, The American People and Foreign Policy (New York: Praeger, 1960);

James Rosenau, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy: An Operational Formulation (New York: Random House, 1961); and James Barber, Who Makes British Foreign Policy? (Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1976).

Barber, Who Makes British Foreign Policy?, p. 63.

military strategies as it has in the United States.’ 78 However, the term ‘public opinion’ is by no means straightforward: it certainly does not imply all members of the public.79 Public opinion might be conceived as a pyramid: at the apex is a small elite, consisting of respected national political figures and journalists, who often create public opinion; below that small segment of society is the attentive public, well-educated, well-informed, and potentially active in influencing the government and the wider public; finally, the vast majority of the public is often badly-informed and usually takes no interest in foreign affairs, unless there is a national crisis. 80 Small has observed that among the attentive public in the United States: ‘organized ethnic groups have exerted a major influence in national foreign policy debates. Ethnic political activism has been a unique problem for diplomats representing the multicultural United States.’ 81 In recent years a number of historians have examined the linkage between the domestic civil rights campaign and United States foreign policy towards southern Africa during the Cold War. 82 As Mary Melvin Small, ‘Public Opinion’, in Hogan and Paterson (eds.), Explaining the History of American Foreign Relations, p. 165.

This has already been noted in relation to the discussion of the viability of British military intervention in Rhodesia. See above, Ch. 2, pp. 145-46.

Small, ‘Public Opinion’, pp. 166-67. Almond identified four categories of ‘policy influencers’: political elites, who are elected to national public office or are party leaders; bureaucratic elites, who serve in the executive branch as a result of their expertise; communication elites, who own or control the mass media;

and interest elites, who represent powerful private groups. The American People and Foreign Policy, p.


Ibid., pp. 173-74.

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, Dudziak has noted, the problem of racism in the United States caused anxiety among Americans who asked themselves: ‘How could American democracy be a beacon during the Cold War, and a model for those struggling against Soviet oppression, if the United States itself practiced brutal discrimination against minorities within its own borders?’83 Yet although U.S. domestic and foreign policies were often linked in the minds of policymakers and those who sought to influence them, the extent of American public interest in southern Africa during the 1960s should not be overstated for two major reasons. First, white liberals in the United States quickly became disillusioned with Africa as a result of the endemic corruption and one-party rule in many newly independent states on the continent. This also coincided with rising militancy in the domestic civil rights movement, which further alienated liberal white opinion. 84 It may be argued that the lack of congressional interest in the Rhodesian Crisis before UDI was symptomatic of the disillusion among white liberals, and after UDI the handful of legislators who did express an interest were mostly pro-Rhodesian. 85 Second, AfricanAmericans considered racism in the United States and the struggle for civil rights to be more important than foreign affairs, and when domestic racism was linked to foreign Black Diplomacy: African Americans and the State Department 1945-1969 (New York: M. E. Sharpe, 1999).

Dudziak, Cold War Civil Rights, p. 3.

Borstelmann, The Cold War and the Color Line, pp. 181-82; and Terence Lyons, ‘Keeping Africa off the

Agenda’, in Warren I. Cohen and Nancy Bernkopf Tucker (eds.), Lyndon Johnson Confronts the World:

American Foreign Policy 1963-1968 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), p. 246.

Raymond Arsenault, ‘White on Chrome: Southern Congressmen and Rhodesia, 1962-1971’, Issue: A Journal of Opinion, Vol. 2, No. 4 (Winter 1972), pp. 46-49.

affairs it was usually in the context of the Vietnam War. 86 It may also be argued that when interest groups did emerge to campaign on southern African issues they suffered from a number of specific weaknesses that inhibited their ability to influence U.S. policy towards the region, as the following discussion demonstrates.

In 1953 civil rights leaders, churchmen, and liberal Democrat politicians formed the American Committee on Africa (ACOA), which by 1965 had around 16,000 members. 87 According to its Executive Secretary, the white liberal George Houser, the ACOA was founded ‘to give active, tangible support to the liberation of Africa from colonialism, racism, and other social and political diseases of the same nature’. 88 The ACOA sought to discourage all cooperation – especially in the economic sphere – between the United States and the minority regimes in southern Africa, but particularly South Africa. It provided assistance to, and publicity for, African nationalists visiting the United States and United Nations to make speeches, and provided funds for the legal defence and welfare of political prisoners and their families. 89 The ACOA cooperated with civil rights groups, such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In December 1957 they organised a ‘Day of Protest’ – led by Eleanor Roosevelt and Martin Luther King – to commemorate the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and to draw attention to the fact that the South African Government had Borstelmann, The Cold War and the Color Line, pp. 188-89; Lake, The ‘Tar Baby’ Option, p. 72; and Noer, Cold War and Black Liberation, p. 169.

DeRoche, Black, White and Chrome, p. 101; Lake, The ‘Tar Baby’ Option, pp. 70-71; and Noer, Cold War and Black Liberation, p. 42.

Quoted in Lake, The ‘Tar Baby’ Option, p. 71.


refused to sign it. 90 In late 1961 the ACOA, together with other groups such as the NAACP, Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the Urban League, and the National Conference of Negro Women, formed the American Negro Leadership Conference on Africa (ANLCA), which aimed to represent the various strands in African-American thinking about U.S. policy towards Africa. 91 In the announcement for its first conference in November 1962, the founders of the ANLCA explicitly linked the domestic civil rights

campaign with African issues:

We believe the 19 million American Negro citizens must assume a greater responsibility for the formation of United States policy in sub-Sahara Africa. Negroes are of necessity deeply concerned with developments in Africa because of the moral issues involved and because the struggle here

–  –  –

It was a measure of their initial success that the leaders of the ANLCA were able to meet with President Kennedy in late 1962, which was the first time African-Americans had gained access to the White House to discuss U.S. foreign policy. 93 In September 1964 Dean Rusk delivered a speech to the second meeting of the ANLCA in Washington.

British officials in Washington advised the Foreign Office: ‘Mr. Rusk rarely delivers Noer, Cold War and Black Liberation, p. 51.

DeRoche, Black, White and Chrome, p. 101; and Lake, The ‘Tar Baby’ Option, p. 71.

Library of Congress: Papers of NAACP, Group III, Box A198, ANLCA, 1962 file, Letter of 21 August

1962. Quoted in Krenn, Black Diplomacy, p. 118.

Ibid., p. 119.

speeches about Africa and it is a measure of the importance of his audience that he did so on this occasion.’ 94 The Washington embassy was particularly conscious of the need to monitor the activities of the ANLCA at this time because Rhodesia was on the agenda and it featured in the resolutions of the meeting. First, the ANLCA urged the U.S.

Government to affirm in the United Nations its opposition to Rhodesian independence until the African majority enjoyed full political participation on the basis of ‘one man, one vote’. Second, it expressed regret that the U.S. representative had abstained from the vote at the United Nations on the resolution calling upon the British Government to hold a constitutional conference. Third, it urged the U.S. Government to ‘lend its full weight

–  –  –

condemned Ian Smith’s attempt to coerce the tribal chiefs into supporting his demand for immediate independence. 95 However, the resolution on Rhodesia – like the others passed by the second conference of the ANLCA – had little impact on U.S. policy, as DeRoche has commented: ‘While the ANLCA’s resolutions manifested the desire of AfricanAmerican leaders that racial justice be extended to southern Africa, they basically failed to influence U.S. policy towards Southern Rhodesia in the fall of 1964.’ 96 DeRoche does not explain why this was the case, but there are a number of sources that do provide answers to this question.

The National Archives of the United Kingdom [hereafter, TNA]: Public Records Office, Kew [hereafter, PRO], FO 371/176519, J. E. Killick, British Embassy, Washington, to C. M. Le Quesne, West and Central Africa Department [hereafter WCAD], Foreign Office, 30 September 1964.

BHL: Williams Papers, State Department Files, Microfilm Edition, Series V, ‘Miscellaneous’, Reel 23, ‘Resolutions of the American Negro Leadership Conference on Africa’, September 1964.

DeRoche, Black, White and Chrome, pp. 101-02.

The failure of interest groups such as the ACOA and the ANLCA to influence U.S. policy on southern African issues can be explained partly by their organisational and tactical weaknesses, and partly by attitudes towards African-Americans and African issues within the Johnson administration. With regard to tactics, Anthony Lake has observed that the ACOA had only a limited effect on American policy towards southern Africa ‘because it focused, at least until the late 1960s, on New York and the United Nations rather than on Washington and the American government.’ 97 Further, when the ACOA did campaign in Washington it targeted the Bureau of African Affairs, which was already sympathetic to its aims, rather than the sections of the Johnson administration that constrained the Africanists. Consequently, the ACOA ‘irritated the Bureau by pestering it to push for actions which could not possibly be sold to the rest of the bureaucracy.’ 98 Similarly, officials in the Bureau of African Affairs suggested that the ANLCA was ‘a long way from being an effective organ for bringing pressure to bear on the U.S. Government’, not least because its members had demonstrated a great deal of ignorance on African matters. 99 This evidence tends to support the conclusions of contemporary academic studies, which pointed to the socio-economic factors that militated against AfricanAmerican knowledge about African affairs. 100 However, it may be argued that ignorance about the Rhodesian Crisis was not limited to African-Americans, as DeRoche has Lake, The ‘Tar Baby’ Option, p. 71.


TNA: PRO, FO 371/176519, J. K. E. Broadley, British Embassy, Washington, to John Wilson, WCAD, Foreign Office, 12 October 1964.

See, for example, John A. Davis, ‘Black Americans and United States Policy Toward Africa’, Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 23, No. 2 (1969), pp. 236-49; and Milton D. Morris, ‘Black Americans and the Foreign Policy Process: The Case of Africa’, The Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 3 (September 1972), pp. 451-63.

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