The Overstretched Superpower
Does America Have More Rivals Than It Can Handle?
The southern segment of the African continent includes: Angola and Mozambique, two vast Portuguese colonies whose peoples are in revolt; Rhodesia, a British possession whose government is in rebellion; the Republic of South Africa, officially committed to a racist ideology; and the international Territory of South West Africa, illegally occupied by the neighboring Republic. These diverse lands share a common attribute, which is both unique and menacing: domination by white minorities of black populations many times their number.
To the north, newly liberated nations are groping toward a fulfilment of freedom which they regard as the promise of history. The southern area, however, is besieged from within and without by demands for an equal chance and a free choice, conditions accepted everywhere else in the world as normal objectives of the social order. Southern Africa sometimes is depicted as a bastion of culture and progress. It is, to the contrary, the last refuge of a twisted concept of the relationship between the individual and society, one which allots opportunities and burdens according to the accident of race.
When demands for equality are pressed by those who are of the same race as their rulers, the consequences can be violent enough, as the colonial revolutions in our own hemisphere made clear. But the use of discrimination and colonial exploitation to further the interests of a dominant racial group multiplies the dangers, both to the area of repression and to the wider community of nations. Enforcement of a deeply resented status quo of racial or colonial privilege undermines the processes by which societies normally effect just change. When aspiration and dissent are denied a peaceful outlet, they generate volcanic forces which erupt into brutal and protracted struggles. In such societies, time runs toward chaos.
Racial discrimination, moreover, arouses emotions of anxiety and involvement on the part of all those, everywhere, who have known, or who fear, a similar experience. Combined with a universal tendency to correlate color with poverty, racial tensions infect the open wounds of a world divided between the many who are poor and the few who are rich. If race should come to assume a significant role in the politics of the international community, the divisive elements inherent in all societies would become dangerously fissionable, destroying the foundations both of domestic and international stability.
Such a development would compound the American racial dilemma. The United States has a vital interest in the just, prompt and orderly liquidation of the problems created by racial discrimination, both at home and abroad. Our traditions demand it; our tranquility requires it; our influence depends on it. We could not, even if we wished, reserve one standard of values for our domestic policies and apply another to the rest of the world, particularly to areas of racial and colonial repression.
To these considerations should be added the material interests of the United States on the African continent as a whole. Apart from the mineral resources required by our insatiable economy, the American people have a direct private investment on the African continent totaling some $2 billion. About two-thirds of this investment is in the states north of the Zambezi River. Moreover, two-thirds of U. S. exports to Africa-almost $1.5 billion a year-likewise are directed to the independent nations to the north. The huge economic stake of the United States in the rest of the continent frequently is lost to sight in the glare of highly organized South African public-relations efforts, stressing the values of trade and investment in the southern sixth of the continent, as if the remainder were of merely marginal concern.
This is not to say that our policies toward Africa should be determined by balance sheets of our relative economic interests in north and south. The point is that trade and investment everywhere depend upon the existence of functioning societies. If the spread of racial conflict should upset the precarious stability of newly liberated nations, we-as well as they-would suffer untold human and material loss. No greater threat to such stability can be conceived than the collapse of their efforts to build upon multiracial, or non-racial, concepts of the social order, and to achieve progress with Western aid and white participation.
For all these reasons, the policies endemic to Southern Africa threaten the entire community of nations. A survey of the particular problems will show that they are coalescing into a whole which is greater, and more dangerous, than the sum of the parts. It follows that a realistic strategy for dealing with them should be comprehensively conceived, rather than in fragmentary and disjointed terms as is now the case.
The policies of Portugal in her African colonies, of the rebel régime in Rhodesia and of the South African Government in the area as a whole tend to be mutually supporting while they flow toward common disaster. The combined thrust even of limited measures designed to induce each to moderate its course is certain to have a cumulative and interacting effect upon all.
It is essential to resist the tendency-common in the United Nations, as in all parliamentary bodies-to deal with problems as separate "agenda items," focusing on particular complexities and blurring their common elements. A more realistic approach would be to inscribe upon the agenda of U.N. bodies the "Question of Southern Africa," and to treat the subsidiary issues inclusively.
As a preface to consideration of specific issues and proposals for action, it should be observed that the African states themselves recognize that true national interest may be impeded if territorial boundaries are permitted to serve as barriers to cooperative action for economic progress and social development. Thus, the former High Commission Territory of Bechuanaland-now the independent State of Botswana-should not be deprived, as it is, of the natural outlets and affinities of South West Africa. Newly independent Lesotho, an enclave entirely surrounded by South Africa, should not be doomed to subjection by the latter. Zambia should be helped to find escape from its vulnerable isolation, which will be discussed below.
A survey of specific aspects of the Problem of Southern Africa appropriately starts with South West Africa-a Territory with a unique international status, and which is a direct responsibility of the international community. The United Nations General Assembly, with full concurrence of the United States and Great Britain, has ruled that, by reason of South Africa's serious violations of its obligations under the Mandate entrusted to it in 1920, South Africa has forfeited all rights of possession and administration in the Territory. Furthermore, the United States Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Goldberg, echoing the 1950 Advisory Opinion of the World Court, has declared that "apart from the Mandate, South Africa has no right to administer the Territory."
In consequence, the General Assembly, in May 1967, established the United Nations Council for South West Africa. Its assigned function is to administer the Territory until independence, a goal which the Council was instructed to do "all in its power" to achieve by June 1968.
Despite these unequivocal pronouncements and actions, South Africa continues to assert and exercise administrative control over the Territory, in defiance of the Council's authority. South Africa, moreover, is fastening its grasp by virtual annexation of the Territory, coupled with intensified official policies of racial discrimination against the non- white population. With contemptuous disregard for the U.N. decision terminating its authority over the international Territory, the South African Government has gone so far as to convict, in South Africa, 34 non- white South West Africans for acts alleged to have been committed in South West Africa. Aggravating such usurpation of authority to adjudge the persons concerned, the accused were charged with offenses committed long before passage of the legislation under which they were tried.
The United States and the United Kingdom, as loyal members of the United Nations, have fervently denounced South Africa's unlawful occupation of South West Africa, as well as its racial policies in the Territory, which mirror those enforced in South Africa itself. But the United States and the United Kingdom, as the principal trading partners of South Africa, have not sought action, in or out of the United Nations, to match their denunciations. Except for an embargo on shipments of arms and military equipment-needs which are cheerfully supplied by France and others-the United States takes the stand that "consultation is preferable to confrontation," The South African Government, however, continues to rebuff all efforts on the part of the United States, or of responsible U.N. agencies, to arrange consultations on the basis of U.N. resolutions. Instead it is moving unilaterally toward implementation of a plan to partition the Territory into unviable "native homelands," leaving the developed modern sector to uncontested white control.
We hear much talk concerning the sanctity of our international commitments and the need to preserve a just and stable international order. Few risks and sacrifices are considered too great for the vindication of these objectives, at least in areas where our strategic interests are asserted, as in Southeast Asia.
South Africa's continued occupation of South West Africa, compounded by its violations of the international rules prescribed to govern the Territory and to protect its inhabitants, has been explicitly and repeatedly condemned as a repudiation of law. The obligation of members of the United Nations to repress so clear a violation of their common Charter therefore is beyond dispute. The crucial question is: What practical measures can be devised and pursued with a determination commensurate with objectives which are universally professed?
The United Nations Council for South West Africa should be endowed with personnel and resources enabling it to guide and assist South West African leaders, many of whom now are in exile, to plan and shape political institutions appropriate to an independent state. The Council likewise should assure that independence is made meaningful by furnishing the means for education and training of those who for so long have been denied equal opportunities because of their color. Economic surveys by the Council, on a regional basis, should prepare the way for a viable new state, not wholly dependent upon South Africa. To this end, the Council might establish a presence in the area-preferably in Botswana-so that international assistance to both these contiguous lands could be jointly planned. If Botswana should regard this as unfeasible at the present time, other U.N. agencies concerned with economic and technical assistance in the area should take into account the regional, as well as purely national, requirements of coördinated planning and programing. Communication should be maintained by the Council, to the fullest extent practicable, with all communities within the Territory. In regard to diplomatic and political pressures on South Africa, a South West African government-in-exile should be fostered, and South West African passports, validated by the United Nations, should be honored in all countries.
A patent absurdity of colonial cartography is the long thin finger of South West Africa, known as the Caprivi Strip, which forms a corridor terminating at the junction of Zambia, Rhodesia and Botswana. At this point, and in violation of the Mandate's prohibition against militarizing the Territory, South Africa has built a large jet airfield. Access to it is prohibited, and its purpose remains obscure in the absence of verified information concerning the nature of the facilities presently installed in the base, or planned for the future.
By virtue of this extended finger of South West Africa, Botswana is entirely surrounded by white-minority governments, except for a disputed crossing area at the junction of Botswana and Zambia. Newly independent Botswana, precariously dependent on South Africa for its economic survival, is striving to maintain a multiracial policy in its political, social and economic life. Support for its development along the lines of its choice deserves high priority from responsible governments and private agencies, as well as the United Nations, which has commenced a technical assistance program there. Moreover, as has already been said, constructive planning for the region as a whole requires an end to the artificial and coerced estrangement of Botswana from South West Africa. Such a need is heightened by the recent discovery of important potential copper reserves in Botswana and the possibility that they may extend into both Rhodesia and South West Africa. These areas should have open lines of transit, communication and interchange of people, goods and ideas. The international community cannot afford to subsidize arbitrarily sundered ethnic and economic units, even though full weight should be given to national aspirations.
What of Rhodesia-and the inseparably related problem of Zambia? The role of the United Kingdom has, of course, been crucial and will continue so. Yet Britain's priority goals must be economic stability and a tolerably balanced foreign exchange, together with institutional entry into Europe. Drains upon her economy, resulting from involvements in Asia and Africa, will continue for some years despite scheduled withdrawal. At the same time, Britain's outlook and tradition impel a sense of responsibility for the preservation of Commonwealth relations in general and a just resolution of the Rhodesian conflict in particular. Above all, few responsible British leaders ignore the disastrous implications of a breakup of the Commonwealth in a furor of racial tension. There is, none the less, evidence of mounting public support in Great Britain for the rebellious white Rhodesians, as time passes without promise of a viable solution. In the United States, even though overtly expressed sympathy for the white Rhodesian minority is generally limited to extremist groups, widespread public apathy reflects ignorance of the political and moral issues at stake, as well as the potential dangers to peace.
When the U.N. Security Council, on December 16, 1966, adopted a resolution imposing selective mandatory sanctions on the rebel régime of Rhodesia, the United States made clear the reasons for its support of this unprecedented action. As viewed by our Government, the efforts of a small minority to suppress the political rights of a majority and to extend practices of racial discrimination were abhorrent to the United Nations and constituted a growing danger to peace. Hence the United States announced its commitment to apply the full force of law to implement action pursuant to Article 41 of the Charter, which gives the Security Council authority to order any measures, short of armed force, to enforce its decisions. The purpose of the Security Council action was, of course, to aid Great Britain, the administering power, to bring to an end the rebellion in Rhodesia.
The Rhodesian challenge is particularly frustrating for Britain in light of the fact that Rhodesia, unlike other British possessions which have been decolonized with relative success, has never actually been governed from London. The white minority there always has controlled the full apparatus of government, including (at least since 1961) the military.
It is beyond argument that acquiescence in the demands of the rebel Rhodesian régime would be morally indefensible and would threaten the Commonwealth with the worst possible basis for splitting apart. At the same time, most observers agree that military sanctions-which might have been feasible at an earlier stage-now would create serious political and technical difficulties and, indeed, might precipitate hostilities which could expand into a race war in Southern Africa as a whole. This is one striking illustration of the interrelationship of problems in the area.
South Africa's policy in regard to Rhodesia reflects its own concerns on this score. On the one hand, South Africa is ideologically sympathetic with the aims of the rebel régime, and gives it material aid and even covert military support. At the same time, South Africa has given evidence of viewing Rhodesia's act of unilateral independence as a reckless one, and of placing little confidence in the stability of the present régime. As in the case of South West Africa, South Africa appears to be playing for time on the Rhodesian issue, hoping that world conditions will evolve so as to prevent a serious confrontation on any of the interrelated issues of Southern Africa, including, of course, its domestic racial policies as well.
Courses of action which are both practical and essential for dealing with the Rhodesian problem include at least three main lines of effort:
1. Insistent increase and tightening of economic measures and political pressures, both through the United Nations and by national policies.
In regard to the latter, it has been suggested that Britain, as well as other states, should freeze Rhodesian assets and should give serious attention to the legal question whether title to goods exported from Rhodesia can be validly passed to others without permission of Britain, the sovereign authority.
The Security Council resolution of December 1966 calling for sanctions was unprecedented only in that it was the first such decision taken under Chapter VII of the Charter, and therefore was binding rather than merely recommendatory. Fifteen years earlier, as an aspect of the Korean War, the General Assembly in May 1951 had called upon all states to embargo the shipment of arms and other strategic materials "to areas under the control of the Central People's Government of the People's Republic of China and of the North Korean authorities." The General Assembly action was taken upon the recommendation of an "Additional Measures Committee," which had been established several months before for the purpose of considering steps (in addition to military action) to be employed to meet the aggression against the Republic of Korea. In the embargo resolution, all states were asked to report to the Committee measures taken to comply with the resolution. The Committee, in turn, was requested to report to the Assembly on the general effectiveness of the embargo and to continue its consideration of additional measures, as necessary.
This precedent, and the experience gained, suggest that similar procedures might well be adopted in respect of Rhodesia. A Sanctions Committee should be created promptly and-unless it reports satisfactory performance in the application of economic sanctions already imposed-it should be asked to propose additional measures. The Committee should also be requested to consider how to improve the policing and enforcement of the mandatory program. Violations, as well as failure of members to report to the Committee, should be publicly exposed.
2. Decrease Zambia's dependence on Rhodesia. In this regard, high priority should be assigned to a projected arrangement between Britain and Zambia for a £15 million program for rerouting Zambia's road, rail and air links with the outside world. The stability and security of Zambia, moreover, would be enhanced if the United Kingdom gave guarantees of military assistance against incursions from Rhodesia or South Africa.
The United States should offer Zambia all necessary support, not only to revise its transport network, but to establish economic, political and social institutions which would link Zambia with eastern and central Africa and reduce its dependence upon its hostile neighbors. It is relevant, in this connection, to note that the importance attached by both Zambia and Tanzania to a rail route to the port of Dar-es-Salaam (the so-called Tan- Zam Railroad) has induced both countries, however reluctantly, to turn for support to Communist China, which is now financing and conducting a survey for such a road. As an element of unified strategy for dealing with the problems of the area as a whole, the United States should announce that it is according top priority to aid to Zambia precisely because of our commitment to the liberation of Southern Africa.
3. The tendency of the United States to defer to Britain's lead is explained, though not justified, by the latter's historic role and special responsibilities in the area. The unfortunate fragility of the British economy, however, imposes constraints upon timely and effective initiatives on her part.
Hesitation to announce explicit conditions of settlement-even in regard to so basic an issue as NIBMAR (No Independence Before Majority Rule)-arouses suspicion as to Britain's capacity and will to insist upon terms which would generally be considered acceptable. The history of sanctions, limited though it be, shows that their success or failure largely hinges upon the clarity of the ends they are designed to achieve. Freedom of man?uvre is a sound political tactic, but it is not to be bought at the price of uncertain purposes.
The American national interest in a just resolution of the Rhodesian crisis- consistent with a tolerable racial policy there as well as in the rest of the subcontinent-demands a well-conceived strategy, formulated by the United States and the United Kingdom in close concert. The friendly consultation which takes place between the two allies is gratifying. But the question arises whether a more formalized mechanism for achieving a joint strategy in regard to Southern Africa, including Rhodesia, is not essential.
In times of war, the United States and the United Kingdom have not hesitated to establish combined machinery for dealing with strategic, political and economic issues of common concern. Such procedures would not usurp Britain's special responsibilities; on the contrary, they would be designed to strengthen Britain's hand in the double task of overcoming the act of rebellion and securing for all Africans equal rights and opportunities based upon a sound foundation of political and educational advancement.
The revolutions taking place in the Portuguese colonies of Angola and Mozambique likewise form part of the pattern of coalescing crisis in Southern Africa. The leader of the Mozambique nationalist movement, Eduardo Mondlane, has recently expressed the point in clear and simple terms:
The positions of the United States and Western Europe on South Africa, Rhodesia, and South West Africa are also related [to our struggle for liberation]. If the 14-member U.N. Ad Hoc Committee that has been established to deal with South West Africa fails to propose something radical and effective for the freedom of the people of South West Africa, if the British and the Americans continue to play games on Rhodesia, if the Africans are not able to start any action in Rhodesia, if the big companies in America and Britain and Western Europe continue to pour money into Portuguese banks and economic projects, and if Rhodesia and South Africa continue to get private investment in ever increasing amounts-then it will be more difficult for the people of the Portuguese colonies to gain their independence. These are facts, these are realities.1
In common with Rhodesia and South West Africa, the nationalist aspirations of the peoples of Angola and Mozambique (as well as of Portuguese Guinea, further to the north) are being denied peaceful resolution. The U.N. Security Council has demanded that Portugal recognize rights of self- determination and independence and has declared that "the situation resulting from the policies of Portugal both as regards the African population of its colonies and the neighboring states seriously disturbs international peace and security." Yet no action has been taken by the United Nations, or in its name, to achieve the rights or to avert the dangers.
The General Assembly, for its part, has recommended bold measures to those ends. It has urged members to sever diplomatic relations with Portugal, to deny facilities to Portuguese ships and planes, to boycott trade with Portugal and, in particular, to deny arms or other assistance that could be used against black Africans.
As is true of all other areas of Southern Africa, the United States and the United Kingdom hold the key to orderly solutions. Both have eloquently condemned Portuguese policies; both have timidly evaded practical remedies. Their token refusal to supply Portugal with arms destined for "openly repressive use" merely brings condemnation from both sides: the Portuguese brand it as a betrayal; the Africans as a fraud.
The desire to placate Portugal centers upon strategic uses of the Portuguese Azores as a refueling station, and fear that the Portuguese Government might make good its overhanging threat to deny use of this facility in reprisal for actions regarded to be inimical to its colonial policies and interests. Apart from the fact that the Azores base is a diminishing and probably dispensable asset in the age of long-range aircraft, the Portuguese threat contravenes both the spirit and intent of the North Atlantic Treaty. A possible contradiction between our NATO undertakings and our traditional anticolonialist stance was foreseen and settled when the Treaty was under consideration. In 1949, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee explicitly resolved the matter by declaring, in its unanimous Report on the Treaty: "Whether the United States will in fact support the colonial policies of any other signatories will depend entirely on our evaluation of those policies under the conditions then existing and not on any obligations assumed under the pact."
It was, accordingly, clearly understood that provision of base and other facilities was designed as a contribution to the mutual security of all, including Portugal itself, and was not a device to compel acceptance of colonial policies contrary to our traditions and detrimental to the sound interests of the United States and of other members of the alliance.
For its part, the United States continues to furnish economic and military assistance to Portugal. Such aid releases other Portuguese resources for the repression of African rights and freedoms. The United States, in effect, is subsidizing the colonial régime, which expends an estimated 42 percent of its national budget for defense and security-the largest part being devoted to its three African territories. The Portuguese economy, certainly no less precarious than Britain's, thus is aided to sustain some 125,000 troops in African colonial wars, while at the same time Britain is compelled, on budgetary grounds, to unshoulder its burdens in neighboring areas of Southern Africa, including Rhodesia, Zambia and the former High Commission Territories.
A major leak in the Rhodesian sanctions program is the shipment of oil, unloaded at the Mozambique port of Lourenço Marques and moved thence to Rhodesia. As a condition of controlling this flow, Portugal insists upon financial compensation to offset her losses. There is no reason for not reckoning U.S. military and economic assistance as part of this account.
Reference has not been made to the extent of present and potential communist penetration into ground made fertile by racial exploitation. Warning drums beaten on this issue often have a hollow sound. It remains true, however, that except for military training by Algerians, the bulk of outside assistance to the revolutionary movements in Angola, Portuguese Guinea and Mozambique has come from the three main communist groupings. Moreover, the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe have accepted large numbers of students for university and technical training, and, undoubtedly, for other types of training more closely related to ground action.
Western aid, for the most part, has been confined to refugees and a modest number of scholarships. On the other hand, Western investment in Angola and Mozambique continues to increase, in contravention of the General Assembly resolution calling for an embargo. Western support of the authoritarian Portuguese Government-side by side with communist support of the three colonial revolutions against that Government-is eroding the foundations of future Western influence among the nationalist leaders and their successors, who one day undoubtedly will achieve power, no matter how long or arduous may be the struggle for independence of some 13 million inhabitants of Portuguese Africa.
A wide range of political and economic pressures upon Portugal is available. These include increased diplomatic isolation, exclusion from U. N. conferences and the proceedings of specialized agencies, restrictions on tourism and a comprehensive embargo on all shipments of strategic materials. To make such measures effective, at least two prerequisites must be assured. The first of these is the full participation of the United States and the United Kingdom. The second is a clear statement of the objective sought-namely, recognition by Portugal of the right of self- determination and the introduction of effective procedures for giving substance to this right. The painful experience of the French North African colonies furnishes an example of what is to be avoided, as well as what can ultimately be achieved. Although independence obviously has not brought economic salvation or political stability, it has brought to an end the disastrous and bloody conflict which was an enemy to both.
South Africa undoubtedly is in the path of the coming storm, by reason of its intolerable racial policies. The characteristics of the official doctrine of apartheid, or "separate development," are too well known to require elaboration here. The basic element is, of course, that census classification of each person according to race and color determines his political, economic and social rights and opportunities, without regard to individual capacity or merit.
It is sometimes contended that we should not "stick our nose in South Africa's business." But the United States, along with virtually all other members of the United Nations, has made it plain that it is indeed "our business," when policies of a state violate the human rights provisions of the U.N. Charter, create instability and unrest among its neighbors, and threaten the spread of racial conflict to the entire continent, and beyond.
It is also said that "economics works against political theory," and that the demands of an expanding economy for skilled labor must ultimately break down discriminatory barriers, such as the infamous "job reservation" laws, which prohibit employment of "natives" in skilled positions, however competent they may be. Yet after several decades of increasing demand for African labor, measures of repression are continually intensified, political rights and equal economic opportunities insistently denied. As an example of the benefits which the Africans are alleged to derive from the booming economy, a new mine contract was recently "negotiated" (without African representation, since Africans are not permitted to bargain) giving black workers 19 cents an hour-less than one-sixth the average wage of white mine workers.
The United States, as has been pointed out, continues to evade "confrontation" with the Republic of South Africa, despite failure to achieve our announced alternative course: "consultation." The total American investment in that country is estimated to be nearly $750 million, with an average annual return of 15 percent-a tempting premium for acquiescence. We also derive a bonus in a large and expanding trade account.
The United States Government, without serious explanation, has found it impractical or undesirable to impose curbs upon trade and investment with South Africa-at any rate, so long as these were designed to press that country to comply with its international obligations. Recently, however, we have found it expedient, as well as principled, to prohibit all new direct investment in South Africa, as in certain other states, as a means of conserving our foreign exchange.
We may discern here a parable of priorities: measures to redress the balance of justice, no; the same measures to redress the balance of payments, yes. The contrast illuminates the cynicism underlying our evasion of political and economic actions corresponding to our avowed intention to uphold the Charter and to deflect South Africa from her collision course.
Measures suggested above with respect to Portugal are generally relevant to South Africa as well. Here again, it should be noted that actions ought not to be avoided merely because, viewed in isolation, they might appear inadequate, or merely provocative. As has been said, their cumulative impact may be very effective indeed, certainly greater than reliance upon a sterile hope of "consultation." It is far wiser to embark upon a studied program of political and economic measures, combined with quiet and persistent diplomatic pressures, than to risk a certain confrontation, triggered by unpredictable events, at times and places of no one's choosing.
Over the darkening scene looms the manifest assumption of the communist powers that time is working on their side, and that continued frustration of African hopes for an equal chance and a free choice is preparing the ground for tragic harvest. Ironically, side by side with these communist assumptions, the South African Government, for its part, appears to assume that passage of time favors its own objectives. One of these two speculators in the value of time must lose. By means of a unified and purposeful strategy in regard to the coalescing Problem of Southern Africa, the organized international community has it within its power to assure that both assumptions are wrong, and that the promise of history is paid in the currency of reason and justice. 1 "Conversation with Eduardo Mondlane," by Helen Kitchen, in Africa Report, November 1967, p. 51.