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The dominant element in American foreign policy since 1946 has been opposition to communism and to the communist powers. As far as Africa was concerned, responsibility for pursuing these objectives was delegated to America's trusted allies - Britain, France, Belgium, and even Portugal - whose policies in the area were therefore broadly supported despite minor disagreements which arose as American business became interested in Africa's potential. Inevitably this placed America in opposition to an Africa which was trying to win its independence from those same powers; but when political freedom could be achieved peacefully, America was able to appear to Africa like a bystander. It was therefore able to adjust its policies and accept the new status quo of African sovereign states without any difficulty. Notwithstanding these adjustments, however, America has continued to look at African affairs largely through anti-communist spectacles and to disregard Africa's different concerns and priorities.
And in southern Africa events did not force any readjustments of American policies during the 1960s; so none were made. Practical support for the status quo continued unabated until after the Portuguese Revolution in April 1974. Thus, despite America's verbal criticism of Portuguese colonialism, American arms and equipment were used by Portugal in its military operations in Angola, Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique. Despite the verbal opposition to apartheid, American trade and investment in South Africa were expanded, and America opposed any effective U.N. demonstration of hostility toward the apartheid state. The United States has also fought a hard, and largely successful, rearguard action against the demands for international intervention against South Africa's occupation of Namibia. And on Rhodesia, America has trailed behind British policies, emasculated the sanctions policies it had endorsed at the United Nations, and criticized Africa for the vehemence of its opposition to the minority Smith regime.
This general approach to African questions, and particularly to southern Africa, culminated in the American government's support for the FNLA/UNITA forces in the dispute between the Angolan nationalist movements.
Throughout the anticolonial war in Angola, that is from 1960 to 1974, America had supported Portugal, not any of the nationalist forces. Supplies to the FNLA of money and military and other equipment while decolonization was taking place were thus a rather blatant attempt to place "friends" in political power in the new state. Not surprisingly, it was the least effective of the contending nationalist groups which was open to this kind of purchase; success therefore depended upon the quick collapse of the MPLA, under assault. But the MPLA did not collapse. Instead it asked for and received more arms from those who had been helping it for the ten years of its anticolonial war; to meet the simultaneous South African invasion of Angola, the MPLA also welcomed Cuban troops. And when the FNLA demanded more help than the American Administration alone could give it, the U.S. Congress - with the lessons of Vietnam still fresh in its mind - refused finance.
It is not cynicism which attributes the beginnings of the "Kissinger initiative" in April 1976 partly to this experience. Nations, like people, sometimes need to be shaken out of habitual modes of thought. Nor was the Angolan debacle the only factor leading toward a reassessment of traditional U.S. policies in southern Africa. Some Americans had for long been urging support for the anti-racialist and anticolonial struggle, and American blacks were beginning to take a greater interest in these matters. Further, trade with independent Africa has been growing, and now includes oil from Nigeria. The possibility that this trade might be jeopardized by pro-South African actions is no longer of merely academic interest to the United States. And the guerrilla war in Rhodesia has been intensified since mid-1975, arousing fears of a repetition of the Angolan experience.
Africa welcomed the Lusaka statement by Dr. Kissinger that majority rule must precede independence in Rhodesia, and that America would give no material or diplomatic support to the Smith regime in its conflict with the African states or the African liberation movements. With some hesitation, Africa also cooperated with the Kissinger "shuttle diplomacy" later in the year. For Africa hoped that, even at that late stage, the use of American power in support of majority rule could enable this to be attained in Rhodesia without further bloodshed.
The "Kissinger initiative" did force Ian Smith to shift his ground, but it did not succeed in its declared objective. Neither did it remove Africa's uncertainty about the depth and geographical limitations of America's new commitment to change in southern Africa. For decades of history cannot be wiped out by one speech and a few months of highly individualistic one-man diplomacy. They cannot even be eradicated by the clear sincerity of a new President's commitment to supporting human rights, and the sympathetic understanding shown by the Ambassador he has appointed to the United Nations.
The United States of America is the most powerful nation on earth. Africa is weak, economically and militarily; its unity in action is still fragile. Africa does therefore naturally desire the friendship and cooperation of the United States; it does need trade, and economic assistance.
But overwhelming everything else in Africa is the sense of nationalism, and the determination of all African peoples that the whole of this continent shall be free and relieved from the humiliation of organized white racialism. Within Rhodesia, Namibia, and South Africa, and within the nations immediately bordering them, the commitment to the struggle against minority or colonial rule overrides all other matters.
This basic fact is important to America, as it is to the rest of the world. For power is not all-powerful. Nationalism cannot be overcome by it. Nationalist wars have no end except victory, however long that takes to achieve, whatever the cost and the inevitable setbacks. All that can be affected by the actions of its opponents is the character of the nationalist state and society after victory. The harder and longer the struggle for freedom, the more austere and radicalized the new state is likely to be. It may also be more intolerant. For wars are liable to destroy everything except hatred and mutual suspicion - which they nurture.
The United States, like other nations of the world, has a legitimate interest in the future as well as the present societies of southern Africa. It must be concerned about America's continued ability to buy the goods it needs, and its ability to sell sufficient goods to pay for its imports. America must be interested in whether or not these states will determine their own foreign policies according to their own interests after winning their freedom, or whether they will be dominated in these matters by states hostile to the United States. And America, like the rest of the world, will continue to have a legitimate interest in the status of human rights in southern Africa as well as elsewhere. None of these things will it be able to control in a state which is really independent - that is the meaning of independence. But one would expect that current American policies toward the nationalist struggles in southern Africa would be determined with these long-term interests in mind. And it does not seem to Africa that these factors have determined American policies in the past. At least they have not done so on any intelligent assessment of the paramountcy of nationalism in shaping the future.
One thing is quite certain. The status of human rights could not be worse in the independent states of southern Africa than it is now. The very idea of there being "human rights" presupposes the basic acceptance of human equality. Yet colonialism is in principle a denial of equality. It means that the interests of the colonized are subordinate to the interests of the colonizers, or at the very least are interpreted and judged by the colonizers. Support for human rights therefore involves opposition to colonialism, regardless of how gentle, well-intentioned, or selfless the colonial government may be. Greater urgency in ending this status is imparted to the situation when, as in Namibia and Rhodesia, colonialism has none of these virtues. Two hundred years after Americans fought their own kith and kin to end colonialism it should not be necessary for Africa to try to convince America that Africans find colonialism intolerable.
Human rights are also inconsistent with the practice of racialism. They are denied by any law or practice which distinguishes the rights and duties of men and women according to their racial origin. And in South Africa there is hardly a law which does not make this distinction; the entire state machinery is directed at organizing and upholding the domination of one racial group over all others. This would be inconsistent with human rights if the majority racial group were using racial discrimination as a means of controlling a dissident minority. It is not made more consistent when 83 percent of the South African population is denied elementary political, economic, and social justice by legislation and economic power used by and in the interests of the whites.
Every aspect of the South African state organization is thus inconsistent with the American philosophy of human equality and freedom. But this is not simply an internal South African matter. Without the kind of practical support which the South African government and society have been receiving - and are still receiving - from their relations with America and its allies, the present apartheid structure could not be sustained for very long. And therefore minority rule in Rhodesia and Namibia could not continue.
Thus, for example, South Africa has a continuing and large deficit in its foreign trade, which is financed by capital imports, both long and short term. American investment in South Africa has more than tripled since 1966 and now stands at more than $1,600 million. All these investors profit from apartheid and the discriminatory wage structure - and thus have an interest in sustaining it.
Further, until now America has continued to act in the United Nations and elsewhere as if South Africa were a bastion against Soviet infiltration into southern Africa, and against the spread of communism in Africa. This image is carefully fostered by the apartheid regime, which prides itself on its anti-communism, and had defined a communist as "anyone who supports any of the aims of communism" - including the declared aim of human equality!
Yet by identifying itself in practice with the apartheid regime and its satellites, America is liable to bring about the very things it most fears - the growth of communist influence, the radicalization of the opposition to apartheid and colonialism, and the damage to its own economic interests. For opposition to the regimes in southern Africa is inevitable. Men will not indefinitely accept humiliation, exploitation, and tyranny. Sooner or later, by one means or another, the dominant minority will lose its ability to control the country and run the economy in its own interests. It is natural that Africa should seek American help in ending its humiliation. Americans should not find it natural when their country aids the oppressor instead of the oppressed.
The organizational and material weakness of the nationalist forces in southern Africa which results from decades of ruthless oppression, does, however, have two consequences of international relevance. First, nationalists cannot be particular about the means through which they carry on the struggle; they have to take advantage of any opportunities which they can find. Secondly, they have to accept help from wherever they can get it. The stronger apartheid and minority rule become, and the more supporters those forces enlist, the greater becomes the nationalists' need for outside help.
When seeking external support for their struggles, it is natural that African nationalists should look first to the African countries which have already secured their own freedom. And it is equally natural that free African states should give that support. No independent African state can rest secure while colonialism continues in Africa, for colonialism is a denial of its own right to exist. Further, the human dignity of all Africans is denied when Africans anywhere are humiliated because of their race. On the principle of giving assistance to the freedom movements in southern Africa, therefore, the whole of free Africa is united. But in comparison with South Africa, free Africa is weak. All African states are poor, some are almost overwhelmed by the task of trying to make independence economically meaningful and beneficial to their people. Further, no African state has an armaments industry of its own. The Nationalist movements of southern Africa therefore need more help than Africa alone can give them.
Outside Africa, however, experience has shown that communist countries are almost the only ones which are both able and willing to assist the Nationalist movements of southern Africa. The major countries of the Western bloc urge patience and nonviolence as if these had not been tried for the past 30 years; simultaneously they continue to bolster South Africa's economic and military strength by trade, investment, and political cooperation. Some of the Nordic countries give humanitarian assistance to the freedom fighters. Only the communist countries are willing to make arms and other military help available when an armed struggle becomes the only way forward.
Why the communist states are willing to assist the Freedom Movements is for them to say. Africa knows why it needs that assistance, and what it will be used for if it can be obtained. Anything else is, at this stage, irrelevant to us. If the West decides to give us similar aid, I for one would not question its motives. Africa is concerned with existing oppression, not with hypothetical dangers in the future. Any new threats to freedom will be dealt with after it has been won - not before! In the war against Nazism the United States and the Soviet Union were allies.
But the peoples of southern Africa are not asking others to fight their liberation battles for them. They know that a people can only free themselves; they cannot import freedom. The peoples of these countries are asking only for appropriate support for the freedom struggle they are themselves conducting. Whether that support needs to be political, economic, or military - or all three - depends upon the type of struggle which has to be waged before victory is achieved. It is in this respect that the differences in the political and economic situations of Rhodesia, Namibia, and South Africa become relevant to current policies for other nations of the world.
Yet although the three countries do present different problems, and opportunities, it is pointless to try to treat each one in isolation. The objective is freedom for the whole of southern Africa. This means independence on the basis of majority rule in Rhodesia; independence on the basis of majority rule for Namibia as a single political unit; and an end to apartheid and minority rule in South Africa itself. So it is one struggle, with three geographical areas.
Therefore, South Africa cannot be regarded as an ally in the fight for majority rule in Rhodesia, any more than Rhodesia could be expected to support the anticolonial movement in Namibia. Rhodesia and South Africa are natural allies to each other. The most which could be achieved is for South Africa to recognize the differences between its own position and that of the Smith regime, and therefore to buy time for itself by refraining from direct assistance to minority rule in the British colony.
In Rhodesia, or Zimbabwe - to use its African name - we now have to face the fact that this is 1977, not 1965. A liberation war has started. Government "reforms," or reductions in the intensity of racial discrimination, which would have given hope of change fifteen or even ten years ago and thus prevented war, are now irrelevant. Options which existed at the time of Rhodesia's unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) no longer exist.
This should not be strange to Americans who know their own history. Very few inhabitants of the American colonies were calling for independence when the dispute with the British government arose in the 1760s. According to John Adams, one-third of the colonists remained opposed to the rebellion even during the War of Independence. Yet concessions made by the British government in 1770 were already too late to avert conflict. And once the war had begun it could have only one end. So it is in Rhodesia now. Ian Smith's unilateral "package of reforms" announced in March of this year will now not even buy him time.
The only question which remains open is whether independence on the basis of majority rule will be achieved by a fight to the finish, or whether that same end can be achieved by a minimum of bloodshed leading to negotiations.
Therefore negotiation cannot now be about the principle of majority rule before independence. Nor can it be about the establishment of an "interim government" under white control. The nationalists are insisting that the 270,000 whites cannot be allowed to continue governing 5,800,000 Africans, whatever promises the former make about organizing an "orderly transfer of power," or anything else. For the argument now is about power, not about promises; the fighting which has started will not end until a transfer of power from the minority to the majority has actually taken place. A ceasefire without such a transfer of power was tried in December 1974; it led to a strengthening of the minority regime.
What was possible until the collapse of the Geneva Conference in December 1976 was a delay in independence. For in accordance with the British tradition of decolonization, the nationalists had separated independence from internal self-government under majority rule. The latter they were demanding immediately, with some minority representation in an interim nationalist government. But they had agreed on a delay of 12 months before independence, in the hope that effective British sovereignty during that period would allow members of the minority community either to adapt to majority rule, or to leave the country. For in this connection it is relevant to remember that more than one-third of the 270,000 whites at present in Rhodesia have immigrated during the past 11 years - they can hardly be regarded as committed to the country.
These demands were rejected by Smith, as were the British government proposals. The British government then abandoned the Conference, showing that despite their legal responsibility for decolonization in Rhodesia, they regarded themselves merely as umpires between Smith and the nationalists, not as participants in a struggle against the Smith regime.
That opportunity for a negotiated settlement has therefore been lost. The attempt of the new British Foreign Secretary to organize talks on another basis has thus to overcome still more suspicion. And even if agreement between the British and the Nationalists is reached at new talks, the removal of Smith, and the dismantling of his power structure, still have to be achieved before any political agreement can be converted into the reality of majority rule.
The world in general, and Africa in particular, does, however, still have an interest in bringing the Rhodesian war to a rapid end. Ian Smith and his supporters have no such interest. On the contrary, their objective is the continuation of the war until South Africa, and possibly even the United States, come to their support.
Ian Smith recognizes that, on a long-headed assessment of South Africa's own interest, Prime Minister Vorster does not want to get directly involved in the Rhodesian conflict. But in any guerrilla war, civilian casualties are likely to occur; they are already happening in Zimbabwe. If the dead women and children begin to include large numbers of whites, then Smith knows, because Vorster has admitted it, that the Pretoria government will be under pressure from its own electorate to increase South African material support for the Smith regime. And as the casualties begin to include South African citizens who live in or visit Rhodesia, Smith believes that his armed forces will be strengthened by direct South African military intervention.
Direct South African military involvement would make a great change in the balance of forces in Rhodesia. It would not defeat nationalism. But it would greatly increase the difficulties of the Freedom Fighters. The nationalists would therefore be forced to seek increased external help; and it is only communist states which are likely to give whatever assistance is required. Even if an intelligent American government is then able to withstand the consequent pressure to intervene "against communism" and to maintain its opposition to Smith, the conflict would have been internationalized. Smith desires this. Africa does not. Whether the internationalization of a limited war of independence is in America's interests is for America to judge.
But America is not a helpless bystander to events in Rhodesia. It is a powerful nation, and influences developments there. It can frustrate Smith's attempts to escalate the war, and can even help to get the war ended.
First, it has to make it quite clear that the United States will give no support of any kind to the minority regime of Rhodesia, at any time, and regardless of the progress or possible escalation of the war.
Second, as evidence of this determination, it has to follow up the rescission of the Byrd Amendment by active steps against all sanctions-breaking (whether by American firms or others), and by greater efforts to prevent the Rhodesian recruitment of American citizens into the regime's army.
And third, the United States has to put pressure on the South African government to desist from further help to the Smith regime. It is not realistic to expect Vorster to act against Rhodesian minority rule; but he can be prevented from propping it up - at least more than he is already doing. The United States has sufficient leverage to do this without treating South Africa as if it is an ally in the struggle for justice in southern Africa.
No one is suggesting that there are quick, or painless, solutions to the problems in Rhodesia. In the 11 years which have passed since UDI, many opportunities have been lost, and new forces have arisen which now have to be taken into account. Thus, it is true that the Zimbabwe nationalists do not control all the forces which will influence Rhodesian events in the near and far future. But no settlement of this problem can now be reached without their participation in drawing it up, and their active support in its implementation. In 1977 it is in that context, and only in that context, that America or Britain - or Tanzania - can work for an end to war in Rhodesia.
Namibia is politically different from Rhodesia in two major respects. First, if Prime Minister Vorster really accepted the principle of majority rule outside South Africa, as he has sometimes claimed, it is within his power to introduce it in Namibia. And if he really wants Namibia "off his back," as he once asserted, he has the power to make the necessary arrangements. Namibia is not a "client state" like Rhodesia; it is completely under the de facto control of the South African government and armed forces.
Secondly, Namibia is de jure a Trusteeship Territory. The United Nations has, by General Assembly and Security Council decision, withdrawn the authority of South Africa over Namibia. It has established the U.N. Council for Namibia, and appointed a full-time Commissioner, whose task is to arrange for an orderly transition to Namibian independence on the basis of political unity and majority rule, and periodically to report progress to the United Nations. Also the General Assembly has recognized the South West African People's Organization (SWAPO) as the sole representative nationalist movement of Namibia.
Apart from these two respects, however, the situations in Rhodesia and Namibia are becoming increasingly similar. A united nationalist party now exists, and cannot be ignored. An armed struggle has started in Namibia, although it is not as yet very intense.
South Africa is still trying to evade the necessity of negotiating the form of Namibian independence with SWAPO under the auspices of the United Nations. In response to a threat of action by the United Nations if its resolutions were not observed, South Africa organized the "Turnhalle Constitutional Conference" in 1975. Representation was by "ethnic group" (i.e., South African-designated racial and tribal groups), and political parties were barred. The outcome of "Turnhalle," not surprisingly, is a set of proposals which basically maintain the structure of "tribal homelands" and "White areas," and would leave intact the existing racialist domination by the 99,000 whites among the 850,000 population. The South African government is proposing to present the result to the United Nations as an act of "decolonization."
Proposals such as these will not solve the problem in South West Africa. Nationalism in Namibia cannot be overcome by establishing another independent apartheid state. The choice for the world, and for South Africa, remains unaffected by such maneuvers. The choice is: either a transfer of de facto power by South Africa to the United Nations, which can then negotiate an independence constitution with SWAPO; or negotiations between South Africa and SWAPO under U.N. auspices; or an intensified war, with all the dangers to world peace which that will bring.
Once again, America cannot control these events. But it could use its considerable influence to avert the dangers of a serious war of liberation in Namibia. In order to do this, America would first have to accept that SWAPO is the only Namibian nationalist organization, and that no settlement is possible without its agreement. Then it would apply some pressure on South Africa to negotiate with SWAPO under U.N. auspices. Alternatively it would give active American support to the struggle at the United Nations for a South African withdrawal from Namibia, and the introduction of an effective transitional U.N. administration.
What America must not do, if it aims to prevent a major war in Namibia, is to give any encouragement to the "Turnhalle" Conference, its participants, or South Africa's espousal of its proposals. For time is running out. If the Namibian war has to be intensified - as it will be if there is no progress - the time available for an orderly transition from minority to majority rule will again be exhausted before the work has begun.
South Africa is an independent state. It is not a colony of anyone, and within the boundaries of the Republic there are no colonies to be granted independence. But its organized denial of human rights to all but 17 percent of its people, on the grounds of their race, make South Africa's "internal affairs" a matter of world concern. For nations have learned, and mankind has learned, that the hope for world peace and justice precludes indifference in the face of organized racialism.
The official reply to all demands that the world should put South Africa into quarantine has been that apartheid is best countered by diplomatic and other contact with more open societies. Unfortunately, however, the South African whites are correct in saying that their society is unique. Nowhere else has the privileged life-style of the dominant minority ever rested so completely and exclusively on racial oppression. Other experiences of gradual desegregation, in the southern states of the United States or elsewhere, will therefore do no more to persuade the whites of South Africa to change their policies than has the polite criticism of Western statesmen since the last world war.
Policies are also based upon the argument that, provided foreign investors pay a living wage to their employees, they will be increasing the pressures against apartheid because economic growth shows up the inefficiency of things like racial job reservation and migrant skilled labor. Quite apart from the fact that these are only a small aspect of apartheid, the evidence of the past 30 years - and longer - should by now have dispelled that illusion also. South Africa has been getting economically stronger and more developed at a rapid rate. Racial oppression has been increasing even faster. For the stronger the economy, the more can be spent upon suppressing the majority without any economic sacrifice being demanded of those who benefit by white supremacy. A strong South African economy strengthens the government, not the victims of its oppression.
The South African economy needs to be weakened, not strengthened, if apartheid is to be overthrown. South Africa therefore needs to be isolated economically, politically, and socially, by the rest of the world until there has been a change in political direction. The sooner that change begins, the less violence and chaos there is likely to be.
No one can doubt the desire of the people of South Africa to end apartheid. Organized opposition by the non-whites has been smashed, but the Soweto and Cape Town "riots" are only the latest of a long series of spontaneous uprisings. And they will not be the last outburst of frustration. For despite everything which the South African state can and will do, instability is inherent in a situation where the majority of the people are excluded from the benefits of a society which depends upon their work. Change can be delayed by an intensification of oppression and human suffering. But apartheid is doomed. The only question is whether the society subsides into chaos, or whether there is an orderly but speedy movement toward justice.
At present there may still just be time for the Republic to avoid ultimate economic and social collapse if the whites can be woken up to their own danger. They would have to begin by setting free, and then entering into a dialogue with, the real leaders of the non-white peoples who are now being held in jails, detention centers, and Restriction - people like Nelson Mandela, Robert Sobukwe and their colleagues. For it is only such people who would have a chance of organizing and channeling the irresistible opposition of the black peoples to their present humiliation.
So far there has been no evidence that the South African white government intends to guide the country in this direction - on the contrary. The whites remain self-confident in their strength and their racial arrogance; and they do this partly because the world continues to talk with them and support them in action. They have not been shocked into a reassessment of their position. They have not yet realized their need to talk with non-white South Africans about their common future. Instead they are able to talk with the rest of the world, and solve their economic problems by new foreign investment, new trade, and new immigration.
Each nation has to decide for itself what will be in its own interests, and these will determine its policies. But no one is asking that America should fight for the freedom of southern Africa. Africa is simply asking that America should stop supporting racialism and unfreedom in that area.
For the penalty, as well as the opportunity, of America's great power relative to that of any other nation, is that every American action, or failure to act, has an effect upon the timing and the nature of developments outside its own borders. This is not to say that America can impose its will on an unwilling world; only that it cannot avoid involvement in events elsewhere. When Tanzania trades or fails to trade, or indicates support or opposition for another government, the world goes on unchanged and unruffled. When America does any of these things it is affecting what will happen elsewhere. One may like this or not; it remains a statement of fact.
Thus, America cannot prevent men from struggling against colonialism and racialism in southern Africa. But American actions will either ease the inevitable triumph of the freedom struggle, or strengthen the resistance to it and thus force the anticolonial and anti-racist movements into a hard, ruthless, and hostile mold. There is no way in which powerful America can avoid doing one or the other of these things, as long as it needs to have commercial and state relations with the rest of the world.
Africa is therefore asking that America should recognize the conflict in southern Africa as the nationalist struggle which it is, and that it should refuse to be taken in by the communist bogey paraded by the racialists. It is asking that America should refrain from profit-making out of apartheid. South Africa needs the United States; but the United States does not need South Africa. Africa is asking that America should carry its declared support for human equality and dignity into policies which will weaken the forces of racialism and colonialism in southern Africa, so that the peoples of those areas can triumph more quickly and with less bloodshed.
With or without American support during the struggle, freedom in southern Africa will not mean the birth of ideal democracies, where all citizens enjoy human rights, civil liberty, and a consumer society to boot. Popular governments in Rhodesia, Namibia, and later in South Africa, will face immense problems of poverty, disruption and unrealizable expectations. They will also inherit a legacy of mutual hostility and bitterness. The racial prejudice which has been inculcated by years of deliberate indoctrination, and by bitter experience, will not disappear when majority rule begins.
But it is only after freedom has been won in the states of southern Africa that the positive struggle to build human equality and dignity can begin there. We in Africa hope that the new Administration of the United States will fulfill its early promise, and help the peoples of southern Africa to get to the position where they can make a beginning. At the very least, we hope that America will not continue to use its power and prestige to hinder the movement for freedom and humanity in the south of this continent.