[Marxism] Fwd: H-Net Review [H-Diplo]: Haefner on Michel, 'The White House and White Africa: Presidential Policy toward Rhodesia during the UDI Era, 1965-1979'

Andrew Stewart hasc.warrior.stew at gmail.com
Sun Aug 18 13:29:36 MDT 2019

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From: H-Net Staff via H-REVIEW <h-review at lists.h-net.org>
Date: Sun, Aug 18, 2019 at 7:46 AM
Subject: H-Net Review [H-Diplo]: Haefner on Michel, 'The White House and
White Africa: Presidential Policy toward Rhodesia during the UDI Era,
To: <h-review at lists.h-net.org>
Cc: H-Net Staff <revhelp at mail.h-net.org>

Eddie Michel.  The White House and White Africa: Presidential Policy
toward Rhodesia during the UDI Era, 1965-1979.  New York  Routledge,
2018.  xiii + 256 pp.  $149.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-138-31999-8.

Reviewed by Julianne H. Haefner (Central Michigan University)
Published on H-Diplo (August, 2019)
Commissioned by Seth Offenbach

On November 11, 1965, Rhodesia, evoking the United States' 1776
Declaration of Independence, announced its independence from Great
Britain in a statement known as the Unilateral Declaration of
Independence (UDI). Rhodesia's status remained contested throughout
the next fourteen years, a period known as the UDI era. As a white
minority government Rhodesia's governing body faced questions of
political legitimacy domestically. Additionally, on the international
stage Rhodesia was confronted with UN sanctions and debates over
recognition of UDI Rhodesia. The UDI era ended in 1979 and the
following year Robert Mugabe was elected; black majority rule had
been achieved. Eddie Michel's book The White House and White Africa
traces presidential policy toward Rhodesia during four US
administrations: Lyndon B. Johnson's, Richard Nixon's, Gerald R.
Ford's, and Jimmy Carter's. Michel uses the Rhodesian question to
illuminate some of the key challenges in conducting foreign policy in
the 1960s and 1970s: "[the] Cold War, economics, race relations and
human rights all guided White House decision-making regarding
Salisbury" (p. 2). In addition, Michel explores how ideas of morality
and pragmatism influenced the way different presidential
administrations addressed the issue of Rhodesia.

Each of the chapters is devoted to one of the presidential
administrations, giving the book a very clear structure to follow. In
these chapters Michel analyzes foreign policy decisions and how each
administration addressed questions of Rhodesia's political
legitimacy, both in Rhodesia itself and on the international stage.
Michel draws his evidence from multiple archives across the United
States, England, and South Africa. Most of his primary sources are
government documents, coming from the Department of State, the
National Security Council, or the White House. Furthermore, Michel
supplements these primary sources with a variety of scholarly works
on southern Africa. While the book is not overly complicated, it does
require some knowledge of southern Africa in the 1960s and 1970s.

The strengths of his work are twofold. First, the author traces
US-Rhodesian relations throughout several presidential
administrations, both Republican and Democratic. In doing so, he
shows the ebb and flows of presidential policy, including both the
similarities and differences in approaching the Rhodesian question.
For example, Johnson opposed the UDI from a moral standpoint because
of his commitment to racial equality. At the same time, the Johnson
administration was aware of US geopolitical interests in the region
and as a result opposed radical actions against Rhodesia. In
contrast, the Nixon administration was primarily governed by
pragmatic considerations and generally did not question the morality
of a white minority government in Rhodesia. The potential for
communist expansion in southern Africa and access to Rhodesian chrome
exports remained especially important for US policy toward Rhodesia
throughout the Nixon administration. One similarity across all four
administrations was the contested nature of the Rhodesian question.
Michel emphasizes how members of Congress and the public remained
divided on questions of sanctions against and US recognition of UDI

The second strength of the book is the inclusion of debates about
natural resources and the impact of the civil rights movement on
US-Rhodesian relations during the UDI era. Michel argues that while
the Cold War was an important factor, in order to fully understand US
policy towards Rhodesia it is also necessary to consider other
factors, such as the issue of chrome. In chapter 2, "The Luster of
Chrome. President Richard M. Nixon," Michel examines access to chrome
exports. Under the Nixon administration the Bryd Amendment was
passed, which allowed for the importation of chrome from Rhodesia,
contravening UN sanctions that were in place at the time. The passage
of the Bryd amendment was a cause for celebration by the Rhodesian
government and dismayed African countries. Throughout the book Michel
emphasizes the importance of access to chrome as a factor in shaping
presidential policy toward UDI Rhodesia.

One of the book's strengths, its range across multiple
administrations, is also one of its weaknesses. As a result of
covering four presidential administration, fourteen years, and a
variety of players, at times the narrative seems rushed. Some aspects
that could have been worthwhile to examine in more detail are the
role of activists and the Congressional Black Caucus, after its
founding in 1971. The author does mention George Houser and the
American Committee on Africa, who had written a letter to the
Democratic Party Platform Committee about Rhodesian chrome imports
during the 1976 presidential campaign. Michel, however, does not
expand on this. Similarly, the book touches only slightly on the role
of the Black Caucus in shaping the later administrations.

_The White House and White Africa_ is in conversation with several
historiographies, including work that has examined the connections
between the domestic civil rights movement and its impact of on
foreign policy.[1] Similar to this scholarship, Michel argues for the
importance of the civil rights movement and the push for racial
justice in shaping foreign policy, in particular toward Africa. _The
White House and White Africa_ also contributes to furthering the
understanding of the Cold War on the periphery and the global Cold

In conclusion, Michel's work is a welcome addition to the field of
US-Southern relations and the study of the Cold War on the periphery.
It enriches the historiography by illuminating the contested nature
of the Rhodesian questions across multiple presidential
administrations, emphasizing the issues of natural resources and the
impact of the US civil rights movement on the conduct of foreign
policy toward Rhodesia, and southern Africa more broadly. Its
methodological approach and multi-archival research can serve as a
building block for further studies of southern Africa.


[1]. See Mary Dudziak, _Cold War Civil Rights. Race and the Image of
American Democracy_ (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press,
1994); Thomas Borstelman, _The Cold War and the Color Line: American
Race Relations in the Global Arena_ (Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press, 2003); and Penny von Eschen, _Race against Empire:
Black Americans and Anticolonialism, 1937-1957 _(Ithaca, NY: Cornell
University Press, 1997).

[2]. The growing scholarship on the global Cold War has been
primarily influenced by Odd Arne Westad, _The Global Cold War: Third
World Interventions and the Making of Our Times_ (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2005).

_Julianne Haefner is a doctoral candidate in Central Michigan
University's transnational and comparative history PhD program. She
is currently working on her dissertation exploring US foreign policy
towards Angola under the Gerald R. Ford administration (1974-1977). _

Citation: Julianne H. Haefner. Review of Michel, Eddie, _The White
House and White Africa: Presidential Policy toward Rhodesia during
the UDI Era, 1965-1979_. H-Diplo, H-Net Reviews. August, 2019.
URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=54153

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States

Best regards,

Andrew Stewart

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