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NATO, Africa, and British efforts to limit the Global Cold War

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  • NATO, Africa, and British efforts to limit the Global Cold War

    Hi

    Hope this is of some interest:-

    Abstract
    The scholarly consensus on why NATO adopted a ‘non-policy’ towards the non-North Atlantic world rests on the logic of the Cold War. But British diplomats and officials did not see NATO’s policy towards Africa through a Cold War lens. NATO’s ‘non-policy’ towards the world beyond the North Atlantic was not the product of an allied Cold War consensus among the allies. Instead, it was the result of a determined British effort to channel growing pressure for NATO action into a bureaucratic dead-end in an effort to keep the Cold War out of Africa.

    The history of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) is, quite naturally, the preserve of scholars concerned with the Cold War. As a result, the scholarly consensus on why NATO adopted a ‘non-policy’ towards the non-North Atlantic world rests on the logic of the Cold War. But it has been the historians, and not necessarily the historical subjects, who have insisted on seeing NATO’s policy towards Africa through a Cold War lens. NATO’s ‘non-policy’ towards the world beyond the North Atlantic was not the product of an allied Cold War consensus among the allies. Instead, it was the result of a determined British effort to channel growing pressure for NATO action into a bureaucratic dead-end and ensure NATO stayed out of Africa.

    Historians rarely write about non-events, especially bureaucratic committees that produce little in terms of policy. This case is different, however; the real point is why NATO would establish a committee that could go nowhere, and how the British achieved it. It reveals one method by which British officials sought to balance two important but contradictory national interests: on the one hand, support for NATO and the accompanying need for solidarity with allies, and, on the other, maintenance of Britain’s role as a world power and the need to preserve independence of action in its global affairs. In the second half of the 1950s, this tension was particularly acute as several allies urged NATO to coordinate policy in Africa and thwart Communist advances. The British policy was to appear as a good NATO ally while doing everything possible to ensure that the winds of change blowing into Africa did not pick up any whiff of Cold War Manicheanism.

    Frode Liland, who has examined NATO’s ‘non-policy’ on issues outside of Europe (what since has come to be known in NATO terms as ‘out-of-area’) concludes that NATO, ‘as a collective organization’, avoided global involvement in case disagreement undermined the ‘defense of the North Atlantic area from the Soviet aggression’. He capped his study with an enduring slogan, arguing the non-policy was an exercise in ‘[k]eeping Nato out of trouble’. For Liland, and those who have taken up his thesis, the Cold War is the central force for explaining the policies of both the NATO allies and NATO as a whole. More recent scholarship examining NATO reports on world trends have reinforced the argument that Cold War considerations dominated NATO’s view of the rest of the world.The argument, over all, is that because it was too difficult to make NATO work, concerned allies turned to bilateral and informal cooperation – what Elizabeth Sherwood calls a ‘shadow alliance’ – to do the work they wished NATO would do.

    This has it all backwards. In fact, two of the allies who saw themselves having long-term interests in Africa – Britain and the United States – wished for NATO to stay out of Africa, and they largely got what they wanted.This is most clearly revealed in the British diplomatic efforts that led to the establishment of NATO’s Committee on Africa in 1959. The Committee, which drew together experts from the different allied capitals to discuss African affairs, provided the raw input for a collaborative secret information document distributed to each NATO delegation. It was the model for future NATO committees focused on various regions, be it the Middle East, Asia, or Latin America. In each case, the Committee had next to no impact on the policies of allied countries. In a very few cases, discussed below, NATO served to coordinate minor diplomatic events. But for the most part, the Committees did exactly what British officials – who did so much to establish them – wanted: nothing.

    Scholars now regularly refer to what Odd Arne Westad dubbed the ‘Global Cold War’, the political, and sometimes military, conflict that seemed to touch all parts of the globe.8 British efforts to keep this conflict from complicating the politics of decolonisation in Africa might seem overly optimistic. But they also marked a prudent appreciation of NATO’s appearance in the rest of the world, and an understanding that any NATO involvement in Africa would not provide any assistance, but ruin British efforts to retain influence on the continent.
    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/...5.2015.1078313

    Regards

    Andy
    "You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life." Churchill

    "I'm no reactionary.Christ on the Mountain! I'm as idealistic as Hell" Eisenhower

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