While the last remnants of the 1946 US-China peace agreements disappeared in the smoke of the battles in Manchuria and northern China, Ho Chi Minh was bringing his own peace agreement back to Vietnam, hoping to sell it to his increasingly skeptical countrymen. During the time that the negotiations were proceeding, the Vietminh at home had taken advantage of the departure of the Chinese troops to complete the destruction of rival political parties and their armed militias. Some of the opposition forces, including those in Mong Cai Province, retreated with their Chinese sponsors.
Three days after his arrival, Ho addressed the nation, explained the r implications of the modus vivendi, and called for a second meeting of the National Assembly. As the president spoke, the Vietminh security organizations completed their roundup of opposition figures. When the Assembly convened on October 28, only thirty-seven of the seventy opposition seats were occupied. When a deputy inquired about the missing delegates, he was advised that they had been arrested "for crimes of common law." (Duiker, Ho Chi Minh,New York, 2000, pp. 363-64.)
The Assembly approved a new Cabinet that accurately reflected the new power alignment in the north: Vietminh ministers occupied all key positions. Ho was named prime minister as well as president. A draft constitution that declared the total independence of Vietnam without reference to the French Union was approved by the Assembly two weeks later.
In southern Vietnam, the cease-fire provided for in the modus vivendi went into effect as scheduled on October 30. It lasted about a week. The French interpreted the agreement to mean that they should not attack Vietminh forces but could still move into Vietminh controlled territory. Since at this point almost three-quarters of the southern provinces appeared to be under some measure of Vietminh control, this was a sure recipe for trouble. By late November, d'Argenlieu was reporting to Paris that hostilities in the south were once again at their old level. (Worthing, Occupation and Revolution, pp. 253-55.)
It was the north rather than the south, however, that was to be the flash point for all-out war in Indochina. It began ostensibly as a dispute over customs. Control of trade at Haiphong, the principal port for Hanoi and Tonkin, was of critical importance to the Vietminh. Arms and other military materiel smuggled in from China for Giap's growing army entered the country mainly through Haiphong. Customs duties at the port were one of the few sources of revenue left to the government after the economic devastation of the famine and the Chinese occupation. The French asserted that Haiphong was a port of the "Indochinese Federation" and claimed the right to control customs there. Haiphong in 1946 was a smuggler's paradise. It had the largest Chinese community in northern Vietnam and attracted deserters from Lu Han’s occupation armies.
On the evening of November 22, Debes delivered an ultimatum to the Vietnamese authorities in Haiphong calling for "all Vietnamese military and semi-military forces" to evacuate the city. Shortly after ten o'clock the following morning, French heavy artillery began their bombardment of the Vietnamese quarter of the city. The Vietminh government in Hanoi was not even informed of the ultimatum until after the French had opened fire. (Duiker, Ho Chi Minh, New York, 2000, pp. 363-64.)
"That the French could seriously have wished for a favorable reply to their ultimatum is incredible," observed American vice-consul James L. O'Sullivan. (Duiker, Ho Chi Minh, 2000, pp. 363-64.)
French lOS-millimeter and 155-millimeter artillery, mostly acquired through American Lend-Lease, blasted the Vietnamese quarter, causing heavy casualties among those civilians who had not yet evacuated the area. Nung tribal mercenaries working for the French moved through the wrecked buildings methodically burning and looting the houses. One U.S. intelligence agent who witnessed the destruction concluded that "the French have made pillaging their military policy." (K.H. Huyen, Vision Accomplished?, pp. 133-34.)
French Spitfires strafed refugees fleeing the fighting. Vietnamese troops stubbornly held out for two days, even launching a counterattack that captured the municipal theater, which the French had occupied after the November 20 incident. (Sainteny, Ho Chi Minh, pp. 65-66.)
two days the Vietnamese fighters were forced to withdraw. Many of the civilian
refugees gathered in the village of Kien An, just
outside the city. Kien An
became the grave of many of these people when Debes's
artillery and aircraft, supported by naval gunfire, attacked the village.
(Duiker, Ho Chi Minh, p. 365.)
O'Sullivan labeled the destruction of the village "a terroristic measure."(Wickes, "Saigon 1945-Hanoi 1946,")
At least three thousand Vietnamese died as the result of the French operation Lations at Haiphong. And beginning in December, French officials suddenly began confiding their fears about the Communist character of the Vietminh government to American diplomats. They warned that Ho was "in direct contact with Moscow and is receiving advice and instructions from the Soviets," also that Chinese Communists were in Indochina helping the Vietminh. (W. Baze to General Leclerc, 11 November 1945, dossier 1, folder 3, box 19, Leclerc Papers.)
O'Sullivan, who knew that the French had been aware of Ho's Communist connections since the 1930s, found it "peculiar" that French concerns should be brought to American attention "at the very moment ... when the French may be preparing to force the Vietnamese government to collaborate on French terms or to establish a puppet government in its place." (Conference de Dalat, 21 avril 1946, in Bodinier, Le retour de la France, pp. 248-49.)
On the Vietnamese side, there was still hope on the part of Ho Chi Minh and some of his associates that war might be averted, or at least postponed, through further negotiations, but Giap was making all-out preparations for war. By this time his best-armed units had become the Army of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. About 10 percent of the officers were reported to be former soldiers or noncommissioned officers of the French colonial army. (Martin Shipway, The Road to U1ar: France and Vietnam, 1944-1947 (Providence: Berghahn Books, 1996), p. 208.)
The Tu Ve, or militia, had grown to almost a million men, only sorw of whom had firearms. Three military schools had been opened in March in northern and central Vietnam, where officer candidates received basic infantry training, learned small unit tactics and guerrilla warfare, and were drilled on Party theory and doctrine. Each regiment of the new army also established its own basic training school. (Ibid., p. 212.) Beginning in the fall of 1946, the Vietnamese began moving their improvised armaments factories to the area northwest of Tonkin known as the Viet Bac, from which the Vietminh had originally waged guerrilla war against the Japanese.
Hanoi was quiet, but the atmosphere was "menacing." Vietnamese militia and army troops began to erect barricades and roadblocks at key points. The Vietnamese government began to evacuate all civilians able to leave. Most of the army redeployed to the city's outskirts, leaving behind the militia, youth assault squads, snipers, and saboteurs. Vietnamese suspected of being pro-French were taken into "protective custody." Government officials began to sleep outside the city, and one by one the ministries began to move their offices and records out of the capital. (Ibid.)
From the French authorities came a steady flow of demands that the Vietnamese referred to as "ultimatums." They began to refer to Morliere as "General Ultimatum." First the French demanded that the Vietnamese dismantle their barricades and roadblocks within the city. If they failed to comply, the French would clear them away. The same day, a French officer transmitted a statement that the Vietnamese police had shown itself incapable of maintaining law and order and that the French would take over that responsibility in the city. Two days later, on December 17, came a demand that the Vietnamese militia disarm and that the Vietnamese cease all preparations for war.
Ho Chi Minh addressed a final appeal to Leon Blum, the famous leader of the French Left, who had just taken office as prime minister. He appealed for a return to the conditions of the modus vivendi. (Declaration conjointe des gouvernements de la Republique fran"aise et de la Republique democratique du Viet-Nam, in Bodinier, Le retour de la France, pp.287-91.)
Blum had recently published an article calling for an "agreement on the basis of independence" with the Vietnamese and an end to decision making by "military authorities or civilian settlers in Indochina." (Christopher E. Goscha, "The Ambiguities of War in the South: Reflections on the Rise and Fall of Nguyen Binh," paper presented at the conference on "Le Viet-Nam depuis 1945: Etats, marges et constructions du passe," 11-12 January 2001, pp. 20-21.)
Ho's message to Blum failed to reach Paris until December 20. By that time the Vietminh had decided that they had no choice but to fight. At 8:00 P.M. on the evening of December 19, the power supply in Hanoi was suddenly cut. Tu Ve units attacked French positions and troops throughout the city. A number of French civilians were taken as hostages, and some were brutally murdered. Throughout Tonkin, French military posts came under attack. The American vice-consul reported that "it seems the French are faced with an almost completely hostile population." After three days of fighting, French troops were in control of the European part of the city and had captured the presidential palace. By that time, Ho Chi Minh and his ministers had withdrawn from Hanoi. On the twentieth, as the Vietminh radio station was being reassembled in its new clandestine location, Ho broadcast to the nation an exhortation to "fight with all the means at your disposal." It took the French more than two months to regain control of the Chinese and Vietnamese sections of Hanoi. The Vietnamese war with the French was to continue for more than seven years. (The Political Advisor in Korea to the Secretary of State, 23 January 1946, FRUS, 1946, vol. 8, The Far East, pp. 615-16.)
Viewed as an effort to establish peace and stability on the ruins of Japan's Greater East Asia, the occupations were a resounding failure. If Asia in 1945 was an enormous boiling pot, as General Wedemeyer insisted, then the Allies accomplished little to prevent the pot from boiling over. By 1948 all the states occupied by the Americans, British, and Russians were at war, either with their former colonial rulers or with political factions within their own country, sometimes both. Some wars were concluded by 1949, as was the case in China, where, between April and November, the Communists completed their chain of sweeping victories. Chiang and his remaining supporters retreated to Taiwan, while in Peiping on October 1, 1949, Mao announced the establishment of the People's Republic of China and proclaimed, "China has stood up."
In the Netherlands Indies, the Indonesian nationalists won few battles but won the war. A succession of agreements between the Republic and the Dutch from 1947 to 1949 each broke down a few months after signing and were followed by Dutch "police actions" that left the Dutch in control of most of Java's towns and cities by 1949. Sukarno and most of the government were captured by the Dutch, but part of the Republican army held out, waging war from central Java. By that point, time had run out for the Netherlands. The United States, impressed by the Republic's suppression of a Communist rising in 1948, was by now convinced that the Dutch were the aggressors, and, along with many other members of the United Nations, pressured The Hague into conceding full independence to the Indonesians in December 1949.
Other wars, like those between the Vietminh and the French in Indochina and in Malaya, where Chinese Communist veterans of the MPAJA had launched a new insurgency, were to drag on into the 1950s. The civil war in Korea escalated into a major international conflict in June 1950 after Kim II-sung finally persuaded the Soviets and the new People's Republic of China to back an all-out military offensive against the South.
An army general with long experience in Iraq recently observed that "every army of liberation has a half-life after which it turns into an army of occupation." (Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, "Learning Counter-Insurgency: Observations from Soldiering in Iraq," Military Review, January-February 2006, p. 4.)
That was certainly true of the Allied armies that liberated East Asia from the Japanese. Most arrived too late and stayed too long. All the occupation commanders saw their mission as one of restoring or maintaining law and order and of carrying out higher policies agreed to in the great wartime conferences at Yalta and Potsdam or as enunciated by their own governments in London, Moscow, and Washington. The problem was that the attempt to implement these policies often proved incompatible with the goal of maintaining order. In three countries the occupiers faced an armed insurgency by the time they departed.
Occupations proceeded most smoothly where soldiers of the occupation force found a basis for at least limited cooperation and friendship with the locals. Marines and Chinese shopkeepers, rickshaw pullers, prostitutes, bar owners, and household servants had their decades-old symbiotic relationship. Australians and Indonesians in Borneo quickly established one based on barter. In the last analysis, an occupation is not only a political and military event but a cultural process whose outcome may be shaped by the expectations, values, social interactions, any historical experience of both the occupier and the occupied.
In general, occupations of Japan's former empire appeared to work most successfully where the occupiers and the occupied shared common, or at least compatible, interests. Many scholars have explained MacArthur's success in Japan this way. Similarly, to a degree the Chinese in northern Vietnam, the Soviets in northern Korea, the British in Malaya, and the Americans in northern China all found common interests with the peoples they were charged with freeing from the Japanese. In all these countries, local leaders, or at least a sizable and powerful segment of the local leadership, believed that their interests and aspirations could be advanced through cooperation or partnership with the occupation authorities.
The actual, as opposed to the expected, consequences of the Allied occupations have often been explained in terms of the confrontation of onset of the Cold War. In fact the situation was considerably more complicated, because the demise of Greater East Asia not only brought on a confrontation with the West but also stimulated old and new rivalries, ambitions, and regional and communal animosities that would be played out in 1945, 1946, and 1947 from Korea to Indonesia.
Leaders in the struggle for independence found themselves opposed to other leaders whose vision of independence and freedom differed radically from their own. In this situation it was natural that rival factions should seek to align themselves with one or more of the victorious Allies. As Allan Millett has observed of Korea, "The joint occupation ... provided Korean politicians with an unusual opportunity to seek foreign endorsements and assistance." (Allan R. Millett, "The Korean People: Missing in Action in the Misunderstood War, 1945-1954," in William Stueck, ed., The Korean War in World History (Lexington, Ky.: University Press of Kentucky, 2003), p. 36.)
This was true of rival political leaders in other occupied countries as well. Far from being unwillingly drawn into the Great Power rivalries of the late 1940s, political leaders and factions in all the "liberated" countries actively sought the moral and material support of the Soviets, the Europeans, or the Americans in their struggle for mastery.
The most deleterious effects of the Allied military presence developed not through blunders or misjudgments of those charged with carrying out the occupations, but when the highest levels of government acted indecisively, had mistaken notions or no notion at all about what was actually happening on the scene, and neglected or ignoted reports from the field. Mountbatten had at least some idea of the formidable nationalist opposition the British were likely to face in southern Vietnam and Indonesia, but the government in London, preoccupied with retaining the goodwill of the Dutch and French, tended to downplay or ignore his warnings and those of his commanders in the field. The ass and its successor, the SSU (Strategic Services Unit) provided detailed and highly accurate information on developments in Southeast Asia to the State Department and the White House, with no discernible result. Hodge and his political advisers tried repeatedly to alert Washington DC the likely consequences of the establishment of a trusteeship for Korea but were ignored. It remains to be seen whether these patterns of behavior will be repeated in Iraq and Afghanistan. If they are, the experiences of half a century ago suggest what consequences we can expect.
Conclusion: Globalized De-Colonization 1950-2000.
Bringing this series of article studies up into a perspective of a more Globalised view we Following the above developments, the possibilities of a non-aligned 'Third World', independent alike of the East and the West, exerted enormous appeal. Third World solidarity against colonialism, forcefully displayed at the United Nations, helped to accelerate the end of European rule, especially in Africa after I960. But, for all its attractions, the post-colonial future imagined at Bandung nevertheless was doomed from the outset. The simultaneous crash of a Europe-centred world order and the sudden revival of independent statehood across most of Asia promised a new beginning. Asian conceptions of race and culture, Asian indifference to Europe's fratricidal quarrels, the interests of Asia's impoverished millions could now find a voice. This was the spirit of the 'Asian-African' conference held at Bandung in Indonesia in May I955. The host was Sukarno, the Indonesian president and hero of its anti-colonial revolution. Delegates came from more than twenty-five countries, including the Gold Coast and Cyprus, then both still colonies. (For the full list, see Keesing's Archives, 1955, p. I418I.)
Egypt was represented by Gamal Abdel Nasser. The presence of Nehru and of Chou En-Iai, the prime ministers of India and China, lent an added authority to the conference proceedings. The meeting had no formal agenda, but its implicit purpose was to assert the claims of the non-Western world in international politics. Conference resolutions called for more Afro-Asian members in the United Nations Security Council, denounced all forms of race discrimination, and declared colonialism an evil 'which should speedily be brought to an end'. In a notably conciliatory speech, Chou En-lai insisted that China had no expansionist aims and was ready to negotiate with the United States. Nehru denounced entry into an alliance with the West as 'an intolerable humiliation for an Afro-Asian country', and N A TO as 'one of the most powerful protectors of colonialism'. Africa and Asia should remain neutral in the conflict of East and West: 'why should we be dragged into their quarrels and wars? (For the text of these speeches, Keesing's Contempurary Archives I955, pp. 1418Iff.; G. Kahin, The Asian-African Conference at Bandung, Indonesia, April I955 (Ithaca, NY, 1956).
Behind the speeches of Nehru and Chou En-Iai was a vision of an Asia and Africa in which outside influence would exist only on sufferance. It was a heroic conception of decolonization that rejected any vestige of post-imperial attachment. The Asian states would take up the struggle to free the remaining colonized peoples. Cultural cooperation between Asians and Africans would replace the old defer- some non-European states that had been only technically sovereign. It shattered the legitimacy of imperial rule and ridiculed the ethos of imperial 'service'. It opened the way for post-imperial governments to expropriate foreign-owned property, control external trade, and reach a (sometimes profitable) accommodation with multinational firms. It was the vital stimulus for a great reappraisal of cultural values, and for the rejection - or questioning - of those that were seen as European in origin. What was much less clear (as we will see in what follows) was whether the collapse of a Europe-dominated imperial order would mean a real transition to a 'world of nations'. Or whether the partition of Eurasia (as the vital context in which decolonization occurred) would encourage the rise of new kinds of empires, reliant much less on colonial rule than on forms of influence that might be just as effective.
The end of British rule in India in 1947 and the withdrawal two years later of Europe's navies from China marked the end of the 'Vasco da Gama epoch' in Asian history. The age of European dominance was over. This was the verdict of an Indian historian a few years later. Of course the weight of the European presence should not be exaggerated. The Europeans had assembled grand colonial empires, in Southern Asia especially: in the Malay archipelago, in Indochina, above all in India. They commanded the seaways to East Asia after 1840, and were firmly lodged in maritime China by the 1860s. But Japan had resisted subordination to Europe and more than preserved its autonomy. The European effort after 1890 to drive deeper into China's society and economy was scarcely under way before it was choked off by the geopolitical changes of the First World War. Europe's colonization of Asia had been a patchy affair, only shallowly rooted in much of South East Asia (where colonial rule had gained limited purchase before the 1890s). It was much more impressive on the continent's maritime fringes than it was inland. (In this respect, as in others, India was different.) It was partly this that explained why it fell apart so quickly in 1941-2, and staged only a brief recovery after 1945.
Yet change after 1945 was real enough. Less than ten years later, colonial rule had all but vanished from South, East and South East Asia. Where it still persisted, the timetable for independence was Dower's striking phrase to 'embrace defeat'. (John Dower, Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Aftermath of World War Two (Harmondsworth, 1999).
By the end of the war, Japan had been occupied by a large American garrison, military and civilian, nearly a million strong. (Ibid., p. 206.)
For more than six years, an American viceroy (for most of that time General Douglas MacArthur) held executive power, and his approval was needed for any major decision. Japan's sovereignty was suspended; Japanese were forbidden to travel abroad; no criticism was allowed of the occupation regime. A raft of reforms was designed to root out what were seen as the sources of Japan's militaristic imperialism. Women were enfranchised and the voting age was lowered, more than doubling the electorate. A new constitution prescribed by the occupiers barred the armed forces from a seat in the government and renounced war as an instrument of national policy. The great family-ruled business combines or zaibatsu were broken up. Land reform reduced the power of the landlords and doubled the proportion of those who farmed their own land to some 60 per cent. Trade unions were encouraged. New textbooks were written, and the educational syllabus was democratized. (C. Tsuzuki, The Pursuit of Power in Modern Japan I825-I995 (Oxford, 2000), p. 357.)
fierce an assault upon the pre-war order might have provoked a hostile
reaction, since the civilian elite with whom the Americans dealt remained deeply
conservative. In fact it formed part of a remarkable
bargain. When their fears about China led them to 'reverse course', the
Americans accepted the need for a strong Japanese state with an industrial
economy. They made their peace with the powerful bureaucracy. They had the
tacit support of the Japanese emperor, whose role as a figurehead had been
carefully preserved. Amid the growing turmoil in mainland East Asia and the
outbreak of war on the Korean peninsula in June 1950, Japan's conservative
leaders also had little room for maneuver. They were anxious to end the
American occupation and restore Japanese sovereignty. But an open challenge to
Washington's policy might anger the American public and delay independence. It
might encourage the Left, who commanded a third of Japanese votes, and induce
more radical change. The result was to give the Americans an extraordinary
leverage over the shape and direction of the new Japanese state. The peace
treaty signed in San Francisco in 1951 returned Japanese sovereignty, though
neither the Soviet Union nor China was a signatory. America's terms were stiff.
Japan was required to accept a mutual-security pact that allowed American
forces to use any part of the country and exempted their personnel from
Japanese jurisdiction. The island of Okinawa, annexed by Japan in I879 and the
scene of an epic battle in the Pacific War, became a great American base, no
longer administered as part of Japan. The Japanese economy was linked to
America's through a fixed exchange rate, while its old market in China was
closed in deference to America's trade embargo. At the critical stage of East
Asia's post-war formation, Japan had become the indispensable bulwark of
America's regional power, the great offshore platform from which its economic
weight and military muscle could be used as a check on the resurgence of China.
American influence was also strongly felt in Japanese popular culture.
Ironically, in decolonized East Asia, the influence of the West (not merely of
Europe) was asserted more forcefully than before the Second World War. Asia's
third great state was India.
Indeed, Nehru may have hoped to partner Beijing to exclude outside influence from the continent's politics - as he had urged at Bandung. But the odds were against it. (For a recent study, J. M. Brown, Nehru (London, 2004)
India's influence was hobbled by its own post-colonial inheritance. Its independence had come with a traumatic partition and left an unresolved conflict to poison relations. (See J. Rizvi, Trans-Himalayan Caravans: Merchant Princes and Peasant Traders in Ladakh (New Delhi, 1999), ch. I.)
It was a further misfortune that the question of Kashmir (claimed by Pakistan but largely held by India) soon became linked to the highly charged issue of Tibetan autonomy China's brutal suppression of Tibet's traditional government after I980 was achieved in part by cutting its links through the Himalayas. The two main routes between India and Tibet lay through Sikkim to the south and Leh in Kashmir to the west. (See J. Rizvi, Trans-Himalayan Caravans: Merchant Princes and Peasant Traders in Ladakh (New Delhi, 1999), ch. I.)
Military activity on an ill-defined border was a source of Sino-Indian tension, and eventually war. (The standard account is N. Maxwell, India's China War (London, 1970). 32. D. Kumar (ed.), The Cambridge Economic History of India, vol. 2: c.I757-c.I970 (Cambridge, 1982), pp. 972-3.)
India's defeat (in I962) was aptly symbolic of Nehru's grander ambitions. India's political system (which dispersed considerable power and resources to its state-level governments), the threat 'at home' of war with Pakistan, and the lackluster progress of the Indian economy (India's share of world trade fell by two-thirds in the I950S and I960s) conspired to frustrate India's claim, at this stage, to be an Asian 'great power'. In its widest sense, the course of Asia's decolonization was powerfully shaped by the limitations and weaknesses of its largest states. Neither singly nor in combination could they hope to resolve the succession disputes that arose from Asia's imperial past or the ideological conflicts of its revolutionary present. That left the door open for the outside powers whom Nehru had wanted to banish. It was China's subservience that let Stalin unleash the North Korean attack in June I950. (The course of British policy can be followed in the documents published in H. Tinker (ed.), Constitutional Relations between Britain and Burma: The Struggle for Independence I944-I948 (2 vols., London, 1983-4)
And by the late I950S Mao was convinced that harsher methods were needed. He mistrusted Moscow's call for coexistence with capitalism, and saw the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev's summit diplomacy as a betrayal of China. Sino-Soviet solidarity lasted barely a decade. Faced with the hardening of American support for the Taiwan regime, Mao raised the military stakes by bombarding Quemoy, a close-in offshore island under Kuomintang rule. He countered the loss of momentum in China's transformation at home with an aggressive new strategy of rural collectivization, the so-called 'Great Leap Forward'. The redistribution of land from landlords to peasants turned out (as in Russia) to be only the prelude to the state's taking control. And in I960 he approved Hanoi's insistent demand to resume the armed struggle (suspended since I954) for a Communist victory in South Vietnam. (Qiang Zhai, China and the Vietnam Wars I950-I975 (Chapel Hill, NC, 2000), pp. 82-3.)
23. Mao's new course was to make China the sponsor of revolutionary violence against surviving colonial states, or those successor regimes that colluded with capitalism. His message was simple. Imperialism's overthrow was far from complete. Decolonization must come - if it was to be real - by a great rural revolt of impoverished peasants: a global 'people's war' against the world's bourgeoisie. (Mao's thinking is examined in J. D. Armstrong, Revolutionary Diplomacy: Chinese Foreign Policy and the United Front Doctrine (Berkeley and London, 1977), ch. 3.)
Mao's drastic programme for a post-imperial world aroused wide enthusiasm, intellectual and political, not least among those who hoped to savor its victory from a comfortable distance. In the I960s and '70s it offered a hopeful alternative to the failures and compromises of post-colonial regimes. It attracted those who still hoped to reverse capitalism's unexpected revival in the post-war world. As we shall see in a moment, it achieved its most striking success in the special conditions of South East Asia. But on a wider view it was the containment of China and Maoist anti-imperialism that was really significant. In part this arose from the disruptive effects of Mao's political doctrines - especially his 'Cultural Revolution', a form of massive purge - on the Chinese economy. In part it reflected the revival of tension with China's great northern neighbor. But the most serious obstacle to Mao's ambitions grew out of the dramatic divergence between East Asia's two great states.
If China's turn towards Communism confounded most wartime predictions, no less surprising was the readiness of Japan (in John invasion) on the Middle East region. The British had concluded that, with a nuclear deterrent that they could deliver by air, the base was redundant in its present form as well as politically costly. (C. Tsuzuki, The Pursuit of Power in Modern Japan 1825-1995 (Oxford, 2000), p. 357.)
It was control of Japan that allowed the deployment of a huge American army to defend South Korea. But the main theatre of conflict where external power played a critical part was in South East Asia. This was no coincidence. Here the end of colonialism was a much more ragged affair than in South Asia (where British rule had collapsed) or East Asia (where the Japanese empire was shattered by war). This was partly because of American help to both Britain and France (though not to the Dutch). But it was also a product of ethnic and religious division, a fragmented geography, and the limited progress that state-building had made in the colonial era. It had appeared at first as if wartime occupation by Japan had broken the back of European colonial rule across the whole of the region. It had given local political leaders just enough freedom (and just enough time) to build new political loyalties and smash the old colonial machine. In Burma, Indochina and the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), new 'national' governments appeared. When the Allied troops of South East Asia Command (mainly British and Indians) returned in the wake of the Japanese retreat, they found in place new claimants to power. The result was a stand-off.
The colonial powers' tactic was to co-opt the new leaders by promising the devolution of power but not real independence. But both local politics and the international scene were much too unstable for any bargain to hold. In Burma, the British were quickly forced out by the obvious cost of reimposing control and the negligible benefit of trying to do so. In Indonesia, Indochina and British Malaya the struggle was more protracted. The Dutch hoped in Indonesia to exploit the fact that nationalism enjoyed only limited backing across much of the archipelago, where fear of Javanese domination and (in some cases) anti-Islamic feeling made Dutch colonial rule the lesser of two evils. (Besides in our section above, American policy towards Indonesian nationalism can be followed in Foreign Relations of the United States [FRUS] I948, vol. 6: The Far East and Australasia (Washington, 1974), especially Acting Secretary of State to US ambassador in Moscow, 30 Dec. 1948, pp. 613ff; and FRUS I949, vol. 7: The Far East and Australasia (Washington, 1975), especially Acting Secretary of State, conversation with Dutch ambassador, I I Jan. 1949 (threatening end of American economic aid), p. 139.)
Its original aim was to cut Ho Chi Minh down and build a Vietnamese state after his own design. (For analysis of Diem, Miller, 'Vision, Power and Agency'; Tonnesson, 'Indochina's Decolonization'; D. Duncanson, Government and Revolution in Vietnam (London, I968), ch. 5.)
Thirdly, the Viet Minh were restrained by their Chinese ally - partly from fear of American firepower, but partly because China did not want to drive either Laos or Cambodia into American arms. (In return, Laos and Cambodia pledged neutrality; Thailand had already joined the West's Manila Pact of South East Asian states.) In mainland South East Asia, much of the friction turned on the state-building projects of Burmese, Thais, Vietnamese, Laos and Khmers: it was largely the conflicts among and between them that drew the outsiders into the region and made it hard to resist foreign offers of aid. Much the same was true in the case of Malaya. Malay political leaders viewed the Communist insurrection after I948 as a local Chinese challenge to a future Malay state as much as a threat to British colonial rule. To keep it at bay and ward off the bear hug of their Malay 'big brother' - Sukarno's Indonesia - they combined independence (in I957) with a British alliance, not non-alignment or neutralism. (For Malayan-Indonesian tensions before and after independence, Joseph Chinyong Liow, 'Tunku Abdul Rahman and Malaya's Relations with Indonesia I957-I960', Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 36, I (2005), pp.87-09)
The critical phase of decolonization in Asia between I945 and I960 thus followed a course very different from the hopes and dreams that had been aired at Bandung. Far from disdaining as futile the game of Cold War diplomacy - as Nehru had urged - many Asian leaders had accepted the reality of a 'bipolar' world. Far from maintaining a proud independence, they hoped to turn the Cold War to their local advantage. In reality, perhaps, they had little choice.
and military weakness, internal division, social unrest and the century-old
habit of looking beyond Asia for the route to modernity were all bound to
deflect Asia's post-colonial trajectory. It remained to be seen how far they
would drag the continent into the orbit of a new imperial system.
Decolonization in the Middle East was no less tortuous, embittered and conflict-ridden. The end of the Second World War was greeted there, as much as in the rest of Asia, as a new beginning. With peace came the promise of an end to the vast military machine that the British had built all across the region - a super-imperialism that had turned the Arab states and Iran (also partially occupied by Russian troops) into mere auxiliaries of the imperial war effort. Once that had gone, political life might begin again. Better still, the British had decided (for their own convenience) to lever the French out of Syria and the Lebanon, France's pre-war mandates, and secure their independence (I946). This was a promising start. They had also encouraged the formation of the Arab League in I944-5. The British intended the League to be a channel of their influence, a way of keeping the Arab states together under a British umbrella. But it might also serve as a vehicle for Arab cooperation to exclude or contain the influence of outside powers. The new geopolitical scene in which Soviet and American power was seen to balance (if not outweigh) that of Britain made this far less unlikely than it would have been before I939. To many young Arabs, there seemed reason to hope that the post-war world would be a new 'national age'. The false dawn of freedom from Ottoman power after I9I8 - which had led instead to Britain's regional overrule - might at last give way to the glorious morning of full Arab nationhood. Almost immediately the barriers piled up. The British rejected the 'logic' of withdrawal: instead they dug themselves in. (For a good account of British policy, W. R. Louis, The British Empire in the Middle East I945-I9F: Arab Nationalism, the United States, and Postwar Imperialism (Oxford, 1984).
Arguments of strategy (as we have seen) and heavy dependence on oil (still mainly from Iran) made retreat unthinkable. The strategic vulnerability and economic weakness with which Britain had entered the peace (London hoped they were temporary) ruled out the surrender of imperial assets unless (as in India) they had become untenable. In the Middle East, the British still believed that they had a strong hand. Their position was founded on their alliance with Egypt, the region's most developed state, with more than half the population of the Arab Middle East - I9 million out of some 35 million. (This estimate is explained in, W. B. Fisher, The Middle East: A Physical, Social and Regional Geography (London, I950), p. 249.)
The long-standing conflict between the Egyptian monarchy and the landlord class gave them enormous leverage in the country's politics. If more 'persuasion' was needed, they could send troops into Cairo from their Canal Zone base in a matter of hours. To improve relations after the strains of war, they now dangled the promise of a smaller military presence. They assumed that sooner or later the Wafd or the king would want to come to terms, because Egypt's regional influence, like its internal stability, needed British support. So, when negotiations stalled, the British stayed put, intending to wait until things 'calmed down'. They could afford to do so - or so they thought. For they could also count certain of their historic claim to head the Arab cause: it was they, after all, who had led the rising after 1916 and proclaimed an Arab nation. Their long standing ambition was a great Hashemite state uniting Syria (lost to the French in 1920) and Palestine with Iraq and Jordan. Their fiercest enmity, returned with interest, was towards the house of Saud. (Ghada Hashem Talhani, Palestine and Egyptian National Identity (New York, I992), p. 9.)
It was the Saudi monarch who had seized the holy places of Mecca and Medina from their Hashemite guardian, and turned Hashemite Hejaz into a province of what became 'Saudi' Arabia. Much of the rivalry between Egypt, the Hashemites and the Saudis was focused on Syria, whose religious and regional conflicts made it a fertile ground for influence from outside. (P. Seale, The Struggle for Syria: A Study of Post-War Arab Politics I945-I958 (London, I966); A. Rathmell, Secret War in the Middle East: The Covert Struggle for Syria I949-I96I (London, I995); P. Seale, 'Syria', in Y. Sadiqh and A. Shlaim (eds.), The Cold War and the Middle East (Oxford, I997); M. Ma'oz, 'Attempts to Create a Political Community in Syria', in I. Pappe and M. Ma'oz, Middle East Politics and Ideas: The History from Within (London, I997).
This rough equilibrium of political forces in the post-war Middle East was quickly upset by the volcanic impact of the Palestine question. The British had planned to keep their regional imperium by a smooth transition. All the Arab states would be independent; some would be bound by treaty to Britain; the rest would acknowledge its de facto primacy as the only great power with real strength on the ground. It was always going to be difficult to manage this change in the case of Palestine, ruled directly by Britain under a League of Nations mandate since the First World War. Reconciling the promise of a Jewish 'national home', in which Jews could settle, with the rights of the Arabs who were already there had been hard enough in the 1920S. The flood of refugees from Nazi oppression in the 1930S made it all but impossible. London's pre-war plan was to appease the anger of the Palestine Arabs at the growing Jewish migration by fixing a limit to ensure a permanent Arab majority. With its future settled as an Arab state, Palestine could be edged towards a form of self-rule. After 1945 this ingenious solution was soon blown to pieces. The practical difficulty and political embarrassment of excluding Jewish refugees, diplomatic pressure from the United States against the attempt to do so, and the scale and ferocity of the terrorist campaign waged by Jewish settlers destroyed any semblance of British authority by mid-1948. (M. J. Cohen, Palestine and the Great Powers I945-I948 (Princeton, I982) is the standard account.)
The result was the worst of all colonial worlds: an ungovernable territory whose control was disputed between two seemingly irreconcilable foes; outside encouragement that hardened the resolve of both contending parties; and the absence of either the means or a method to impose any decision. The partition proposed by the United Nations could not be enforced. The war that followed between the Jews and Arabs (local Palestinians and the contingents sent by the Arab states) brought a Jewish victory. The new state of Israel was strong enough to impose a second and more favorable territorial partition. But it was not strong enough to force the Arab states to accept this outcome as a permanent condition.
The Arab catastrophe marked a crucial stage in the end of empire in the Middle East. It galvanized the sentiment of pan-Arab nationalism and gave it a cause and a grievance. It was a crushing humiliation for the ruling regimes in the main Arab states, where post-war inflation and hardship were fostering mass discontent: the violent demonstrations of the Wathbah (the 'Leap') in Baghdad in January 1948 had already stopped the renewal of the Anglo-Iraqi treaty. (H. Batatu, The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq (Princeton, I978), pp. 470-72, 545-66, 680.)
It provoked bitter resentment in the ranks of the armies, who blamed their defeat on their civilian leaders. The impact on Egypt was the greatest of all. The king had insisted on sending an army, to boost his domestic prestige and assert Egypt's first place among the Arab states. (Talhani, Palestine, pp. 48-50.) The shock of defeat was felt all the more deeply. To make matters worse, he could make little progress towards evicting the British from their massive Canal Zone, the great visible symbol of Egypt's subaltern status. Nor indeed could his old political foes, the leaders of the Wafd. Where diplomacy failed, direct action stepped in. The struggle with the British became increasingly violent. Strikes, assassination and other acts of terror exploited British dependence upon Egyptian labor and the vulnerable state of British installations and personnel. Retaliation and revenge spread to Egypt's main cities. As the sense of order broke down, the king planned a putsch to purge discontent in the army. Before he could act, the 'Free Officers' movement seized control of the government in July 1952, and forced him into exile.
The effects at first seemed far from radical. The new regime set out to restore order. It crushed the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist movement that enjoyed mass support. It accepted the loss of Egyptian influence in the upper Nile when the British-ruled Sudan was promised independence as a separate state (the British rejected Cairo's demand to respect the 'unity of the Nile valley'). Above all, it secured British agreement to leave the Canal Zone base by conceding a right of return if its use were needed to repel an outside attack (code for a Soviet invasion) on the Middle East region. The British had concluded that, with a nuclear deterrent that they could deliver by air, the base was redundant in its present form as well as politically costly. (For details see R. McNamara, Britain, Nasser and the Balance of Power in the Middle East I9P-1967 (London, 2003), ch. 3.)
What they probably hoped was that the new Nasser regime would turn its attention to internal reform. Egypt, they thought, would exert limited influence in the Arab world. This was the judgement of the British ambassador in Cairo in July I954. See James Jankowski, Nasser's Egypt, Arab Nationalism and the United Arab Republic (Boulder, Colo., 2002), p. 56.)
Meanwhile they would remodel their imperium around a closer alliance with the Hashemite states and a new military pact. American influence, helpful in making the Suez agreement, would be thrown on their side. Egypt would be isolated and on its best behavior. But Nasser's response was not to comply. Instead, his astonishing revolt against the British 'system' was the central event in the Middle East's decolonization. (The standard account is K. Kyle, Suez (London, 1991).)
As an Egyptian nationalist (one of the first acts of the new officers' government was to bring a statue of Ramses II to Cairo), Nasser had every reason to mistrust the British and plot their departure from the Middle East as a whole. He was also influenced by pan-Arab feeling and the Palestine war. He wanted a cleansing tide of revolutionary politics to smash the old regime of landlords and kings, left over from the Middle East's colonial era. He also feared that time was against him. Any ruler in Cairo would have faced much the same dilemma. The Sudan was lost. There was high tension with Israel. The Arab East (the Mashreq) was being closed to Egyptian influence and perhaps even its trade. Without markets or oil, he faced stagnation at home and growing social unrest. He would be dangerously dependent on economic aid from the West. His regime was untried. His critics would multiply. His revolution would fail. So, as the British assembled their 'Baghdad Pact' (with Turkey, Iraq and - they hoped - Jordan: Syria was next on the list), Nasser launched a counter-attack. He embraced pan-Arabism. With Saudi support, he backed the anti-Iraqi faction in Syrian politics. He encouraged opposition in Jordan to joining the pact. Then in September 1955 came a spectacular coup. Nasser broke free from the embargo on arms imposed by the West and arranged a supply from the Soviet bloc.
Egypt would now be a real military power. By early 1956 he had declared an open political war on Britain's Middle East influence. The rising level of violence along the borders with Israel played into his hands. With what seemed amazing ease, he had seized the initiative in regional politics. He had made Egypt the champion of the pan-Arab cause, and pan-Arab feeling into a dynamic force. The reaction in London was one of panic and rage. The Suez Crisis in I956 grew directly out of this confrontation.
When a loan to pay for Egypt's Aswan High Dam was stalled in Washington, there was no going back. Nasser expropriated the Suez Canal, then jointly owned by Britain and France. It seemed an act of bravado. But perhaps Nasser guessed that the British would find it hard to defeat him. They no longer had troops in the old Suez base. An open attack would enrage all Arab opinion. International pressure (through the United Nations) was unlikely to bring what they really wanted: his political downfall. Nasser may also have sensed that London's relentless hostility was not shared fully in Washington. Indeed, the riposte, when it came, revealed Britain's political weakness. Thinly disguised as an intervention between the forces of Egypt and Israel (in whose invasion they colluded), Anglo-French occupation of the Suez Canal was meant to humiliate Nasser and ensure his collapse. The key to Nasser's survival was the enormous appeal of his act of defiance to patriotic Arab opinion. It convinced President Eisenhower that allowing the British their victory would unite Arab feeling against the West as a whole, throw open the door to more Soviet influence, and wreck American interests into the bargain. By a painful irony, the economic fragility that had helped spur the British into their struggle with Nasser - fear that his influence would damage their vital sources of oil- now proved decisive. Without Washingtoft's nod, they faced financial collapse. The British withdrew, and ate humble pie. Nasser kept the canal So It was not he who fell through the political trapdoor, but the British prime minister, Sir Anthony Eden. For Eden's political fate, D. Carlton, Anthony Eden (London, I98I). 52. See Rathmell, Secret War, pp. I60-62; Abdulaziz A. al-Sudairi, A Vision of the Middle East: An Intellectual Biography of Albert Hourani (London,1981).
Suez signalled the end of British ambition to manage the politics of the whole Arab world. It created a vacuum of great-power influence. It was the moment to forge a new Middle East order. Nasser stood forth as an Arab Napoleon. His prestige was matchless: he was the rais (boss). With its large middle class, its great cities and seaports, its literature and cinema, its journalists and teachers, Egypt was the symbol of Arab modernity. Nasser's pan-Arab nationalism (formally inscribed in Egypt's new constitution) chimed with a phase of sharp social change in most Middle Eastern states. To the new urban workers, the growing number of students, the expanding bureaucracy, the young officer class, it offered a political creed and a cultural programme. It promised an end to the Palestinian grievance, through the collective effort of a revitalized nation. Within less than two years of his triumph at Suez, Nasser drew Syria into political union, to form the United Arab Republic. The same year (I958) saw the end of Hashemite rule in Iraq. Nasser still had to reckon with American power (the United States and Britain intervened jointly to prevent the overthrow of Jordan and Lebanon by pro-Nasser factions). But American fears of rising Soviet influence and Nasser's opposition to Communism allowed a wary rapprochement. It looked indeed as if Nasser had achieved a stunning double victory. He had displaced the British as the regional power in favour of a looser, more tolerant American influence. He had made himself and Egypt the indispensable partners of any great power with Middle East interests. Pan-Arab solidarity under Egyptian leadership (the new Iraqi regime with its Communist sympathies had been carefully isolated) opened vistas of hope. It could set better terms with the outside powers. It could use the oil weapon (oil production was expanding extremely rapidly in the I950S). It might even be able to 'solve' the question of Palestine.
But, as it turned out, the Middle East's decolonization fell far short of this pan-Arab ideal. Nasser might have hoped that the oil-rich sheikdoms of the Persian Gulf (especially Kuwait) would embrace his 'Arab socialism' and throw off their monarchs. But the British hung on in the Gulf and backed its local rulers against Nasser's political challenge. Secondly, the pan-Arab feeling on which Nasser relied faced a powerful foe. In the early post-war years the new Arab states seemed artificial creations. The educated Arab elite moved easily between them. So did their ideas. State structures were weak, and could be easily penetrated by external influence. By I960 this had begun to change. New 'local' elites began to man the states' apparatus. Every regime acquired its mukhabarat - a secret police. The sense of national differences between the Arab states became clearer and harder: the charismatic politics of Nasser's pan-Arabism faced an uphill struggle. His union with Syria broke up after three years.52 Thirdly, the Israeli state proved much more resilient than might have been hoped, and its lien on American sympathy showed no sign of failing: if anything, it was growing steadily stronger by the early 1960s. For the intensification of America's 'special relationship' with Israel from the late 1950s, D. Little, 'The Making of a Special Relationship: The United States and Israel 1957-1968', International Journal of Middle East Studies 25,4 (1993), pp. 563-85; G. M. Steinberg, 'Israel and the United States: Can the Special Relationship Survive the New Strategic Environment?', Middle East Review of International Affairs 2, 4 (1998).
Fourthly (and largely in consequence), the pan-Arabist programme could not be achieved without help from outside. The search for arms, aid and more leverage against Israel (and their own local rivalries) drew the Arab states into the labyrinth of Cold War diplomacy. Lastly, a twist of geological fate placed the oil wealth of the region in the states least inclined to follow Cairo's ideological lead: Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Britain's Gulf protectorates. Nor did oil become (as coal had once been for Britain) the dynamo of social and industrial change. In fact Arab prosperity (or the prospect of it) seemed grossly dependent on an extractive industry over which real control lay in foreignhands the 'seven (multinational) sisters' who ruled the world of oil. (See A. Sampson, The Seven Sisters: The Great Oil Companies and the World They Made (London, 1975).
The second catastrophe of the 1967 Six Day War, fought between Israel and Egypt, Jordan and Syria, was a savage reminder that mineral wealth was not the same as power, and that oil dollars did not mean industrial strength. By 1970, the year of Nasser's premature death, the promise of post-imperial freedom had become the 'Arab predicament’. (The title of the influential study by Fouad Ajami (London, 1981).)
The three largest states in the Middle East were Egypt, Turkey and Iran (each of which was to reach a population of 66 million in 2001). With the failure of Nasser's struggle to make Egypt the centre of an Arab revolution, his successor, Anwar Sadat, turned back (like Mehemet Ali in the 184os) towards an accommodation with the West. By the late 1970S Egypt had become the second largest recipient (afth Israel) of American aid.
Turkey, under Atatürk's shrewd former lieutenant Ismet Inonu, remained carefully neutral during the Second World War. But the huge forward movement of Soviet power at the end of the war, and Stalin's open avowal of his designs on the Straits - 'It was impossible to accept a situation where Turkey has a hand on Russia's windpipe,' he declared at Yalta - pushed Ankara firmly towards the Western camp. Under the Truman Doctrine (1947), Turkey was included in the sphere of American help and protection, however vague at this stage. By 1955 it had become a full member of NATO. In a way that Kemal Atatürk could hardly have dreamed of, the pattern of Cold War conflict had opened the door for Turkey's acceptance as a part of the West, with, a claim to enter the European Union. Tensions with Greece and over the future of Cyprus (which Turkey invaded and partitioned in the 1970s) made relations fretful at times. Within Turkey itself, the key question for much of the half-century after 1945 was how far Ataturk's grand project of a strong bureaucratic state, with a modern industrial base and a secular culture, was compatible with representative democracy (Ataturk's Turkey had been a one-party state) and an open (not state-dominated) economy.
The case of Iran is the most intriguing of all. Iran had been jointly occupied by Soviet and British forces in 1941, partly to block Reza Shah's approaches to Germany, mainly to secure free passage for supplies from Britain to an embattled Russia. Reza Shah abdicated and was sent off into exile. The result was to unravel his authoritarian state. Resentful notables (the powerful landowning class), radical movements in the towns (like the Tudeh Party), tribal leaders (of the Qashgai and Bakhtiari) and ethnic minorities (Kurds, Arabs and Azerbaijanis) challenged the new young shah's authority and scrambled for favor from the occupying powers. At the end of the war, this instability grew. The Red Army stayed on in Iranian Azerbaijan until 1946. The effects of wartime inflation ravaged the economy. The supporters of the shah struggled with the radicals and notables for control of the Majlis, or parliament. The government faced increasing resistance from tribal, provincial and ethnic groups. By 1949, however, the shah was close to reasserting control, perhaps because the alternative seemed a further fragmentation of the Iranian state and a deepening cycle of social unrest.
this could happen, a huge crisis broke out. To restore his position, the shah
had been anxious to swell Iran's revenue from its main source of wealth, the
vast oilfields in the south-west of the country, controlled by the
British-owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (today's BP). In July 1949 a so-called
'supplemental agreement' proposed to increase the royalty that the company paid
from 15 to 20 per cent, with further increases envisaged. But this agreement
ran foul of two massive obstructions. The first was
the fear among the shah's opponents that this newfound wealth would seal the
revival of his power along pre-war lines. The second was the much wider
hostility across Iranian opinion against continued foreign control of Iran's
key resource and against the influence the company was believed to exert To
make matters worse, while the matter was debated in the Majlis it became known
that Aramco, the Arab-American Oil Company, had offered a 50 per cent share of
profits to its host government in Saud Arabia. As negotiations with
Anglo-Iranian ground on, the politica temperature
rose and in March 195I the Majlis passed a law to nationalize the company. A
few days later Mohamed Mossadeq, veteran antagonist
of the shah and his father, took office as prime minister. For
the onset of the crisis, E. Abrahamian, Iran between Two Revolutions
(Princeton, 1982), ch 5. For Anglo-Iranian, J.
Bamberg, The History of the British Petroleum Company, vol. 2: The
Anglo-Iranian Years 1928-1954 (Cambridge, 1994).
The result was a stand-off. British talk of armed intervention war vetoed in Washington, where London's approach was regarded as reck less and retrograde. For the American view, see for example Rowntree to McGhee, 20 Dec. 1950, in FRUS 1950, vol. 5: The Near East, South Asia and Africa (Washington, 1978), p. 634. For British policy, Louis, The British Empire in the Middle East, pp. 632-89.
Instead, the large British staff was withdrawn from the fields and the Abadan refinery. The major oil companies, fearing that others might follow the Iranian example, imposed an inter national boycott on Iranian oil that was very effective. Mossadeq had seemed on the brink of achieving a constitutional revolution, but hi support - never very cohesive - now began to break up. In the Wes he was suspect as a dangerous demagogue, paving the way for Communist rule. In August 1953 he was overthrown by a military coup aided and part-funded by American agents with some British support and replaced by a premier who was loyal to the shah. Under a new oil agreement, Iran's oil was sold through a cartel of British and American companies. The shah's oil income rose spectacularly: ten fold between 1954-5 and 1960-61, to $358 million; and aHurthe fifteen fold by 1973-4. So did his military and political power. By the early 1960s he was firmly established as a major ally of the West whose value as a bulwark against a Soviet southward advance was offset periodically by the fear that his drive to be master of the Gulf would set off a conflict with the Arab states of the region.
In Cold War terms, the shah's triumph over Mossadeq seemed; victory for the West. In fact his success owed as much to the division: and mistakes of his opponents and to the deep-dyed conservatism of a landlord-dominated society as it did to the machinations and maneuvers of the CIA.(M. J. Gasiorowski and M. J. Byrne (eds.), Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran (Syracuse, NY, 2004), 'Conclusion'. For landlord dominance and its impact, Abrahamian, Iran, pp. 378-82.)
From another point of view, the shah and Mossadeq between them had wrought a remarkable change in Irans general position. The semi-colonial status which even Reza Shah have not entirely thrown off, the Company's privileges as almost a state within the state, and the pervasive influence that the British exerted over Iranian officialdom and through their provincial allies had all been swept away in the humiliating retreat into which Anglo-Iranian was forced. To an extent that no other Middle East ruler could rival, the shah could assert not only Iran's independence but also its claim to be the one great power of the region. It was a signal irony that those who eventually inherited the state he had built were the bitterest enemies of the changes it imposed on Iranian society.
It was events in East Asia, South Asia and the Middle East that destroyed the Europeans' illusion that their colonial empires could be revived in the post-war world. For a while at least, Africa seemed different. Even well-informed observers doubted that Africa could follow in the wake of Asia, or would be allowed to do so without a bitter struggle. In the Maghrib countries (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia), the power of France remained deeply entrenched. The French idea of a Mediterranean 'destiny' precluded real separation from lands thought so vital to France's place in the world. With I million settlers in Algeria (all with a voice in France's parliamentary system) and an Armee d'Afrique (mainly recruited in North Africa) that filled a crucial place in their military system, post-war French governments were doubly disinclined to see a North African lesson in their forced withdrawal from Indochina. In sub-Saharan Africa, the British, French, Portuguese and Belgians saw even less reason to prepare for an early withdrawal.
Sub-Saharan Africa had felt indirectly some of the fallout of war: inflation, shortages, the recruitment of soldiers, localized industrialization, the screech of propaganda. But (except briefly in Ethiopia) no real war was fought on its soil, and no invasion had disrupted the colonial regime. Linguistic, ethnic and religious diversity seemed to rule out the danger that African nationalism would ever become as potent as pan-Arab, mobilizing mass support within (let alone across) colonial boundaries. For similar reasons, the prospect that African leaders could create political movements on the model of Indian nationalism seemed very remote. The vast sub continental coalition created by Gandhi was a world away from the localized nature of Africa's colonial politics. Indeed, far from evolving into African nations, the colonial states of sub-Saharan Africa seemed to be moving in the opposite direction. 'Tribal' Africa was still being invented, in part at least as the African response to the forms of 'indirect rule' the Europeans had imposed. Creating 'tribes' (some, like the Yoruba, on a very large scale) still seemed the optimum way for African elites to exert their influence and build their power. Lastly, in the 'White South', it was white settler nationalism, not black African nationalism, that mobilized most aggressively after I945. Enforcing apartheid (literally 'separation') and fortifying white political supremacy was the political programme in I950s South Africa. Building and defending a white-ruled Central African state was the settlers' aim in Northern and Southern Rhodesia (modern Zambia and Zimbabwe). (J.R. T. Wood, The WelenskyPapers (Durban, 1982) remains the best account.)
The entrenchment of white power had a further dimension. With the rediscovery of its colonial mission after I 94 5, Salazarist Portugal embarked on the systematic colonization of its two great African territories in Angola and Mozambique. (The number of white settlers in Portugal's main African ttltritories in Angola and Mozambique increased from 67,000 in 1940 to 3°0,000 by 1960. See A. J. Telo, Economia e Imperio no Portugal Contemporanea (Lisbon, 1994), p. 267.)
Ironically, then, while the old colonial powers were struggling to hang on in Asia, they thought in Africa that they had time to play with. Bureaucratic blueprints for the transfer of power in the indefinite future and after a series of stages (like a dunce's progress from the first form to the sixth) flowed from the pens of colonial planners. The real imperative was the urgent need to make the colonies produce: cocoa, vegetable oil, cotton, sisal, tobacco, copper, gold, uranium, cobalt, asbestos and aluminum. Dollar shortage and Cold War tension turned Africa from the derelict of the inter-war years into Europe's Aladdin's cave. The 'night watchman' state, which let sleeping dogs lie, had to be made into the 'developmental' state, which interfered everywhere. White settler communities in East and Central Africa, typically regarded by pre-war colonial officials as a redundant nuisance, had now to be petted and their expansion encouraged. In colonial West Africa, where there were no white settlers, colonial administrators looked for support to the educated elite of the coastal towns. Coldly regarded before the war, they were now to help energize the drive for growth. With curious optimism, more romantic than rational, the makers of policy in London and Paris assumed that the promise of ultimate self-government would soothe the irritation of a much more intrusive colonial presence and lay the foundations of 'Eurafrican' partnership when colonial rule was eventually relinquished.
What they failed to allow for was the rickety condition of the colonial state. Across much of Africa, it had always been feeble. In the age of partition and conquest before 1914, it sought little more than a rough colonial pax and relied on settlers and concession-holders to create a taxable revenue. In the inter-war years, the prevailing dogma of indirect rule (based on fear of destabilizing 'traditional' African society) and depression-hit revenues favored a shoestring regime that delegated power to so-called 'native authorities' at the local level. More perceptive governors were all too aware that, without a change of direction, it would get harder and harder to hold their colonies together or to win general assent for any central initiative. (See the memo by the governor of Nigeria in September 1939, CO 5831 244/3°453, printed in A. F. Madden and J. Darwin (eds.), The Dependent Empire 19°0-1948, vol. 7: Colonies, Protectorates and Mandates: Select Documents on the Constitutional History of the British Empire and Commonwealth (Westport, Conn., 1994), pp. 705H.)
It was only the war (with its demand for more action and spending) and its aftermath that made reform seem urgent. But what the policymakers intended as a consensual advance towards a louder African voice and a more proactive state held a different meaning for African opinion. Amid post-war austerity, colonial governments had to regulate prices, hold down wages, quash labour unrest, and limit local consumption. They had to force through improvements in agricultural practice -like cattle-dipping, anti-erosion measures and burning diseased cocoa trees - that aroused intense animosity and relied on compulsion. With the swarm of alien experts and (in some places) new settlers, colonial Africa experienced what some historians hav6 called its 'second colonial occupation'. (See D. A. Low and J. Lonsdale, 'Towards the New Order', in D. A. Low and A. Smith (eds.), History of East Africa, vol. 3 (Oxford, 1976), pp. 1-63.)
It was hardly surprising that this sudden spasm of activity by the colonial regime provoked suspicion and resistance. Within a short space of time, colonial governments had to choose between two alternative courses. They could devolve more quickly to African leaders and try to win the state more popular backing (the option pursued by the British in Ghana after the 1948 disturbances). Or they could turn instead to a regime of repression, in the hope that forceful action would discourage 'extremism' (the term reserved for those who refused to cooperate with colonial governments) and refill the ranks of those (called 'moderates') who were willing to accept a leisurely timetable of political change and an indefinite period before African majority rule. For the strategies open to colonial governments, J. Darwin, 'The Central African Emergency, 1959', in R. F. Holland (ed.), Emergencies and Disorders in the European Colonial Empires after 1945 (London, 1994).
The first preference of governments in London and Paris (and even in Brussels), once the scale of African resentment was clear, was to avoid confrontation and strike a new bargain with African leaders. But in Kenya and Central Africa this solution was barred by the vocal presence of white settler communities.
When settlers became a target for African attack in Kenya (though very few indeed were actually murdered), the demand for an 'emergency' became irresistible. The result was to unleash a huge cycle of violence. For in Kenya the 'Mau Mau' insurgency among the Kikuyu people was fuelled as much by resentment against fellow Kikuyu as by hatred of settlers. Economic change had allowed many Kikuyu notables and their followers to increase their wealth at the expense of the poor - the landless or less well connected. Older notions of a 'moral economy' and social reciprocity turned these tensions into a social war, as 'loyal' chiefs harried those suspected of Mau Mau sympathies, and these reacted in kind or fled to the forests, the base for guerrilla war. The back of Mau Mau resistance was broken by I956. But even in Kenya, the cost of a prolonged security operation, the need to rally African communities to the government side, and embarrassment over the atrocities and brutalities of the repression apparatus--especially the camps where Mau Mau suspects were 'rehabilitated' had made devolution unavoidable by I960.For details see J. Lonsdale, 'The Moral Economy of Mau Mau: Wealth, Poverty and Civic Virtue in Kikuyu Political Thought', in B. Berman and J. Lonsdale, Unhappy Valley: Conflict in Kenya and Africa, book 2: Ethnicity and Violence (London, 1992), pp. 265-504.
By that date, indeed, independence under governments chosen and led by Africans had become the accepted policy of all the colonial powers, with the exception of Portugal. But what they hoped and intended was to control the timetable of change, to install 'moderate' regimes with whom relations would be cordial, and to maintain close supervision over the foreign relations and internal development of the ex-colonial territories. Since sub-Saharan Africa still seemed an international backwater, remote from the front line of cold war, they thought they had time in hand for a post-colonial transition. (See also, D. Anderson, Histories of the Hanged (London, 20°5). C. Elkins, Britain's Gulag (London, 20°5) offers a more vehement account.
This illusion was shattered by the crisis in the Congo. The Belgian government had granted independence in June I960 on the premise of minimal change in its role and influence in the Congo's affairs. (See Crawford Young, Politics in the Congo: Decolonization and Independence (Princeton, 1965).
It was a catastrophic misjudgment. Within a matter of days the army had mutinied, spreading panic and terror among the large expatriate community. The charismatic new premier, Patrice Lumumba, rejected a close post-colonial partnership. The mineral-rich provinces of South Kasai and Katanga seceded unilaterally from the new Congo republic, in Katanga's case with the connivance of Brussels, perhaps with the aim of destroying Lumumba. By August I960 Lumumba had appealed for aid to the Soviet Union, and Soviet arms and personnel began to arrive on the scene. A United Nations force of I0,000 men was sent to hold the country together. But, with the rise of new separatist regimes, the escalation of violence as rival armies battled for control, the murder of Lumumba by Katangan (and perhaps Belgian) soldiers, and international differences over the purpose of the UN force, the country portrayed only three years before as a model colony had become the 'Congo disaster. Although a semblance of order had returned by I964-5, the Congo's tragedy transformed the meaning of decolonization in Africa. It revealed the unexpected hazard of a Cold War competition between East and West for African allegiance. It confirmed the wisdom (as it seemed in London) of an early withdrawal from Britain's remaining colonial burdens in East and Central Africa before they were afflicted by the contagion of disorder. And, most decisively of all, it entrenched the suspicion of whites south of the Zambezi that anarchy and barbarism were the inevitable product of concession to African nationalists. As progress towards complete independence became more and more hectic in the rest of Africa (even Algeria, despite its million 'pieds-noirs' - white settlers - had thrown off French rule in I962), in the 'southern third' white control tightened to form a solid bloc that also included the Portuguese colonies in Angola and Mozambique. Here was a new and peculiar 'partition' of Africa.
As much as in the Middle East or the rest of Asia, decolonization in Africa was not a clean break with the imperial past, or a ticket of entry into a 'world of nations'. The new African states inherited the weaknesses of their colonial forerunners - into whose shoes they had stepped after the briefest transition. Regional or local ethnicity was much stronger than nationalism. Building national identities without common vernacular languages presented an enormous challenge. The 'tribal' legacy of colonial rule was deeply embedded: indeed, in many parts of Africa, creating new forms of 'tribal' ethnicity was the usual means of adjusting to the larger scale of economic and social life.
the pressure to expand the state's role was acute, whether in social services
or economic development. The imperative need for any new regime was to find
external sources of financial and often military aid, before it lost its claim
on the loyalty of its followers.(Besides our own more recent, extensive studies
about the subject see also Ludo de Witte, The Assassination of Lumumba (Eng.
trans. London, 2001), and Colin Legum, Congo
It was a scene ready-made for the growth of external influence in a novel post-colonial form. If the world's greatest powers had a motive to do so, the means to build new empires of influence lay all around.
is thus best understood as the dissolution of the distinctive global
order - geopolitical, legal, economic, cultural and demographic - that had made
an appearance by the I840s, was consolidated in the I890s, and staggered on
into the I940s and' 50s where conditions still favored its survival. The
ability of the surviving colonial powers preserve this
old imperial system faded rapidly after I945. That, as we have seen, was one
key element of the new post-war international landscape. The other, just as
critical, was the bloody collapse of the war imperialisms of the Nazis and Japan.
It was the near simultaneous fall of both these imperial regimes - the 'old
colonial' and the 'new imperialist' - that cleared a space for the emergence of
new world empires, with new ideologies, new methods, and new aims and objects.