The far-reaching implications of lifting sanctions against Rhodesia continues to be a perplexing issue for many Americans. President Carter took a realistic and pragamatic stand in rejecting strong pressure to welcome the ill-conceived Rhodesian government back into the international community.
We are convinced that to lift economic sanctions at this time would be dangerously counterproductive. Such a move could lead to a very serious erosion of U.S. influence throughout Africa and to a worsening of racial and factional divisions as well as the further spreading of bloodshed in Rhodesia and other areas of southern Africa.
The gross violations of human rights in southern Africa by white minorities represent one of the gravest threats to world peace today. Those responsible for conditions leading to the presently explosive situation must continue to be held responsible for removing the causes of conflicts. At the same time, the United States, which has considerable economic as well as strategic interests in the region, must assume a key role in ensuring the genuine majority rule is reached in Rhodesia, Namibia and South Africa. Each problem in interdependent, resulting from one basic root cause, the exploitation of the black indigenous masses by white settlers from Europe.
The NAACP strongly believes that the constitution that was masterminded by the Ian Smith government, as well was the recent election there, represent no lasting solution to the problem of white minority rule in Rhodesia.
That constitution, which was adopted by less than four percent of the population in a white-only election last January, guarantees that the European settlers will continue to control the military, the police, the civil services and the judiciary. In addition, the allocation of 28 of 100 seats in the Rhodesian Parliament to whites and the concrete guarantees of absolute veto power provided them mocks any rational claim to genuine majority rule.
The widely publicized steps taken last October to abolish statutory racial discrimination have only replaced over discrimination by a system of economic and cultural requirements that effectively continue to ensure racial dominance by the white minority.
The struggle in southern Africa is not simply one for admission of the excluded into the system of participatory democracy, or for a piece of the economic pie. It is a struggle for genuine political rights based on one man, one vote.
The yearnings of the people of Africa for basic rights should be self-evident to the present inheritors within this nation of the benefits for which Americans fought so valiantly just two centuries ago. Yet, it seems to escape many upholders of America democracy that just as colonial America rebelled against the tyranny of King George III, so do Africans intend to end their oppression.
The lessons of Vietnam and Angola, though costly, seem to have escaped many: Neither Europeans nor Americans can any longer impose thier will on lesser developed nations where the people are determined to be free.
For either Britain or the United States to unilaterally life sanctions now could be a violation of international law and would be catastrophic for American interests in Africa. The loss of U.S. prestige and respect for its espousal of human rights would be irreparable. It would loss its ability to moderate the growing conflict. It again would become the unwitting ally of South Africa, driving the liberation fighters further into the arms of the Soviets and Communists. Warfare would sharply intensify and spread, possibly engulfing the whole region in another Vietnam-type conflict.
Why must Americans again be saddled with losers? The United States is still reeling painfully from another catastrophic lesson in Iran. Does anyone here believe that Nigeria, upon whom the United States depends for significant supplies of oil, would not seek to take retaliatory action if this country lifes sanctions against Rhodesia? And that the other black African and Caribbean nations, despite their need for U.S. technology and economic help and their genuine admiration of Americans, would not also become increasingly embittered and look even more to that day when they too would be able to retaliate against the United States?
In 1961, Undersecretary of State Chester Bowles put the alternatives this way: "You can stand up for principle and go against the course of history,and you may win. Or you can go with the course of history and ignore principle, and you may win. But if you go against both, you are bound to lose."