Southern Strategies: White Internationalism in the Cold War

Southern Strategies: White Internationalism in the Cold War



The project, tentatively titled “Southern Strategies: White Internationalism in the Cold War,” explores how diplomatic and transnational relationships with minority regimes in southern Africa reflected and shaped specific strands of conservative foreign policy thinking in the United States. Both South Africa and Rhodesia sought to protect themselves from the rising waves of human rights and decolonization through a mixture of traditional diplomacy and transnational appeals aimed at mobilizing American civil society. Formal diplomacy curried favor with anti-communists by arguing the states represented familiar, reliable outposts of pro-Western sentiment during the Cold War. At the same time, both states made more overt racist appeals through support for and cooperation with civil society groups like the Friends of Rhodesia. These organizations took advantage of the domestic unease over civil rights to build solidarity between the self-consciously white governments of the U.S. south and southern Africa. Their attempts to translate race into ideological appeals based on European identity, anti-communism, and evangelical Christianity legitimized settler states and created transnational strategies of resistance to self-determination and civil rights. The result was a diverse if not always cohesive U.S. coalition dedicated to shielding South Africa and Rhodesia from international sanctions. It had success initially through the Congress before gaining sway in the White House itself. The strategic value of southern Africa became central to the policies of the Republican Party in the 1980s, but the marginalized racial logic and narratives of civilization peril continued to shape the worldviews of some extremists associated with the contemporary alt-right.


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