May 5, 2007

The Game of Nations, Congo-Style

Here's a podcast interview at Electric Politics with Larry Devlin about his new memoir Chief of Station, Congo about his years as the CIA's man in the Congo, in which he says he wasn't responsible for the murder of the decolonized state's first President, Patrice Lumumba.

Strange as it seems now, in 1960, everybody -- the UN, Washington, Moscow -- kind of imagined the future of the world was being determined on the banks of the Congo. Now, we just try not to think about the place. The CIA's man Mobutu was a prime stinker, but the place sure hasn't improved in the decade since he's been gone. Apres Mobutu, le Deluge, for which Mobutu and America bear much responsibility, but then maybe 35 years apres le Deluge is not so bad in tropical Africa. Anyway, it makes me tired to think about it.

Eisenhower liked to use the CIA as a cheap alternative to fighting the Cold War using the Army. (Similarly, he pushed ahead into the nuclear ICBM deterrent as an alternative to matching the Red Army tank for tank and man for man.) Not only did it save money and American lives, but it slowed the rise of the "military-industrial complex" that Eisenhower detested, and sidestepped the kind of war fever among the public that had made McCarthyism so popular during Truman's Korean War. Playing Machiavellian games among the Congo's elite was a lot better than sending American troops to the heart of darkness.

Eisenhower's VP, Richard Nixon, called Ike, who pretended to be a kindly old duffer in public, the most devious man he had known.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

15 comments:

Mitt said...

Strange as it seems now, in 1960, everybody -- the UN, Washington, Moscow -- kind of imagined the future of the world was being determined on the banks of the Congo. Now, we just try not to think about the place. The CIA's man Mobutu was a prime stinker, but the place sure hasn't improved in the decade since he's been gone. Apres Mobutu, le Deluge, for which Mobutu and America bear much responsibility, but then maybe 35 years apres le Deluge is not so bad in tropical Africa. Anyway, it makes me tired to think about it.

Steve, if you can't be bothered, why should we?

Anonymous said...

No Steve, it was more Ghana, one of the first nations to gain it's independence and with a fairly good infrastructure and trained bureaucracy from the Brits.

While Ghana is not the pits of say, Cote D'Ivore or Liberia or the Congo, it's a typical African kleptocracy without any minimal attention paid to economic development.

While both say Congo and Malaysia started off with the same per-capita-income and GDP, at least in Malaysia (and other Asian countries) the kleptocrats understood they could steal more money and get richer if the people themselves were richer (and this also had the happy coincidence of making them less prone to coups).

Partly IMHO this is due to less tribalism, i.e. Malays knew who they were, as did Indonesians, Thais, etc. They had historical nations with national identities that predated colonialism and survived after it. Africa was then and now a collection of squabbling tribes with no idea of nationhood.

And yes Ike was a masterful leader. Neither caving to the Soviets who WERE aggressive nor seeking un-needed confrontations like JFK.

Stuff in the Congo may have been pointless in and of itself but it served to deter Soviet Adventurism like putting missiles in Cuba or the Berlin Blockade or other stupid stunts.

No one in the Politburo could argue that Ike wasn't a serious guy and could be pushed around with aggressive behavior with impunity.

So maybe Ike wasn't a great intellectual but learned a thing or two corralling Patton and Monty and Bradley, FDR, Truman, Churchill, Stalin, and of course Marshall.

Plus Ike could tell MacArthur to go away and shut up. And make it stick.

Anonymous said...

As a side note I knew people who had worked under Kwame Nkrumah's goverment. They were extremely disappointed in the failure of his government and those after to offer anything on the order of Lee Kwan Yew whom they found a very wise leader.

These were well educated men who were not stupid or uninformed. Many were quite brilliant in law, history, etc. as my Undergrad Professors. To a man they were quite open about how unhappy they were about Africa's total inability to govern themselves in contrast to the high hopes everyone had for Nkrumah.

Don't forget that DeGaulle in his War Memoirs seriously considered an Algerian Strategy with manpower gathered as far South as Brazzaville, factories and everything. At least the man wanted to keep fighting. Africa was not always considered to be the inevitable sinkhole it is today.

Proofreader said...

The USA´s and USSR´s twin efforts to bring down European colonies is one of mankind´s darkest chapter.
African wouildn´t be the sinkhole it is today if colonial rule had been allowed to remain in place for another 50 or 100 years.
Ike and the CIA have a lot to answer for.

Anonymous said...

The Belgians left the Congo with something like 300 miles of paved roads and six native born university graduates at independence. If ever there was a colony set up for failure from the get-go, it was the Congo. It was almost as bad as when they switched allegiance from the Tutsi to the Hutu in Rwanda (because the better educated Tutsi were the main agitators for independence) just before they bugged out. At least the British left India with a working bureaucracy, railroad, and phone system.

At this point, the world might be better off sawing off the northern and eastern parts of the Congo and giving them to Uganda and Rwanda, which are much better run states and more or less rule the regions by proxy as it is.

michael farris said...

I think it's pretty much beyond debate that the Belgians were the worst colonial power in Africa, hands down, no contest, they left royal rat fucks that no other european country could compete with.

Anonymous said...

I think it's pretty much beyond debate that the Belgians were the worst colonial power in Africa

It would be interesting to read an honest comparison of former colonies* contrasting their degree of success since independence with the level of investment and general decency of their former overlords. No publishable book will discuss failings of the native inhabitants, but a clever author could put much between the lines. Has such a study every been published?

*By "former colonies," I mean 19th/early 20th c. colonies, not the earlier efforts in the Americas and ANZ where the colonists decimated or drove off the aboriginals and took the place over lock, stock and barrel.

Anonymous said...

After fits and starts, Africa has started to develop homegrown Lee Kwan Yews (often explictly modeled on the original), notably Yoweri Museveni in Uganda, Paul Kagame in Rwanda, and Isaias Afewerki in Eritrea with their emphasis on social cohesion and economic growth.

aceflyer said...

Wow, this is the first iSteve.com comment thread in a long time which is on-topic. Excellent!

David Davenport said...

Don't forget that DeGaulle in his War Memoirs seriously considered an Algerian Strategy with manpower gathered as far South as Brazzaville, factories and everything.

Charles DeG.'s hopes and dreams were not necessarily realistic.

... It is my understanding that the majority of "Free French" enlisted men in Europe were Algerian and other African Muslims. This does tend to put France's current problems with Muslims in a somewhat different light ... not that Free French forces ever did much real fighting in 1944 and '45 ... maybe some skirmishing with anti-Gaullist French factions.

P.S. Perusing photos of French soldiers in 1914-18, one can see African and Viet Namese-looking faces.

tggp said...

There's a movie about those Free French Algerians that served in the second World War coming out called Days of Glory.

rhodes said...

Now, we just try not to think about the place.
I think over 4 million Congolese have died in the recent wars there. Largely to supply diamonds to the (orthodox Jewish) diamond merchants of Amsterdam, via Rwanda. Compare 4 million Congolese dying in the last 10 years to, say, 6 million Jews dying 50 years ago. Which gets more press?

It would be interesting to read an honest comparison of former colonies* contrasting their degree of success since independence with the level of investment and general decency of their former overlords.
If you look at economic maps of post-indepedence Africa, it's the Francophone countries that are the poorest.

Anonymous said...

I'd be equally interesting to see post-colonial outcomes in Africa correlated with what stage of state formation the societies were in when they were colonized. Did basically tribal societies (many of them yoked together in state borders drawn thousands of miles away) have the same outcomes as countries that were on well on their way to becoming nation-states or empires when they were colonized?

johnny said...

"Compare 4 million Congolese dying in the last 10 years to, say, 6 million Jews dying 50 years ago. Which gets more press?"

The Jews were killed deliberately. The Congolese were killed randomly by sheer accident.

(must...keep...straight...face)

Plus, the goyim aren't important anyway. But every hair on a Jewish head is sacred.

johnny said...

"interesting to see post-colonial outcomes in Africa correlated with what stage of state formation the societies were in when they were colonized"

Look at Detroit after the Whites left. Or, for a dose of reality, look up "Africa Addio" on youtube (or elsewhere). Er, there's your African civilization. It ain't wood carvings in Pier One.

I do understand that the Honorable Middle Kingdom of Mooganshi'Daq'uan was on the verge of achieving space flight...before de white debbils clapped its scientists in chains. Oh the horror.