The Libyan Arena: The United States, Britain, and the Council of Foreign Ministers, 1945-1948

By Scott L. Bills | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
THE SPOILS OF WAR

IN HIS WARTIME diary, American poet-soldier John Ciardi observed, "There are times when all sorts of events come together with a startling lack of relationship." In January 1945, he wrote, "Nothing changes until it gets worse."1 Ciardi could well have been describing, first, the dismal array of difficult issues big and small that lay before the major powers at war's end, and, second, the incremental paralysis that stifled optimism, regenerated hostility and hate, and constricted diplomacy during 1945-46. The agency that became the expression and epitome of rivalry among the former Grand Allies was the Council of Foreign Ministers, first called into session in September 1945, then proceeding at a steady pace to destroy international hopes for big-power consensus. It was often through the public and private forums offered by the Council that the early cold war took shape. The CFM also became the measure of the decline of Britain and France and the buoyant ascent of the United States and the Soviet Union. In retrospect, the Council of Foreign Ministers did far less than people initially hoped, but it also accomplished more by 1948 than many observers realized.

The Council's main task was to negotiate peace treaties for Germany's European allies, but the matter that eventually absorbed most of its energies was the handling of Italy's former colonies in Africa. The words "disposal" and "disposition" were used over and over, the one suggesting an easy riddance of unwanted debris, the other an orderly and fair appraisal and liquidation. Both sentiments alternately moved the diplomats and policymakers who sat hour after hour, week after week, month after month, wrestling with this ever more grueling discussion. Who was disposing of whom was not always apparent.

Woven into the fabric of this and other international forums were periodic test-case crises. There were many of them in the immediate postwar years: French intransigence in Syria and Lebanon, civil war in Greece, Soviet troops in northern Iran, French and Dutch military action in Southeast Asia, Arab-Zionist feuding in Palestine, and control of the Italian colonies.

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The Libyan Arena: The United States, Britain, and the Council of Foreign Ministers, 1945-1948
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Maps viii
  • Tables ix
  • Abbreviations x
  • Preface xi
  • Chapter 1 - Introduction "A Society of Victors" 1
  • Chapter 2 - The Spoils of War 26
  • Chapter 3 - Plans for Libyan Trusteeship 45
  • Chapter 4 - The British Working Party 63
  • Chapter 5 - Dispatch of The Four Power Commission Of Investigation 87
  • Chapter 6 - The Libyan Tour 108
  • Chapter 7 - The Might That Failed 133
  • Chapter 8 - Conclusion In the Libyan Arena 155
  • Notes 165
  • Select Bibliography 197
  • Index 205
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