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

By Scott L. Bills | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
"MUCH TRAVELLING AND PATIENCE"
The Libyan Tour

"TO EUROPEAN EYES," wrote Duncan Cumming, "the Arab's virtues are only evident in his own environment. He is capable of genuine courage, hospitality and kindness. He is excessively fond of his religion and his language, and . . . he sets much store by courtesy and manners. On the other hand, he is lazy, two faced, malicious and avaricious." The Arab responded well, said Cumming, to Europeans who were "patient, restrained, [and] sympathetic to his interests. . . . Orders given to him should be simple and plain. . . . Orders or threats that cannot be enforced should be avoided: traditional Arab freedom is largely a matter of ingenuity in avoiding compliance to orders." Such were Cumming's guidelines. "In anything but short doses," he wrote, "life with Arabs is, for the normal European, extremely dull and very little can be done to brighten it."1 He remained pessimistic about establishing effective local governance in North Africa and the Middle East. Such views of Arab character pervaded the military and foreign policy establishment of Britain (and other imperial powers). This attitude, especially from analysts in the field, reflected a basic contradiction between Labour goals for a new Anglo-Arab partnership and the inability of most officials to picture Muslims as people with an advanced culture.

In October 1947, British commissioner-designate Frank Stafford observed that despite obvious differences among the former Italian territories, "the standard of political intelligence and maturity of the great bulk of their inhabitants is equally low in each." Natives were "organised and administered on tribal principles" and "largely nomadic and illiterate." Stafford was already on record as believing that the deputies' Four Power Commission would find the natives eager for independence--Arabs simply had no idea what that autonomy would entail. As did Cumming, Stafford believed that Libyans and others would discover that sitting behind desks did not constitute self-government. Nevertheless, the job of the COI was to canvass popular sentiment, and it would have to design some means to do so. Stafford suggested, "The points at issue must be put in the simplest form possible and

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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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