Betting on the Africans: John F. Kennedy's Courting of African Nationalist Leaders

By Philip E. Muehlenbeck | Go to book overview

1
“More Royalist than the Queen”
Eisenhower/Dulles Policy toward Africa

In order to fully understand the dramatic changes John F. Kennedy made to USAfrican relations it is imperative to examine the African policies of Kennedy’s predecessor in the Oval Office, Dwight D. Eisenhower. The Eisenhower administration showed little interest in Africa and preferred to allow its European allies to take the lead in determining Western policy toward the continent. This was especially true when Eisenhower believed US-African relations would cause a rift in his relations with NATO allies. As a result, Eisenhower never voted against the European powers on colonial issues at the United Nations and he never publicly criticized their continued political control of Africa. As one critic of his administration’s African policy put it, Eisenhower was “more royalist than the Queen.”1

Illustrative of Eisenhower’s interest in Africa is the fact that only portions of fifteen pages (out of a thousand) are dedicated to the continent in his two-volume memoir of his presidency.2 In contrast to Kennedy’s personal interest in Africa and activist policy toward the emerging leaders of the continent was Eisenhower’s profound disinterest in having personal contact with African leaders. He had a propensity to leave Washington on golfing vacations when an African leader was scheduled to visit the United States, and his administration actively discouraged personal correspondence between Eisenhower and African heads of state.


The Ideological Foundations of the Eisenhower
Administration’s Africa Policy

Eisenhower’s perception of African nationalism was greatly influenced by the principal architect of his foreign policy, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. Dulles believed that Third World nationalism was a tool of Moscow’s creation

-3-

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