Ethnic Groups and U.S. Foreign Policy

By Mohammed E. Ahrari | Go to book overview

Mondale policy on Africa would be substantially different from that of Reagan, of how different his policy would be from Carter's. 37 The question was understandable in light of the Carter posture toward South Africa at the end of 1979, and the failure of Mondale to make South Africa a prominent issue in his presidential contest with Reagan in 1984, despite the efforts of the Reverend Jesse Jackson.

Given the fickleness of public opinion, the challenge would now appear to be in the realm of sharpening the tools of mobilization in an effort to move beyond elite groups in the FSAM coalition and "anchor" the issue within the communities--as a policy concern--through the sponsorship of a set of activities with which mass groups might identify. Such a strategy might build Africa-policy-oriented units where they do not exist or strengthen those that exist at local levels. One current project is a national boycott of Shell Oil Company as a spur to the divestment campaign, but the success of this campaign, among other factors, is likely to be retarded by the FSAM support for moderate disinvestment legislation in the Congress. A serious question exists of the extent to which the national mobilization might be effected by the seemingly mixed signals of strong support for disinvestment through a boycott, on one hand, and support for a "no new investments" legislative policy, on the other.

Regardless of the answer to the question above, the opportunity to seriously entertain such strategic considerations with the possibility that something might be accomplished in foreign policy terms constitutes a qualitatively new stage in the competence of black leaders to influence the foreign policy system toward Africa and potentially toward other issues as well. Although I would hasten to contradict those who have concluded that influence on issues beyond Africa depends on ethnic or racial mobilization de-emphasis, because of the views of scholars such as Lemelle, Challenor, and Barnett, who hold that the ethnic model of policy influence is inappropriate to an analysis of black influence. 38 Race subordination is the central problem of the barriers to the exercise of influence and, as such, is a continuing and vital basis of policy education and mobilization.


NOTES
1.
Barry Hughes, The Domestic Context of American Foreign Policy ( San Francisco: W. H. Freeman, 1978), p. 153.
2.
James Rosenau, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy ( New York: Random House, 1961), p. 17.
3.
See Lester Milbrath section, "The Task of Groups Desiring to Influence Foreign Policy Decisions," in his article "Interest Groups and Foreign Policy," in Domestic Sources of Foreign Policy, ed. James Rosenau ( New York: The Free Press, 1967), pp. 238-44.
4.
Martin Weil, "Can the Blacks Do for Africa What the Jews Did for Israel?" in American Policy in Southern Africa: The Stakes and The Stance, ed. Rene Lemarchand ( Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1978), p. 16.

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