COLONIALISM AND THE U.S. The conflict of Ideal v. Reality

  • Share
  • Read Later

FROM the sandy wastes of North Africa to the lush rain forests of Southeast Asia, the winds of anti-colonialism blow with gale force, and wherever they blow, there is resentment and suspicion of the U.S. "The U.S.," says an Indonesian, "sides with the Western colonial powers and has not done enough in liberating Afro-Asian countries." Among Tunisians a once unalloyed admiration for the U.S. is giving way to the impatience voiced by President Habib Bourguiba: "Without U.S. financial aid, France could not continue her war of repression in Algeria. In our eyes this makes you an accomplice of France." In Athens a Greek politician, angered by U.S. refusal to intervene in the Cyprus quarrel, hotly declared: "No government which sincerely loves freedom can choose neutrality in a matter where freedom is at issue."

Until the end of World War II, U.S. leadership in the struggle against colonialism was universally acknowledged, and the U.S. record spoke for itself. Woodrow Wilson, leader of the first onetime colony to win independence of Europe in modern times, raised "self-determination of peoples" as a standard to which native leaders everywhere could repair. In World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt so harried Churchill about Britain's colonial possessions that during one wartime conference Churchill cried: "Mr. President, I believe you are trying to do away with the British Empire." In 1942 when Sir Stafford Cripps unsuccessfully tried to reach a settlement with India's nationalists, a U.S. representative took part in the negotiations—a step which, together with Roosevelt's constant prodding of the British, encouraged Gandhi and Nehru in their fight, thereby hastened the independence of India and Pakistan.

Armed with France's written pledge to give independence to Syria and Lebanon, F.D.R. in 1945 assured Saudi Arabia's Ibn Saud that he would back the Syrians and Lebanese by all means short of outright force. And during the Casablanca Conference Roosevelt insisted on dining with Morocco's Sultan Mohammed ben Youssef, then subject to France, pointedly told the Sultan: "A sovereign government should retain considerable control over its own resources." Most Frenchmen date the Sultan's stubborn drive toward ultimate independence from that day.


The chorus of disapproval that portrays the U.S. as a bastion of imperialism erupted after World War II. It has been assiduously fostered by the propaganda mills of Russia, the greatest postwar imperialist of them all. Yet since World War II, 20 Afro-Asian ex-colonies, inhabited by more than 700 million people, have achieved independence, and more than half of them owe their liberation, at least in part, to the U.S. Items:

THE PHILIPPINES. The only large and economically important colony ever held by the U.S. got its independence, according to prewar promise, on July 4, 1946. (Puerto Rico, offered independence, chose to remain tied to the U.S. as a semi-autonomous "commonwealth.")

INDOCHINA. While supporting France's military effort against the Communist imperialism in Southeast Asia, the U.S. gently but steadily pressured the French toward the grant of full independence that South Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia finally got—almost too late—in 1954.

  1. Previous Page
  2. 1
  3. 2
  4. 3