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H-Diplo Roundtable Review of Robert B. Rakove. Kennedy, Johnson, and the Nonaligned World. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012 http://www.h-net.org/~diplo/roundtables/PDF/Roundtable-XIV-39.pdf [Note: The PDF version of this roundtable has been updated to include the following response] A Response to "Nigeria and the New Frontier,"Comment by Brian E McNeil, University of Texas at Austin http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl?trx=vx&list=H-Diplo&month=1307&week=b&msg=HVVuSrt4fIZfwzUuWW3cvg&user=&pw= Response by Phil Muehlenbeck, George Washington University I was pleasantly surprised to see that the recent H-Net Roundtable responses between Rob Rakove and myself had been interesting enough to draw a lengthy and significant response from Brian McNeil.1 Certainly the number of scholars studying U.S. relations with Africa has come a long way in the past decade, which is an exciting development indeed. It's also a bit unexpected that Rakove and I have somehow become juxtaposed in a quasi-historiographical debate over Nigeria's role in the New Frontier, when in reality our overall viewpoints on Kennedy's foreign policy are quite similar and neither of us discusses Nigeria much in our respective recent books. I will briefly respond to a few of the points made by McNeil in his posting in order to clarify my position on this topic and correct a few facts. First, I do not think that Nigeria was "simply a nation among nations in Kennedy's African strategy" as McNeil suggests. In fact, as I wrote in my contribution to Rakove's H-Net Roundtable, "Nigeria was an important state to Kennedy, but not the most important to his African strategy." I do not think that Kennedy viewed Nigeria as just another state, but nor do I think that he viewed Nigeria as one of the two or three most important countries in his overall strategy for "Betting on the Africans" (I believe that there were 4-5 African states which Kennedy valued more than Nigeria). I am hardly alone in this assessment. A quick review of some of the most prominent historians of the Kennedy administration (Robert Dallek, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr, and Theodore Sorensen), Kennedy's foreign policy (James Giglio), and Kennedy's African policies (Richard Mahoney, Thomas Noer, & William Attwood) reveals that in 3,237 pages of combined text these eminent authors reference Nigeria a grand total of _once_ in their books (Sorensen mentioned Nigeria once in passing, but not to discuss U.S.-Nigerian relations but simply in reference to a Peace Corps volunteer who was posted there).2 In contrast, Ghana, Guinea, and Congo received substantial coverage in these books. Second, perhaps the crux of my disagreement with Rakove and McNeil on this topic is the distinction between Kennedy as an individual and the "Kennedy administration" (the bureaucrats at the Departments of State, Defense, etc.). All of the evidence that Rakove and McNeil present relate to how the Kennedy administration viewed Africa and Nigeria. For example, the "bellwether report" that McNeil mentions in his response as indicating that "the president" saw Nigeria as the most important state on the continent is in actuality a State Department report. I am unaware of any evidence that President Kennedy himself agreed with this State Department analysis-or that he even read this particular report. I do concur that the Kennedy administration (and by this I mean the State Department , etc.) did view Nigeria as the most important state in Africa. I continue to maintain, however, that this did not hold true for President Kennedy himself. McNeil writes "Ghana, Guinea and Congo...were lumped with a second group of countries that had a much lower priority for the Kennedy administration. Kennedy did not want to provide large amounts of direct American aid to these countries... [they] were simply deemed less important to the United States during the Kennedy years." Again, he is correct that this was the view in the State Department. Yet from FY61-63 Nigeria received 3.5 times less aid than did Congo-Kinshasa and only 73% of the aid sent to Ghana. On a per capita basis Guinea received ten times more aid than did Nigeria.3 How can one reconcile this contradiction? How did the "much lower priority" "second group" of states end up receiving more aid from the U.S. than those favored by State Department analysts? It's simple, the State Department wanted to focus on Nigeria while Kennedy wanted to focus on Ghana, Guinea, and Congo-it should not come as a surprise that President Kennedy's priorities were implemented over those of a mid-level State Department official. Between the years 1961-1963 Nigeria never ranked any higher than third in USAID aid amongst sub-Saharan African states. Yet after Kennedy's assassination it ranked first in that category in four out of six years between 1964 and 1969 and ranked second in the other two years.4 I would suggest that this is because Presidents Johnson and Nixon deferred their African aid policies to the State Department to a much greater degree than Kennedy, and hence the aforementioned State Department analysis on Nigeria's importance now carried the day. Third, McNeil makes a good point about countries in crisis drawing more of a president's attention than states which are not on the front burner because of a crisis. Indeed, this is exactly the point I made in Betting on the Africans and is the reason why I included case studies of countries like Liberia, Ivory Coast and Tanganyika in that study. The Congo and Portuguese Africa were the only crises in Africa at this time. Setting those issues aside, Kennedy spent more time thinking about Ghana, Guinea, and probably even Mali and the Ivory Coast than he did Nigeria. He had more personal correspondence with the heads of state of those countries than he did with Nigerian leaders and was clearly more interested in meeting in person with Kwame Nkrumah, Sekou Toure, Mobido Keita, and Julius Nyerere than he was in meeting either Nnamdi Azikiwe or Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (the president and prime minister of Nigeria). Furthermore, Kennedy was personally and intimately involved in several policy making decisions regarding funding for the Volta River Dam and responses to a capsid blight in Ghana; funding for the Konkoure Dam project in Guinea; the purchase of excess coffee crops from Ivory Coast and other similar issues. Perhaps either Rob Rakove or Brian McNeil could inform me of examples in which Kennedy personally participated in discussions of specific projects for Nigeria-because I am unaware of any. Another factor to consider is Kennedy's choice of ambassadors to each of these African states. Kennedy sent personal friends to become the ambassadors of Ghana (William Mahoney), Guinea (William Attwood), Congo (Ed Guillon), and the Ivory Coast (Jim Wine). Kennedy kept in frequent correspondence with these ambassadors, met with them several times in Washington, and often went over the head of the State Department to personally approve initiatives proposed by these ambassadors. In contrast, Kennedy did not even name an ambassador to Nigeria. Instead he simply kept career diplomat Joseph Palmer-an appointee of Eisenhower-as the U.S. ambassador to Nigeria for the entirety of his presidency. I am unaware of any personal correspondence between Kennedy and Palmer. It is well known by Kennedy scholars that Kennedy had a bit of disdain for career diplomats and as a result sent New Frontiersman to the countries that were the most important to him (John Kenneth Galbraith to India for example). Had Nigeria really been the most important African country for Kennedy then surely he would have selected a New Frontiersman as his envoy in Lagos. Fourth it is unclear to me why McNeil singles out USAID aid (as opposed to overall total economic and military aid) as the best "way to gauge the importance of African states to American policymakers...[but] certainly the amount of funds sent through USAID is the best, not to mention most objective, place to start." McNeil then cites Congo having received only $9.2 million in USAID aid from 1961-63, when in reality it received $172.5 (almost three times more than Nigeria)-perhaps he confused Congo-Brazzaville for Congo-Kinshasa when looking at the data.5 But more importantly, from FY61-63 Liberia received nearly as much USAID aid as did Nigeria and much more than Nigeria in FY1963 when Liberia received more USAID funding per capita than any country in the world.6 To use the argument put forth in McNeil's piece, would signify that Liberia was the most important country in the world to the United States in 1963. I don't think that anyone would seriously argue that, so I'm not sure why the same logic would apply to Nigeria. Fifth, it is relevant to mention the difference between the amounts of money budgeted for foreign aid and the amount of money actually dispersed. Contemporary documents from the Kennedy library almost always give data for money budgeted, but from those records it is difficult to ascertain how much money was actually dispersed. Relations between states ebb and flow and sometimes aid is reduced when tensions arise or additional unbudgeted aid disbursed in times of emergency such as a natural disaster or famine. The USAID "Greenbook" data that I site in my responses attempts to report the amount of aid actually distributed to each country. This, in part, explains differing figures in aid cited in this exchange. The most important point to come out of this dialogue over Nigeria's place in U.S. foreign policy is to highlight the fact that we currently lack an intensive scholarly study of U.S. relations with Nigeria-the most populous and arguably most influential country in sub-Saharan Africa (although South Africa certainly could also lay claim to that distinction).7 McNeil's doctoral research on the Nigerian Civil War makes a step toward filling this gap, but it is my hope that one of the graduate students reading this exchange will embark upon a more comprehensive study of this topic. Notes 1 For the two H-Net Roundtable Reviews please see http://www.h-net.org/~diplo/roundtables/PDF/Roundtable-XIV-3.pdf and http://www.h-net.org/~diplo/roundtables/PDF/Roundtable-XIV-39.pdf 2 Robert Dallek, An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963 (Boston: Little, Brown, 2003); Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1965); and Theodore Sorensen, Kennedy (New York: Harper & Row, 1965); James N. Giglio, The Presidency of John F. Kennedy (Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press, 1991); Richard D. Mahoney, JFK: Ordeal in Africa (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983); Thomas J. Noer, "New Frontiers and Old Priorities in Africa" in Thomas G. Paterson, ed. Kennedy's Quest for Victory: American Foreign Policy, 1961-1963, pp. 253-83 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989); and William Attwood, The Reds and the Blacks (New York: Harper & Row, 1967). 3 See U.S. Overseas Loans and Grants [Greenbook] Database. Rev. July 11, 2013 [Online]. Available: http://gbk.eads.usaidallnet.gov/. While Nigeria received $66.3 million total military and economic aid from the U.S. from 1961-63, Congo received $234.7 million, Ghana $90.7 million, and Guinea $26.5 million. 4 See U.S. Overseas Loans and Grants [Greenbook] Database. Rev. July 11, 2013 [Online]. Available: http://gbk.eads.usaidallnet.gov/. 5 See U.S. Overseas Loans and Grants [Greenbook] Database. Rev. July 11, 2013 [Online]. Available: http://gbk.eads.usaidallnet.gov/. 6 Letter from President John F. Kennedy to Liberian President William V. Tubman, June 4, 1963, National Security Files, Box 139 "Countries Series: Liberia," Folder "Liberia, General, 1962," JFKL . 7 Political scientist Bassey Ate published a book on U.S.-Nigerian relations, but given that it was authored by a political scientist and published in the 1980s it is not the type of historical archive based research that this important topic deserves. See Bassey E. Ate, Decolonization and Dependence: The Development of Nigerian-U.S. Relations, 1960-1964 (Boulder: Westview Press, 1987). --