"No area of the world has been viewed by Americans with greater moral disapproval and yet less attention than southern Africa," writes Anthony Lake in the introduction to The "Tar Baby" Option. Feeling that there is much to be learned from an examination of the American response to the Rhodesian problem, he offers a detailed account of America's Southern Rhodesia policy since the Smith government's unilateral declaration of independence from Great Britain in 1965. The book provides information essential to an understanding of the American approach to the current crisis in the region. The author's use of previously undisclosed materials and interviews with U.S. foreign policymakers gives the reader an inside look not only at the Rhodesian question but also at the politics of American foreign policy.
The "tar baby" was the 1969-70 shift toward friendlier US relations with the white minority governments of southern Africa initiated by Nixon and Kissinger. This book on American policy toward Ian Smith's Rhodesian government argues that "a general inclination to give comfort to Smith in return for some illegal Rhodesian chrome," followed by the Byrd Amendment 's official flaunting of UN sanctions against Rhodesia in 1971, had scant economic advantage for the US and pronounced diplomatic peril. Lake, a former State Department official, outlines Washington debates on Rhodesia since the Smith declaration of independence in 1965, with State generally favoring US pressure toward black majority rule, while the Pentagon and National Security Council tended to equate Rhodesia with South Africa and thus to overestimate the long-term strength of the white rulers. Corporate footwork in this sphere - especially by Union Carbide - is charted along with debates on the strategic importance of Rhodesian chrome imports, which Lake contends are not only inessential but job-destroying. The book ends with a warning that the US should stop backing losers in black Africa; to that end the repeal of the Byrd Amendment is not only possible but necessary. Clear, cool advocacy for specialists, lobbyists, and general readers. (Kirkus Reviews)