David M Rowe. Manipulating the Market: Understanding Economic Sanctions, Institutional Change and the Political Unity of White Rhodesia. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2001. x + 243 pp. $52.50 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-472-11187-9.
Reviewed by Gerald Horne (Department of African and Afro-American Studies, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill)
Published on H-SAfrica (July, 2001)
Zimbabwe, a nation of about 12 million that sits just north of South Africa, was once known as Rhodesia during the era of colonial rule. Independent since 1980 and ruled by Robert Mugabe since that time, lately this nation that has a tiny European minority that largely dominates the economy, has come under increasing pressure from London and Washington particularly because of concerns about the administration of the ruling ZANU-PF party. Just recently, the U.S. Senate has moved toward imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe, which is ironic in light of the fact that during the dying days of white minority rule this same body was moving toward lifting sanctions against Rhodesia.
This useful study by David Rowe, a Political Scientist at Ohio State University, begins by invoking the jargon of his profession with learned references to "open economy political analysis," "open polity school" and "analytic narrative"--and more. Readers, however, should not be deterred by this language for, in fact, this is a well-researched, thoughtful and informative analysis of how and why sanctions functioned against an outlaw regime.
Such a book is even more timely in light of Washington's continuing effort to maintain sanctions on Cuba, Libya, Iran and a host of other nations. Depending on whose ox is being gored, we are routinely informed that sanctions do not work--or they do. This nuanced case study provides ammunition for both schools of thought for it suggests that sanctions can have severe impact on one branch of the economy, while another flourishes.
"Sanctions," Rowe argues, "affected each segment of the business community differently;" the "business community," he concludes wisely, "was not a single entity" (p. 128). Thus, "oil sanctions against Rhodesia failed spectacularly" (p. 133). This was a fungible product--an import--that could be shipped surreptitiously from South Africa or the then Portuguese colony of Mozambique. Sanctions on tobacco--an export--were a bit more effective, not least since competitors in the U.S. were not opposed to snatching Rhodesia's share of the market. He adds further that "unlike tobacco, sanctions on Rhodesia's mineral exports proved largely ineffective" (p. 125).
This is a story that involves major trans-national corporations, e.g. Union Carbide, Mobil Oil, Shell, etc. Like other studies that implicate such entities, the ability of scholars to tell a comprehensive story is hampered by the fact that archives of these major players are not always readily available for persual; relying on government archives while not being able to gain access to corporate archives can provide a skewed narrative. Scholarly associations need to press more insistently for access to such records if scholarship itself is to avoid harm. Thus, probably through no fault of his own, the author hardly relies on business records though business is at the heart of his book.
On the other hand, Rowe excavates deftly the Public Records Office in Kew Gardens, London. However, considering his residence in the U.S., it is surprising that he chose not to explore the vast array of archives available there, e.g. the Presidential Libraries of Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, not to mention the Papers of Richard Nixon. Then there are the rich archives of Senator Harry Byrd at the University of Virginia, whose legislative effort to allow for the importation of Rhodesian chrome was quite helpful to the minority regime. Likewise, the Papers of Senator J. William Fulbright at the University of Arkansas, the Papers of Senator Richard Russell at the University of Georgia, the Papers of Senator Strom Thurmond at Clemson University in South Carolina, the Papers of Senator Frank Church at Boise State University in Idaho--and many more--all contain highly relevant documentation about Rhodesia and sanctions, including correspondence from Africa and pro-Rhodesian forces in North America.
The author also does not explore the inter-party politics that advanced--or hindered--the attempt to impose sanctions. Thus, the Democratic Party of Johnson and Carter, which was influenced by African-American voters, was much more prone to press for sanctions than the more monochromatic Republican Party. Similarly, U.S. tobacco executives--who could be found in both parties--were not opposed to invading markets otherwise dominated by Rhodesia, while oil executives were happy to market their commodity in Southern Africa.
The author writes that London was compelled to respond to Pretoria's "threat to impose countersanctions" against the U.K., though he is not explicit about what form this might have taken, which makes it difficult to assess this "threat."
Still, this is a worthwhile book that merits serious study, particularly in light of the fact that this nation in south-central Africa once again has captured international headlines and the question of sanctions has re-emerged.
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Gerald Horne. Review of Rowe, David M, Manipulating the Market: Understanding Economic Sanctions, Institutional Change and the Political Unity of White Rhodesia.
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