Balancing Interests Beyond the Water’s Edge: Identifying Key Interests that Determined US Foreign Policy Towards Apartheid South Africa

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Abstract

The United States, in formulating a foreign policy towards apartheid South Africa, attempted to balance a number of conflicting interests. These interests are divided into three categories (strategic, economic and human rights interests), and examined in turn. Initially, strategic considerations were to the fore. South Africa was judged by Washington DC to be a reliable ally on the tip of a continent vulnerable to Communist expansion. Strategic minerals and this country's location at a ‘choke point’ on the Cape sea route were arguments often aired. The Union, and then the Republic, of South Africa was also a profitable market for US commercial interests. No US foreign policy addressing apartheid could ignore this economic relationship. There remained, however, the question of apartheid. No simple relationship of friendship, based on shared interests, could exist between these governments as long as this programme of social engineering endured. Eventually, in the mid-1980s, the US would impose punitive sanctions against the Republic, with human rights interests finally superseding strategic and economic concerns.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-137
Number of pages15
JournalPolitikon
Volume32
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2005

Keywords

  • apartheid
  • South Africa
  • America
  • US
  • foreign policy
  • human rights

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