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---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: H-Net Staff <revh...@mail.h-net.msu.edu>
Date: Sun, Sep 18, 2016 at 11:07 AM
Subject: H-Net Review [H-War]: Griffin on Mitchell, 'Jimmy Carter in
Africa: Race and the Cold War'
To: h-rev...@h-net.msu.edu

Nancy Mitchell.  Jimmy Carter in Africa: Race and the Cold War.  Cold
War International History Project Series. Stanford  Stanford
University Press, 2016.  880 pp.  $45.00 (cloth), ISBN

Reviewed by Benjamin Griffin (United States Military Academy)
Published on H-War (September, 2016)
Commissioned by Margaret Sankey

Nancy Mitchell's Jimmy Carter in Africa: Race in the Cold War is a
phenomenal addition to the scholarship of the Cold War. Drawing
heavily on archival research conducted in the United States, Britain,
and South Africa and on documents from Cuba and Zimbabwe, the book
presents an in-depth and engaging international history of President
Jimmy Carter's foreign policy. Mitchell does a commendable job of
providing context, ensuring that the book is readily accessible
regardless of a reader's expertise. It is an essential and enjoyable
read for any historian interested in the late Cold War or modern

The book provides a much-needed, exhaustive examination of US policy
in Africa. Mitchell moves the account easily between the Horn of
Africa and southern Africa, providing an in-depth study of the areas
where the United States most actively engaged. What is most
remarkable about this book is the ease with which it captures the
very different dynamics at work in the two regions. Mitchell deftly
demonstrates how local actors in Ethiopia and Somalia sought to play
the Americans and Soviets against one another to achieve their own
aims. The objectives and issues at stake closely resembled those of
other Cold War struggles in the developing world. _Jimmy Carter in
Africa_ effectively builds on the work of Odd Arne Westad's_ Global
Cold War_ (2005). It shows that the major actors had varying degrees
of desire and commitment, resulting in an inconsistent and ultimately
detrimental policy toward the region.

Rhodesia proved more complicated. Noting that "the domestic politics
of race" infused the issue, Mitchell shows the difficulty of both the
Ford and Carter administrations in developing a viable strategy to
bring about majority rule (p. 8). Mitchell expands on the themes of
Thomas Borstelmann's _Cold War and the Color Line _(2001), by showing
how racial tensions caused the spheres of international and domestic
policy to merge. Rhodesia becomes a central issue in the fight
between the executive and legislative branches, restricting the
options of the Carter administration. _Jimmy Carter in Africa_
furthers this narrative through its treatment of Andy Young, Carter's
controversial ambassador to the United Nations. Mitchell portrays
Young in a nuanced fashion. Though largely sympathetic to him, the
author takes care to note how his candidness with the press
complicated Carter's efforts in Rhodesia by drawing congressional and
public ire.

_Jimmy Carter in Africa _takes aim at several common interpretations
of the Carter administration. Mitchell paints Carter as a "dedicated
Cold Warrior" throughout his presidency, who consistently followed an
orthodox version of containment in Africa. While agreeing that
Carter's demeanor contributed to misperceptions, Mitchell argues that
the president was an "inept idealist." The book is largely successful
in showing that Carter's twin desires for "racial justice" in
Rhodesia and his "deep Cold War instincts" were more compatible than
they are often portrayed (p. 8). Mitchell also compellingly places
Carter back at the center of his own administration, showing him to
be a driving force behind his foreign policy. The internal turmoil
between Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter's national security advisor, and
Cyrus R. Vance, his secretary of state, that marks many accounts of
Carter's policy process is absent in the book. At times Mitchell
advances these revisions to Carter's image too far; however, the book
still offers a welcome and fresh perspective on how the
administration operated.

In judging Carter's policy toward Zimbabwe, Mitchell declines to
moderate her sense that the policy was a "Cold War victory" in light
of the later "murderous thuggery" of President Robert Mugabe (p.
679). This lets the Carter administration off too easily. While
Mitchell's sense that it is not fair to judge a policy entirely by
its outcome is accurate, it does not mean that results should be
entirely absent from its study. Questions about why the
administration did not understand Mugabe's true nature are both fair
and important. Similarly, it is also important to gauge the long-term
effectiveness of a policy in order to determine its overall worth.
The Cold War is rife with events that looked like a success in the
immediate aftermath, only to prove ruinous with the passage of time.
A deeper exploration of why the Carter administration did not
anticipate the failure of Zimbabwean democracy would have benefited
the book.

Overall, Mitchell's work is truly impressive, and a must read for
historians of the Cold War. The nuanced portrayal of Carter
challenges the established views of both the man and his
administration. It also serves as an incredibly useful primer on the
modern history of US involvement in Africa and contextualizes the
present-day challenges faced by Ethiopia, Somalia, and Zimbabwe. The
voluminous research and international context of the book make it a
remarkable scholarly achievement. It should prove the standard in the
field for many years to come.

Citation: Benjamin Griffin. Review of Mitchell, Nancy, _Jimmy Carter
in Africa: Race and the Cold War_. H-War, H-Net Reviews. September,
URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=47151

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States


Best regards,

Andrew Stewart
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