The Retreat from Empire summary



The Retreat from Empire summary


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The Retreat from Empire summary


Chapter 39


The Retreat from Empire




                Challenges to superpower hegemony arose around the globe.  Internal and external forces questioned the legitimacy of Soviet and American actions.  Nations in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia underwent profound transformations.  Economic innovations and new international organizations continued the global transition.  Even in an age of constant change, the world stood at a momentous crossroads.




Independence in Asia


                In India the coming of independence also brought the threat of partition.  Mohandas Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru had pushed for Indian nationalism and attacked communalism.  Gandhi, especially, feared what he termed the “vivisection” of India.  Muhammad Ali Jinnah, however, suggested that Muslims could not survive as a small minority in India and that the creation of Pakistan was the only option.  In the end Jinnah’s dream came true, but unfortunately Gandhi’s worst nightmare did as well.  Division brought about mass migration and eventual warfare between the two countries over Kashmir.  Nehru, along with Indonesia’s Achmad Sukarno, became a leader of the nonaligned movement.  This movement was an attempt to create an independent path in the bipolar cold war.


                The situation in southeast Asia would also flare up.  Ho Chi Minh, a dedicated nationalist, helped to drive the Japanese out of Vietnam and then issued the Vietnamese Declaration of Independence.  Even though the French retook Vietnam by force, they were unable to eliminate Ho Chi Minh or his followers.  The disastrous defeat at Dienbienphu drove the French out and left Vietnam divided.  Dwight Eisenhower, following the domino theory, backed Ngo Dinh Diem in South Vietnam as a block to communist expansion.  U.S. military support and eventual involvement increased dramatically under Lyndon Johnson, but in the end the Americans had to settle for an uneasy stalemate.


                Southwest Asia would not provide any simpler answers.  Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan all achieved independence after World War II. The combination of the Balfour Declaration’s backing of a Jewish homeland, the British mandate, and the uncertain situation in Palestine ensured that there would be no stability in the Arab world.  Neither the British nor the United Nations were able to settle the dispute to the satisfaction of Jews or Muslims, and civil war broke out in 1947.  When the Jews of Palestine declared the creation of Israel in 1948, the first of several Arab-Israeli wars broke out.  In the end Israel ended up with more land than the United Nations had proposed and the area was no closer to peace.  Gamal Abdel Nasser, by using the cold war to his advantage and playing the Soviets and Americans off each other, stood as the champion of the Arab world beginning in the 1950s.  The Suez Crisis only worked to solidify his reputation as an anti-imperialist and Arab nationalist.  In the end, however, he never came close to eliminating Israel.


Decolonization in Africa


                Decolonization, always a complex affair at best, was made appreciably more complicated by superpower rivalry.  While the French allowed most of their west and equatorial African colonies to become independent, including thirteen alone in 1960 (“the year of Africa”), they fought tenaciously to maintain control over Algeria.  A brutal war broke out in 1954 between the French and the National Liberation Front.  In the end a half million French troops could not keep Algeria from gaining independence in 1962.  In The Wretched of the Earth, the Algerian revolutionary Frantz Fanon urged violence to fight the racism of the colonial powers.  Negritude, a pride of African traditions, became a rallying cry in sub-Saharan west Africa.  Racist beliefs and cold war tensions made the process a slow and difficult one.  The most important leader in this movement was Kwame Nkrumah, who won independence for Ghana (the former Gold Coast) from British control in 1957.  An entire generation of African nationalists looked up to Nkrumah as the model for nonviolent independence.  Oftentimes, as with the British struggle against the secret Kikuyu society in Kenya known as the Mau Mau, independence would prove to be very violent.  Once again, even though the British were able to crush the Mau Mau uprising in 1955, they were unable to reverse the tide of African nationalism, and Kenya gained independence in 1963.  Leaders such as Jomo Kenyatta, who had been jailed during the British oppressive attempt to suppress the Mau Mau, returned as important politicians.


After Independence: Long-Term Struggles in the Postcolonial Era


                China, after following an unbroken pattern for centuries, veered wildly back and forth throughout most of the twentieth century.  Mao’s Revolution in 1949 didn’t change the pattern.  The Great Leap Forward of 1958, Mao’s attempt to create an entirely new socialist persona, failed miserably and led to the starvation of as many as twenty million Chinese.  Only the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution beginning in 1966 served to reestablish Mao’s reputation.  Deng Xiaoping, who had almost died in the Cultural Revolution, pushed through free market reforms beginning in the late 1970s.  The economy responded but the lack of corresponding political liberation resulted in the pro-democracy demonstrations of the 1980s.  Tiananmen Square is an example of the dangers of rapid reform.  In contrast to so many of its neighbors in Asia, India has remained on a democratic path since independence.  However, Indira Gandhi’s declaration of a “national emergency” in the mid-1970s displayed the difficult task of democratic rule in a country of India’s remarkable diversity.  Gandhi’s decision to fight the explosive birthrate of India also raised concerns because of her policy of involuntary sterilization.


                Despite the dreams of Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Arab world remained fragmented and unable to stand up to Israel or the United States.  In the 1970s and 1980s fundamentalist Islam combined with Arab nationalism to form a powerful new force in southwest Asia and north Africa.  At the same time, old enemies attempted to put aside past differences and promote peace.  Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian leader who helped plan the Yom Kippur attack on Israel, moved to facilitate peace with the Israelis.  Before Sadat’s assassination in 1981, the Egyptians and Israelis signed peace treaties.  Even Yasser Arafat, the founder of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and Yitzhak Rabin signed peace treaties that pushed forward the idea of limited self-rule for the Palestinians.  Unfortunately, the situation became much more complicated after the assassination of Rabin in 1994 but both sides continue to talk peace.  The power of the marriage of Islam and nationalism was expressed in the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran that swept Ayatollah Khomeini to power.  The bloody Iran-Iraq War, instigated by the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, showed that there were still profound differences in the region.  Iraq’s lopsided defeat in the Gulf War displayed how far the world still had to go to catch up to the superpowers militarily.


                As the superpowers struggled at various times during the cold war, the political structure of the world became both more fluid and more chaotic.  In Mexico, leaders such as Lázaro Cárdenas experimented with massive land reform, but at other times the conservative leaders of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) ruled harshly.  By the 1990s Cuauhtemoc Cárdenas led the Democratic Revolutionary Party against the PRI.  In Argentina the nationalistic militarist Juan Perón, and his wildly popular wife Eva, were strongly supported by descamisados (“shirtless ones”).  By the 1980s thousands were “disappearing” during the reign of military juntas.  Cuba and Nicaragua fell to communist rule, but most Latin American countries remained under the control of a ruling elite that did nothing to reduce a growing gulf between very rich and very poor.


                Independent sub-Saharan African nations, burdened not only with artificial boundaries that didn’t recognize ethnic or religious realities but also with the threat of Cold War intervention, struggled to find their way.  The Organization of African Unity tried to find solutions to these common problems.  However, it wasn’t easy, and even respected leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana were overthrown.  Americans and western Europeans, showing very little historical perspective, often criticized the failures of the new African states without considering the complexity of democratic evolution and the extraordinary problems faced by the new countries.  Blacks in South Africa suffered for decades under the apartheid system implemented by the Akrikaner National Party in 1948.  The combination of internal agitation and external pressure finally convinced F. W. de Klerk to release African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela from prison in 1990.  In 1994 Mandela was elected president, and apartheid was a painful memory.  The role of Cold War politics was displayed in 1965 in the Congo when the C.I.A.-backed Mobutu Sese Seko overthrew Patrice Lumumba, the country’s first prime minister and a Maoist Marxist.  Mobutu Sese Seko and his “vampire elite” plundered the country (renamed Zaire and, eventually, the Democratic Republic of the Congo) until he was overthrown in 1997 by Laurent Kabila.


Chapter 39: Study Guide and Review Materials

Due: 5/13


Terms: please identify the following terms or concepts as to its relationship to the chapters theme “a retreat from Empire”. (2 points each)  You may type or write these answers.  If writing leave a space between each choice on your paper.


  1. Decolonization
  2. Bandung Conference
  3. Balfour Declaration
  4. Suez Crisis
  5. Kikuyu
  6. Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO)
  7. Islamism
  8. Jihad
  9. Iran-Iraq War
  10. Institutional Revolutionary Party
  11. Liberation theology
  12. Dependency theory
  13. Organization of African Unity (OAU)
  14. Apartheid
  15. African National Congress


People: please discuss how these individuals participated in the “retreat from empire”. (2 points each)


  1. Ho Chi Minh
  2. Gamal Abdel Nasser
  3. Kwame Nkrumah
  4. Jomo Kenyatta
  5. Anwar Sada
  6. Yasser Arafat
  7. Ayatollah Khomeni
  8. Saddam Hussein
  9. Juan Peron
  10. Jimmy Carter
  11. Nelson Mandela


Review questions: please answer in complete sentences. (5 points each)


  1. What were the goals of the non-aligned movement?  Was it successful?  (explain)
  2. Trace the Arab-Israeli conflict from 1947-1980.  Why has this conflict been so difficult to resolve?
  3. What are the goals and concerns of the modern “Islamist” movement?  What specific policies and actions have emerged from this movement?
  4. Compare the recent political history of Mexico and Argentina.  What factors might account for their differences?
  5. What role has America played in the evolution of Latin American policies in the second half of the 20th century?  Has this role proven successful?  (explain and cite examples)
  6. What kind of society emerged in South Africa after Apartheid?  What factors led to the abolition of Apartheid?
  7. Compare the process of independence of both Ghana and Kenya.  What factors might account for the differences


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