Also playing a key role was the heavily leftist American labor unions. They too wanted to bring down colonial empires and native monarchies, and to gain influence before others could although they were much less clear about whether they considered the victory of Soviet communism to be all that bad of an outcome. It became standard policy for American organized labor to go to the colonies of American allies like Britain and France to set up labor unions amongst the locals and then to build on those unions as the core of a revolutionary political force. These labor unions would also lobby the government in Washington DC (having especially strong influence with the Democrats) to apply pressure to colonial countries to grant these places independence. When they did, the idea was that the new leader would come from the ranks of the new organized labor movement and they would have all these new countries solidly in their pocket. They could, and did, after all claim that these countries “owed” them their independence because of their lobbying on their behalf in the United States. This would also boost their popularity in America as well as they could portray themselves in a very patriotic light by taking down kings and monarchies while, in fact, they were thoroughly anti-American to their core.
American labor unions also tried the same sort of tactic in the Kingdom of Morocco, backing Mahjoub ben Seddik in forming the Moroccan labor federation in violation of the laws of the French protectorate. This was part of their overall campaign to support independence while also pushing out French-backed labor unions in favor of American ones. It almost worked in Morocco as it had in Tunisia, however, the Royal Family proved too popular and eventually even those supported by the United States were insisting that pushing for the restoration of King Mohammed V to the throne was a wiser course of action that trying to establish a republic. He had been removed and exiled by the French and replaced by his uncle, Mohammed Ben Aarafa, but was eventually restored and negotiated the independence of Morocco from France in 1956. Still, the seeds that were planted continued to cause unrest and violence in Morocco for many years to come, particularly during the reign of King Hassan II, father of the current Moroccan monarch. All of this certainly did the country no good nor was it of any benefit to the United States. In forcing the country away from France, Morocco was obliged to draw closer to America but the unrest in the country only meant that America had an unstable ally which was surely not the ideal situation.
Along with Africa and the Middle East, the effort to back a “third force” by America left behind a record of failure longer and even bloodier in Southeast Asia. In the case of Vietnam, America managed to be on almost every side of the conflict that engulfed the region at one point or another. Under Franklin D. Roosevelt, the United States funded, organized and trained the communist guerillas who became the Vietminh (and later the Viet Cong) under Ho Chi Minh to fight the Japanese and, perhaps later, the French. While Harry Truman was busy with Korea it became clear that Ho Chi Minh was a communist (which should have been obvious all along) and so under President Eisenhower the U.S. began to support the French and the last Vietnamese emperor in fighting this monster America had a hand in creating. However, the U.S. would not intervene to stop the communists outright at that stage (which would only mean far more extensive intervention later on) and, once again, a “third force” was sought that was neither French/Vietnamese monarchist or communist. The result was the emergence of Ngo Dinh Diem with strong backing from the United States. In 1955 American agents helped push him into deposing the former Vietnamese Emperor Bao Dai and establishing a republic. Royalists were squashed and, through sheer brute force, for a time it seemed that this time the formula might be working. However, after President Diem proved to be a ‘puppet who wanted to pull his own strings’ President Kennedy, who had previously supported Diem in his rule and rise to power, authorized the coup that brought him down and ended in his assassination. South Vietnam was plagued by one coup after another virtually until a relatively stable period from 1965 until 1975 under General Nguyen Van Thieu. In the end, the communists were victorious.
|King Savang Vatthana of Laos|
Likewise, in Cambodia, there emerged an American faction, a communist faction and a royalist faction. King Norodom Sihanouk was trying to keep friendly with all sides, showing the sights to Jackie Kennedy one day and vacationing with Chairman Mao the next. He looked the other way to North Vietnamese incursions into Cambodia and to American CIA agents trying to buy influence for Cambodia coming into the war on the side of the United States and South Vietnam. In 1970 the U.S.-backed prime minister, General Lon Nol, staged a successful coup against King Norodom Sihanouk who was out of the country. A republican government was established which was quickly recognized by the United States under President Richard Nixon. The King was sentenced to death in absentia, his wife to lifetime imprisonment and even his mother was placed under house arrest. The new republic immediately went to war with the communist Vietnamese but deposing the King had forced him into the arms of the Khmer Rouge, the local communist insurgency, whose numbers swelled dramatically as a result. In the end, the Khmer Republic lasted only as long as American aid did, which was cut off after the U.S. government gave up on South Vietnam and with the collapse, the Khmer Rouge filled the vacuum. They disposed of the no-longer-necessary monarch and established a communist state that was murderous on a scale almost unequalled in world history. Such were the fruits of a “third force” in Cambodia.
|Chin Peng, communist leader in Malaysia|
Unfortunately, the same could not be said of Indonesia. Here again was an anti-colonial war that the United States reacted to but, even more outrageously, not by backing a “third force” but by backing the primary enemy of the colonial power, another World War II ally, the Kingdom of The Netherlands. Under the leadership of another socialist revolutionary, Sukarno, Indonesian rebels waged a guerilla war against the Dutch. Queen Wilhelmina of The Netherlands agreed to a compromise by which Indonesia would be granted complete autonomy as the United States of Indonesia while remaining under the Dutch Crown, rather like modern-day Aruba is a “constituent country” of the Kingdom of The Netherlands. However, the rebels rejected this offer and continued to wage war on the Dutch population. Their offer of good will being rejected, the Dutch responded with military force and were quite successful. They were positively winning the war when the United States, under President Harry Truman, decided to intervene. After threatening to cut off all Marshall Aid to the Netherlands (on which the country depended after World War II) unless the war was stopped, the Dutch had no choice but to concede total Indonesian independence and hand power over to Sukarno, retaining control only over western New Guinea as a safe haven for Dutch settlers who were suffering immense persecution.
There are still other examples that could be cited but the point seems well made. All around the world, anti-monarchy bigotry on the part of U.S. foreign policy served to benefit no one but the very communists it was ostensibly intended to oppose. In some cases it was anti-imperialism that was the primary, motivating factor (such as in Africa where the U.S. backed rebel groups that were anti-Portuguese as well as anti-communist, the communists inevitably winning as a result) but then there are cases in which the colonial power was clearly going or already gone in which the U.S. seemed to oppose a national leader simply for being a monarch. Incredibly enough, the idea that such an anti-imperialist attitude was rather at odds with the fact that the U.S. had a military presence stretching from West Germany to Central America to Japan seems to have never occurred to many occupants of the White House and members of Congress. In spite of the facts surrounding them, the consistent attitude seemed to be, ‘it’s only imperialism when someone else does it’. Finally, this is in no-way an attempt to encourage the ever-present “blame America first” crowd that is so popular around the world. Just as much as what the U.S. did, at issue here is the fact that it did NOT work. The policies did not benefit America in the least. It led to defeats on the world stage that made America look weak and it undermined trust in the United States. Many would shake their heads in agreement with the bitter words of Madame Nhu that, “Whoever has the Americans as allies does not need an enemy”. If the American situation is to improve, Americans have to understand these facts and for future foreign policy success the United States needs to learn from what has happened and drop the knee-jerk rejection of any and all types of monarchy.