The efforts of Dag Hammarskjold have, it appears, prevented the Congolese from shooting each other for at least a week. President Moise Tshombe of Katanga Province, realizing at last the validity of the curious proposition that armed force may be necessary to keep his province peaceful, has agreed to let the U.N. enter.
The trouble is that Tshombe's relenting solves no problems except a relatively minor one that he himself managed to raise. The older questions: the hesitant, retreating shadow of colonialism, the constant Soviet imputations of imperialism, the power of the nationalist revolution, the difficulty of development, the danger of subversion, remain, refusing to be scared away even by an unusually tough Secretary-General.
Tshombe, scared that the U.S.S.R. may be closer to his borders than he ever suspected, will allow himself to be protected by the U.N. But he may forget that the U.N. cannot protect him forever, whereas the indignant Premier Lumumba is likely to resent his independence even longer than that. The last thing Lumumba wants is to see Katanga's requirements for U.N. entry, absolute assurance of sovereignty, guaranteed. The province, containing a tenth of the Congo's people but almost half its wealth, is much too fruity a peach to be let out of Lumumba's grasp. The longer he can stretch out the Congo crisis, the more he will be able to delay a responsible settlement of his nation's affairs. Besides, such a settlement would again draw attention to the sticky question of his incredible promises to American promoters.
Belgium is undoubtedly in the most trying position of anyone in this business, and she is evidently, feeling the pinch. W. W. Rostow's thesis that a colonial mother country's problem is not so much to colonize as it is to clear out of its colonies is justifying itself in a manner intolerable to Premier Eyskens. The Premier regards Lumumba as the worst type of new nationalist leader, and Tshombe as a nice, cooperative sort of chap whose policies seem likely to keep everyone perfectly tranquil.
He has not been able to convince anyone on the U.N. Security Council to see the matter quite as he does. The U.S. has a fuzzy dislike of any kind of colonialism. France and Britain quite understandably do not perceive how the two Congos could possibly coexist on either of their leader's terms.
The Soviet Union, on the other hand, has found an enviable chance to relax, its only task being to avoid letting the broad, bland smile behind its words become too blatant. Mr. Kuznetzov and Mr. Khrushchev have only to fill in a silence or two with a statement like "As is well known, the Soviet Republics have no aggressive desires against other peoples, or "As is well known, the Soviet Government is willing to resist all forms of imperialism, wherever they may appear"; they may then cross their hands and sit back in a posture of absolutely unassailable virtue. After all, a great deal of what they are saying is perfectly true.
They call Lumumba the leader of rising hope in Africa, which (however much he has been discredited), he is, and they allege that Tshombe is a tool of the Belgian government, which, in some measure, he is also. What they do not acknowledge is the fact that the former's leadership is of a very dubious brand indeed, and that the latter will not let anyone, including, if need be, Belgium, distract him from his ambitions of independence.
This week, weary of being squeezed, Eyskens himself began to put the squeeze on the Atlantic Community. He hinted that Belgium's abandoning the two NATO military bases of Kamina and Kitona in the Congo would save him a great of money, perhaps $70 million. He made noises about cutting the Belgian contribution of two divisions to NATO, and about backing out of an agreement to buy $100 worth of Starfighters to be used in cooperation with West Germany and the Netherlands.
This is the sort of annoyance that Dag Hammarskjold cannot soothe, and the sort that can transform Khrushchev into something remarkably like a Cheshire Cat. Even if all the unrest of the Congo were to disappear, Belgian resentment would still be the stuff of which rifts in NATO are all too easily made.
Nor is the vapor over the jungle going to vanish so soon. Every side of the dispute has a point to make, and every side will continue to make it with relentless enthusiasm until someone's bullets clear up the whole situation in the hearty manner of the old school.