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Response to Koblitz on Rhodesia



To the Editors of the Crimson:

Neil Koblitz's letter concerning Harvard and the Rhodesian connection (May 21) is guilty of just the short-sightedness and "shocking display of cynicism and ignorance" he confers on the U.S. Senate and the Harvard Corporation. I fully agree that the Corporation's refusal to back the Mobil and Standard Oil shareholder resolutions (calling for a reduction of oil trade by one-third, the amount believed to be sent by South Africa to Rhodesia) is indeed a political action, and it is erroneous to believe the Corporation is politically neutral.

However, only very specious reasoning would indicate that the Corporation's action and Mr. Calkin's statement conferred "legitimacy upon Ian Smith's 'internal settlement.'" If anything, it is a tacit recognition of the new Muzorewa government, which strikes me as both responsible and morally sensitive. The resolutions were ill-conceived. But the problem goes further: the phrase 'Ian Smith's internal settlement' is misleading and false, and the settlement itself is definitely not farcical.

To say that the action of 64 per cent of the eligible voters of Rhodesia (who went to the polls to choose a black-majority government) supports continued white domination on Rhodesia is wrong. The election of Bishop Abel Muzorewa--who is no puppet--if anything indicates a decline in that domination. Rhodesia, as Mr. Koblitz says, is a country torn by war, but it appears that the recent elections bear the possibility for something missing for six years since the conflict began: peace. In an international view, the problem has been how to achieve a form of majority rule whose legitimacy is accepted widely enough to end the war. It appears that the Bishop's government may be just the thing.

The election preserved a constitution that left in white hands the civil service, police, army, and judiciary. But it was the election of a popular black (who showed impressive popular support) as top man all the same. There is adistinct possibility that the Bishop may try to change the constitution--it would take impressive political skill, but with the support of the United States and Britain it is closer to reality.

The Bishop has another route: to seek a settlement with the Patriotic Front or the guerilla leaders Mugabe and Nkomo. A remote thing before the election, but recent political developments in Britain and the U.S. (the Senate, Mr. Koblitz) have created a new mood of optimism among white and black leaders. According to a recent New York Times, "despite the growing guerilla strength, military officials report a significant decrease in the number of incidents in recent weeks." The new government's offer of amnesty has brought about a sharp increase in the number of guerilla surrenders. The Bishop may indeed have a good thing going.

All of this has hinged on the election which, though nowhere near perfect (how could they be?) are extremely important. Mr. Smith played a role, but the settlement was not his--whether we admit it or not, the U.S. and Britain played a crucial part, and Bishop Muzorewa is not a tool of the Smith group.

Mr. Koblitz professes a very dangerous election-be-damned attitude. Quite ironically, such implies sanctions forever and a solution imposed from the outside. Having experienced Vietnam, this notion is hardly worthy of modern foreign policy makers. And it is patently false that the "tide is against the present regime"--yes, the tide is against the constitution, but it is with Mr. Muzorewa.

Forgetting the elections has other serious implications. If Carter can tell Zimbabwe-Rhodesia that it must negotiate with the terrorist attackers, cannot it one day be expected to tell Israel it must negotiate with the P.L.O.?

The U.S. Senate did a surprisingly magnanimous thing last week in recognizing the elections. That action in no way precluded the possibility of another election, and there is evidence that Muzorewa is broadening his base of political power. Before there was nothing. Let us aid the process--the Bishop desires our trade of oil for his people. It is clear that such trade would not temporarily strenghthen white resistance, prolong the war, or further increase the suffering of the people. There are serious flaws to be worked out, but let us lift our sanctions and enthusiactically encourage the new government. The elections offer a glimmer of something long-lost: hope. Chris Eklund '80

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