Mandates and Trusteeships
Mandates and trusteeships have played an important role in the evolution of U.S. diplomacy and perceptions of the foreign policy process. After World War I, the mandate system was introduced at the insistence of President Woodrow Wilson, who believed that indigenous populations in the areas held under colonial rule should be brought either to independence or under benevolent tutorship of the powers holding sway over them. This was part of Wilson's dream to replace the monarchies with democratic republics. Very few new nations actually evolved from the mandate system, and it remained for the trusteeship council emergent from the United Nations structure after World War II to carry on what Wilson began. The mandate name was abandoned in favor of trusteeships in order not to have the stigma of the moribund League of Nations to carry in its baggage. By the end of the 1990s, the membership of the UN reached 187 nations due largely to the work of the trusteeship council's bringing them to nationhood.
BIBLIOGRAPHYHall, H. Duncan. Mandates, Dependencies and Trusteeships. London and Washington, D.C., 1948. The most comprehensive study of the background, origins, and development of the mandate system.
Leibowitz, Arnold H. A Comprehensive Analysis of United States Territorial Relations. Dordrecht, Netherlands, 1989. An overview of U.S. policy and results in the U.S. dependencies.
Mezerik, A. G., ed. Colonialism and the United Nations. New York, 1964. An academic study of the trust system in the general context of international relations or international organization.
Nevin, David. The American Touch in Micronesia. New York, 1977. Provides a perspective on the U.S. influence in the region.
Pomeroy, Earl S. Pacific Outpost: American Strategy in Guam and Micronesia. Stanford, Calif., 1951. An excellent account of the American concern for strategic position in the Pacific region; it treats the single exception to the general trust system.
Roff, Sue Rabbitt. Overreaching in Paradise: United States Policy in Palau Since 1945. Juneau, Alaska, 1991.
Russell, Ruth B., and Jeanne E. Muther. A History of the United Nations Charter: The Role of the United States, 1940–1945. Washington, D.C., 1958. Useful in tracing the background of the trusteeship principle.
Stuart, Peter C. Isles of Empire: The United States and Its Overseas Possessions. Lanham, Md., 1999. This is the most comprehensive analysis to date of U.S. policy relating to the trust territories and other dependencies.
Temperley, H. W. V. A History of the Peace Conference of Paris. 6 vols. London, 1920–1924. Provides considerable insight on the discussions and development of the mandate question.
United Nations Department of Public Information. Everyman's United Nations. 8th ed. New York, 1968. Provides extensive information on the development and implementation of the trusteeship system.
United States Department of State. The Foreign Relations of the United States: The Paris Peace Conference. 13 vols. Washington, D.C., 1942–1945. Gives the best information on Woodrow Wilson's perspective on mandates.
Upthegrove, Campbell L. Empire by Mandate: A History of the Relations of Great Britain with the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations. New York, 1954. The most comprehensive work tracing the British adjustment to the mandate concept and the British government's dealings with the Mandates Commission.
See also Anti-Imperialism ; Colonialism and Neocolonialism ; Imperialism ; Protectorates and Spheres of Influence ; Self-Determination ; Wilsonianism .
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League of nations mandates
President Woodrow Wilson presented the text of the Covenant of the League of Nations to the Paris Peace Conference on 14 February 1919. He explained to his colleagues that they would find incorporated in the document an old principle intended for more universal use and development—the reference was to mandates for former colonies. In this fashion the mandate system became a part of the new world that Wilson imagined would emerge from the deliberations in Paris. Mandates developed historically from the practice of great power supervision of areas subservient to the controlling power usually adjacent to that power's territory; acceptance of British, French, and American conceptions of the rule of law and colonial freedom and self-government; Edmund Burke's suggestion of the trusteeship principle in administering British colonies in the interest of the inhabitants, taken to heart and subsequently expanded by Parliament after the American Revolution; and the Concert of Europe concept, in which Prince Metternich of Austria attempted to create a conservative coalition to preserve stability and prevent revolutionary changes in Europe at the end of the Napoleonic wars, and its application to former Turkish and French holdings in Africa and the Near East. While the principle may have been old, Wilson's perception of it was new because he wished to universalize it.
Although the British and French delegations at Paris did not oppose the mandate system, they were not in the forefront of those demanding it. Nor were they particularly eager to accept Wilson's freewheeling interpretation of the general mandate system as applying to any and all former enemy colonies. The Japanese and Italian representatives were even less enthusiastic about mandates that might restrict their control of former German colonies. They preferred a division of territory. The Americans were insistent that former enemy colonies would not be treated as spoils of war. In a meeting of the Council of Ten on 28 January 1919, the mandatory principle was discussed. Vittorio Orlando of Italy asked how the former colonies should be divided, what provisions should be made for government, and what should be said about independence. Baron Shinken Makino of Japan asked whether mandates had been accepted, and Georges Clemenceau of France responded that the question was to be taken up later. Wilson would not permit the subject to be buried, so the British prime minister, David Lloyd George, presented a proposal for defining mandates on 30 January 1919, suggesting a division into three types—ultimately defined as A, B, and C mandates. Without citing specific locations, it is sufficient to observe that most of Africa, part of the Middle East, and most of the Pacific island groups were considered to be in one of the categories: A—mandates quickly able to be prepared for independence; B— mandates needing tutelage for some time before being considered for independence; and C—mandates that probably would never be ready for independence.
Wilson's associates at Paris hoped for U.S. participation in the postwar enforcement of the Versailles settlement and did not feel they could strongly oppose him on the mandate issue. Many members of the conference sincerely believed that the mandate system might work, but that it had to draw on existing experience in the colonies and should not promise too much to peoples who could not in the foreseeable future be prepared for nationhood and full citizenship rights. Wilson agreed that in some cases this would be true, but he was less restrictive in the number of former colonies he would place in this category than were some of his colleagues.
There was a tendency at the peace conference to identify someone else's mandates as ready to be placed in the category reasonably close to independence with minimum preparation rather than one's own. Lloyd George, for example, saw most of the colonies being assigned to Great Britain and British Commonwealth nations as more suitable for either direct annexation or deferral. South-West Africa (Namibia), he argued, should be annexed to South Africa because it was not likely to proceed to independence; and South Africa would be better able to care for the people of South-West Africa under South African laws and tax structure. Papua might better be classed as an area that would never be self-governing, and therefore should be permanently assigned to Australia. He could visualize French mandates in northern Africa being prepared for independence. Clemenceau, however, was more inclined to see British mandates as nearing preparation for independence. In effect, then, the mandate system would only be as good as the determination of the powers in the league to carry it out.
Woodrow Wilson was the master planner for the mandate system, but the man responsible for laying out the detailed plans of the process was General Jan Christian Smuts of South Africa. The process began with Wilson's Fourteen Points, drawn up by the journalists Walter Lippmann and Frank Cobb under the general supervision of Colonel Edward House. They read through the president's statements of war aims and compacted them into the program that Wilson set forth in an address to Congress on 8 January 1918. Point 5 called for "A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims, based upon a strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable claims of the government whose title is to be determined." It was made clear in the Council of Ten discussions at Paris, partly because of British fears concerning the Irish and Indian independence claims, that colonial questions would be restricted to colonies belonging to Germany or coming into being as a result of the war. In practical terms this meant that mandates applied only to the German African and Far Eastern holdings and the non-Turkish parts of the former Ottoman Empire.
Secret treaties signed before or during the war had divided these territories among the victorious powers except the United States, which was not a party to them. Wilson went to Paris determined to set aside these treaties and for that purpose had formulated Point 1 of the Fourteen Points, which called for "open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view."
General Smuts set to work to carry out the mandates charge embodied, at Wilson's insistence, in Article 22 of the League Covenant. The article made it clear that certain of the Turkish territories were ready for nationhood almost immediately, that central African peoples needed mandatory powers that would guarantee their human rights and political and moral tutelage, and that the open door to trade would apply in all mandates. It also determined that South-West Africa and certain of the Pacific islands, because of the sparseness of population, isolation, size, and other circumstances, could best be administered under the laws of the mandatory and as integral portions of its territory, with safeguards for the well-being of the inhabitants supervised by the Mandates Commission. The Permanent Mandates Commission, the later official title of the commission, was to receive annual reports from mandatory powers and complaints relative to the treatment of inhabitants. The reports and complaints were to be sent to the League Council for deliberation.
Wilson met his first defeat on the mandate issue when his allies refused to consider turning mandates over to the administration of small neutral nations. The distribution followed the pattern of the secret treaties, with some other powers added to the list. Motives concerning the possession of mandates were mixed. Some Japanese saw mandates as preludes to annexation or as convenient means to establish secure military and market areas, while others saw them as symbolic of great power status and the promise of a stronger position in the future whether the system worked or not. The open door to trade and the defense of colonial peoples, plus democratization of the world, were the primary American objectives. British, French, and Belgian motives shaded to a greater or lesser degree along the lines of Japanese thinking. "Little England" advocates, who supported reduction in the size of the British Empire and a refocusing on trade expansion, were relieved to see the lessening of colonial responsibilities, while the imperial advocates were alarmed but convinced that the empire could hold together and peace could be secured while the United States participated in the peacekeeping system. France and Belgium were pleased to see the diminution of German power and could live with mandates if that were the result.
Japan proved a special case because it had emerged as a great power at a time when the main symbol of such status—empire—was on the decline. Japanese ambitions in China were set in the old imperial structure. During the war Japan secured a position as a major force in colonial exploitation of China as a result of the Twenty-one Demands presented to China, only to encounter demands for surrender of these privileges at the end of the war. Lloyd George and Clemenceau sided with Japan. This, combined with Japan's threat not to join the League of Nations, forced Wilson to accept the assignment of German rights in Shantung to the Japanese—but with a pledge to return the province to full Chinese sovereignty with only the former German economic privileges remaining to them; Japan was also given the right to establish a settlement at Tsingtao (Qingdao). Thus, Wilson's hopes for an anticolonial postwar structure were already on shaky ground.
Some scholars have argued that the Allies were not sincere in adopting the mandate process and intended to use it as a subterfuge for expanding colonial control. While in some instances this proved to be true, generally the mandates were administered in the interest of the people concerned and a large percentage of the Class A mandates were moved into independence. Most of these were in the former Ottoman Empire, such as Trans-Jordan, Syria, Palestine, and Lebanon. Wilson's charge to the peace conference in the plenary session of 14 February 1919 was only partially observed; but his expectations on mandates were more fulfilled than in most other areas of the Fourteen Points. Wilson told the conference members that they were "done with annexation of helpless peoples," and henceforth nations would consider it their responsibility to protect and promote the interests of people under their tutelage before their own interests. It would remain for the United Nations, not the League of Nations, to carry out this promise.
Often overlooked in judging Wilson's objectives are the underlying premise and promise that he undertook to deliver as a result of American participation in the war—making the world safe for democracy. Success meant the elimination of the monarchical and colonial systems. Wilson envisioned the states that were to emerge from the mandate system as democratic republics.
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United nations trusteeships
The United States entered the era following World War II with the same idea and again faced opposition from its allies. President Franklin D. Roosevelt attempted in the Atlantic Charter to reestablish the framework for bringing the colonial peoples of the world to free government. The ramifications of this were not lost on British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who at one point, in a fit of pique, told Roosevelt that he did not become his majesty's first minister in order to preside over the disintegration of the British Empire. Soviet Premier Josef Stalin, on the other hand, was ready with his own interpretation of what free government meant; it included only the right to be a communist state, insofar as the Soviet Union had the military power to ensure such determination of national sovereignty.
President Roosevelt, as a follower of President Wilson's view of dependent peoples, spoke frequently to the issue of independent states in his foreign policy pronouncements of the 1930s. He attempted to promote a new relationship away from the orientation of his predecessors in his Good Neighbor policy in Latin America. His focus was on the preservation and expansion of democracy, and, in the vein of Wilson's Fourteen Points, he set forth war aims in the Atlantic Charter and his Four Freedoms speech. In the former, he persuaded his allies to agree to the principle of self-determination, and in the latter, he attempted to promote freedom of speech, religion, and from fear and want, which he related to his Atlantic Charter objectives. He irritated Churchill by his inclination to encourage the Indians by trying to contact Gandhi while the Indian leader was incarcerated and tried to establish rapport with such leaders in the Middle East as King Saud of Arabia. Also, he tried to convince the French and British to withdraw from their colonial holdings in the Far East.
The concept of trusteeship appeared first in discussions of the Big Three at Yalta in 1945 but was also discussed in general form in the Department of State during the war. It was agreed at Yalta that trusts would be set up under United Nations auspices, with decisions being made on the general procedure by the five powers having permanent seats on the Security Council. (Trusts were substituted for mandates in order not to have any carryover from the moribund League of Nations and because they were to have a broader definition.) Trusteeships would apply only to territories still under mandate in 1939, areas detached from the defeated enemies, or territories voluntarily placed under the system, with the specific geographic areas to be determined later.
John Foster Dulles represented the United States on the Fourth Committee at the twenty-seventh plenary meeting of the United Nations in 1945, which was charged with developing the trusteeship system. Dulles followed Wilson in his challenge to the colonial system, proclaiming that the committee was determined to assume the responsibility for boldly addressing the whole colonial problem, which involved hundreds of millions of people, not just the 15 million who might come under trusteeship. He presented a clarion call for the destruction of colonialism. The anticolonial thrust initiated by Dulles in the name of the committee became a part of the United Nations trusteeship system and continued over the next fifty-five years, implementing Wilson's dreams beyond his expectations and with results not imagined in his time. According to Alger Hiss, the State Department official who in 1948 would be accused of being part of a communist spy ring, there is considerable irony in the wholehearted support for the trusteeship system outlined by the United States at San Francisco. Hiss recalled that Churchill was skeptical of the operation and that Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius turned to Hiss and told him to explain it to Churchill. Hiss off the top of his head set forth the structure of the trusteeship system, and Churchill put his okay on it. Thus, Dulles adopted as gospel a plan put forth by Hiss, whom he later treated as a pariah. There emerged such a myriad of states in Africa, the Near East, and Asia, with differing national objectives and systems, as to boggle the minds of those who originated the mandate system and its objectives.
Chapter 4 of the report of the United Nations Preparatory Commission ordered the Fourth Committee to deal with trusteeships in the interest of the trust peoples. Accordingly, the committee outlined the rules and procedures, including creation of the Trusteeship Council. While this looked very good to the creators of the trust system, reservations appeared immediately, including objections from U.S. Army and Navy spokesmen, who urged outright annexation of the strategic Pacific islands taken from the Japanese. The president and the Department of State proposed a compromise based on the anticolonial position in Articles 82 and 83 of the charter. As primary sponsor of the trusteeships, the United States could scarcely reserve certain areas for annexation. Article 76 sets forth the provisions and restrictions applying to trustee powers and includes procedures leading to independence, representative government, and economic development. It was overridden at the San Francisco conference establishing the United Nations, however, by insertion of articles 82 and 83 of the charter. These articles provide that areas within trust territories might be set aside as "strategic areas" under the direct control of the trustee, which is answerable to the Security Council, where the veto power applies, instead of to the General Assembly, where it does not apply. In this fashion Micronesia—comprising the Marshall, Caroline, and Mariana islands, but not the Gilbert, Nauru, and Ocean islands administered by Australia and the United Kingdom—became the strategic area of the Pacific under U.S. supervision.
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Mandates and Trusteeships - Conclusion
The trust principle seems to work more effectively for the objectives established in the Charter of the United Nations than did the mandate system under the League of Nations, because the Trusteeship Council is composed of those determined to carry it through and because it is under constant public scrutiny. Regular and voluminous reports from the Trusteeship Council had dwindled to pamphlet size by 1972. By 1975 the last two trust territories, Papua New Guinea and Micronesia, were determining their course toward independence or other disposition. In all, eleven trusteeships had originally been assigned to the council. The other nine had been Nauru, Ruanda-Urundi, French Cameroons, French Togoland, Italian Somaliland, Western Samoa, British Cameroons, British Togoland, and Tanganyika. From the trusteeships or released territories, ten nations had emerged in 1947, several in the 1950s, fourteen in 1960, and others later. Very often the result has not been satisfying, for the virulent nationalism exhibited by the new states has mirrored the worst traits of their older counterparts. Many celebrated nationhood by immediately sinking into anarchy or by trying to annex neighbors in wars of "liberation."
If success for the mandates and trusteeships is measured in terms of achieving independence, the trusteeship system obviously has been more successful. If it is measured in terms of achieving economic, political, and cultural development before nationhood, perhaps the more cautious approach of the mandate system has provided better results. In any case, the net result was that colonialism of the old order, with direct control of territory and people, and with no pretense of self-government, was dead by the end of 1975.
The objective of creating a nation-state system of democratic republics operating on a constitutional structure with governments of, by, and for the people—Woodrow Wilson's dream—is far from achievement. The most orderly and stable transitions came in the states that emerged from territories formerly under British control, where the population was generally educated for self-rule. Trust territories where there was literally no preparation for self-rule and independence emerged with bloody struggles for power and unstable systems of government. In a considerable measure this result arose from the failure of mandate and trusteeship powers to take seriously their charge to use all deliberate speed to prepare the populations for independence. All too often, however, the period of preparation was too short; and in some instances the viability of the states created might be questioned in terms of their ability to become economically self-sufficient. For better or for worse, the states now exist, and the next problem for them is to learn some degree of tolerance for one another and to curb the excesses of nationalism thus far exhibited.
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