Date of Award

Spring 5-1-1987

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Political Science & Public Administration


Just what is the American reaction to apartheid, and how does one make generalizations about those perceptions and the values they imply? In approaching these questions the method chosen was to look at the visible reactions of those opinion leaders in the administration, press, and Congress that the American public took their cues from in forming attitudes in this area of foreign relations. Written articles and public statements reported by the press and in professional magazines and journals were examined, first to see if the reaction of these opinion leaders to the issue of apartheid and related concerns could be assessed on the basis of a format which attempted to predict the concerns Americans would reflect upon when considering foreign policy issues and making policy recommendations. The reactions of these opinion leaders were examined to see if they reflected a similar emphasis to three major sets of concerns: the perception of the moral wrong of apartheid, and the economic and strategic cost of ending apartheid; the need to avoid becoming embroiled in another Vietnam-type situation; and the perceived need to prevent the incursion of communist influence in South Africa and that region of the world. In addition, the public reactions of these opinion leaders were examined in order to assess whether or not liberal democratic values were

mentioned in the context of structuring the debate over the practice of apartheid and U.S. relations with the country of South Africa, or if they were mentioned in the justifications given for specific policy recommendations meant to bring about the end of apartheid. What was found was that there was a distinct difference between conservative and liberal American opinion leaders on their perceptions on the urgency of ending apartheid practices in South Africa. Conservatives would justify non-intervention in South African affairs both by citing the perception that the South African government was committed to ending apartheid, and in their belief that marketplace forces would bring about reform even without government intervention. They also expressed concern over strategic and economic issues, playing up the need to prevent communist influence in Southern Africa and the surrounding region. Liberals would be quicker to stress moral concerns about the continuation of apartheid practices, rejecting the idea that the South African government was trying to end apartheid, and downplaying the need to follow a policy that was in effect a regional anti-communist strategy. In doing so they justified increased American intervention in South African affairs on the grounds that visible liberal democratic practices were abscent under apartheid restrictions in South Africa.