Senghor and Césaire’s plan looks interesting (And very, very French. The idea of the overseas departments as being as “French” as the Hexagon, is deeply ingrained in French political thought, and is central to the nation’s view of itself in the 20th century. During the second world war, some overseas departments fought on, so France as a whole was never conquered.), but the plan failed when it did because it was out of touch with the realities of its time. The demands for independence and self determination from colonised nations were irresistible in the post 1945 world. Peoples who had been conquered and colonised for centuries had been promised self determination as a reward for their participation in the great wars, and they were always going to look on any other proposed solution as the continuation of colonialism by another name. Also, given the desire of the elites in the colonial powers to hold on to the dream of empire, their suspicions would have been well justified.
As for today, I think the foundations of a post-imperial, post nationalist world are already in the making. The EU, for all its flaws begins to show us the way towards the future of the nation state. The large, imperial nation state of the 20th century, like the USA or the USSR, or the French empire is not the way forward. even in a more democratised form. When I look at the nations that are successful, peaceful and happy, I cannot help but think that the future belongs to small, democratic nations who come together in a variety of trans-national organisations to solve their common problems. Regionalism and autonomism are the stepping stones towards post-nationalism, where states will be small enough so that the power is close to the people, and not large enough to be a threat to one another.
As for Kissinger, he’s a convenient figure to hang the US’s policy failures on, given his reputation as a Machiavellian master of the dark arts of Realpolitik, but the reality is that US foreign policy has been confused, unprincipled and blowback prone for decades. Their Iran troubles can be traced back at least to the overthrow of Mosaddegh, where ready access to the regions resources were thought more important than Democracy or stability. The undermining of secular nationalism to keep the middle east on side is another long standing policy- one that has seen people turn to fundamentalism as a response to the failure of secularism and modernity to deliver. Even in Vietnam, the US’s troubles can be traced to earlier missteps. Their decision to support the continuation of French Imperial control, rather than accept the proposed friendship of a new nation that had helped to overthrow the Japanese, could be said to have lost them the Vietnam war before they recognised they were in it.
As an interesting aside, during the cold war period, I see the diplomatic strategies of the USA and the USSR as very much informed by a typical game played in each country:
The USA is poker. Each diplomatic incident is a completely separate game, and the aim is to win each encounter, using bluff, misdirection and playing your strongest cards. You might have to fold occasionally, when you look weak, but once you go all in, you have to win.
The USSR was chess. It’s a game that can be played slowly, and a skilled player can wear down an opponent over time. It’s vital to make sure that your opponent doesn’t end up with a large lead of materiel over you, but occasional sacrifices are absolutely necessary, and part of the game plan. However, once a piece is taken, it stays taken.
Both approaches were wrong.