Portugal’s Guerrilla Wars in Africa – Al J. Venter

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Synopsis:

In his book Portugal’s Guerrilla Wars in Africa wartime journalist Al J. Venter recounts the Portuguese counterinsurgency campaign conducted in their colonial possessions of Africa from 1961 to 1974. The Portuguese encountered well funded, and amply equipped nationalist insurgencies sponsored by both the Soviet Union as well as China. At the time Portugal was the second poorest state in Europe, but was resolute in maintaining its hold over Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bissau.

Unlike Mozambique the counterinsurgency operations the Portuguese employed in Angola, and Guinea-Bissau were militarily successful, but fiscally calamitous to the Portuguese state, and acted as a prime mover for the Carnation Revolution which brought about Portugal’s ultimate withdrawal from Africa.

Excerpts:

“…when the dust eventually settled and moderate minds were able to look at all these issues dispassionately, one of the first conclusions reached was that as in the Rhodesian and South African wars – slowly gathering their own momentum once the Portuguese had returned to Europe – the bulk of the people of all those countries tended to side with their own.

“Africans were increasingly brought into the administration of the territories and the changes that occurred at this point brought a new meaning to the concept of Africanisation. By the early 1970s this not only implied merely a growing percentage of locally recruited or black individuals incorporated in the regular forces fighting the nationalists, – in the same sense as the French jeunissement in Indochina – it now meant a process of creating and fostering combat units of Africans operating more or less irregularly and autonomously, and with high levels of operational efficiency.

“There should have been a succession of national elections in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea, but by the time that Lisbon had delegated authority to the newly-emerged countries, all three had embraced hardline Marxist principles.

“The philosophy of using turncoats to fight for what was essentially a European-oriented cause – a concept, incidentally, that was later applied by the South Africans in their own Border Wars units like with Koevoet, the police counter-terrorist unit and 32 Battalion, and with considerable effect – was that every man taken prisoner was given an option. He either worked with them, the colonel explained, or ‘swish’, he drew his hand across his throat in the traditional cutthroat manner.

“Portugal’s assets were embarrassingly sparse when compared to what her adversaries were getting from the Soviet Union and China. In a sense, this was an African version of Vietnam, only Portugal was no America.

*All excerpts have been taken from Portugal’s Guerrilla Wars in Africa, Helion & Company Limited.

The Rhodesian War: A Military History – Paul L. Moorcraft and Peter McLaughlin

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Synopsis:

Rhodesia was founded by the British South Africa Company (BSAC) in 1890 under the direction of South African mining magnate Cecil Rhodes, and his colonial partner Leander Starr Jameson. Known as Southern Rhodesia the colony was granted self-governing status by the British government in 1923 under the administration of the white European colonial minority, and soon burgeoned as an economic powerhouse in southern Africa.

By the 1950s the standard of living for the white Rhodesians was vastly superior to most of the British living in the United Kingdom, and was even higher than many parts of the United States. It was not unusual for a white family living in the suburbs of the capital of Salisbury to own a single family home with a swimming pool, a car, all the contrivances of modern life, as well as employing more than one black African domestic worker. However, the white minority government only sought to assimilate the black African communities living within the state at a snail’s pace, and maintained a sort of parochial paternalistic racism over the black Africans, which was deeply resented. These ethnic tensions, and the communist Cold War strategy of fostering Marxist-Leninist wars of national liberation would snowball into what became known as the Rhodesian Bush War. The outcome of the war was the extinction of the white settler state of Rhodesia, and the birth of Zimbabwe under the leadership of the Marxist-Leninist and Pan-African ideologue Robert Mugabe.

In their book on the Rhodesian Bush War, Moorcraft and McLaughlin offer a political as well as military history of the war conveying thorough analysis of the tactics and strategies employed by the warring factions.

Excerpts:

“Rhodesia’s first concern, according to Prime Minister Ian Smith’s followers, was to prevent the spread of godless communism. But the war led to the triumph of a self-professed communist, Robert Mugabe. The most right-wing British prime minister in modern history, Margaret Thatcher, had inadvertently created the conditions for the first democratic electoral victory of a Marxist leader in Africa.

“The greatest paradox involved South Africa. Rhodesia broke away from Britain to avoid black rule and then, with the onset of the guerrilla war, became completely dependent upon an apartheid regime which subsequently became even more determined than London to establish a black premier in Salisbury, soon to be renamed Harare. Above all, Pretoria dreaded the possibility of a victorious Marxist army marching through the streets of Salisbury and Bulawayo, a precedent which it feared could be replicated in the Transvaal.

“The Zimbabwean nationalists called the whites ‘settlers’, but the ‘European’ population thought of themselves as Rhodesians, a nation in themselves, or a white African tribe at least.

“Many whites believed they were sincerely battling against communism to preserve a civilized Christian order; it was not merely to protect a three-servants-two-cars-one-swimming-pool way of life. But although the whites did fight long and hard, Rhodesia was not a militaristic society, despite the ubiquitous weaponry and uniforms. By 1979, as black rule became imminent, the whites looked back on the tragedies of the war. The mood was one of sorrow and resignation rather than anger; and they displayed a bruised pride in having survived for so long against such steep odds.

“…towards the end of the war, the Rhodesian military had begun to act as a state within a state. It was only the personal contacts between Smith and his service chiefs which kept the fiction of political supervision intact. With 95 per cent of the country under martial law, military dominance was inevitable.

*All excerpts have been taken from The Rhodesian War: A Military History, Stackpole Books.

Modern Warfare: A French View of Counterinsurgency – Roger Trinquier

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Synopsis:

Serving as an infantry officer in myriad airborne units within the French Army, Roger Trinquier conducted counterinsurgency operations throughout the French conflicts in Indochina as well as Algeria. His experience in those conflicts guided his writing of Modern Warfare, which is a book conveying his lessons learned as well as his own theory of counterinsurgency. His methodology for counterinsurgency warfare involves a force architecture dependent on a prodigious organizational institutional apparatus usually outside the means of most states without a war economy in place.

Excerpts:

“…in modern warfare we are not up against just a few armed bands spread across a given territory, but rather against an armed clandestine organization whose essential role is to impose its will upon the population. Victory will be obtained only through the complete destruction of that organization. This is the master concept that must guide us in our study of modern warfare.

“We know that the sine qua non of victory in modern warfare is the unconditional support of a population.

“The war in Indochina and the one in Algeria have demonstrated the basic weapon that permits our enemies to fight effectively with few resources and even to defeat a traditional army. This weapon is terrorism.

“The best way to be well informed consists in introducing our own agents into the organization of the enemy and in corrupting his agents. This is a delicate task that only a few proven agents will be able to accomplish.

“The goal of the guerrilla, during what can be a long period of time, is not so much to obtain local successes as it is to create a climate of insecurity, to compel the forces of order to retire into their most easily defensible areas.

*All excerpts have been taken from Modern Warfare: A French View of Counterinsurgency, Praeger Security International.