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According to him, it represents the most complete history of its subject ever written in Cuba or anywhere else.

  • Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959-1976 by Piero Gleijeses (2002);
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As well as being a researcher, Piero Gleijeses is a communicator. His way of explaining and commenting on his work is as enjoyable as the content of Conflicting Missions The professor explained that when he decided to write about the subject he understood that sources and documentation were especially important in this case. If you write attacking Cuba, no evidence is necessary. However, if you write the truth, in favor of Cuba, then there has to be documentation.

These analysts deserved a better government. If Missions in Conflict Currently there are Cuban doctors in 21 countries. Conflicting Missions Piero Gleijeses's fast-paced narrative takes the reader from Cuba's first steps to assist Algerian rebels fighting France in , to the secret war between Havana and Washington in Zaire in where Cubans led by Che Guevara clashed with 1, mercenaries controlled by the CIA--and, finally, to the dramatic dispatch of 30, Cubans to Angola in , which stopped the South African advance on Luanda and doomed Henry Kissinger's major covert operation there.

Based on unprecedented archival research and firsthand interviews in virtually all of the countries involved--Gleijeses was even able to gain extensive access to closed Cuban archives--this comprehensive and balanced work sheds new light on U.

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It revolutionizes our view of Cuba's international role, challenges conventional U. Gleijeses recounts the Cuban story with considerable flair, taking good advantage of rich material. Guevara sought to restart the rebellion, but found that the Simbas resented the Cubans' efforts to train them and simply did not want to fight. Their commander, the future president Kabila--duplicitous, drunken, and corrupt--was nowhere to be found. The situation grew so bad that one Cuban commander wrote from the field: "I have only fourteen Zaireans [Simbas] left The Zaireans have said they want to leave, that they no longer want to fight, that I am holding them here at gunpoint, and that as soon as the enemy attacks they will flee" p.

The U. Gleijeses notes that the CIA was inexplicably slow in noticing the Cubans' presence, probably because most of them were Black, and by the time it did notice, the mercenaries were mopping up the operation. Thereafter, the CIA had no institutional memory of Cuba's Congolese adventure, which Gleijeses argues also had a disastrous impact on U. Angolan policy. Days after Guevara and his men arrived in Congo-Leopoldville, Cuban troops were sent to Congo-Brazzaville, where a revolutionary government had recently come to power.

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It was in Brazzaville that Gleijeses's contact, Jorge Risquet, got his first taste of Africa as overall commander of the Cuban mission. Risquet quickly found that the Congolese government was made up of boutique Marxists whose idea of combat was an argument about Marxist dialectics over a bottle of French wine. Instead of spreading revolution, the Cubans became a praetorian guard, protecting the government from its own army. They also were not impressed by the military performance of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola MPLA , which they trained, or by its leaders, who were in comfortable exile rather than fighting alongside their men in the field.

After less than two years, Castro withdrew most of his men despite a Soviet request that they remain. Gleijeses shows that the Cubans fell in love with Guinea-Bissau.

Piero Gleijeses - Wikipedia

The PAIGC was led by Amilcar Cabral, a remarkable figure who brilliantly devised the military strategy and politically melded the tiny colony's numerous ethnic groups into a nation. Portugal's failure to defeat the PAIGC finally caused left-wing military officers to overthrow the fascistic dictatorship of Marcello Caetano for the avowed purpose of ending Portugal's colonial wars. Nonetheless, on January 15, , the three independence movements signed the Alvor agreement, which laid out an elaborate plan for creating a transitional government that would oversee Angola's transition to elections and freedom on November 11, Gleijeses's chapters on Angola, which make up about 40 percent of the book, have been the most reported and discussed including a thread on the H-Diplo listserv because of the U.

When full-scale civil war broke out in March, the FNLA had the biggest and best-supported army, but the MPLA's was much better trained and led, and by July seemed poised to win the war. It was at this point that Angola became a priority for U. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

Despite being a man who thinks geopolitically, Kissinger spends little space in his memoirs setting out what he considered to have been U. He unsystematically argues that the United States had two interests: protecting its international prestige and ensuring continued pro-U.

Gleijeses follows Kissinger's lead and assesses whether these interests were advanced by U. Stopping the Soviets would re-affirm that the United States was serious about its international responsibilities. The "mercenaries" were regular units of the South African army fighting under cover. Gleijeses, like Kissinger, takes seriously the idea that prestige is an important strategic interest that states must maintain, but he does not believe that intervening in Angola was the way to maintain it.

Although Kissinger denies collaborating with South Africa, Gleijeses brings forth impressive evidence that he did, including South African reports based on archival documents that show South Africa launched a covert operation that worked in sync with the United States: four days before Ford approved IAFEATURE, South Africa also launched a covert operation, approving over fourteen million dollars in assistance for the guerillas; in August, when the South African weapons began to arrive in Kinshasa, Zaire, the CIA arranged to fly them to Angola; and in September, the CIA sent paramilitary advisers while South Africa sent military advisers.

Conflict Unending

To this point, neither the United States nor South Africa has released documents that elucidate their relationship. He does not think so: "Arguably, few African governments would have been duped, but so what? In fact, Gleijeses could have strengthened his point had he emphasized that many African governments would have happily accepted the result since African leaders ranging from the conservative Felix Houphouet-Boigny of the Ivory Coast to socialists like Senegal's Leopold Senghor and Zambia's Kenneth Kaunda had secretly encouraged South Africa to intervene.

While this result was also a tribute to U. Castro sent thousands of soldiers to Angola, halting the South African advance and pushing it back, shocking Kissinger.

Waters on Gleijeses, 'Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959-1976'

Kissinger was able to secure another seven million dollars, but when he went to Congress for twenty-eight million dollars more for the following year, he was rebuffed. Abandoned, the South Africans withdrew from Angola. Gleijeses concludes: "Kissinger's aides had let him down: no one at the State Department, at the NSC, or in the intelligence community had warned him about Cuba.

This was an egregious lapse, given Cuba's past activities in Africa and long-standing ties with the MPLA, but just as Kissinger would have reveled in the glow of victory, so too must he bear responsibility for failure" p. Instead of a prestige-restoring triumph, Angola made the United States look like a hamstrung and ineffectual ally of the apartheid regime. The Communist Bloc solidified its post-Vietnam prestige. As to Angola's importance for U. Gleijeses dismisses as political rhetoric a nightmare scenario laid out by United Nations Ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan: "Europe's oil routes will be under Soviet control as will the strategic South Atlantic, with the next target on the Kremlin's list being Brazil" p. Although Brazil is far afield, many conservative scholars did accept the rest of Moynihan's analysis.

Ethiopia and Vietnam, for example, provided the Soviets with air and naval bases, allowing them to project their forces over a much-extended area. And Cuban troops in Angola did help the Communist Bloc save Ethiopia's revolutionary government in by airlifting fifteen thousand soldiers to stop a Somali invasion. While Gleijeses agrees that the MPLA would and did disrupt southern African detente, he believes the detente was chimerical because violence against racist regimes was inevitable. Therefore, he concludes that a U. This judgment seems questionable. If Savimbi had come to power in Angola, the historical record suggests that continuing to foster detente would have been Vorster's highest priority.

Gleijeses shows that Vorster had already begun to abandon Ian Smith's racist Rhodesian regime and was working with Kaunda to force Smith to accept majority rule, which would have dramatically increased the possibility that Joshua Nkomo favored by Kaunda, Vorster, Mobutu, and Savimbi would have come to power in Zimbabwe rather than the frightful Robert Mugabe.

With South Africa's northern flanks secure, it is reasonable to posit that the momentum of detente would have pushed Vorster toward independence for Namibia, certainly more peacefully and quickly than the thirteen violence-filled years that followed the MPLA's victory. And continued detente would have made it more likely that Vorster's successor would have been the diplomatic and conciliatory Roelof "Pik" Botha rather than the hard-line bulldozer P.

Yugoslavia had been the MPLA's chief arms supplier. The Soviets agreed to resume assistance in early , taking one hundred guerillas to the Soviet Union for training in March they returned as a very effective unit in September and sending weapons, which reached the MPLA by late May. Unfortunately, the Russians have not opened documents from this period to the general public, so Gleijeses is unable to cover this aspect of the story as much as he would have liked.

One of the biggest surprises that Gleijeses learned from the Cuban documents was how uncharacteristically slow Castro had been in coming to the MPLA's aid. Only when the civil war grew out of control in late July and the MPLA appeared to be on its way to victory did Castro begin to focus on Angola, sending a team of military officers to assess its needs. They warned him that Zaire and South Africa, supported by the "imperialists," might intervene to prevent the MPLA's triumph in fact, Zaire had already infiltrated 1, remarkably ineffectual troops into Roberto's army. Worried that this would disrupt detente with the United States, Brezhnev refused, so Castro acted on his own, sending the MPLA a team of approximately five hundred Cuban specialists and instructors, with the first score arriving by commercial flight.

After the South African invasion in mid-October, Castro began a massive invasion of his own. Without time or perhaps inclination to consult the Soviets, he sent the MPLA over 3, additional soldiers by year's end, and ultimately some 30, soldiers. It was a decision that angered the Soviets at the time, but which they approved of following the MPLA's victory. Henry Kissinger refused to believe that the Cubans could have launched such a massive effort on their own, and assumed Castro had acted at the Soviets' behest. In his memoirs, he accepts that he had been mistaken.