Angola Crisis Essay, Research Paper
In past centuries, Angola was among the areas most-devastated by the slave trade. In recent decades, it has been afflicted with wars. However, in both eras, much of the violence was driven by powerful external forces. This is because Angola, with an abundance of oil and other resources, could develop into a very prosperous country if led and controlled by the right power. In 1975 Angola was released from colonialism by Portugal. This pivotal event in history sparked the beginning of a massive conflict between many of the key players in world power. These key players included the United States, Cuba, China, and the Soviet Union.
After reading three separate accounts of the crisis in Angola (U.S. Senate hearings led by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, a personal memoir by 1975 Assistant Secretary of State Nathaniel Davis, and a biography entitled In Search of Enemies: A CIA Story by John Stockwell), I have come to several conclusions. Although these three men all held important positions in the U.S. government, multiple contradictions exist in their chronologies of events. Of the discrepancies I found, all of them put Stockwell in opposition with Kissinger and Davis. I believe this is due to his position in the Central Intelligence Agency, where the greater availability of information was his advantage. Moreover, since all three accounts agree that the U.S. involvement was essentially a covert operation led by the CIA, I feel the account written by Stockwell was the most valid of the three.
When looking at the differences in chronologies, it is necessary to start from the beginning of the conflict. The first difference I found dealt with CIA involvement in Angola. Stockwell, ?an experienced, senior CIA case officer? (Stockwell, 31), marked early July 1974 as the start of CIA support.
In July 1974 the CIA began funding Roberto without 40 committee
approval, small amounts at first, but enough for word to get around
that the CIA was dealing itself into the race…During the fall of 1974
the CIA continued to fund Roberto, still without 40 committee
approval… (Stockwell, 67).
However, Davis describes that covert support did not begin until much later.
Shortly thereafter (his appointment on March 11, 1975), William
G. Hyland, the director of the State Department?s Bureau of
Intelligence and Research, told me that a $300,000 program of
covert support for the veteran Angolan liberation fighter, Holden
Roberto, had been approved that past January by the Forty
Committee… (Davis, 110).
Kissinger also noted this $300,000, which was given to Holden Roberto, was the first U.S. aid to Angola.
…We did not feel that our national interest was sufficiently
involved in the struggle within Angola…therefore, we only
made a grant of $300,000 which, at most, will get bicycles,
office equipment, and aid political efforts of the FNLA… (Angola, 26).
This contradiction is most-likely due to the differences in position between the three men. Stockwell was an important CIA official and had access to more classified information at an earlier time.
The second inconsistency I found dealt with the U.S. military support in Angola. Stockwell insisted throughout his book that the U.S. was spending millions of dollars on arms for the conflict.
…8 million, released on July 27, was allocated primarily for
the shipload of arms and for the procurement of airplanes
to haul material from Kinshasa into Angola…On August 20,
an additional 10.7 million was authorized for more arms,
aircraft, mercenaries, and maintenance of the liberation
forces, (Stockwell, 206).
Stockwell also reported that by December 1975 the CIA was still lying to Congress about arms and advisors in Angola. At this time, Kissinger was not reporting anything remotely close to a U.S. arms build-up. In fact, he suggested that a military-type involvement was out of the question.
Angola is an African problem and should be left to
Africans to solve; foreign military involvement only
escalates and prolongs the warfare there… (Angola, 10).
In comparison, Davis spoke of a similar American view on foreign military involvement in a memo he submitted to the State Department representative of the Forty Committee.
…Covert intervention (military) would not serve larger
U.S. interests…an attempted intervention could not be
kept secret…a covert intervention would have to be so
circumscribed as to fall between stools in any case-while
the other side could escalate at will, (Davis, 113).
Again, due to the availability of classified CIA information, Stockwell knew of massive U.S. military support while Kissinger and Davis were unaware and noted it to be an irrational decision.
The last contradiction I noted dealt with the concept of mercenaries. Stockwell mentioned that the CIA advisors could not meet the needs of the FNLA/UNITA. They needed to find allies who could advise the two groups on military issues to use against the MPLA. ?Mercenaries seemed to be the answer,? (Stockwell, 182). They needed to be Europeans with military skill and experience in Africa. But as long as they were not Americans the Forty Committee approved. In November 1975 the CIA began to recruit mercenaries from France. They began with only a dozen, but the numbers soon grew. In December the CIA began to recruit 300 Portuguese mercenaries. They were simply known as ?military advisors.?
Stockwell claimed the mercenaries played a large role, and their involvement was later viewed as a necessity. However, neither Kissinger nor Davis focus on the mercenary effort or emphasize their importance in the Angola crisis.
Throughout the entire period of 1974-1976 it seems that the CIA had been working covertly in Angola. In the spring of 1974 the CIA began to fund Roberto without Forty Committee approval. Almost a year later they began to supply arms for the conflict via the Kinshasa airport. These arms deliveries continued while the CIA lied to Congress. In September of 1975 they began to feed biased information to the United States press, as well as discouraging a discussion between MPLA and UNITA over a peaceful solution to the conflict. After the recruiting of hundreds of mercenaries to be used for military advising, the CIA continued to lie to Congress. John Stockwell was receiving all of this information secretly. For this reason, I feel his account of the crisis in Angola is the most valid of the three.
I feel that Nathaniel Davis, while holding an important position, was not receiving the respect he deserved. After Davis submitted a memo arguing against further intervention the President decided to go the other way, so Davis chose to resign. His former position of an American Ambassador to Chile could also have affected the impact of his opinions in Angola.
In terms of Henry Kissinger, I believe that his knowledge of covert activity was underestimated. However, his immense focus on the Soviet Union throughout his entire account precluded such information.
With any event of such historical significance you are going to have many different opinions about the order of its events, especially when the event concerns a number of world powers. In this case, all three accounts supplied factual information. However, the explanations of Davis and Kissinger did not account for classified information. Stockwell was at an advantageous position to view the Angola crisis unencumbered. He was a member of the CIA and knew the interworkings of its plan, and for this reason I see his account as the most substantial.