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Old 07-09-2010   #1
JMA
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Default South Africa's COIN war in SWA/Namibia/Angola

Little attention seems to have been paid to this small war in south-west Africa. There are lessons to be learned for historians and serious soldiers.

Lets start here:

THE NAMIBIAN BORDER WAR: AN APPRAISAL OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN STRATEGY
Dr Leopold Scholtz
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Old 07-09-2010   #2
jmm99
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Default Looks like we may get ...

a South African small wars course. So, professor, will the teaching methodolgy be Sandhurst or West Point ?

Seriously, I think it's a good idea (esp. since your first author spoke well of John McCuen - a better student of Mao-Giap than were Galula et al).

Back in the day, I followed SWA/Namibia/Angola (and your Rhodesian thing) on roughly a monthly basis. Generally, I'm stupid on things African - so, it's nice to have you provide the syllabus and sources I can download to my harddrive (already did that for a bunch of Rhodesian stuff).

Regards (from one of your students in the peanut gallery)

Mike

----------------------
On reflection, I should say what McCuen taught (in mid-1960s), but your SA author has done that for me (pp.6-7 pdf):

Quote:
His strategic principles were the following:

· Having a clear political aim: In the light of the intense political nature of revolutionary warfare, McCuen places great emphasis on this aspect. Without it, neither the civilian administration of the government nor the military can properly deal with the evolving phases of the rebellion.

· Annihilation of the enemy and preservation of own forces: Obviously, the enemy forces will have to be destroyed, but not to the point of seriously weakening your own forces. The areas which have not yet be subverted, should be safeguarded and developed in order to prevent such subversion from happening. At the same time – and this proved to be very important to the South Africans – the internal and external political infrastructure of the rebels should be high on the agenda for destruction.

· Mobilisation of the masses: This principle rests directly on what Mao had said about the matter, that the active participation of the masses should be secured, especially as far as the so-called silent majority is concerned. In addition, the government should offer a vision which is more attractive than the one offered by the rebels. This should accommodate popular aspirations and eleminate genuine grievances.

· Get outside support: To get the political and moral support of neigbouring states is necessary to counter the external manoeuvres of the revolutionaries.

· Unity of effort: All means and instruments available should be effectively integrated into one consolidated effort. Government departments should not make ad hoc decisions which are not properly integrated into the central war effort, and this applies not only to military steps, but also those in the political, psychological, economic and organisational realms. This principle, when read together with the writings of Beaufre, was the foundation of the P.W. Botha government’s much maligned Total Strategy.
So, McCuen was a realist, who realized that the military struggle (violence with some conversions) and the political struggle (conversions with some violence) had to be integrated, co-ordinated and subordinated to the policy which drives both the military and political efforts (as to which they are "merely continuations"). Giap was emphasiing the same points in his teachings before and during the time that McCuen taught them - ironic that they were on opposite sides.

In any event, neither McCuen nor Giap were "Johnny One Notes".

Last edited by jmm99; 07-09-2010 at 08:13 PM. Reason: add PS
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Old 07-10-2010   #3
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Default

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Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
a South African small wars course. So, professor, will the teaching methodolgy be Sandhurst or West Point ?

Seriously, I think it's a good idea (esp. since your first author spoke well of John McCuen - a better student of Mao-Giap than were Galula et al).

Back in the day, I followed SWA/Namibia/Angola (and your Rhodesian thing) on roughly a monthly basis. Generally, I'm stupid on things African - so, it's nice to have you provide the syllabus and sources I can download to my harddrive (already did that for a bunch of Rhodesian stuff).

Regards (from one of your students in the peanut gallery)

Mike
None of the above.

I think it is important for everyone to figure it out for themselves.

There are certainly lessons to be learned from the South African experiences in SWA/Namibia/Angola.

The political war in Namibia was never going to be won (I mean how could they have sold apartheid to the majority African people of that country?) so the best South Africa could hope for was to offer independence and hope to end up with moderate state on her northwestern border.

What the military did was to adopt a COIN strategy which went as far as they humanly could given the political restraints and because the required safe haven the insurgents thought they had in Angola was being dominated by South African/Unita alliance it was probably close to a situation where South Africa could have achieved a military victory.
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Old 07-10-2010   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
So, McCuen was a realist, who realized that the military struggle (violence with some conversions) and the political struggle (conversions with some violence) had to be integrated, co-ordinated and subordinated to the policy which drives both the military and political efforts (as to which they are "merely continuations"). Giap was emphasiing the same points in his teachings before and during the time that McCuen taught them - ironic that they were on opposite sides.

In any event, neither McCuen nor Giap were "Johnny One Notes".
I can find no areas of disagreement with what McCuen writes. A good man, wonder why the US don't use him more?

His article Hybrid Wars I found to be excellent and it is worth a read.

What I like about McCuen is his variation on the “clear, hold and build” approach to the more achievable “clear, control, and counter-organize the population”.

McCuen three golden rules:

●Conducting conventional operations that carefully take into account how destroying or neutralizing the enemy nation’s governmental, political, security, and military structures will play out in the longer term.

●Clearing, controlling, and counter-organizing the indigenous population through a values-oriented approach that fosters legitimacy.

●Winning and maintaining support for the war on the home front(s) and in the international community. Doing so means maintaining legitimacy and avoiding losses through incompetence.
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Old 07-10-2010   #5
jmm99
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Default McCuen briefly

McCuen's book, The Art of Counter-Revolutionary War, is available at Hailer Publishing as a reprint (good reprint; not expensive).

Niel Smith (Cavguy) has read it, but of more importance COL McCuen was a particpant in a closed forum involving Niel - as he reported with a PM from McCuen, posted here Jack McCuen.

I'd be interested in Niel's take on the book and on McCuen's ideas - since he's taught his own neat course on "clear, hold and build" (in Cavguy terms, as he saw it and did it). And, of course, on your take that McCuen is conducive to "clear, control, and counter-organize the population".

Still active as COL (ret.) in 2008-2009, and USMA grad ('48), McCuen had the tickets. I have no idea as to the real man, or why his ideas were not as prevalent as (say) Galula.

Regards

Mike
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Old 07-10-2010   #6
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Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
McCuen's book, The Art of Counter-Revolutionary War, is available at Hailer Publishing as a reprint (good reprint; not expensive).

Niel Smith (Cavguy) has read it, but of more importance COL McCuen was a particpant in a closed forum involving Niel - as he reported with a PM from McCuen, posted here Jack McCuen.

I'd be interested in Niel's take on the book and on McCuen's ideas - since he's taught his own neat course on "clear, hold and build" (in Cavguy terms, as he saw it and did it). And, of course, on your take that McCuen is conducive to "clear, control, and counter-organize the population".

Still active as COL (ret.) in 2008-2009, and USMA grad ('48), McCuen had the tickets. I have no idea as to the real man, or why his ideas were not as prevalent as (say) Galula.

Regards

Mike
Maybe McCuen's ideas are worth a thread of their own?

If there is anyone in contact with him it would be interesting to see if he is prepared to comment of the use of his ideas by South Africa in Namibia and how well or otherwise he thinks it all worked out there.

I have always believed that the concept of holding ground (in the clear, hold and build context) was naive to say the least. Controlling and dominating were much better concepts because they were possible.

For information, I spent a lot of time in the '70s reading and rereading Robert Taber's "The War of the Flea" . Made a lot of sense then. Need to reread it again to see if I still feel that way.
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Old 07-10-2010   #7
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Default McCuen Thread

Hello JMA

If Nagl, Kilcullen, Galula, et al, deserve threads, McCuen deserves a thread and more (IMO) based on his analysis of Mao-Giap alone. Niel (of those posting here) seems most acquainted with McCuen and his work. Cavguy, I expect, is enjoying the novalties (to him) of the Alaskan bush as a squadron XO; but I notice he has posted here recently.

So, PM will be sent advising him of this discussion and whether he wants to input - great if he would.

---------------------
Re: Robert Taber's "The War of the Flea" - on my bookshelf too; and IMO not in the same class as (say) McCuen. I suppose it had appeal to young leftist radicals of that time.

Some of his ideas (e.g., essentially supplanting or co-opting the revolutionaries in Latin America by taking positions vs the oligarchs and rightist dictators - a "Third Way" insurgency) had merit, but not exactly as he stated them.

Cord Meyer et al had similar supplantation or co-optation concepts, but (unfortunately IMO) never got them to first base because of Colonel King et al.

Regards

Mike
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Old 07-14-2010   #8
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Default Visual aids: Koevoet

In the first post I mentioned the 1988 book Koevoet by Jim Hooper (a US photographer / journalist based in the UK, who had embedded with SW African COIN unit, in the conflict over nowadays Namibia).

Today I found his website: http://jimhooper.co.uk/ which has a mass of photos: http://jimhooper.co.uk/gallery3.html, three short video clips and other subjects covered.

There are other books on Koevoet, notably those by Peter Stiff, a trilogy on the war(s) fought; The Covert War (2005), The Silent War and Warfare by Other means (2001). The books are not without controversy, nor cheap.
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