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The United States Marine Corps In South Africa

The United States Marine Corps In South Africa? A Look To

The Future


CSC 1995


SUBJECT AREA - Foreign Policy






Title: The United States Marine Corps in South Africa? A Look to

the Future


Author: Major Timothy J. Kolb, USMC


Thesis: The current racial controversy in the Republic of South

Africa may eventually produce sufficient chaos to threaten the future

of southern Africa. South Africa's racial discord may eventually

force the United States into specific military response channels to

ensure regional stability.


Background: The people of the Republic of South Africa elected

Nelson Mandela as their President in May 1994. Although the former

President, Frederick W. de Klerk, had rejected an official South

African apartheid policy, it was Mandela's immediate challenge to

institute a true sense of racial equality. However, South Africa's

third world problems of disease and overpopulation could combine with

a depressed economy to overwhelm the fledgling Mandela government.

At the center of South Africa's problems is the issue of racial

separation. The deep-seated racial inequities still exist within

South Africa. Frustrations among some black and white extremist

organizations, disenfranchised societal elements and the unemployed

masses have led to an alarming increase in South Africa's violent

crime rate. Additionally, weapons are readily available to most of

South Africa's population.

The Marine Corps' intelligence community has recognized the

potential for a Marine Corps foray into South Africa within the next

ten years. The challenges for the Marine Corps expeditionary

commander will multiply when considering not only the intrinsic

operational hazards of participating in a South African "small war",

but also the underlying theme of racism.


Recommendations: The Marine Corps must train for a potential South

Africa contingency operation, whether a Non-combatant Evacuation

Operation, a peacekeeping mission, or a peace enforcement operation.

The United States and United Nations senior political and

military leadership must commit a substantial coalition force to any

South Africa mission due to that country's size.

The United States must continue to collect valuable human and

cultural intelligence within South Africa. Close monitoring of the

South African domestic and racial situation is absolutely crucial to

the State Department.

A South Africa race war may challenge the values of the

individual servicemen and the United States military units may feel

damaging repercussions. The commander must be aware of these

enormous challenges.

Before entering the potentially hostile peace support operations

environment, an elementary understanding of the emotional divisions

caused by South African racism and an elementary appreciation of the

South African cultural terrain is essential.





"National liberation gave a moral language to the disputes in

Africa.... Colonialism and minority rule stood on one side, the cause

of political and human rights on the other.....Legitimate grievance

and the right to bear arms are as easily invoked by the new freelance

warrior as they were by the national movements. They are desirable

assets in the deregulated markets of armed struggle, which thrive on

cheap weaponry from exhausted or disbanded Cold War armies. In the

right hands, the gun can embody all there is to know about

legitimacy, while grievance takes care of itself...."1



"Any Zulu, Xhosa, Pedi or Shangaan who had the misfortune to

live in Winterveldt....was now at the mercy of Tswana ethnic rule,

conferred by the Afrikaner bureaucracy in Pretoria. This malignant

strain of tribal devolution would haunt South Africa long after

apartheid was gone."2




The United States Marine Corps in South Africa?


A Look to the Future




Major Timothy J. Kolb

Command and Staff College

18 April 1995



1 Small Wars, Small Mercies--Journeys in Africa's Disputed Nations, Jeremy

Harding (Penguin Group: London, 1993) p. xix.

2 Small Wars, Small Mercies, Harding, p. 184.




June 23, 1997 (0400 Charlie).....The flight leader "pushed" the


dozen Super Stallion transport helicopters from the designated overwater


rendezvous point with the escorting attack aircraft barely visible


through the leader's night vision devices. The onboard global


positioning satellite (GPS) system indicated a 345 degree steer--the


target landing zones some 27 nautical miles over the horizon. All


participants had meticulously planned and repeatedly rehearsed the


mission at sea; but the terrain enroute to the landing zones was


unfamiliar to all the aircrews. The pilots' geographic reference points


were merely a collection of satellite imagery that reinforced the key


terrain features and urban checkpoints depicted on the lone Ready Room




"Critical mission....our national prestige is at stake....


emergency extraction....minimize the collateral damage," these words and


phrases raced through the flight leader's mind as he reflected on the


13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) Commander's


brief barely two hours prior.


The flight leader continued to muse: "Why here of all places ? I


have never even heard of Louis Botha Airport, Congella Pier, the Xhosa


tribe or the Isipingo township! Why are these people fighting one


another--is this really a race war? Why are we involved in a


Noncombatant Evacuation Operation (NEO) in this area of the world? I


thought all the apartheid problems ended with President Nelson Mandela's


election in 1994? Why are we flying into Durban, South Africa?".....


Why indeed?






"South Africa is not a peaceful place, to which violence may someday

come. Apartheid is intrinsically a violent system. Violence is built

into its inequality, its disrespect for black human beings."3


The above scenario is obvious fiction, but prior Marine Corps


presence on African soil is not--having previously run the gamut from


Tripoli and Liberia to Rwanda and Somalia.4 Pursuant to history,


the Marine Corps' mission and the proliferation of international


confrontation and regional strife, there is a potential for some


expeditionary mission near the world's littorals. Moreover, such a


mission is likely to be conducted on the African continent.


This study analyzes the Republic of South Africa (RSA)--an


unstable African country with 2881 kilometers5 of littorals whose


problems may eventually seduce the United States into believing that


some form of military intervention is necessary. (Note: South Africa


is within the top 25% of "Countries of Concern " identified by the


Marine Corps Mid-Range Threat Estimate.)6


I have selected South Africa as my trial case, since I believe


my focus on a probable United States intercession, to extend American


political aims, may educate readers on the inherent perils associated


with military operations in South Africa.



3South Africa: Apartheid and Devestiture, ed. Steven Anzovin (H. W. Wilson: New

York 1987) p. 127. Extracted from an interview with Reverend Allan Boesak the

President of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches at the University of Western Cape, Republic of South Africa.

4Threats in Transition, (Marine Corps Intelligence Activity [MCIA]: Quantico,

November 1994) p.37.

5 World Atlas, "South Africa" (Electromap: Novato CA 1990)

6 Threats in Transition, MCIA, p. 39. Countries of Concern refers to those

countries where Marine Corps commitment is most likely due to the combination of

potential instability and military capability.


There have been many reams of paper and countless computer bytes


dedicated to the discussion of peace keeping7 and peace enforcement8.


Today, however, I will peripherally explore considerations that might


require potential United States involvement in any future South


African peace keeping or peace enforcement missions.9


Racial inequality envelops South Africa's very soul; therefore,


throughout my treatise, I shall showcase South Africa's deep-seated


racial problems. Additionally, I shall indicate how the underlying


theme of racism exposes some of the intrinsic strategic and


operational hazards of United States participation in any form of


"small war"10 in South Africa.


I believe that South Africa's racial controversy influences


every major aspect of her society and that South Africa's racial


discord may eventually force the United States into specific response


channels. The United States cannot ignore the overriding South


African racial controversy and the race issue is, therefore, a key


component throughout my seven part analysis.



7 Joint Publication 3-07.3 ,Joint Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for

Peacekeeping Operations (USA AG Publication Center: Baltimore, April 1994) p.A1.

Peacekeeping (Definition is based on the Presidential Decision Directive on

Reforming Multilateral Peace Operations):

"The deployment of neutral military and/or civilian personnel with the

consent of the state or states involved and, more recently, of all significant

parties to the dispute in order to assist in preserving or maintaining the peace. These are traditionally non-combat operations (except for the purpose of self-defense) and are normally undertaken to monitor and facilitate implementation of an existing truce agreement and in support of diplomatic efforts to achieve a lasting political settlement of the dispute".

8 Defense 93 Issue 6, "Peacekeeping: Why, When, How--How Long?" by Frank G.

Wisner, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (Department of Defense, USGPO:

Washington DC, December 1993) p. 24.

"Peace Inforcement is armed intervention, involving all necessary measures

to compel compliance with United Nations Security Council resolutions and

conducted under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter".

9 I believe that the most probable United States mission in South Africa will be

in conjunction with United Nations operations under Chapters VI or VII of the

United Nations Charter.

10 Small war is the former term for "Operations other than War".




"Never before in our history has South Africa been threatened by

crime as it is now."11


Initially, I shall profile the ominous problems that effect most


of Sub-Saharan Africa 12 concentrating specifically on South Africa.


A short discourse on the current South African political and social


situation will then precede the third portion of this analysis--a


discussion of practical United States' strategic aims in the Republic


of South Africa.


After the reader receives an elementary disquisition of South


Africa's challenges, I shall progress into the operational realm with


an expeditionary environment threat estimate review. During the


fifth phase, I shall analyze the domestic security roles of the South


African National Defense Force (SANDF) and some of the splinter


paramilitary groups (Self-Defense Units and Afrikaner Resistance


Movement)13. All are competent forces that are capable of


maintaining, or disrupting, domestic peace.


Following these discussions, I will outline a possible scenario,


occurring in Durban, South Africa, that will require United States


military involvement on a relatively small scale. Ultimately, I


shall conclude with recommendations on how to successfully "fight"


the Marine Corps as an element of a joint or combined task force in


South Africa.



11 Quote from Lieutenant General Sharma Maharaj, police chief in Gauteng province (near Johannesburg). The Washington Times, April 6, 1995 p. A15.

12 Sub-Saharan Africa and the United States, Philip R. Cook (Bureau of Public

Affairs: Washington, DC 1986) p. 1. Sub-Saharan Africa refers to all African

countries with the exception of Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and

Western Sahara.

13 The African National Congress sponsored Self-Defense Units and the right wing

Afrikaner Resistance Movement organization are forces that are potentially

disruptive elements from the pre-1994 election period.




"I believe what I am told.... that every African country is in chaos,

every African statesman is venal or incompetent, every cubic centimetre

of African blood, whether stored, shed or still in circulation, is

seropositive, and that the staple diet of 640 million Africans is dust."14

(British Journalist--1992)


In order to comprehend the problems of Africa one must first


understand the African peoples. A United States State Department


study conducted in 1986 illustrated that: "The complexity of African


society is graphically demonstrated by the number of (its) languages.


Of more than 800 languages, fewer than 10 are spoken by more than 1


million people. Most languages are native to groups of less than


100,000 people."15 As diverse as the African languages, so are the


historical, social, economic and cultural backgrounds of the African




Exacerbating Africa's geo-political situation is the fact that


42 African nations have gained their independence from former


colonial governors, or as in the recent case with Namibia, from


another African nation-state [South Africa], within the past 40


years.16 Doctor Stephen P. Riley, an adjunct professor at the


University of Durban-Westville, Republic of South Africa, contends:


"Accompanying independence is the often observed strife brought


about, in part, by the pattern of established colonial borders with


little consideration to ethnic concerns".17


Even in South Africa, which gained its independence from the


United Kingdom in 1910, there is a real capacity for ethnic unrest.


For instance, the borders of South Africa contain almost 44 million


14 Small Wars, Small Mercies, Harding, p. xi.

15 Sub-Saharan Africa and the United States, Cook, p. 8.

16 Conflict Studies 268, "War and Famine in Africa", Stephen P. Riley, (Research Institute for the Study of Conflict and Terrorism: London, Feb. 94) p. 3.


people, living within nine provinces, and speaking eleven official


languages.18 As a comparison, Kenya, another former United Kingdom


colony, has a population of over 28 million people consisting of


seven major ethnic divisions.19


Although South Africa is fundamentally a democratic republic,


the potential for conflict due to domestic unrest among its composite


populations persists. The influence of typical Third World woes


among a disenfranchised and oppressed population, as I shall explain


below, may stress even the strongest government.


Artificial borders are enclosing many different African ethnic


groups with varying political views and goals. Additionally, a review


of African history indicates many incidents of nationalistic or


tribal unrest against governments run by minority ethnic groups.20


Are peoples and borders the only reasons for potential unrest in


South Africa? A look at recent African history indicates that there


are many more causes for conflict.


Historically, new African governments institute expedient


taxation policies that protect the more affluent urban populations


and place African farmers and herders at a distinct disadvantage. 21


According to Doctor Stephen P. Riley, an acknowledged expert on


African debts and international aid programs, inefficient, or




17 Conflict Studies 268, Riley, p. 4.

18 The World Factbook, Central Intelligence Agency (Office of Public and Agency

Information: Washington, D. C. 1994) pp. 364.

19 Ibid, p.212. Kenya, the former British East Africa, gained its independence in December 1963.

20 Angola's war for independence against Portugal, the Mau Mau (Kikuyu tribesmen)

insurrection in Kenya, and the war in the former Belgian Congo (Zaire) are all

historical examples.

21 Strategic Challenge During Changing Times, Tilford, pp. 28-29.


deliberately denied, food distribution among the disadvantaged causes


famine more often than does natural factors.22


Likewise, widespread disease (e. g., Human Immune-Deficiency


Virus [HIV], tuberculosis, malaria), depressed economies, high


population growths, environmental concerns, famine, rampant violent


crime and a staggering refugee influx are all contemporary examples


of African problems.23 Combine these factors with the relatively


new birth of a South African nation that is experiencing multi-


ethnic, democratic, home rule for the first time and the challenge to


government is staggering indeed.


Is it a small wonder that United Nations forces are currently


supporting, or have recently supported, missions of peace keeping in


Somalia, Rwanda, Mozambique, Liberia, Zaire and Angola?24




"The 1990's are going to be the most fraught decade in South

Africa's history; if the white minority which has held political power

for so long can actually cross the Rubicon of real change to share power

with the black majority without a major descent into chaos and bloodshed,

it will be a political miracle."25


Although South Africa no longer recognized apartheid as official


state policy, she took what appeared to be a major step towards truly


eradicating an apartheid attitude with the election of Nelson Mandela


as the new Executive President (head of state) on May 10, 1994.


Mandela's representative "Government of National Unity", in


conjunction with Deputy Executive President Frederick W. De Klerk's



22 Conflict Studies 268, Riley, p. 8. (Doctor Riley is a Reader in Politics at

Staffordshire University and has anaylzed economic situations in Angola, Liberia, Somalia and Burundi.)

23 Strategic Challenge During Changing Times, ed. Dr. Earl H. Tilford (Strategic Studies Institute: Carlisle 1994) pp. 29-30.

24 Strategic Challenge During Changing Times, Tilford, pp. 28-29.

25 South Africa--Crossing the Rubicon, Guy Arnold, (St. Martin's Press: New York, 1992) p. vii.


and Deputy Executive President Thabo Mbeki's opposition parties,


produced an interim Constitution. In the opinion of Professor


William F. Gutteridge, Director of the Research Institute for the


Study of Conflict and Terrorism, the South African Constitution


"reflects and reconciles as far as possible the aspirations and


claims of particular groups to forms of separate identity or autonomy


within a single state."26


The new government has essentially a five year "contract" in


which to improve the living condition of the black majorities. Yet


it is in striving for the underprivileged's economic reform where


Mandela may face his most enormous challenge to domestic stability.


Recent civil unrest is an indicator that the "socio-economic


expectations of the mass of the population" is not being satisfied.27


Mandela's problem does not end with the underprivileged--Guy


Arnold, a noted South Africanist journalist, observes that "the


Afrikaner problem has always been one of racial exclusiveness".28


Add racial hatred or mistrust into a South African society struggling


with "the poverty patterns of the Third World (including severe


unemployment and lack of job skills)" and the recipe for failure is


readily apparent.29


Yet the most feared scourge that may tear out the very soul of


South Africa is the vile political tool used most recently in Bosnia




26 Conflict Studies 271, "The Military in South African Politics--Champions of

National Unity", William Gutteridge, (Research Institute for the Study of

Conflict and Terrorism: London, June 94) p. 2.

27 Conflict Studies 271, Gutteridge, p. 2.

28 South Africa--Crossing the Rubicon, Arnold, p. 82. Arnold opines that the

Afrikaner bases " all their political responses to the complex issues of a

multiracial society upon the assumption that their survival depends on total

Afrikaner control".

29 The World Factbook, CIA, p. 364.


and Rwanda--"ethnic cleansing".30 In a South African internal


security study, Professor Gutteridge concludes that: "(A)cross (South


Africa) there are large pockets of population covering extensive


areas of land where there is a bewildering cultural and ethnic mix


which could engender bouts of ethnic cleansing."31


With the potential for the failure of Nelson Mandela's


government so high, what can, or should, the United States and the


other Western powers do to assist South Africa in growing during its


early years as an infant nation? Will American, British and


Australian aid packages be sufficient sums to bolster the South


African economy?32


An analysis of the South African problem without at least a


rudimentary understanding of the South African peoples would be


fruitless. There are definitely the Third World factors of disease,


economic depression, overpopulation, etc., that must be considered


separately from the elements of peoples and borders. Yet, the South


Africa of 1995 is no longer a nation run by a party representing less


than one-seventh of the population.


A former southern Africa Reuters correspondent and current New


York Times bureau chief, Guy Arnold, observes of South Africa:


" is a nation beset by ideals as far apart as the implacable


hatred of Shaka Zulu, the desire to keep the [Afrikaner] blood pure



30 Parameters--US Army War College Quarterly vol. XXV, No.1, "Ethnic Conflict:

The Perils of Military Intervention", William A. Stofft and Gary L. Guertner (US

Army War College: Carlisle Spring 1995) p. 34. According to the authors:"... .the Bosnian Serbs have engaged in 'ethnic cleansing', a benign term when describing expulsion from one's homeland. When they (Bosnian Serbs) use it to describe genocide they demonstrate the banality of evil."

31 Conflict Studies 271, Gutteridge, p. 25.

32 The World Factbook, CIA, p. 364. The aid packages are: United States, $600

million over three years; United Kingdom, $150 million over three years;

Australia, $21 million over three years.


and to stay apart [whites and blacks], and an expressed desire for a


truly United South Africa."33


I believe that world leaders need to view the "new" South Africa


differently--that the Republic of South Africa must solve her


internal domestic problems before she will again realize her


potential as a stabilizing influence in southern Africa. Chief among


these problems are racism,34 the accompanying inequities in the


distribution of wealth and land, an appalling violent crime rate,


constrictive capital flow, and economic stagnation.




"We accept the necessity of the stage-by-stage movement to the main

aim, creation of a nonracial democratic society, and concede that

negotiations between the government and the genuine representatives of

the black majority will be a necessary and inevitable link in this


Boris Asoyan, Soviet Ambassador to Lesotho, 1988


Despite the anti-apartheid rhetoric historically espoused by


most Western nations, the free world has viewed the white South


African government as the crucial stabilizing influence in the


African continent's struggle against Communist aggression.36


Notwithstanding the absence of the former Soviet Union as an


influential factor in southern Africa, South Africa continues as an


important puzzle piece in United States' world strategy.




33 Killing the Wizards, Cowell, pp. 265-6.

34 I believe that Andrew Hacker's Two Nations--Black and White, Separate

Hostile, Unequal, is an excellent source on racism. Hacker states that racism

can be expressed institutionally (traditionally "white" organizations), without

exception (Nazi ideology), based on racial "traits" or even genetically or

environmentally ("primitive peoples'). Hacker illustrates some interesting

parallels between American society and the South African apartheid system.

Reading Hacker's book would, perhaps, give the reader a greater appreciation of

just how difficult the South African government's challenges are, and is highly

recommended as a supplemental reading.

35 Soviet Strategy in Southern Africa, Vanneman, p. 18.

36 Soviet Strategy in Southern Africa--Gorbachev's Pragmatic Approach, Peter

Vanneman, (Hoover Institution Press: Stanford 1990) pp. ix-x.


A 1994 United States Army War College Strategic Studies


Institute study assessed that "South Africa's strategic minerals


production, its control of the Cape route around which flows some 40


percent of United States petroleum imports, its nuclear capability,


and the importance of the South African economy to the future


economic and political stability of the entire region" make South


Africa a definite country of interest.37


How high is American interest is South Africa? President


Clinton's Engagement and Enlargement policy38 (specifically


safeguarding international human rights and assisting duly elected


democratic governments), the United States' current intervention in


Haitian domestic affairs, a powerful African-American lobby within


the United States Congress and the United States' past vociferous


condemnation of the South African apartheid policy all would point to


extremely high United States concern for regional stability in the



As South Africa is still the strongest power in the region, and


arguably on the African continent, the United States State Department


has asessed that her "cooperation with other southern African nations


is essential for progress on any issue."40 So how should the


Clinton Administration deal with trouble in South Africa?



37 World View: The 1994 Strategic Assessment from the Strategic Studies

Institute, ed. Steven K. Metz and Earl H. Tilford, Jr., (Strategic Studies

Institute: Carlisle April 94) p. 25. [Extracted from Kent H. Butts' regional

assessment of Africa.]

38 A National Security Strategy of Engagement and Enlargement, The White House

(USGPO: Washington DC July 1994) p. 19.

39 Sub-Saharan Africa and the United States, Bureau of Public Affairs, p. 25.

Former President Bush: "Apartheid is wrong. It is legally entrenched racism--

inimical to the fundamental ideals of the United States."

40 Sub-Saharan Africa and the United States, Bureau of Public Affairs, p. 25.


Prior to President Reagan, the United States had treated South


Africa with "kid gloves"--harmless rhetoric and threatened sanctions.


Although an avowed conservative, President Reagan (and eventually


Corporate America) quickly bowed to the pressures of the "Black


Caucus" and instituted harsh measures against South Africa in an


effort to crush South African apartheid policies.41


Formerly, banning South African athletes from competition in


most international sporting events was a "righteous" move that warmed


liberals' hearts. However, since 1982, when the United States used


her powerful influence, South African regimes have felt the sting of


American sanctions and business disinvestments.42


Although the United States has slowly lifted South African trade


sanctions, I believe that the American government's economic and


diplomatic intimidation is still a real possibility for Nelson


Mandela's neophyte government. However, as long as political power


in South Africa, the African National Congress, the National Party


and the Inkatha Freedom Party,43 cooperate with Mandela's reform and


economic growth agendas, I postulate that United States and European


aid will continue unabated.


Although South African domestic strife may be present in some


form, an indication of progress will serve to stir foreign business


interests.44 Since investments by foreign corporations within South


Africa are critical to stimulate a faltering South African economy,


it is beneficial to both the United States and South Africa to


maintain peace and stability within the region.


41 Sub-Saharan Africa and the United States, Bureau of Public Affairs, p. 27.

42 South Africa--Crossing the Rubicon, pp. 130-135.

43 The World Factbook 1994, p. 364. The ANC, NP and IFP are the three majority

parties within the South African legislature.


In summary, a stable South Africa is the cornerstone of United


States strategic goals in southern Africa. It is absolutely crucial


to United States strategic goals that our State department officials


closely monitor South Africa as a potential hotbed.





"White society has over the years developed a similar attitude to

guns as that of the United States, while the ending of the border wars

and the relaxation of apartheid has sucked into the black townships from

Angola and Mozambique an endless supply of AK-47's many of them

originally illicitly supplied by South Africa to rebel movements in those



In order to accurately realize the enormous challenges facing a


potential expeditionary mission in South Africa, the strategic and


operational military planners must consider many factors. Moreover,


South Africa's racial problems are so overwhelming that any United


Nations intervention would be a peace enforcement mission. I shall,


therefore, now consider a strictly military analysis of a possible


United Nations peace enforcement incursion into South Africa.


The Marine Corps Intelligence Agency analyzed South Africa's


environment and defense posture to produce a profile that


fundamentally describes difficulty factors in terms of operational


friction.46 South Africa is considered a low "threat" in the areas




44 Conflict Studies 271, Gutteridge, p. 24.

45 Conflict Studies 271, Gutteridge, p. 27.

46 Threats in Transition, MCIA, p. 41.

"This estimate analyzes 'friction'--the level and type of difficulties

likely to be encountered by a MAGTF in the Marine Corps expeditionary

environment. In the physical sciences, 'friction' is proportional. Just as any

object moving through air experiences air resistance proportional to its size,

shape, and speed, any Marine unit can expect 'operational friction' proportional

to the characteristics of the operational environment, the size and configuration

of the MAGTF, and the speed at which a Mar Corps response is desired."

The factors considered are: naval force posture, assault hydrography, anti-

landing defense posture, basic topography, operational infrastructure, climate,

ground force posture, air combat posture, air defense posture, NBC warfare

posture and information shortfall.


of naval force posture (territorial water patrol), anti-landing


defense posture (no surveillance, local defense garrisons only), and


has a strong, modern, operational infrastructure to support even a


large-scale MAGTF Maritime Prepositioning Force (MPF) deployment.


Conversely, South African operations will produce a high level


of operational hindrance when considering the ground force posture


(experienced combined arms forces), information and intelligence


shortfalls, and the NBC warfare posture (possible NBC capability).


The arena of medium operational friction within South Africa


consists of assault hydrography (numerous landing sites, few landing


beaches, fair beach exits), basic topography (significant "slow-go"


terrain), climate (temperate with seasonal extremes), air combat


posture (limited all weather capability; optimized for counter


insurgency), and air defense posture (limited integration of air




Although the likely scenario requiring a United Nations or


United States military intervention in South Africa would not be a


medium or high level conflict, I believe that operations would be of


sufficient size and duration to warrant consideration of the


operational friction factors.





"The South African Self-Defence Units have become a law unto

themselves, alienating and extorting the population in the very townships

which they were designed to protect."48


To better understand low, medium and high, the following comparison is

offered: the former Yugoslavia is considered medium in ground force posture,

while South Africa is high; South Africa is considered medium in air combat along

with Libya and Iraq, while Syria and Israel are considered high.

47 Threats in Transition--Marine Corps Mid-Range Threat Estimate, MCIA, Appendix

B--"Operational Friction Factors Defined".

48 Jane's International Intelligence Review, Volume 6, Number 11, "South Africa's

Self Defence Units", Shaun McCarthy (November 1994) p. 520.


The South African National Defence Force is essentially a


consolidated military force that has absorbed different elements of


the South African population to create a representative citizen


army.49 In essence, the addition of new ethnic "blood" to the SANDF


has transformed the Force, though the change is more evident in the


South African Army than its Air and Naval Forces. The more


representative appearance of the SANDF has not caused substantial


internal security problems, but has fundamentally diluted the


experience level.50


The current challenge for the SANDF is maintaining internal


security by controlling domestic violence. I assess that the African


National Congress realized that the new citizen army was both


politically, but more important, militarily crucial to establishing


Nelson Mandela's government and interim constitution. "It was the


combination of the high level of criminal violence and the signs that


political violence could continue indefinitely which convinced the


ANC of the need to be ready in case a massive security clamp down was


required within a relatively short time of achieving power."51


One of the elements threatening the South African government's


desire for domestic tranquillity is an instrument assembled by the



49 The World in Conflict--Jane's Intelligence Review 1994/1995 Yearbook, "New

South African Defence Force Takes Shape", Helmoed-Romer Heitman (Jane's: London

1995) p. 90. The planned South African Army structure is: (1) A full-time

Contingency Force consisting of three brigades (mechanized, parachute and special operations); (2) A part-time Citizen Main Mobile Force consisting of three mechanized divisions (one fully manned/equipped and two as cadres); and (3) A Rear Area Protection Force (mainly infantry battalions operating under the

control of nine regional commanders). The Rear Area Protection Force has "the

responsibility for border control operations and for operations in support of

police". Until 1997, the standing force will fluctuate in size from 91,000 (1997 budgetary goal) to 131,000 (as "non-statutory" homelands forces are integrated into the regular South African Army).

50 Conflict Studies 271, Gutteridge, p. 14 and "New South African Defence Force

Takes Shape", Heitman p. 91.


ANC in their original struggle against an oppressive South African


government--the Self-Defense Units (SDU). "The SDU's were created as


an integral part of the strategy to arm the masses and to render the


black townships fermenting and expanding the


'peoples' war' against apartheid."52


President Mandela's administration may indeed face an SDU that


has fragmented into self-serving units, each with its own charter


within its own township. The very youthful membership of the SDU's


provides Mandela with a quandary--how to placate & dissatisfied,


disenfranchised, ideological group of youthful freedom fighters?


Not only do the black paramilitary elements have the potential


to disrupt domestic security, but there is also another force that


possesses the capability to resist change under the banner of racial


hatred--the Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB).53 Shaun McCarthy, an


associate researcher at the South African Institute for Defence


Policy, has postulated: "Guerrilla warfare is the traditional


expertise of the Afrikaner, and it is guerrilla war based on a


strategy of terrorism that will prevail should the AWB rise up


against the new political order."54


A crucial problem for the South African government is control of


these black and white extremist paramilitary organizations. If


racial tensions within South Africa intensify, the RSA government


cannot overlook the potential that the radical AWB, SDU or SPU


organizations might provoke a brutal, undiscriminating race war.


51 Conflict Studies 271, Gutteridge, p. 28.

52 "South Africa's Self-Defence Units", McCarthy, p. 520. Additionally, the

Self Protection Units (SPU) of the Inkatha party add to the potential township

unrest in Natal with clashes against ANC's SDU's.

53 Jane's Intelligence Review, Vol. 6, No. 5, "Compromise or War--The Afrikaner

Resistance Movement", Shaun McCarthy (Jane's: London May 1994) p. 233


Although the SANDF is a formidable, representative military


force, growing racial unrest may stress this fledling army's ability


to maintain national unity. Nelson Mandela's new government may


become the new target for blacks and whites, alike, as the


frustrations caused by the faltering economy and the continuing


racial inequities find a temporary satisfaction in the power of the


rifle to extract wealth and prestige within the townships.




"The 'small wars' in Africa are not so trifling. They have brought

ruin and hunger to millions of civilians, in refugee camps and feeding

centres across the continent."55



June 22, 1997....The American Consulate at 333 Smith Street,56


Durban, South Africa, had ceased routine operations. Within the last


three days all of the nonessential consular employees had departed


Louis Botha Airport57 along with many other American citizens.


The estimated count of American, British, Australian and Indian


citizens still requiring transportation out of Durban, South Africa


was 2386. However, Louis Botha Airport and the Congella port


facilities were now closed to international and domestic commercial




The Republic of South Africa was in a state of emergency--in


essence, fighting with the Republiek van Suid Afrika 58for her very





54 Ibid, p. 233.

55 Small Wars, Small Mercies--Journeys in Africa's Disputed Nations, Jeremy

Harding, p. xiv.

56 South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland--A Travel Survival Kit, Richard Everist and

John Murray (Lonely Planet Publications: Hawthorn, Australia 1993) p. 235.

57 Ibid, p. 247. Louis Botha Airport is an international airport that serves the Natal province. The airport is located 15 kilometers south of Durban along the Southern Freeway.

58 Republiek van Suid Afrika is the Afrikans term for South Africa. My intent is not to infer that all white South Africans are eager for a return to the pre-


The sudden death of Nelson Mandela on May 31, 1997, had shocked


a nation that had been struggling with release from her apartheid


shackles for the past seven years. Mandela's charisma had held his


country together despite the worsening racial clashes, the rising


wave of violent crime and the constant tribal and political




With the death of Nelson Mandela came instant turmoil within the


government and renewed political posturing by the African National


Congress, the National Party and the Inkatha Freedom Party.59


Unfortunately, the nature of the parties' rhetoric contained severe


ethnic undertones and led to increasing racial disturbances.


The SANDF response to the renewed domestic violence was


commendable, but insufficient to the scope of the conflict. South


Africa was experiencing the initial phase of a cancerous race war.


The American response to the racial violence was diplomatic


condemnation, an entreaty to the United Nations for an expeditious


peace enforcement mission, and a demand to all American citizens,


either visiting or working in South Africa, to immediately leave the




By June 22, 1997, the situation had deteriorated--Johannesburg


and Durban were essentially closed to the outside world due to AWB


and ANC terror campaigns that had escalated to a level of


indiscrimate violence and murder. Communication and transportation



Mandela form of RSA government. Rather, in a racial conflict, it is easy to

divide causes using simplistic terms. The white face may invoke ascertain

response in a predominantly black environment, and vice versa, despite the

individual's personal beliefs. A difficult predicament for even the most

experienced diplomat.

59 Africa 1994, Pierre Dostert (Stryker-Post Publications: Harpers Ferry, WV

August 1994) p. 141. The RSA National Assembly consists of 400 members. The ANC


systems were targeted for destruction or control by the warring




The United States military reply consisted of a series of


Noncombatant Evacuation Operations (NEO) combined with a forward


naval presence in the Cape of Good Hope region. The NEO's were


planned for Capetown, Johannesburg, and Durban.


Durban, a port and resort city located on South Africa's


northeastern coast, has a population of over one million--the vast


majority of its population either black or of Indian descent. The


surrounding terrain is relatively flat and the coastal topography


north and south of Natal Bay appears conducive to small scale


amphibious operations.


Time permitting, a combined task force would be the force of


choice for a Durban NEO. Human intelligence is a critical element of


any expeditionary mission and a properly organized task force would


require planners/operators who were familiar with the local populace


and the terrain.


This Durban NEO would require multiple landing sites or zones


due to the number of noncombatants requiring extraction and the


inherent "slow go" nature of the Durban urban terrain. The port


presents the NEO planners with a quandary--although ideal for


materiel onload/offload, the port is sheltered and has a restrictive


entry and exit point.


Likewise, seizure of Louis Botha Airport would provide an


excellent aerial port of embarkation, but access to the airport for



has 252 members (62.6%); the NP has 82 members (20.4); and, the IFP has 43

members (10.5%).


noncombatants would probably be limited due to its distance from the




Durban would not be an easy scenario for a MEU (SOC) NEO


planner. Expeditionary missions requiring traditional port and


airfield seizures would likely be extremely risky courses of action,


but might be desirable due to the large number of noncombatants.


I looked at alternate landing zones and sites, to include the


Royal Durban Golf Course, Battery and Dunes Beaches, in order to war


game a more feasible course of action. The terrain appears to offer


both accessibility and friendly freedom of action, but is less


favorable as a large scale noncombatant extraction site.


Yet, as I shall articulate below, the issue of race may be the


commander's greatest challenge in Durban, or anywhere in the Republic


of South Africa.




"....Retaliation (against....the lunatic-fringe, Nazi-styled....

Afrikaner Resistance Movement) by the predominantly militant members of

the African National Congress' Youth League under radicals like Peter

Mokhaba and Winnie Mandela, as well as black consciousness movements like

the Azanian National Liberation Army could add to the explosive

situation, resulting in uncontrolled black-on-white violence.... The

eventual outcome could possibly see South Africa degenerating into a

country with a series of ethnic and racial enclaves similar to Bosnia

with familiar consequences."60


The Marine Expeditionary Units (Special Operations Capable) [MEU


(SOC)], are the United States' most often deployed forward forcible-


entry units.61 Consequently, due to the expeditionary nature of both


the MEU (SOC) and Marine Expeditionary Forces (MEF), the Marine


60 Jane's International Intelligence Review, Volume 6, Number 5, "Compromise or

War--The Afrikaner Resistance Movement", Shaun McCarthy (Jane's May 1994) p. 233.

61 Report of the Secretary of Defense to the President and the Congress,

(Department of Defense, USGPO: Washington DC, February 1995) p. 169.


Corps' ability to train for a potential South Africa contingency


operation is crucial.


Furthermore, the Marine Corps' expeditionary capability provides


security for the possible introduction of follow-on elements of a


Combined or Joint Task Force. Marine expeditionary forces, as an


element, or the core, of a South Africa joint task force, must,


therefore, adequately train and equip themselves to successfully plan


and execute the assigned mission.


A forcible-entry into South Africa's littoral would be a


moderate challenge due to the factors indicated in the previous


expeditionary environment threat estimate. There are numerous,


adequate South African ports and airfields that would facilitate the


introduction of a United Nations or United States-led combined task




Nonetheless, the size and nature of the South African terrain


combined with the implications of a race war and the wiles of a


formidable, hazily defined opponent, would provide the peace keeper


or peace enforcer with many severe hazards. As was illustrated in


the Durban NEO outline, the terrain alone demands a sizable Task


Force--probably of brigade size.62


United States international policy combined with domestic


political pressures may preclude the introduction of a large Joint


Task Force. Despite the effects of American domestic pressures, to


successfully extract a large number of American and other foreign


nationals from a country as vast as South Africa, or to properly


62 Although the Marine Corps has abandoned the expeditionary brigade concept, the MEF (Forward) unit required to aptly support the Durban NEO with follow-on

security missions (peace enforcement) is assessed at the Regimental Landing Team


conduct South African peace keeping/enforcement missions, would


require a substantial military force.


Accepting that my analysis of the South African military and


paramilitary forces is accurate, a potentially burdensome task faces


the Joint Force, Combined Force, and MAGTF commanders. Not only may


our Marines and soldiers be required to patrol the urban landscape


under the auspices of peace keeping, humanitarian missions, but they


may also be facing a deadly enemy--the competent, urban warriors who


have perfected their guerrilla skill on the killing grounds of


Angola and Mozambique and within the townships of South Africa.63


Likewise, if the Task Force must operate in urban terrain under


restrictive Rules of Engagement (ROE), the risks of the mission


increase substantially, whether operating in the larger cities or the


overpopulated townships.


As previously stated, there is a tremendous information and


intelligence shortfall concerning the Republic of South Africa. Our


potential adversaries, the warriors in southern Africa, are masters


at psychological and urban warfare.64 Although the Marine Corps enjoys


robust human intelligence (HUMINT) assets relative to its size, the


challenges of collecting intelligence in South Africa's urban regions


may severely task Marine Corps assets. With a paucity of useful


information regarding South Africa and her peoples, the situational


human and cultural intelligence is absolutely critical.




size. The approximate size of the Regimental Landing Team with aviation and

combat service support elements is 16, 500 and is accurate for planning puposes.

63 Angola--Arms Trade and Violations of the Laws of War Since the 1992 Elections, Human Rights Watch/Africa (Human Rights Watch: New York November 1994) p. 9.

64 Small Wars, Small Mercies--Journeys in Africa's Disputed Nations, Harding, p.



The task organization of the Marine Corps or other United States


Armed Forces to perform peace keeping or peace enforcement missions


is not the key challenge in South African operations. Whether the


Marine Corps fights as a MEU (SOC) or MEF (Forward) will be


determined by the mission, enemy, terrain, troops and fire support


available, time, space and logistics--that is not our challenge in


South Africa.


Before entering the potentially hostile peace keeping or peace


enforcement environment, an elementary understanding of the emotional


divisons caused by South African racism and an appreciation of the


South African cultural terrain is quintessential to mission success.


The establishment of apartheid as South Africa state policy in


1948 used race as a defining tool; homelands were established to keep


the South African blacks within their own areas.65 Racism runs


rampant through South Africa and any United States or United Nations


force would be hard pressed not to take sides in a peace keeping or


peace enforcement operation.


The challenge to our American military and state leaders in


undertaking a South African peace mission is enormous. The racial


violence within South Africa could merely be a sample of what our


nation may eventually experience, if the United State cannot bring


our "black and white nations" together.66


The American serviceman brings his values with him to the


battleground. If our serviceman's thinking is fundamentally racist,


how then does he react when a commander issue orders in an arena


where all is literally considered black and white?



65 Africa 1994, Dostert, p. 143.

66 Two Nations--Black and White, Separate, Hostile, Unequal, Hacker, p.ix.


Our young soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen are intelligent


and naturally inquisitive. What will be the nature of the questions


they ask of their commanders and of their country?


Who are the enemy forces that may oppose the Durban NEO mission


fighting within their own country--white and black institutions, or


white and black people? Are the South African blacks, released from


apartheid, fighting for the same freedoms that African Americans,


released from slavery, have fought for since the American Civil War


Reconstruction era?


Which of our commander's can satisfactorily answer these


questions? Will our potential performance in South Africa be a


precursor to enhanced international race relations? Answering these


questions will be quite a challenge to commanders everywhere.





"The bush had different rules, and they were the rules of war that

brought power to those who wielded the gun."68


With all the humanitarian, financial and security assistance


that African nations receive, why are there still so many severe


problems within Africa? Why is there an intense international


remorse directed towards Africa by the media due to the many negative


African images conjured or portrayed?69


Is the food, money, medicine and equipment insufficient to cope


with the magnitude of problems? Is the democratic form of government


unfit for the multi-ethnic African nations? Or is "Washington's


preoccupation with itself and Europe's current concern over the



67 With apologies to the United States Naval Institute's publication Proceedings

which publishes a column entitled: "Nobody asked me, but...."

68 Killing the Wizards--Wars of Power and Freedom from Zaire to South Africa,

Alan Cowell (Simon & Schuster: New York, 1992) p. 124.


[Bosnia] civil war and the breakup of the Union of Soviet Socialist


Republics [causing] major political and public attention to be


further distracted from Africa"?70


These are all tough questions that our future political,


diplomatic and military leaders must consider when viewing the


African problem. The ultimate decision to place young marines,


soldiers, sailors and airmen on the African continent must be for the


right reasons and the American resolve must not falter. But until


our leaders understand the peoples and challenges of Africa, that is


not possible.



69 Killing the Wizards, Cowell, p. 124.

70 Defense and Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy, "Africa's New Challenge"

(International Media Corporation Limited: London October 91) p. 8.


Click here to view image








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