The United States Marine Corps In South Africa? A Look To
SUBJECT AREA - Foreign Policy
Title: The United States Marine Corps in South Africa? A Look to
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
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.
MILITARY ISSUES PAPER
"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?".....
"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
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
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
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
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
SOUTH AFRICA: CURRENT SITUATION
"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
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
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
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:
"....it 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.
UNITED STATES-REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA STRATEGY
"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.
THE SOUTH AFRICAN EXPEDITIONARY ENVIRONMENT THREAT ESTIMATE
"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.
SOUTH AFRICAN NATIONAL DEFENSE FORCES AND SPLINTER
"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
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 ungovernable....by 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.
SCENARIO: DURBAN--RACIAL UNREST
"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
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
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
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.
HOW TO FIGHT
"....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
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
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
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.
NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT....RESOLVING AFRICAN STRIFE67
"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
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
Anzovin, Steven. South Africa: Apartheid and Devestiture. New York:
H. W. Wilson, 1987.
Arnold, Guy. South Africa: Crossing the Rubicon. New York: St.
Martin's Press, 1992.
Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook. Washington: Office
of Public and Agency Affairs, 1994.
Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. Joint Publication 3-07.3: Joint
Tactics, Techniques and Proceedures for Peacekeeping Operations.
Baltimore: USA AG Publication Center, 1994.
Cook, Philip R. Sub-Saharan Africa and the United States.
Washington: Bureau of Public Affairs, 1986.
Cowell, Alan. Killing the Wizards: Wars of Power and Freedom from
Zaire to South Africa. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992.
Dostert, Pierre. Africa: 1994. Harpers Ferry, WV: Stryker-Post
Everist, Richard and Murray, John. South Africa, Lesotho and
Swaziland: A Travel Survival Kit. Hawthorn, Australia: Lonely Plant
Gutteridge, William. The Military in South African Politics:
Champions of National Unity. London: Research Institute for the
Study of Conflict and Terrorism, 1994.
Hacker, Andrew. Two Nations: Black and White, Separate, Hostile,
Unequal. New York: Ballantine Books, 1995.
Harding, Jeremy. Small Wars, Small Mercies: Journeys in Africa's
Disputed Nations. London: Penguin Group, 1993.
Heitman, Helmoed-Romer. The World in Conflict: Jane's Intelligence
Review 1994/1995 Yearbook. London: Jane's, 1995.
Human Rights Watch/Africa. Angola: Arms Trade and Violations of the
Laws of War Since the 1992 Elections. New York: Human Rights Watch,
Marine Corps Intelligence Activity. Threats in Transition: Marine
Corps Mid-Range Threat Estimate--1995-2005. Quantico: Marine Corps
Intelligence Activity, 1994.
Metz, Stephen K. and Tilford, Jr., Doctor Earl, H. World View: The
1994 Strategic Assessment from the Strategic Studies Institute.
Carlisle: Strategic Studies Institute, 1994.
Riley, Stephen, P. War and Famine in Africa. Conflict Studies 268.
London: Research Institute for the Study of Conflict and Terrorism,
Secretary of Defense Office. Report of the Secretary of Defense to
the President and the Congress. Washington: Us Government Printing
Tilford, Jr., Doctor Earl, H. Editor. Strategic Challenge During
Changing Times. Carlisle: Strategic Studies Institute, 1994.
Vanneman, Peter. Soviet Strategy in South Africa: Gorbachev's
Pragmatic Approach. Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 1990.
White House. A National Security Strategy of Engagement and
Enlargement. Washington: US Government Printing Office, 1994.
"Africa's New Challenge". Defense and Foreign Affairs Strategic
Policy. October 1991. pp.6-10.
Guertner, Gary L. and Stofft, William, C. Parameters: US Army War
College Quarterly, Vol XXV, Number 1. "Ethnic Conflict: The Perils
of Military Intervention". Spring 1995. pp. 28-36.
Mc Carthy, Shaun. Jane's International Intelligence Review, Vol 6,
Number 5. "Compromise or War: The Afrikaner Resistance Movement".
May 1994. pp. 230-233.
Mc Carthy, Shaun. Jane's International Intelligence Review, Vol 6,
Number 11. "South Africa's Self Defence Units". November 1994. pp.
"South Africa's Rising Crime Rate". The Washington Times. April 6,
1995. Sec A: 15.
Wisner, Frank, G. Defense 93, Issue 6. "Peacekeeping: Why, When,
How--How Long?". December 1993. pp. 22-26.
Electromap Corporation. World Atlas. Novato, CA: Electromap, 1990.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|