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