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,
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
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.
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
Major Timothy J. Kolb
Command and Staff College
18 April 1995
1 Small Wars, Small Mercies--Journeys in Africa's Disputed
Harding (Penguin Group: London, 1993)
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
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
mission....our national prestige is at stake....
emergency extraction....minimize the collateral damage," these
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
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.
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]:
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
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
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
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,
Washington DC, December 1993) p. 24.
"Peace Inforcement is
armed intervention, involving all necessary measures
to compel compliance with United Nations Security Council resolutions
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
United Nations Charter.
10 Small war is the former term for "Operations other than
"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.
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
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.
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
13 The African National Congress sponsored Self-Defense Units and the
Afrikaner Resistance Movement organization are forces that are
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
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
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
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