Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959-1976

Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959-1976

Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959-1976

Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959-1976

Synopsis

This is a compelling and dramatic account of Cuban policy in Africa from 1959 to 1976 and of its escalating clash with U.S. policy toward the continent. Piero Gleijeses's fast-paced narrative takes the reader from Cuba's first steps to assist Algerian rebels fighting France in 1961, to the secret war between Havana and Washington in Zaire in 1964-65--where 100 Cubans led by Che Guevara clashed with 1,000 mercenaries controlled by the CIA--and, finally, to the dramatic dispatch of 30,000 Cubans to Angola in 1975-76, which stopped the South African advance on Luanda and doomed Henry Kissinger's major covert operation there.

Based on unprecedented archival research and firsthand interviews in virtually all of the countries involved--Gleijeses was even able to gain extensive access to closed Cuban archives--this comprehensive and balanced work sheds new light on U.S. foreign policy and CIA covert operations. It revolutionizes our view of Cuba's international role, challenges conventional U.S. beliefs about the influence of the Soviet Union in directing Cuba's actions in Africa, and provides, for the first time ever, a look from the inside at Cuba's foreign policy during the Cold War.

"Fascinating... and often downright entertaining.... Gleijeses recounts the Cuban story with considerable flair, taking good advantage of rich material.-- Washington Post Book World

"Gleijeses's research... bluntly contradicts the Congressional testimony of the era and the memoirs of Henry A. Kissinger.... After reviewing Dr. Gleijeses's work, several former senior United States diplomats who were involved in making policy toward Angola broadly endorsed its conclusions.-- New York Times

"With the publication of Conflicting Missions, Piero Gleijeses establishes his reputation as the most impressive historian of the Cold War in the Third World. Drawing on previously unavailable Cuban and African as well as American sources, he tells a story that's full of fresh and surprising information. And best of all, he does this with a remarkable sensitivity to the perspectives of the protagonists. This book will become an instant classic.--John Lewis Gaddis, author of We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History

Based on unprecedented research in Cuban, American, and European archives, this is the compelling story of Cuban policy in Africa from 1959 to 1976 and of its escalating clash with U.S. policy toward the continent. Piero Gleijeses sheds new light on U.S. foreign policy and CIA covert operations, revolutionizes our view of Cuba's international role, and provides the first look from the inside at Cuba's foreign policy during the Cold War.

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Excerpt

In 1945 virtually all Africa was divided among the Europeans: France and England had the largest shares; tiny Belgium ruled the immense colony of Zaire; Portugal was master of Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, and several small islands; Spain held a few fragments; and the fate of the former Italian colonies had yet to be decided. the continent was a backwater, a safe backyard of the Western powers. There was no Soviet threat, no Communist subversion, and no threat to the white man’s rule.

Fifteen years later, however, colonial rule was in ruins. the transformation had come without widespread violence, with the major exception of Algeria, and it had come suddenly. in 1957 the first sub-Saharan country, Ghana, gained its independence and became the voice of African nationalism. the following year Charles de Gaulle, who had returned to power in a France fractured by the Algerian war, offered independence to the French possessions in sub-Saharan Africa. They grabbed it. in 1960, the Year of Africa, sixteen European colonies— French, British, and Belgian—became independent.

The swiftness of the Europeans’ abdication had many explanations. in a ripple effect, as a colony moved toward independence, expectations swelled in neighboring territories. and when the colonial authorities applied the brakes, the response was not submission but riots. “Africa may become,” British prime minister Harold MacMillan warned in August 1959, “no longer a source of pride or profit to the Europeans who have developed it, but a maelstrom of trouble into which all of us would be sucked.” By surrendering formal power gracefully, however, the metropole could retain strong political and economic influence over its former colonies. and so Paris and London let their charges go.

As did Brussels, with unseemly haste. in January 1959 riots shattered Zaire’s capital, Leopoldville, and shook Brussels from its torpor. a few days later, a sobered Belgian government promised independence “without either baneful delays or ill-conceived precipitousness.” No date was set, but Belgian officials speculated that the transition would take fifteen years. As unrest grew and concessions triggered more demands, however, the country seemed headed toward anarchy and radicalization, and Brussels began its headlong retreat. In

A. in colonial times there were two Congos, one ruled by Paris, the other by Brussels. Upon becoming independent in 1960, both retained the name Congo. in October 1971 the former Belgian Congo became Zaire, and in May 1997 it became the Democratic Republic of Congo. To avoid confusion, in the book I always refer to the former French colony as “the Congo” and I always refer to the former Belgian colony as “Zaire.” When quoting from a written source in English that uses any other name, I add “Zaire” in brackets when appropriate. When quoting from an interview or when translating from a written source, I consistently refer to the former Belgian colony as “Zaire.”

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