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War of Intervention in Angola, Volume 1

War of Intervention in Angola, Volume 1 Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review December 2018 Title War of Intervention in Angola, Volume 1
Author Tom Cooper, Adrien Fontanellaz Publisher Helion
Published 2018 ISBN 9781911628194
Format 88 pages, softbound MSRP (GBP) £16.95

Review

Tom Cooper and Adrien Fontanellaz assess one of Africa's most contentious conflicts in War of Intervention in Angola, Volume 1 – 31st in Helion's superb "Africa@War" series.

Subtitled "Angolan and Cuban Forces at War, 1975-1976", contents commence with three chapters on the background to war. Don't ignore notes on Angolan ethnicities. They're critical to understanding the country's insurgent movements.

Enter Portugal's tumultuous political events of 1974 and 1975. Angola's indigenous revolutionaries suddenly found themselves without a colonial foe – and turned on each other.

Call it Carnation Revolution ex machina.

Cooper and Fontanellaz then competently chart the Cold War-flavored fractional fighting among the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA), and National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA).

FNLA and UNITA enjoyed relatively substantial Western support. But military mobilization by Communist nations ultimately saved the MPLA. And by March 1976 – when "the balance of power in Angola had decisively shifted in favor of the Angola-Cuba alliance" – 36,000 Cubans had deployed to Angola.

Call it Havana ex machina.

Coverage chronicles combat, clashes, equipment, participants, and personalities. In just 18 months, thanks to Cuban intervention, the MPLA "secured … virtually all of Angola".

Admirably annotated, the picture-packed study sports dozens of rare photos. And 18 color profiles – nine aircraft by co-author Cooper and nine armor by David Bocquelet – survey the swath of conflict colors.

Action accounts, sidebars, and extended, explanatory captions also supplement the study. A helpful glossary lists key acronyms. A selected bibliography cites sources. And tables and maps augment the account.

A personal coda:

As a young doctoral candidate in the 1970s, I once lunched with several fellow graduate students – who all expressed passionate, partisan, and peppery perspectives on Angola's civil war.

Taking a pen, I drew the outline of Africa on a napkin – and challenged them to show where Angola lay on the continent.

None could.

I later asked the guy with an MPLA button what he thought of Agostinho Neto. "Who?" he quizzically queried.

The moral: a toxic blend of ignorance, sanctimony, and stupidity often fuels Western attitudes on Africa.

Make this splendidly balanced and researched report your antidote to some those ills.

I loved it. And I can't wait for its sequel.

With thanks to Helion for the review copy!